Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2016: The Year of the Memoir

As I started to put away a few of my 2016 reads, I realized, that over half of the books I read were non fiction. Of those books, a majority of them were memoirs or collections of essays about the author's life. They were all filled with inspiring words, hilarious stories and some very personal sentiments. Here mini reviews of a few of my recent reads:


Title: Where Am I Now?
Author: Mara Wilson
Publisher: Penguin Books
Format: ARC from the publisher
Publishing Date: September 13, 2016
Rating: 

I have always wondered what happens to child actors/actresses when they grow up. I often click on articles titled "Where are they now?". When I found out that Mara Wilson was writing a book, I knew I just had to read it. I mean, have you read her Twitter account? From her tweets alone you can tell she is a free spirited, confident and outspoken woman. Much like the character she plans in one of her movies, Matilda.

Mara Wilson's book dives deep into the life of a former child actress who, as most of them do, fell out of the "cute" phase and eventually could no longer find work in Hollywood. Her collection of essays is a mash up of stories that at times, can make you laugh uncontrollably and others that make you shed a tear. Mara's book is an easy read that gives you a look into what it's like to grow up as a young child, having all the same problems as most, with the added pressure of being a star. Definitely a recommended book for fans of Mara's movies or those looking for a light read.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of Where Am I Now from Penguin Random House Canada for review purposes. Opinions are my own.



Title: Scrappy Little Nobody
Author/Narrator: Anna Kendrick
Publisher: Touchstone
Format: Audiobook
Publishing Date: November 15, 2016
Rating: 

I was first introduced to Anna Kendrick in the film Up in the Air. When I saw Pitch Perfect, I became a fan. Anna Kendrick's collection of essays is her way of "letting the crazy out". We get a behind the scenes look behind her broadway debut, her experiences on the set of the Twilight films and just how quirky, cool and composed she really is.

For anyone interested in reading this book and hasn't yet purchased it, I highly recommend the Audiobook. I've said this before, but listening to an audiobook that is written and narrated by the author really gives it that extra bit of enjoyment. The changes in their tone and spurts of sarcasm don't stand out as much on paper as they do when it's being read to you. Regardless of the format, fans of Anna Kendrick will definitely enjoy this whimsical series of essays that takes a look into her road to stardom.



Title: Born A Crime
Author: Trevor Noah
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: November 15, 2016
Format: ARC from the publisher
Rating: 

I have to admit, other than knowing that Trevor Noah hosts the Daily Show, I didn't know much else about him. My husband is actually the one who told me I HAD to get this book. When Penguin Random House Canada offered to send a review copy I jumped at the chance and I'm SO glad I did.

The book begins with some background on the laws of Apartheid and brings light to the author's title choice. During the years of apartheid, sexual relations between a white man and black woman was illegal, making their children a crime.

Trevor Noah's story is nothing that I've read before. His life journey from being raised by his mother in secret, to overcoming hardships presented by his skin colour was eyeopening. Born A Crime serves two purposes. It's partially a history lesson in what it was like growing up in South Africa during these times and the difficulties it's people endured in the years after apartheid was abolished.

As expected, this book had more than its share of laugh out loud moments. But, what I appreciated most was his openness to share about his upbringing and how it was affected by blatant racism. What I found most inspiring was how he and his mother approached and endured torment from both black and white people. Both of them had learned how to be a chameleon among them.

Hands down one of the best books I've read and one that I woudn't hesitate to pick up and read again.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of Born A Crime from Penguin Random House Canada for review purposes. Opinions are my own.



My next read...
The next memoir I have on my to be read list is The Elephants in My Backyard: A Memoir
by Rajiv Surendra. Rajiv is was born and raised in Toronto. Once an actor with a dream, that was never fulfilled. This memoir is filled with joy, heartache and a desire to overcome the pain.




My past reads...
If you're looking for some other recommendations of memoirs to read, here are a few others that I've reviewed and really enjoyed this year:




Have you read any interesting or inspiring memoirs recently? Leave me your recommendation in the comments below.





Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Title: My Best Friend's Exorcism
Author: Grady Hendrix
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Publishing Date: May 17, 2016
Book Rating:
Narrator Rating: 





Synopsis from Downpour :

A heartwarming story of friendship and demonic possession

The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since the fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act … different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby.
Abby’s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries—and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

Like an unholy hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist, My Best Friend’s Exorcism blends teen angst, adolescent drama, unspeakable horrors, and a mix of 80s pop songs into a pulse-pounding supernatural thriller.


Review:

My Best Friend's Exorcism takes readers on a nostalgic trip through the 80's where crimped hair, E.T. and Phil Collins were all the rage. The book incorporates high school drama (a lot of high school drama), bits of horror and one hilarious exorcism into one gory (kind of, not really) package.

Most of the characters were well written. Each had their own quirks, but nothing too extreme (exorcism aside). I was able to relate to them which made them believable. The only two which really got to me were Gretchen's parents. They really got under my skin. It was hard to believe that both parents would be THAT blind to their child's condition. As for the story, it flowed well and had its fair number of twists and turns. What would have made this a 5 Star would be for a slight change in the ending, it was a bit too predictable for my liking.

My Best Friend's Exorcism is a great read to get you in the mood for Halloween (yes, I'm 2 weeks late..). For even more fun, I'd recommend downloading the audiobook. Emily Woo Zeller does a fantastic job bringing the characters to life. However, I do think a second narrator, especially during the exorcism, would've added more depth to the scenes and provided some extra scare factor.

My warning for potential readers: after reading My Best Friend's Exorcism, you'll never be able to listen to the Go-Go's We Got the Beat without thinking of demonic possessions. If you're OK with that, then this book is for you!

And if you're still not sold... check out an except of the book courtesy of Quirk Books below

Top Ten Tuesday #11: My favourite Disney Movies



This week's Top Ten Tuesday was a movie freebie. I have always been a huge fan of Disney from their characters to their amusement parks. This week, I wanted to focus on my ten favourite animated Disney movies. Whether it was watching it in the theatre with my parents as a child or watching them with my own kids at home with a bowl of popcorn, these movies are a part of many of my cherished memories.



#10 Inside Out: The newest movie on my list. I really enjoyed this movie. After watching it a few times (this happens when you have kids), it really made me realized how intelligent the writing is and really gives viewers food for thought. It speaks to mental illness and how people handle their emotions. Pretty deep stuff for a kid's movie.

via GIPHY

#9 Up - This movie makes you laugh, it makes you cry and it makes you stop to appreciate what you've got. Even though he wasn't featured much, Doug the dog was my favourite character.

via GIPHY

#8 Pochahontas - I think it's more the soundtrack than the movie, that puts this in my top ten. Regardless, my kids and I still watch it at least a few times a year.

via GIPHY

#7 Lady & The Tramp: This scene right here... you've all tried it! My parents and I used to snuggle in our living room right before Christmas every year to watch this movie. I always secretly hoped they would one day give me a dog after watch it... It never happened. Lucky for me, I convinced my husband to get a dog a couple decades later.

via GIPHY

#6 Toy Story - Who doesn't love Buzz & Woody? These characters are so memorable and incredibly hilarious. I can watch any movie in this series and be totally content.

via GIPHY

#5 Wreck It Ralph - I was born in the 80's and I love video games. This movie was made for me.
#4: Finding Nemo - I love aquariums. I can spend hours in one walking around and taking in all the different kinds of marine life. No surprise that finding Nemo found a way to my heart.

#3: Brave - Merida is my daughter's favourite Princess. She watched this movie everyday for almost 6 months and I did not mind. Merida is a strong character who never plays the damsel in distress. I'm happy that my young one found a role model in her.

#2: Cinderella - This movie reminds me of Sunday mornings with my mom. Every week we would pop this video in to our VHS player and it would play as we my mom did our household chores. 

