Saturday, February 28, 2015

Random House Canada #ReadingBingo - February Update

One of my reading goals for this year was to complete the Random House Canada Reading Bingo challenge. This year the card is focused around Canadian Literature. My quest to read all of the Canada Reads finalists has been a huge help with completing the card. At the end of each month I'll provide an update my progress. Here's what my card looks like so far:

I've got a few of these lined up for next month. I would love to hear any recommendations for any of the squares I have yet to cross off.

Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Purchased

In the 1960s, Kamal Al-Solaylee' s father was one of the wealthiest property owners in Aden, in the south of Yemen, but when the country shrugged off its colonial roots, his properties were confiscated, and the family was forced to leave. The family moved first to Beirut, which suddenly became one of the most dangerous places in the world, then Cairo. After a few peaceful years, even the safe haven of Cairo struggled under a new wave of Islamic extremism that culminated with the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. The family returned to Yemen, a country that was then culturally isolated from the rest of the world.

As a gay man living in an intolerant country, Al-Solaylee escaped first to England and eventually to Canada, where he became a prominent journalist and academic. While he was enjoying the cultural and personal freedoms of life in the West, his once-liberal family slowly fell into the hard-line interpretations of Islam that were sweeping large parts of the Arab-Muslim world in the 1980s and 1990s. The differences between his life and theirs were brought into sharp relief by the 2011 revolution in Egypt and the civil war in Yemen.

Intolerable is part memoir of an Arab family caught in the turmoil of Middle Eastern politics over six decades, part personal coming-out narrative and part cultural analysis. This is a story of the modern Middle East that we think we know so much about.

Prior to this year, a lot of the books I've read were non-fiction books focusing on life in the Middle East and the impacts that war and terrorism have on the people that live there. Although this book wasn't completely centred around a war, I still thought I'd be able to connect with it a lot quicker than I did.

This book is a memoir of Kamal Al-Solaylee's life. He details his family's luxurious life in Yemen and their immediate exodus into Beirut after his father was kidnapped and forced out of the country. From Beirut, his large family flees to Cairo to save themselves from the ever growing danger. It is in Cairo where Kamal begins to recognize that he is different from his brothers and most boys his age. After a brief visit to the UK to visit his sister, Kamal returns to Cairo a different man. One that is confident in who he is and begins to explore the underground gay scene in Cairo. By this time he was in his early twenties and enjoying a somewhat frivolous life. Just when he was getting comfortable in this new lifestyle and new found freedom, his father decides to uproot the family once again and return to Yemen, their homeland. Now in his twenties, Kamal dreaded the return. In Yemen, he was required to complete one year in military service. After acting as a translator, a unique opportunity to study abroad in the UK. Kamal jumped at the chance to leave Yemen. Only one thing appeared to hold him back, telling his mother. She instead was surprisingly supportive with a one word response, "escape".

Now in his fourth country of residence, Kamal studied at Keele University earning himself a PhD. In English. During his studies, he continued to search for a way to escape his homeland and become a citizen in a western country. His search eventually ended when he met an immigration official from Canada. In December 1995, his wishes were granted and was eligible to claim residency in Canada. Before immigrating he stayed in England long enough to confirm that he completed his PhD and flew to Toronto that same week. His lifelong dream has now come true. Kamal gives us a look at his new life, struggles and freedoms that he worked through in his first years in Toronto. In this final chapter we also begin to see the final disconnect between him and his family in Yemen.

I think Intolerable is a very fitting title for this memoir. Kamal outlines his journey through countries that he could not stand to live in. For me, the book started off a bit slow but I know it was necessary to educate readers on the state of the Middle East at the time. There were parts that I enjoyed specifically Kamal's journey to finally be himself in Cairo and reading about his early life in Toronto. I just wish there was more of it. I would have liked to learn more about his transition into his new, permanent, home. I would recommend this read to anyone who is looking to learn about the history of Yemen and its people's struggles. I also think those who are looking for a glimpse of what it was like to grow up in the Middle East in the 1960-1980s would appreciate the details of Kamal's life.

