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

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

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

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.


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.


#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.


#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.


#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.


#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.


#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

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.


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.

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

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.


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

Top 10 Tuesday #10: Ten Books I've Added To My To-Be-Read List Lately

This week's Top Ten Tuesday focuses on books that I've recently added to my TBR list.

I haven't had a lot of time to sit down and read over the past couple months, which is just another way of saying my TBR list as pretty much doubled since the spring. Here are ten titles that I've recently added to constantly evolving list.

The first six on the list are the books on the 2016 Giller Prize short list. In previous years, I've read the books in advance of the award night (which happened to be yesterday) and follow along on Twitter for the results. Unfortunately, this year, I didn't get through a single title.
Image Source: http://www.scotiabankgillerprize.ca/
#10: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
#9: Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin
#8: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
#7: The Party Wall by Catherine Leroux, Lazer Lederhendler (translator)
#6: Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien
#5: The Bad Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

Audiobooks are still working well for me. I can multitask and enjoy a good read. Lately, I've been going with memoirs/autobiographies that are narrated by the author themselves. I find them to be more captivating because you can hear their changes in tone as they go from a happy story to a heartbreaking one. Also, it adds a sense of intimacy because it feels as though the author is speaking directly to you. The two audiobooks I have lined up are:

#4: May I Have Your Attention, Please? by James Corden
#3: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Keeping on the memoir theme, the final two books I've added to my list are written by Canadian authors. Funny enough, my earliest memories of both of these men have them dressed in hockey jerseys and were both named Wayne.

#2: Canada by Mike Myers
#1: 99: Stories of the Game by Wayne Gretzky

Really curious to find out what everyone else has added to their TBR recently. Leave a link to your #TTT below and I'll come check it out!

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, October 23, 2016

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Title: Me Before You
Author: Amy Schumer
Format: Audiobook Download
Source: Purchased
Narrator: Amy Schumer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publishing Date: August 16, 2016
Book Rating:
Narrator Rating: 

Synopsis from the publisher's website:
The Emmy Award-winning comedian, actress, writer, and star of Inside Amy Schumer and the acclaimed film Trainwreck has taken the entertainment world by storm with her winning blend of smart, satirical humor. Now, Amy Schumer has written a refreshingly candid and uproariously funny collection of (extremely) personal and observational essays.

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is—a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friend—an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably—but only because it’s over.

I've been on an audiobook binge since the end of July. After listening to Me Before You and After You by Jojo Moyes, I was hoping for a lighter read. It was late Monday evening and I was going through my Twitter feed when I realized Amy Schumer's book was being released at midnight. I purchased the audiobook and downloaded it an hour later. At 3am, I was a few chapters in and hooked on her story.

I was never an Amy Schumer mega fan. In fact, I didn't know who she was until my husband told me I HAD to watch the movie Trainwreck. I enjoyed the movie and started to dabble in a few of her shows. What I took away from those shows was that Amy was not only hilarious, but she was also very confident and had a few hidden stories. Those hidden stories were aired out in the pages of this book.

Amy is very transparent in this extremely personal memoir. She reminisces about her rise to fame and tells readers intimate details of her past relationships. Readers/Listeners are also reminded that although Amy is a celebrity and is, now, often in the spotlight, she is an introvert. Someone who enjoys retreating to a quiet place for some alone time.
"If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them—like the sun"
Amy's life was not always one filled with glamour. Her upbringing taught her to appreciate what she had and never stopped reminding her that she had to work hard to succeed. Throughout the book she gives her readers boots of confidence.
"Love yourself! You don’t need a man or a boy or a self-proclaimed love expert to tell you what you’re worth. Your power comes from who you are and what you do! You don't need all that noise, that constant hum in the background telling you whether or not you're good enough. All you need is you, your friends, and your family. And you will find the right person for you, if that's what you want - the one who respects your strength and beauty."
I would recommend this book to fans of Amy Schumer and to those who enjoy inspiring memoirs - though this one may be a bit more crude that you're used to. I would also recommend the audiobook over the physical/eBook. This is mostly due to the fact that Amy herself narrates it. It makes the book and its lessons so much more impactful. You can hear the changes in her tone as she recalls the events of her past. So, if you're looking for a new read, or just want to catch up on some celebrity biographies, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer should definitely be your next choice!