#1: The Little Mermaid - Maybe it was because Ariel's name so closely resembles my own, or maybe it's because I think I'm part fish, but, the Little Mermaid goes down as my all time favourite Disney movie.


What are your favourite Disney movies? Did any of your cherished movies make my list? Let me know in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original bookish meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. For the list of future top ten topics or details on how to participate, click here.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

2016 Penguin Random House Canada Reading Bingo: November Update

It has been a while since I've done one of these updates... 

At the beginning of the year, I decided to participate in Penguin Random House Canada's Reading Bingo challenge. I have to admit, I haven't read as many books this year as I would have liked. But, with the books I have read, I've managed to get through a diverse set of genres and authors. 

So far, I've managed to cross of 17 squares, which is already an improvement over last year's 16.
I'm not quite sure I'll get through many more by the end of the year, but who knows...

Links to my reviews of the books listed are below. 

If you're participating in this or any other Reading Bingo challenge, feel free to leave the link to your post and I'll be happy to check it out!




A Book Written by a Female AuthorThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō
A Book Set Outside of CanadaThe Widow by Fiona Barton
A Book With a Blue SpineThe Productivity Project by Chris Bailey
A Book Set in CanadaThe Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew
A BestsellerYear of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
A Book With A Female ProtagonistEverything Everything by Nicola Yoon
An Award Winning Novel (Quebec Writers' Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize Winners, 2013)Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz
A Book That Takes Place Before You Were Born: The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel
A Book Written by a Person of Colour: The Illegal by Lawrence Hill
A Book With an Illustrated Cover: Birdie by Tracey Lindberg
A Book with a Character Who has a Disability: Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra
A Book You Find in #WeNeedDiverseBooks: The Hero's Walk by Anita Rao Badami
A Book Based on a True Story: Wenjack by Joseph Boyden
A Graphic Novel or Comic Book: Secret Path by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire
A Book Recommended by a Family Member: Batman: Earth One By Geoff Johns
A Book in a Genre You've Never Read Before: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Friday, November 11, 2016

Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs

Title: Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History
Author: Sam Maggs
Publisher: Quirk Books 
Format: Hardcover
Source: Netgalley eBook / Purchased Hardcover
Publishing Date: October 4, 2016
Number of Pages: 240
Rating: 


Synopsis from the publisher:

A fun and feminist look at forgotten women in science, technology, and beyond, from the bestselling author of THE FANGIRL'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
You may think you know women’s history pretty well. But have you ever heard of. . .
  • Alice Ball, the chemist who developed an effective treatment for leprosy—only to have the credit taken by a man?
  • Mary Sherman Morgan, the rocket scientist whose liquid fuel compounds blasted the first U.S. satellite into orbit?
  • Huang Daopo, the inventor whose weaving technology revolutionized textile production in China—centuries before the cotton gin?
Smart women have always been able to achieve amazing things, even when the odds were stacked against them. In Wonder Women, author Sam Maggs tells the stories of the brilliant, brainy, and totally rad women in history who broke barriers as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors. Plus, interviews with real-life women in STEM careers, an extensive bibliography, and a guide to women-centric science and technology organizations—all to show the many ways the geeky girls of today can help to build the future.


Review

Sam Maggs has been one of my favourite Canadian bookish people since I read her book The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks. I fell in love with the book because it talked about all the nerdy things I secretly (and sometimes not so secretly love). You can check out my review for that book here

Wonder Women gives readers a glimpse into the lives of some really kick-ass women who have each made a huge imprint on the world. I began reading this book slightly embarrassed, of the women mentioned, I had only heard of a couple. I guess, that was Sam's point! The contribution of women in the areas focused on in this book: Science, Technology, Espionage, Medicine, Innovation and Adventure have been down played (or non existent) in the history books taught in schools. 

Have you ever heard of Wang Zhenyi? She was a Chinese Astronomer, Mathematician, and poet.