This is fourth book in the Canada Reads 2015 series that I've read. The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King is the last one on the list. Once I've read and reviewed it, I'll be posting a summary of my thoughts on all the books and reveal my top two contenders.

Friday, February 27, 2015

And The Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier

Publisher: Coach House Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Purchased

Tom and Charlie have decided to live out the remainder of their lives on their own terms, hidden away in a remote forest, their only connection to the outside world a couple of pot growers who deliver whatever they can’t eke out for themselves.

But one summer two women arrive. One is a young photographer documenting a a series of catastrophic forest fires that swept Northern Ontario early in the century; she’s on the trail of the recently deceased Ted Boychuck, a survivor of the blaze. And then the elderly aunt of the one of the pot growers appears, fleeing one of the psychiatric institutions that have been her home since she was sixteen. She joins the men in the woods and begins a new life as Marie-Desneige. With the photographer’s help, they find Ted’s series of paintings about the fire, and begin to decipher the dead man’s history.

A haunting meditation on aging and self-determination, And the Birds Rained Down, originally published in French as Il pleuvait des oiseaux, was the winner of the Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie, the first Canadian title to win this honour. It was winner of the Prix des lecteurs Radio-Canada, the Prix des collégiens du Québec, the Prix Ringuet 2012 and a finalist for the Grand Prix de la ville de Montréal.

When I first read the back cover, all I could think about was WTH is an octogenarian? Once I learned that it was a person aged 80-89, my life was able to continue...

There were three themes/aspects of this book that I quite enjoyed: mystery, history and freedom of choice. Trying to figure out Boychuck's past life was like piecing together a puzzle without knowing what the finished product was supposed to look like. The photographer, who is snooping around Tom and Charlie's hidden community, reveals that she is photographing those who were impacted by a slew of wildfires that plagued Northern Ontario. She is specifically interested in finding Boychuck because he has become somewhat of a myth connected to the The Great Matheson fire in 1916. She is greeted with unfortunate news in her first interaction with Charlie.

The freedom to choose how to live and when to die, despite your age, is another theme that is very evident throughout the story. Tom, Charlie and eventually Marie-Desneige abandon their past lives to form their own community by the lake. Their secret is kept safe by a few of their trusted friends. The story also leaves room for a bit of love and romance, but you'll have to pick up the book and read about it for yourself. There are too many spoilers to be had if I were to elaborate.

After I read the first chapter, I wasn't feeling the book. I thought it was one that I would have to force myself to finish. I'm so glad that I kept going! The budding relationships between the characters and learning about their individual pasts is what got me hooked. This is the third of five Canada Reads books that I have read this month. I'll be posting a summary of which book is my pick to win once I've read them all. Intolerable by Kamal Al-Solaylee is next.

#WeekendReads: February 27, 2015


Is it just me or is time just FLYing by? It feels like I just wrote last week's edition of Weekend Reads. On deck for this weekend are two books that I've been wanting to read for a few weeks.

First, is Kamal Al-Solaylee's Intolerable. It's the fourth book in my quest to read all of the Canada Reads finalists before the March debates. The book is Kamal's personal memoir which spans almost 60 years of his family's history.

The second book is The Buried Giant. This is Kazuo Ishiguro's first novel in ten years and focuses on love, war and forgotten memories. I am so thankful to Random House Canada for sending me an advanced copy to read before it gets released this coming Tuesday.

What books are leaving your shelves this weekend?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Publisher: Gallery Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★★

Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life--and her relationship with her family and the world--forever.

At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Judith Guest's Ordinary People.

Where do I even begin with this...

Lisa Genova created a strong and intelligent female lead character in Alice Howland. An intellectual equal to her husband. She is an accomplished author, leader in her field and a distinguished member of Harvard's esteemed faculty. The book spans two years September 2003 - September 2005. During this time we learn about Alice's daily life before Alzheimers, her struggles after her diagnosis and we painstakingly follow her as her mental state deteriorates with each page.

