Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Month in Review

June was a very busy month.  Reading was not heavily involved in any of that busyness.  Actually, I started off the month with a really good reading binge but then it tapered off.  That’s okay, June is always a busy month when your entire household schedule revolves around the school year.  I am definitely happy that the summer is here. I’m looking forward to lots of reading and lots of time spent outside.

Here are the books I read in June with their GoodReads ratings:

March: Book Two - John Lewis *****
Finding Audrey - Sophie Kinsella *****
How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible - Keith Ferrin *****
What a Girl Wants - Lindsey Kelk ****
Brunch at Ruby’s - D.L. White ****
Fairytale Beginnings - Holly Martin ****
Broken Glass - Alain Mabanckou - ****
It’s Not Me, It’s You - Mhairi McFarlane ***
That’s Not English - Erin Moore ***


Diversity on the Shelf (3)

What I’m Looking Forward to in July

This month I’m focusing on cleaning, cleaning off my e-reader that is.  I’ve got a lot of ebooks that I have bought/requested and sometimes I forget that they are there, so I’m going to be spending a lot of time with my iPad this month.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Month in Review: Non-Bookish Things

June was a very busy month in my little corner of the world.  With school finishing up, that means there are field trips, play days, and concerts to attend.  My job kept me pretty busy through the month as well so it feels like there was very little time to sit down to do anything (except watch baseball, I always make time for my Toronto Blue Jays, especially when they are on a hot 12 game win streak.)



This month, I managed to watch only one television show - Episodes.  I’d been wanting to watch it for a while considering the plot is one that is often discussed in my household, British television shows crossing the pond.  So it’s been on my Netflix list for a while and I decided it was time to watch.  And I absolutely loved it.  


My husband and I went to see Jurassic World at the theatres this month.  I really enjoyed it.  I’ll admit, the acting wasn’t fantastic but I didn’t go for the acting.  I was absolutely pleased with the special effects and it was a good two hours to spend at the theatre.

I also watched a couple of documentaries on Netflix.  The first is Wiebo’s War, which is about a man in Alberta who fought the oil companies that were encroaching on his land. I followed Wiebo’s story in the paper for years, so it was great to see the documentary.  And the other one is the Backstreet Boys documentary, Show Them What You’re Made Of.  Yeah, totally took me back to my teeny-bopper years.  


No new podcasts to share, the same comedy ones while out for my walks.

Friday, June 19, 2015

"That's Not English" by Erin Moore

Quite. Clever. Toilet.  When it comes to the British and Americans, we know that they are speaking the same language.  But when one looks closer, they will begin to realize that while the language sounds the same, it is actually very different.  Take for example, the three words I mentioned.  The meaning of the word is different depending which side of the ocean you are on and in some cases, that can get one into a whole lot of trouble.

In That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us, lifelong Anglophile Erin Moore uses her personal experience of moving from America to England to share just how different these two countries are.

When I first saw other bloggers reviewing and talking about this book, I knew that I had to pick it up.  The English language has always been a fascinating thing to me.  Us Canadians speak an English that is not quite British but definitely not American - nothing makes you feel like a foreigner when you ask for a “pop” in the US and they just stare at you.  I was raised in a home where English was a second language for my father and my mother’s British heritage had an influence on the way she spoke (listening to her ask for “chips” at McDonalds was hilarious as a kid.)  My husband grew up in a former British colony which means he speaks a more British English, so basically you can see why I’d be so fascinated with the linguistic differences when my whole life has been influenced by people who speak the language differently.

Moore takes readers on a journey through British and American cultures using certain words that either have different meanings or are not used in one country.  Again, for me it was fun to read and see which words I use from where.  I use the British versions of “quite,” “proper,” “bloody,” and “shall” while using the American versions of “middle class,” “toilet,” and “partner.”  Culturally, I’m more American when it comes to the “tip” and very, very British when it comes to “tea.”  And of course, as a Canadian, we all know how I feel about using the word “sorry” (probably the most used word in my vocabulary.)

But while I found fun in trying to figure out if my English is more British or American through this book, that was about all.  I was expecting this book to be funnier than it was.  I thought it was going to be more of a tongue in cheek observational book than it was, poking fun at both cultures.  While each word was given only a few pages, some didn’t need that much.  Some of the explanations felt a bit dry to me and some felt repetitive.  