Friday, October 21, 2016

After You by Jojo Moyes

Title: After You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Format: Audiobook Download
Source: Purchased
Narrators: Anna Acton
Publisher:Penguin Audio
Book Rating:
Narrator Rating: 

Synopsis from publisher's website:
How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.

I downloaded After You almost immediately after I finished listening to Me Before You. I was still on a high from following Will and Lou's gut wrenching story. I probably should have given myself more time to recover...

In After You, Jojo Moyes takes us back into Lou's world just weeks after losing Will. Here we see a completely different person from the quirky and lively girl we fell in love with in the first book. Lou is shattered (in more ways than one...), floating aimlessly through the days trying to make sense of what had happened. Her world has been turned upside down.

One of my favourite aspects of Moyes' writing is character development. I absolutely adored Lou's character. Following her on this new journey as she works to come to terms with her loss and attempts to bring back a refreshed version of her old self was so captivating.  The writer also brings back a few characters from her past to cheer her on and brings in a few new ones for the ride.

This sequel is all about healing and the struggle of moving on. It's about learning how to pick up the shattered pieces and trying to make it whole again. It also brings about some new twists and turns you won't want to miss.

After You is just as engaging as its prequel. It won't leave you as broken the first book but it will still raise up a ton of emotions that you tried to suppress the first go round. All I can say is go grab your tissue box and get ready for another emotional rollercoaster as you re-enter Lou's world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Teaser Tuesday #29 Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Jenn at Books and a Beat. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page (some times you need more than two for it to make sense).
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

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

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. Sam Maggs latest book gives readers a glimpse into the lives of some really kick-ass women who have each made a huge imprint on the world. I'm about half way through and have already learned so much. We have always known that women have played a larger part in history than what was written in our text books. In her latest book, Wonder Women, Sam Maggs highlights just a handful of these extraordinary ladies. Here are a few teasers:

"It's time to stop accepting women's role in history as limited to keeping a great home (though admittedly a harder job than it looks!) and birthing the dudes we learn about in art history or religion or biology class." p10

"There's nothing wrong with a woman who chooses to stay at home and be a great supporter of her family, so long as that is her choice. Sadly, however, for most of history, women were dined any other options, a fact that didn't sit right with one Annie Londonderry. Whether the world was ready for it or not, she was going to roll her way into women's rights on a revolutionary invention that was shaking up society: the bicycle." -p194

I'd love to hear from anyone who's had a chance to read this book. Were there any particular bios that shocked or inspired you? Leave a comment and let me know!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Alone Against the North: An Expedition into the Unknown by Adam Shoalts

Title: Alone Against the North
Author: Adam Shoalts
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Purchased
Publishing Date: May 10, 2016 (First published in hardcover on October 6, 2015)

Like most of my 2016 reads, Alone Against the North was introduced to me by Janet Joy Wilson. Her "Earth Day Rocks!" edition of the #TMSBookClub briefly talks about climate change, the importance of bees and a quick tale about Canada's Indiana Jones. The last one really spoke to me. I picked up a copy and like many all of J.J.'s recommendations I did not want to to put it down. For three days, I took the non express trains to work so I could have a few more minutes to read about Adam's adventures.
"So the world still does contain remote, unexplored territory and the age of exploration is not over...which is where I enter the picture. my vocation is to explore one of the world's last great wildernesses." - p20
In the days of Google Earth and advanced satellite technology it's hard to believe that there are still parts of the world that have not been explored.  In Alone Against the North, readers are immersed into Adam's adventures as he embarks on several thrilling journeys into an unknown part of Canada within the Hudson Bay Lowlands, located in Northern Ontario.
"My objective was simple enough: to make the first detailed exploration of and substantial published account of the Again reiver in history. The idea alone -the first in history- was positively intoxicating." - p26
Adam's journey was not an easy one. This was not one of those expeditions you see on TV. At the time, he did not have big name sponsors to fund an adventure of this magnitude. He travelled light carrying only the basic necessities to survive, similar to those of the explorers that came before him.