Still Alice was a captivating read about an illness that so many, too many, people have to live with.  It brings forward the pains, devastation and destruction that Alzheimers disease bestows upon its victims and their loved ones. I adored this book and hope that a cure for Alzheimers will be discovered one day soon.

I've been holding off on seeing the Still Alice film until after I read this book.With Julienne Moore's recent Oscar win for her portrayal of Alice Howland, the following quote did make me smile:

"She beheld her giant, heavy cone as if were an Oscar, paid with a five-dollar bill, dropped the change in the Tips for College jar, and continued on toward the Charles River." (p115)

Lisa Genova was one bang on with that line!

This was the first book I've read that was written by Lisa Genova and it's instantly made me a fan of her work. The copy of Still Alice that I purchased has an excerpt from her next book Inside the O'Briens. I've already pre-ordered it and await it's arrival on April 7.

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars: Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque

Publisher: Penguin Canada
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: ARC from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★

Let's get this part out of the way -  I received a copy of Brown Eggs and Jam Jars from Penguin Canada in exchange for posted images on my social media platforms. I was not required to write a review, but I LOVE this book so much that I definitely want as many people as possible to know about it.

About the book & author:
Aimée’s rural-homesteader upbringing, years working as a professional chef, and everyday life as a busy mom led to the creation of the hugely popular blog Simple Bites. Raising three young children with husband Danny, Aimée traded her tongs and chef whites for a laptop and camera, married her two passions—mothering and cooking—and has since been creating recipes with an emphasis on whole foods for the family table, sharing stories and tips, and inspiring readers to make the family–food connection on the Simple Bites blog.

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars is Aimée’s long-awaited cookbook, inspired by her urban homesteading through the seasons and the joyous events they bring. It embraces year-round simple food with fresh flavours, from celebrating spring with a stack of Buttermilk Buckwheat Pancakes and pure maple syrup, to a simple late-summer harvest dinner with Chili-Basil Corn on the Cob and Lemon Oregano Roast Chicken. Autumn favourites include Apple Cinnamon Layer Cake with Apple Butter Cream Cheese Frosting, while Slow Cooker Cider Ham is the perfect comfort food for those cold winter nights. But that’s just a few of the more than one hundred recipes (like melt-on-your-tongue maple butter tarts and tangy homemade yogurt) that have a touch of nostalgia, feature natural ingredients, and boast plenty of love.

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars will inspire readers to connect family and food right where they are in life—from growing their own tomatoes to making a batch of homemade cookies. Enjoy your urban homestead.

I've had this book for just over three weeks and it arrived at the perfect time. One of JG's resolutions this year has been to eat healthier since he overindulged while I was pregnant with baby #2 a.k.a. Micro JG.

The beginning of the book introduces you to Aimée, her family and her experience in the kitchen. The book is then broken up into the four seasons and within each section are recipes that are best suited for that time of year. Although, if you can find the ingredients, there's nothing stopping you from making a refreshing summer drink in freezing cold winter. I made this Cucumber Honeydew Agua Fresca (p90) a couple weeks ago. The tequila I added in later kept me warm. With that said, it makes a delicious margarita mix!

I have a row cookbooks and baking books on my shelf that are really terrifying. Some ask for ingredients that I can't find in a regular grocery store, others make me feel like I'm in my high school chemistry class and then there are the books that have recipes that take upwards of 8 hours to prepare. I'm lucky if I get an hour to prepare a meal. One of the things I love about this book is its simplicity. As I flip through the pages, there aren't many that I've found intimidating and the amount of time required is reasonable. My new go to recipe is the Spinach And Ricotta Pappardelle (p36). It's so easy to make and if you're organized it takes less than 10 minutes.