I know that this will be an enjoyable book for many, Anglophiles especially.  You can definitely count me as one, my grandmother managed to instil in me a love for the homeland at a very early age.  I think this is just one of those books that I had expectations for that weren’t met and that meant I didn’t love it as much as I could have.  So that’s what you need to take away from this review - this book is meant to be more of serious study of the linguistic and cultural differences between the Brits and the Yanks than a humorous look at it.   

Monday, June 15, 2015

"Finding Audrey" by Sophie Kinsella

Fourteen-year-old Audrey has been struggling with an anxiety disorder since a terrible incident at school.  Though she has been making progress with the help of her psychologist, she still keeps herself hidden away, preferring the dark provided to her by the sunglasses she constantly wears.

But when a friend of her brother named Linus initiates contact with her, she finds herself having feelings she had long forgotten.  At first, Linus is someone she can talk to, but very quickly he becomes so much more.  As Audrey’s recovery gains momentum, she finds herself making a romantic connection she never expected.  But is Audrey moving faster than her family and doctor think she should be and will it ultimately help or harm her recovery?

Finding Audrey is the first Young Adult novel from celebrated author Sophie Kinsella and is a heart-warming, sweet novel that readers of all ages will love.

I read this book, not just because I’m a huge fan of everything Kinsella writes, but because of the subject matter - anxiety.  As someone who deals with this, I know how misunderstood both the illness and the people dealing with it are.  It’s nice to see characters who deal with this in a book, but even better to see a teenager character who is going through it.  

This book tackles so much that teenagers have to deal with - bullying, friendship, love, technology, online addiction, overbearing parents.  I personally could relate to this book on a few different levels.  It reminded me of my high school days but now as a parent I was able to recognize so much of this book in my daily life.  That is what I mean when I say that readers of all ages will not just love this book but connect with it.

Anxiety is so difficult to deal with it, not just because of the way it controls a persons life but the way that other people to respond to it.  This is a difficult subject to tackle but Kinsella does it with understanding, warmth, honesty, and humour (yes, humour is allowed when dealing with it.)  So much of Audrey’s journey and recovery was very real to me and my own journey.

Mental health is a tough subject to address in books.  Each persons journey through it is different, Audrey’s story is not everyone’s story.  But what I really appreciate that Kinsella did here, was she wrote a book about a girl struggling with anxiety, without making it only about the anxiety.  There are good days and bad.  Life still has to be lived, every facet of it.  We laugh, we cry, we fall in love, we hide, we celebrate, we mourn.  We enjoy life while hiding from it at the same time.  This is what anxiety looks like and I think Kinsella did a fantastic job of capturing it all.

This is a book that you don’t want to put down.  I would try to but I kept coming back to it and soon realized that I had finished it in one day.  I would have loved to see the relationship between Audrey and Linus develop a bit slower but other than that I can’t find any faults with this book.  I think this is such an important book given the subject matter and I’m so pleased to see it being addressed this way. 

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada. The opinions expressed above are my own.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"March: Book Two" by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

In March: Book One, Congressman John Lewis shared details of his early life in the segregated South and the beginning of his involvement with the Civil Rights movement in a stunning graphic novel, designed to educate and inspire young readers.

The story now continues in March: Book Two which is once again written in collaboration with writer Andrew Aydin and award-winning artist Nate Powell.  Picking up where the first book left off, this book covers the sit-ins, freedom rides, and the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedoms.  As is the case with the first book, this story is told in retrospect as Barack Obama is being sworn in as President of the United States.

John Lewis is known one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights movement, and is the last surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington.  As we come to a time where we begin to lose the people who shaped some of the most changing decades of our society, it is important that their stories are preserved.  And while many books have been written ensuring that these stories stay with us, putting them into a form that will educate and inspire the future generations of youth is so important.  That is why I am a huge supporter of graphic novels that teach history.  

The drawings in this book are fantastic.  They are dripping with emotion on each and every page and some pages are absolutely heartbreaking.  This book doesn’t hold back on the horrors that occurred but they are done in a manner that is hard-hitting and sensitive at the same time.  

I studied History in university and took quite a few courses on the Civil Rights Movement.  Never was a textbook able to convey to me the depths and emotion of the time the way March has.  I don’t know if our young generations can understand what people the same age as them faced - the brutality, beatings, imprisonment, and murder - and I truly believe that these books will speak to our kids in a way that has not happened before.

This book ends at the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama and there is one more book in the trilogy.  I wish I knew when the third book was being released, I just want to keep reading the story. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

"Fairytale Beginnings" by Holly Martin

This book will be published on 10 July 2015 and is available for pre-order.