In the pages that follow, you are absorbed into Adam's world as he goes through the Canadian wilderness. Just as you would expect there are stories of bears, goshawks and insects. His descriptions of blackflies had me swatting the air and shuddering at the thought of being swarmed by them. I tried to visualize the descriptions of the waterfalls and lagoons wishing that there were pictures included in the book. I followed along as Adam overcame his goal of reaching the Again River and all of dangers and triumphs that came along with it.

I put down this book yearning to know more about the Again River and my country. Alone Against the North is definitely a recommended read for anyone looking for an adventure. Adam's story is both educational and uplifting. His ability to overcome the physical and mental barriers during his expeditions will leave you inspired and empowered.
"To quit -to accept defeat, to admit the river had beaten me- was out of the question" -p218
There is no greater triumph than achieving a personal goal no matter how big or how small. Alone Against the North serves as a reminder that you can achieve anything if you believe in yourself. 

You can learn more about Adam Shoalts and his adventures from the video below or take trip to his website.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Title: Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Format: Audiobook Download
Narrators: Susan Lyons, Anna Bentink, Steven Crossley, Alex Tregear, Andrew Wincott, Owen Lindsay
Publisher:Penguin Audio
Book Rating:
Narrator Rating: 

They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

Where do I even begin with this? Before I downloaded this audiobook, I believed I was a person who: 1) did not enjoy sappy love stories and 2) would not enjoy audiobooks. Let's tackle these two separately.

Sappy love stories are not my "thing"
Before starting this book, I kept telling myself that I probably wouldn't end of finishing it and would likely skip to watch the movie instead. Um... yeah, I was wrong.

Jojo Moyes created characters that seemed so real. Lou's personality, compassion and determination leapt off the pages. She was an extremely loveable character who was quirky and intelligent. Her contrast to Will brings so much depth to the story that you can't help but want to see their relationship evolve and cheer them on, right down to the last chapter.

I also enjoyed the writing. There could have been many moments in the book that could have dragged on and on, but they didn't and I'm glad. The book was concise and straight to the point (kind of like Will) and yet, still had a few moments that would make you chuckle.

Me Before You has definitely made me think twice about saying no to romantic novels. (Note: I downloaded After You by Jojo Moyes while I was still trying to put myself together after this book.)

Audiobook, schmaudiobook
Yet another thing I was wrong about...

Back in August (yes, I've been absent from the blogging world yet again...), I posted about Awe-Inspiring Audiobooks. Me Before You was the first, and definitely not the last, audiobook that I have ever tried. In not so many words, I'm hooked. Having the ability to listen to books on my commute home on the train and in the car have been one of the only things keeping me sane over the past few weeks. For those who say they don't have the time to read I definitely recommend giving an audiobook a try, it may just change your mind.

In closing...
Safe to say, I adored Me Before You and the format that it was delivered. For audiobooks, the actors play as much of a role as the story itself. Me Before You was narrated by a very talented group of people who kept me engaged throughout.

The book... oh this book... it will make you laugh, it will force you to question humanity and it may even make you cry. But, in the end, it's all worth it. I loved it and I truly recommend that you give it a go in whatever format you see fit.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

Title: The Girls in the Garden
Author: Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria Books
Format: ARC
Source: Simon & Schuster Canada
On Sale Date: June 7, 2016

Synopsis from the publisher's website:
Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

When this book was pitched to me by the publisher, I was immediately drawn in. The first few pages are a flash forward of an event that will make any parent feel uneasy. As you flip through following the pages you can't help but try to solve the whodunnit mystery.