I also appreciate Aimée's notes at the bottom of most recipes outlining how long each meal can be kept frozen or refrigerated. They're helpful now and I'm sure I'll be using them as a guide when I head back to work at the end of the summer.

Lastly anyone who's come over since we've received the book have commented on how beautiful it is and I completely agree. Aimée's recipes are brought to life by photographer Tim Chin. His ability to capture the food as well as Aimée and her family are impeccable. Brown Eggs and Jam Jars was actually promoted in our house. It's now one of our coffee table books. It's just too pretty to be stored on a shelf.

If you're looking for a new cookbook or need some new inspiration in the kitchen, I highly recommend you give this book a chance. To learn more about Aimée, stop by her blog Simple Bites. She has some great cooking tips and of course recipes posted. I've been eying her recently posted slow cooker recipes for the past week. There's a good chance one of them is going to make it on next week's meal plan. I also recommend stopping by Tim Chin's website The Chin Family Eats. You'll find some photos of food that will make your mouth water and get a behind the scenes look at how the stunning images in Brown Eggs and Jam Jars were shot.

Have you picked up this book or tried any other recipes from Simple Bites recipes? Let me know. I'd love to hear about them!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Publisher: HarperCollins Pubilshers
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★

Achilles, "the best of all the Greeks," son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful— irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods' wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

This book is fascinating retelling of Homer's Iliad. It is a look into the life of Achilles, one of Greek mythology's greatest war heroes. In my opinion, Achilles has often been portrayed as a self centred and entitled demigod who's fate is sealed in the Battle of Troy. This story is told from the point of view of Patroclus, Achilles' best friend. We learn that behind his godlike strength and arrogance is a young boy who is conflicted and vulnerable. 

This book has it all: a coming of age story, a love triangle and a wooden horse. It was refreshing to get a different perspective on Achilles' life and the events leading up to Battle of Troy. It made a well known story seem new again.

Monday, February 23, 2015

WIlliam Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back: Star Wars Part The Fifth by Ian Doescher

Publisher: Quirk Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift
Rating: ★★★★★

Hot on the heels of the New York Times best seller William Shakespeare’s Star Wars comes the next two installments of the original trilogy: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back and William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return. Return to the star-crossed galaxy far, far away as the brooding young hero, a power-mad emperor, and their jesting droids match wits, struggle for power, and soliloquize in elegant and impeccable iambic pentameter. Illustrated with beautiful black-and-white Elizabethan-style artwork, these two plays offer essential reading for all ages. Something Wookiee this way comes!

The Empire Striketh Back is the follow up to Verily, A New Hope. These books are an original creation by Ian Doescher. He takes the original Star Wars trilogy and rewrites them in the style of Shakespeare. You can read my review for Verily, A New Hope here.

Yoda speaks in haiku, Boba Fett in prose and we finally get a sense of how conflicted Lando of Calrissian is while he makes the decision to betray Han. Lastly, we see a few more hilarious R2-D2 soliloquies and the dramatic revelation of Luke's family tree. 

I really enjoyed the first book in the series and the second instalment did not disappoint. I highly recommend that readers brush up on their Star Wars knowledge before picking it up. You'll find it much more enjoyable if you do. But, if you're like me and know the movies line by line, then sit back, read and enjoy the ride. I hope Star Wars fans in galaxies near and far adore this book and series as much as I do.

On to the next one, The Jedi Doth Return...

#BookBagMonday, Vol 2: UnValentine's Day Presents

Entering My Book Bag:

A week before Valentine's Day, I won a Twitter contest hosted by Random House Canada. My prize? A stack of pretty awesome books sans lovey dovey feelings. Here's what I got:
I've already read The Girl on the Train, my review can be found here. I'll be diving into the rest of them soon. Any suggestions on where to start?

Soon To Be Entering My Book Bag
Are you excited for any of tomorrow's new releases? I can't wait to pick up A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Here's a little bit about the book:

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. 