Milly Rose is a hopeless romantic and obsessed with all things Disney.  So it only makes sense that she makes her living determining the history and authenticity of castles.  And though she has experienced her fair share of heartbreak, she hasn’t ruled out meeting her Prince Charming.

When Milly is sent to the little village of Clovers Rest to investigate a building, she discovers every little girls dream.  Complete with turrets, a drawbridge, and secret tunnels, Clover Castle is straight out of a fairytale.  And so is its handsome owner, Cameron Heartstone.

Both Milly and Cameron have been burned in relationships before and neither are looking for love.  As they begin discover the secrets that lie within the castle, they cannot fight their feelings for each other.  And with the help of a few eccentric villagers and a century-old love story, they may end up finding their happily ever after.

Fairytale Beginnings, by Holly Martin, is a lovely romantic comedy that shows that dreams really do come true.

To every girl who has ever dreamed of living in a castle, who loves fairytales and Disney movies, this book is for you.  Weren’t that kind of girl? Me neither but I still very much enjoyed the book.  Milly and Cameron are great characters, the villagers are hilarious, and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t enjoy exploring a castle.  The history buff in me was absolutely smitten.

This was such a fun book.  Even though I have never been anywhere like it, I could totally picture Clovers Rest in my head and wish that it was a real place.  Discovering the castle along with the characters was great and Martin did a great job of balancing the story of the castle with the romance. 

My only criticism of the book is that it felt a little rushed.  It jumps right into the story without much set-up and I would have loved a bit more build-up, getting to know Milly a bit better before she shows up at the castle.  Same with the development of the relationship between Milly and Cameron.  But over time, everything begins to balance out and the second half of the book is especially enjoyable.

This is Holly Martin’s 4th chick lit book and I’m absolutely in love with her work.  Her past books (One Hundred Proposals, One Hundred Christmas Proposals, The Guestbook) are all unique stories and this one is no different.  This is a lovely updated fairytale for adults and a great read for any romantic comedy fan. 

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Friday, June 5, 2015

"Brunch at Ruby's" by D.L. White

Ruby’s Soul Food CafĂ© is the perfect spot for girls to gather, catch up on each others lives, and enjoy the delicious food on offer.  And that is exactly what Debra, Maxine, and Renee, friends since childhood, do once a month - eat, drink, and get in each other’s business.

Debra is a successful high school principal, married to her high school sweetheart and mother to their twelve-year-old daughter.  But she has a secret that will destroy both her family and her career. 

Maxine is a self-made woman, owner of a very successful high-end realty company.  Fierce and determined, she is used to getting any man she wants. Except for one, and in her quest to make him hers, she may end up losing one of her best friendships.

Renee has moved back to Atlanta to care for her father who struggles with Alzheimer’s and keep the struggling family bookstore afloat.  As she gives all of her time to caring for the father who is beginning to forget her, she is sacrificing her happiness….until she meets a man refuses to let her get away.

The three women have a lot going on in their lives but there are two things they can count on never changing.  The first is their friendship and the shoulders they have to cry on, and the second is the comfort they find on the plate at Ruby’s.

Brunch at Ruby’s by D.L. White is fun and fierce novel about friendship, love, and good food.  Readers will want to be the fourth place at the table and that is not just because the descriptions of the food will make you hungry.

I really enjoyed this book.  It is very easy to compare this to other well-known books about female friendship because this is a book about women and the support system we all need as we navigate the curves that life throws at us.  But this book easily takes it place at the front of the pack, which is a great feat for a self-published novel.

I absolutely enjoyed this book.  It was so easy for me to get a picture in my head of who these women are.  And I became wrapped up in their stories quickly.  Each character is well-written and a whole character.  Sometimes when there are a few main characters the reader is only able to get half the story, but White does a great job of writing their complete stories.  Maxine was my favourite character (I love a character with a great closet) but I found myself moved and invested in all of them.

When I purchased this book, I did not realize that it was self-published.  The only thing in the book that makes you realize this is there are quite a few typos.  It is nothing that becomes too distracting from the story or makes you want to stop reading, but they are noticeable.  So if that is something that jumps out at you, be prepared.  It is obvious when you read the book that these are just editing mistakes.  White’s style and her vocabulary show that writing is something she is meant to do.