The Girls in the Garden introduces us to a group of teenagers who grow up and bond in a park hidden behind their homes. Together, they stay out late, have fun and get into trouble. The build up to the mystery intensifies as the day of the neighbourhood party nears.

I enjoyed many aspects of this book. My favourite being the character development. Jewell does an amazing job pulling the reader into the lives of her characters. You can't help but feel invested in their every move and questioning each of their decisions.

The Girls in the Garden takes you on a ride through the lives of ordinary teenagers who live in an extraordinary community. Part family drama, part psychological thriller. The story will pull you in and you won't want to stop until you put the mystery to rest.

For even more details on the book, check out the trailer below.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader copy of The Girls in the Garden from Simon & Schuster Canada. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger

Title: Soft in the Head
Author: Marie-Sabine Roger
Translator: Frank Wynne
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Gift
On Sale Date: June 28, 2016 (Originally published in 2008)

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A humorous, heartwarming story follows the intellectually dim-witted 45-year-old Germain as he meets and slowly gets to know 85-year-old Margueritte, who sits in the park every day watching the pigeons and reading. She speaks to him as an equal, something his friends rarely do, and reads to him, sparking in him a previously undiscovered interest in books and reading. When she reveals to Germain that she is starting to lose her eyesight to macular degeneration, he is inspired for the first time in his life to work at reading so that he can read fluently to his new friend.

I received a copy of Soft in the Head from Janet Joy Wilson following our Mad Miss Mimic afternoon tea event. Janet Joy has yet to steer me wrong with her book recommendations. I love, Love, LOVED this book!

As I was reading, the book made me stop and think about my relationships with those close to me and made me re-evaluate how I treat others who are not. Its uplifting story shows even the slightest bit of kindness and compassion can make a huge difference in a person's life.

Germain was treated with such disrespect especially by the ones closest to him - his friends and his mother.
"When people are always cutting you down, you don't get a chance to grow." p61 
"People say names will never hurt you. But they're wrong, names hurt just as much as sticks and stones. They just break your bones more slowly." p108
All Margueritte did was treat him like an equal. She did not look down on him or treat him like less of a person because of his lack of comprehension. Germain embraced her attention. He craved the knowledge he was gaining from the books Margueritte introduced him to. They inspired him so much that for the first time in his life, he put effort into reading. This need to explore the world through books was elevated when Germain discovered that Margueritte would eventually lose her eyesight.
"The bloody disease, macular matriculation or whatever it was, would keep going until it had done its job and Margueritte was blind.
And that thought made me as sad as a lump of lead. When you love someone, that one person being unhappy can cause you more pain than all the people you hate put together if they tried to screw up your whole life." p170 
What I loved most about Soft in the Head was that it was a book, about characters who bond through books. As a lover of books, it doesn't get any better than that!
"Books should not be loved selfishly. Neither books nor anything else, in fact. We are here on this earth merely to pass things on... To learn to share our toys, that is perhaps the most important lesson to remember in this life..." p74
I dare you not to fall in love with these two characters! Their relationship is so pure and perfect because they compliment each other so well. I was so sad when I got to the last few pages because it meant my journey with them was coming to an end. I can't recommend this book enough!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Awe-inspiring Audiobooks in August - What will you be listening to?

A conversation with Janet Joy Wilson and her blog post about Awe-inspiring Audiobooks in August inspired me to finally give an audio book a try. I signed up for an account on Audible.com to take advantage of their trial offer - 2 free books for the first 30 days.

It took me a while to finally choose my first book, kind of like when you want to watch something on Netflix and you spend 10+ minutes flipping through the catalogue. Eventually, I decided on Janet Joy's recommendation: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I really don't know why I thought I would choose anything different...