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

Exiting My Book Bag:

I managed to get through a few books last week including the ones below. The links will take you to my review:

Friday, February 20, 2015

When Everything Feels Like The Movies by Raziel Reid

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★★

School is just like a film set: there's The Crew, who make things happen, The Extras who fill the empty desks, and The Movie Stars, whom everyone wants tagged in their Facebook photos. But Jude doesn't fit in. He's not part of The Crew because he isn't about to do anything unless it's court-appointed; he's not an Extra because nothing about him is anonymous; and he's not a Movie Star because even though everyone knows his name like an A-lister, he isn't invited to the cool parties. As the director calls action, Jude is the flamer that lights the set on fire.

Before everything turns to ashes from the resulting inferno, Jude drags his best friend Angela off the casting couch and into enough melodrama to incite the paparazzi, all while trying to fend off the haters and win the heart of his favourite co-star Luke Morris. It's a total train wreck!

But train wrecks always make the front page.

After completing this book, in one sitting, I have so much emotion that I don't even know where to start with this review so let's begin with why I chose to read it. When Everything Feels Like The Movies is one of the five finalists for the 2015 Canada Reads title. A book that breaks all barriers is the theme for the competition. I think it's safe to say that this book breaks a lot of them. The book contains shocking and disturbing moments that are counter balanced with occasional humour and beauty. It's an intense read that I could not put down.

Jude is an openly gay youth. This book follows him while he lives his life in a very small town where he is being bullied by his classmates. Despite the abuse that he endures both at school and at home, Jude continues to remain true to himself. He does, however, live on a premise that his life is a movie and the people around him are his supporting cast.

I'd recommend this book to anyone that can keep an open mind about individuality as it really is a wonderful read. This is the second book I've read from the Canada Reads shortlist. I'll provide my final thoughts on which one I'll be rooting for, but I have to say, this one is going to be tough to beat.

Have you read any of the Canada Reads finalists? Which one is your pick to win? Leave a comment and let me know.

#WeekendReads: February 20, 2015

It's Friday and time for another #WeekendReads post. I have a rather ambitious goal to try and get through three books. We'll see how it goes given that Sunday night is a write off so I can indulge in the Oscars.

Here's what I'll be reading (or trying to read):


 Still Alice by Lisa Genova: In the spirit of Oscar weekend, I thought it fitting to read at least one of the books was turned into a major motion picture. I chose Still Alice because it was one of the only movies that I haven't seen.

William Shakespeares Star Wars: The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher: I really enjoyed the first book in this series Verily, A New Hope and thought I'd add a light read.

When Everything Feels Like The Movies by Raziel Reid: Book #2 on my question to read all of the Canada Reads 2015 finalists. 

That's the list! What are you reading this weekend?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Sound of Music Story by Tom Santopietro

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Format: eBook
Source: eARC from the publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★★

On March 2, 1965, "The Sound of Music" was released in the United States and the love affair between moviegoers and the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical was on. Rarely has a film captured the love and imagination of the moviegoing public in the way that "The Sound of Music" did as it blended history, music, Austrian location filming, heartfelt emotion and the yodeling of Julie Andrews into a monster hit. Now, Tom Santopietro has written the ultimate "Sound of Music" fan book with all the inside dope from behind the scenes stories of the filming in Austria and Hollywood to new interviews with Johannes von Trapp and others. Santopietro looks back at the real life story of Maria von Trapp, goes on to chronicle the sensational success of the Broadway musical, and recounts the story of the near cancellation of the film when  the "Cleopatra" bankrupted 20th Century Fox. We all know that Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer played Maria and Captain Von Trapp, but who else had been considered? Tom Santopietro knows and will tell all while providing a historian’s critical analysis of the careers of director Robert Wise and screenwriter Ernest Lehman, a look at the critical controversy which greeted the movie, the film’s relationship to the turbulent 1960s and the super stardom which engulfed Julie Andrews. Tom Santopietro's "The Story of 'The Sound of Music'" is book for everyone who cherishes this American classic.