I really hope that there will be more to come at Ruby’s.  Maxine, Debra, and Renee are three characters that I would love to visit again and again.  There is definitely more to their stories and I can’t wait to find out what that is.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"Love Enough" by Dionne Brand

“There is nothing universal or timeless about this love business…It is hard if you really want to do it right.”

In the city of Toronto, millions of people go about their daily lives, surviving, thriving, and falling in and out of love.  It is in this city that we meet four people - June, Bedri, Da’uud, and Lia - whose lives intersect as they make their way through the urban landscape.

Love Enough, by Dionne Brand, is a beautiful and poetic look at love, relationships, and living in the moment.  Brand’s writing can best be summed up by the words “the little things,” as she gets to the very core of a person and their emotions.  She subtly touches upon the things that are difficult to see, that make a person who they are.  

June has had a string of lovers over her lifetime, people whose lives have been wrapped up in politics, activism, and uncertainty.  But now she is facing mid-life with her love Sydney who couldn’t be more different from those in June’s past.  Da’uud is a Somalian immigrant who drives a taxi in Toronto, and is trying to steer his children toward a better life.  His son Bedri, already feeling isolated, becomes wrapped up in a senseless act of violence.  Lia is struggling to find herself by coming to terms with her broken family.  These characters, and their lovers and friends, bring us the messages of love, need, and belonging against the backdrop of a beautiful city.

I love Dionne Brand’s writing.  As a poet, her words flow across the pages of her novels, delicately touching the rawness that comes with urban life.  This book reads as a tribute - to love, to Toronto, to living - and easily weaves its way right through your soul.  

I love a book set in Toronto, it is my beautiful city after all and there is no place I’d rather be.  But in this book, Toronto is more than a city, it’s a character.  Its life breathes through the pages.  If you don’t know the city, this book will show you its essence.  

Dionne Brand was Poet Laureate of Toronto from 2009-2012.  She has won the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Trillium Book Award, the Toronto Book Award, and the Harbourfront Festival Prize.  In other words, she is one of CanLit’s finest, and should be on the bookshelves of everyone who loves good writing.  If you haven’t read anything of hers yet, Love Enough is an incredible place to start.

Monday, June 1, 2015

"The Day of the Triffids" by John Wyndham

As Bill Masen lies in a hospital bed, bandages over his eyes, he misses the most spectacular meteor shower anyone has ever seen.  But the next morning, he realizes that something happened over night that no one saw coming.

After removing the bandages, he finds that everyone who witnessed the meteor shower has mysteriously gone blind.  As the masses wander the city in hopes of finding answers, he searches for others like him and happens upon a woman named Josella, who also still has her sight.  As they try to leave the city, it becomes clear that the world they knew is no more.

But the loss of sight has given opportunity to a new threat - the Triffids.  These strange plants that began to appear throughout the world years earlier can pull up their roots from the ground to walk.  At over seven feet tall, they can kill a person with one quick lash.  And now, with humans unable to keep them at bay, they are poised to take over the world.

The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham, was written in 1951 and is a chilling account of bio-warfare and mass destruction that played upon the Cold War fears of the time.  A haunting premise, it remains a chilling tale even for today.

I have been wanting to read this book for a while and when my husband mentioned that he was going to listen to the audiobook, I decided to pick it up and read it along with him (the first time we’ve done this.)  I was in a bit of a reading slump, so I thought it would be good to have a partner.  I don’t think I would have needed a partner though to get me through this book. From the moment I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.

I am starting to read more classic science fiction/horror books and this one stands out as one of the best.  Like many people, I thought it was going to be more about the Triffids but the lack of this makes absolutely no difference.  This book plays on our fears of biological and chemical warfare leading toward an apocalyptic world.  It is fascinating to read this knowing it is reflective of the fears of the time period and knowing that things very much remain the same today.

The book isn’t just about the horrors of war or the threat of annihilation.  It’s about morality and the things that we as humans need to do to survive.  It’s about how precarious our world is and how quickly our motives and actions change when our safety net is pulled out from under us.  This made for a very thrilling and thought-provoking book.

If you’re a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, there is going to be a lot of the familiar in this book (I’m looking at you The Walking Dead.)  Go back to the beginning of this genre and see why this book is a classic.  I don’t pretend to know much about writing styles or literary theories, but I do know that, for me, this book has stood the test of time.  I loved this book and highly recommend it.

(Once my husband I completed this book, we decided to watch the films.  The 1962 version is very different from the book, and of course, pretty tame by today’s horror movie standards.  Up next, we plan to watch the 2009 mini-series.)