I have listened to a few hours of Me Before You and here are my first impressions of the audiobook experience:
  • Paying attention to the book and its storylines isn't as difficult as I thought it would be when multitasking. I found myself perking up when an interesting passage was being read, but I was able to go right back into what I was doing.
  • Taking notes and highlighting my favourite sections/passages is going to be a tad difficult. I plan on figuring out a way to do this via the app on my phone. 
  • Writing an audiobook review will be interesting. Not only will I be reviewing the content of the story, but I'll likely have a few words about the narrator(s).
I am curious about how many audiobook listeners there are out there. Have you tried them? Feel free to leave me some recommendations on which books to listen to next and stay tuned for my review on Me Before You and my first audiobook experience.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Kanye West: God and Monster by Mark Beaumont

Title: Kanye West: God and Monster
Author: Mark Beaumont
Publisher: The Overlook Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Purchased
On sale date: August 11, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Kanye West is undoubtedly one of pop culture’s most divisive and fascinating characters. Alongside his multimillion selling albums, Kanye has also launched record labels and clothing lines and in the process, become one of the most respected, creative and influential artists in music today.

The most in-depth look at West’s life and career to date, Mark Beaumont’s new book lifts the mask to expose the man behind the endless myths. Featuring quotes from all of the major players in West’s life, Kanye West: God and Monster traces his life from the suburbs of Chicago through art school and rap apprenticeships to recording in the coolest studios of New York and Hawaii with the biggest names in music, revolutionizing hip-hop at every step of the way. Beaumont documents every rumor and revelation, details the wildest extravagances and biggest ego blow-ups of this true rap original.

I made a list of books to read while on vacation in May. I took a trip to my local Indigo and grabbed the titles I wanted. As I was walking to the cash register, I passed the Employee Picks section and saw this book. I picked it up as an impulse buy given that both my husband and I are fans of Kanye's music. I'm a little more College Dropout era and JG is still going strong. I packed this book along with all the others on vacation and this was the only one that came back read.

As a fan of Kanye's music, I never really got into the nitty gritty of his journey to the top, then the bottom...then the top again. This book does just that! Kanye is always portrayed in media as an outspoken and extremely arrogant individual, which he is. What the author does with this book is gives readers insights as to why that is. Mark Beaumont's title for his book "God and Monster" is aptly named when put into the context of Kanye's life.
"Along the way Kanye became the most loved, hated, admired, ridiculed, celebrated, lampooned and consistently unignorable force in rap. A self-proclaimed God and a motherf***in' monster." p10 
I took away a few learnings about Kanye's rise to the top and the hardships he overcame to get there. His perfectionist nature and need to be recognized is felt throughout the pages. It also sparked a few "Did you know?" questions directed to my husband while I was reading. For the most part he did know... My favourite tidbit from the book was how another famous musician got his stage name from Kanye and poet J. Ivy:
"Kanye repeatedly played Ivy a track Stephens was singing on and Ivy was blown away by how refreshingly soulful his voice was. When Stephens arrived at the studio an hour later, Ivy accosted him - "I heard your music," he enthused, "it's so amazing, it sounds so old school. Man, you sound like one of the legends. You're a legend. Matter of fact, that's what I'm going to call you from now on: The Legend". When Stephens walked into another session several days later, Ivy shouted at him "John Legend!" and Kanye backed him up, saying "you're John Legend from now on, that's your name". And it was." p105 
Overall, I enjoyed the behind the scenes looks into Kanye's career. I will warn you though, if you're not well versed in hip hop history, you may need to Google a few names to understand who they are and why their presence in this book and/or their work is significant to Kanye West's life.

The next book I have on my "learn more about Kanye West" journey is Kanye West Owes Me $300: And Other True Stories from a White Rapper Who Almost Made It Big by Jensen Karp. Just because I need a little humour in my life. On to the next one...

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