The Sound of Music was one of my favourite movies growing up. I have fond memories of my mother and I watching the movie together on VHS and created our own intermission with snacks and hot chocolate when it was time to change the tape for Part 2. Throughout the years I've taken every opportunity to watch the various adaptations of the Von Trapp family story including musicals, TV specials and of course updating my VHS tapes to BluRay. With all that said, I was so excited when I was provided the digital ARC for this book.

Let's all start from the very beginning, a very good place to start...

The book begins with a brief history of Maria Kutschera's life before her marriage to Captain von Trapp citing various details taken directly from her written works as well as quotes from the von Trapp children and grandchildren. Following this, the book goes into detail on how the film came to be starting with its roots on stage and the acquisition of the rights to the original German films.

As the film's score is being created we get a glimpse into how the film Cleopatra brings 20th Century Fox to bankruptcy and almost makes cancelling the Sound of Music a reality. We also get a look into how Robert Wise, the film's second director, wrangles up his crucial support team to bring the film to life filling the roles of production designer, film editor, cinematographer and costume designer. With the behind the scenes crew selected and signed on, the book also details the cast selection and who else was considered for the roles of Maria, Captain von Trapp and the seven children.

 My favourite aspects of this book are the behind the lens looks at how some of my favourite scenes of the Sound of Music were created and some of the controversies that surrounded them. As I went through the pages, I was visualizing each scene as I remembered them from the film. It was great learning how the scenes were changed and the reasoning behind those edits.

I absolutely adored this book, it's now one of my favourite things. I highly recommend it all Sound of Music fans.

Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ru by Kim Thúy

Publisher: Random House of Canada
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★

Ru. In Vietnamese it means lullaby; in French it is a small stream, but also signifies a flow--of tears, blood, money. Kim Thúy's Ru is literature at its most crystalline: the flow of a life on the tides of unrest and on to more peaceful waters. In vignettes of exquisite clarity, sharp observation and sly wit, we are carried along on an unforgettable journey from a palatial residence in Saigon to a crowded and muddy Malaysian refugee camp, and onward to a new life in Quebec. There, the young girl feels the embrace of a new community, and revels in the chance to be part of the American Dream. As an adult, the waters become rough again: now a mother of two sons, she must learn to shape her love around the younger boy's autism. Moving seamlessly from past to present, from history to memory and back again, Ru is a book that celebrates life in all its wonder: its moments of beauty and sensuality, brutality and sorrow, comfort and comedy.

Ru is a memoir about of a Vietnamese refugee who has escaped the war torn Vietnam with her family. Although this is a fictional autobiography, the events described in the book feel so real, so personal. You can't help but feel that many of these accounts are based on Kim Thúy's personal experiences. Each page in the book is a vignette, a memory that takes us from the young girl's extravagant life in Saigon, to a decrepit refugee camp in Malaysia and finally to a new unfamiliar world in Granby, Quebec. We also get a glimpse into her adult life where she has a family of her own raising two children, one of whom we are lead to believe is autistic bringing forward the challenges of motherhood and the realization of what love really is.

Ru is beautifully written, almost lyrical. It puts the hardships of Vietnamese immigrants front and centre. We also get a sense of how communities in Canada, specifically Quebec, banded together to sponsor and support them as they transitioned into this new world. 

This is the first of the CBC Canada Reads finalist books that I have read. The debate to determine the winner is on March 16. Have you read any of them? Who do you think will win? Let me know in the comments below.

#BookBagMonday: Debut Edition

This is the first edition of #BookBagMonday. Every week I'll be highlighting some of my latest book acquisitions from recent purchases, contest wins or advanced reading copies from publishers. I'll also be listing the books that I read the previous week.

New Additions
I decided to branch out my reading even further to include comics. I'm a huge Marvel fan and have been wanting to start immersing myself back into the universe for a while now. With so many options I had no clue where to start. Then, in my weekly bookstore adventures, I came across the Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel trade paperbacks. The adventure begins this week!