Though she lived to only twenty-nine years old, she achieved over 300,000% of an average human's scientific accomplishments and left the world a better and smarter place, all whie advancing the position of women in eighteenth-century China" p18

The pages are filled with detailed accounts of women defying their boundaries to make a difference in the world. Each biography provides spurts of inspiration to readers regardless of gender. 

Sam Maggs also brings light to current day women excelling in their fields through Q&A's at the end of each chapter. Working with in the digital space and being a daily user of Slack, her interview with Erica Baker appealed to me the most. Readers should also take note of the Appendix which lists different websites and organizations which can help inspire readers to becoming Wonder Women.

Wonder Women is a MUST read. The names of the women in her book may not sound familiar, but their accomplishments and innovations likely will. We should not let their contributions go unnoticed any longer. 

For those who have read it, I'd love to hear about which woman/women inspired you the most.

I received an advanced digital galley of Wonder Women by Sam Maggs from the publisher. Opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday #5: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. If you want to join in the fun, grab the logo, post your own WoW entry on your blog, and join the conversation!


Scrappy Little NobodyThis week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is Scrappy Little Nobody by
Anna Kendrick


Publisher: Touchstone
Pages: 304
Publication Date: November 15, 2016 (Canada)






Synopsis from Goodreads:

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

“I’m excited to publish my first book, and because I get uncomfortable when people have high expectations, I'd like to use this opportunity to showcase my ineptitude, pettiness, and the frequency with which I embarrass myself. And while many of my female inspirations who have become authors are incredibly well-educated and accomplished comedy writers, I'm very, very funny on Twitter, according to Buzzfeed and my mom, so I feel like this is a great idea. Quick question: are run-on sentences still frowned upon? Wait, is ending a sentence with a preposition still frowned upon? I mean, upon frowned? Dammit!” —Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick’s autobiographical collection of essays amusingly recounts memorable moments throughout her life, from her middle class upbringing in New England to the blockbuster movies that have made her one of Hollywood’s most popular actresses today. Expanding upon the witty and ironic dispatches for which she is known, Anna Kendrick’s essays offer her one-of-a-kind commentary on the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture.

Thoughts:
I've been waiting to read this book since I found out about it's release late last year. Anna Kendrick just seems like a really down to earth celebrity. I've been a fan of her movies and have both Pitch Perfect movies on a rotating loop at my house. My audiobook pre-order is already in and I can't wait to dive into this book on November 15.

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Wenjack by Joseph Boyden

Title: Wenjack
Author: Joseph Boyden
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Publishing Date: October 18, 2016
Rating:







Synopsis from the publisher's website:

An Ojibwe boy runs away from a North Ontario Indian School, not realizing just how far away home is. Along the way he's followed by Manitous, spirits of the forest who comment on his plight, cajoling, taunting, and ultimately offering him a type of comfort on his difficult journey back to the place he was so brutally removed from.

Written by Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author Joseph Boyden and beautifully illustrated by acclaimed artist Ken Monkman, Wenjack is a powerful and poignant look into the world of a residential school runaway trying to find his way home.

Review

Like many Indigenous children, Chanie was plucked from his home and forced into a residential school. These schools had a single objective: influence the children to forget their heritage and assimilate into the dominant culture.

"I'm learning my English, me. But I won't lose my tongue." p2

Chanie and two of his friends mustered up the courage to run away from their school to escape the daily abuse and mistreatment. They retreated into the woods. Chanie eventually finds himself stranded and alone. Despite his strong will to see his family again, he was in no way prepared for the harsh Canadian winter.

Every Canadian should have the opportunity to read Wenjack. Chanie's story is heartbreaking and in no way a happy one, but it is extremely important. Canadians should be cognizant of our country's dark past and better understand years of struggles that our Indigenous people have suffered. Our country must now continue along the path of reconciliation for years of injustice.
 "It will take many more years before the intergenerational trauma left in the wake of the grotesque social experiment begins to abate. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission worked timelessly for many years to uncover the truth - and now the tougher part, the reconciliation, begins." p102
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