What I read (February 9 - 15)
It was a really slow reading week for me and managed to finish two books. I read Sam Maggs' The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy and William deBuys' The Last Unicorn. A great read for anyone looking to immerse themselves in geek culture. My review can be found here.

I'm currently in the middle of reading a few books, including my #WeekendRead, The Sound of Music Story by Tom Santopietro, and The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

Really hoping to have a better week this week. What's in your book bag this Monday? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth's Rarest Creatures by William deBuys

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Format: eBook
Source: eARC from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★

An award-winning author's stirring quest to find and understand an elusive and exceptionally rare species in the heart of Southeast Asia's jungles.

In 1992, in a remote mountain range, a team of scientists discovered the remains of an unusual animal with beautiful long horns. It turned out to be a living species new to western science -- a saola, the first large land mammal discovered in 50 years.

Rare then and rarer now, no westerner had glimpsed a live saola in the wild before Pulitzer Prize finalist and nature writer William deBuys and conservation biologist William Robichaud set off to search for it in the wilds of central Laos. The team endured a punishing trek, up and down whitewater rivers and through mountainous terrain ribboned with the snare lines of armed poachers.


William deBuys accompanies conservation biologist William Robichaud on his quest to find the saola. The saola are one the rarest mammals in the world and make their home in very remote areas of Laos. The group endures a dangerous trek though rivers and mountains as they make their way to the presumed location of the saola. 

This was a challenging read for me and took a couple tries to really get into it. Once I got into the groove of reading however, I was hooked. The maps and photographs helped with really getting a feel for what the environment was like and how difficult the terrain was to navigate. William deBuys provides a real and captivating account of the expedition and builds a sense of mystery surrounding the saola. He describes the relationships he has built with the expedition members and the strong bond he has built with Robichaud.

The Last Unicorn is scheduled for release on March 10 2015. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a glimpse into a remote and uninhabited part of the world and learn about one of its rarest creatures.

Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC of The Last Unicorn directly from the publisher Little, Brown and Company in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs

Publisher: Quirk Books
Format: eBook
Source: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

Fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes for everything from starting an online fan community to planning a convention visit to supporting fellow female geeks in the wild.

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy is a great read that makes you laugh and leaves you feeling informed and empowered. The title leaves one to assume that the book is only geared towards women, but don't let it fool you. I believe men would also enjoy it as the book goes through various levels of geekery and include examples of fandoms that can appeal to anyone.

Sam Maggs also includes interviews of famous and influential Fangirls. I found many of their responses inspiring. They each provided useful tips on how to stay true to one's geeky self. 

The part of the book I found the most useful was the guide to conventions. After reading it, it made me wish I could go back in time and educate my younger self. So many of these tips would have been even more helpful back when JG and I attended the SDCC in 2012. 

I thoroughly enjoyed The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy and has made its way into my top 10. I've already written out a list of who I'll be gifting it to when it's released on May 12, 2015.

Have you read it? Did you totally geek out like I did? Leave a comment and let me know.

Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC of The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy from Quirk Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

#WeekendReads: Valentine's Day Edition

Valentine's Day is tomorrow. I decided to kick of my weekend with one of my favourite things - The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music Story by Tom Santopietro gives readers a behind the scenes look into the lives of the von Trapp family and the movie that made them so famous.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

CBC Canada Reads 2015: A book that will break all barriers

Canada Reads 2015 aims to highlight books that can challenge stereotypes, highlight issues and change the way people think about them. Five books have been voted into the shortlist:
A debate will be held from March 16 - 19 and aired on CBC where notable Canadians have been selected to defend one of the shortlisted books. A winner will be selected on the final day of the competition. You can read more about the CBC Canada Reads 2015 books and panelists here.

My goal is to have all five of the books read before the debate. Have you read any of this year's Canada Reads shortlist books? Which one was your favourite? Who do you think will win?

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