Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #7: Ten of my most recent 5 star reads

This week's theme is to list off my most recent 5 star reads. A 5 star book, for me, is one that fits one or more of the following criteria:

  • Has a story so captivating that I don't want to put the book down from start to finish
  • Gave me a book hangover
  • Has a character I absolutely adore
  • A story so great that I would want to read it again

Without further ado, here's my list...

Tenth spot goes to Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra. I still can't get over how much I enjoyed this book. You can check out my review & the book trailer here.

I can't wait to see what my fellow bloggers have listed as their latest 5 star reads. Feel free to leave me the link to your TTT post 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.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra

Title: Mad Miss Mimic
Author: Sarah Henstra
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Purchased
On Sale Date: May 5, 2015

It's London, 1872, where 17-year-old heiress Leonora Somerville is preparing to be presented to upper upper-class society -- again. She's strikingly beautiful and going to be very rich, but Leo has a problem money can’t solve. A curious speech disorder causes her to stutter but also allows her to imitate other people’s voices flawlessly. Servants and ladies alike call her “Mad Miss Mimic” behind her back…and watch as Leo unintentionally scares off one potential husband after another. 

London is also a city gripped by opium fever. Leo’s brother-in-law Dr. Dewhurst and his new business partner Francis Thornfax are frontrunners in the race to patent an injectable formula of the drug. Friendly, forthright, and as a bonus devastatingly handsome, Thornfax seems immune to the gossip about Leo’s “madness.” But their courtship is endangered from the start. The mysterious Black Glove opium gang is setting off explosions across the city. The street urchins Dr. Dewhurst treats are dying of overdose. And then there is Tom Rampling, the working-class boy Leo can’t seem to get off her mind. 

As the violence closes in around her Leo must find the links between the Black Glove’s attacks, Tom’s criminal past, the doctor’s dangerous cure, and Thornfax’s political ambitions. But first she must find her voice.


"There are things I cannot say in any voice.
I was born Leonora Emmaline Somerville, but I am not at all sure that is who I still am."

Leonora Somerville is a beautiful, rich and elegant young girl growing up in Victorian era London. She is known by a number of names: Stumbletonge, Mutemouth, Crippletongue. Leo's speech impediment prevents her from speaking without stuttering. yet gives her a unique ability to mimic the voice of others. This ability has lead others to whisper another name for her - Mad Miss Mimic.

Leo's sister, Christabel, sees her as nothing more than a burden. She treats Leo like a doll - one that she dresses up and primps for potential husbands to admire.

"In fact I had only one duty: to stand still and submit to being dressed and tressed to Christabel's satisfaction by the maids." p18

Leo's mimicry has scared away a fair share of potential suitors except one, Francis Thornfax. A wealthy merchant and business partner to Dr. Drewhurst, Christabel's husband. Thornfax, does not appear to be bothered by Leo's condition, instead, he nurtures and admires her for it. Later events reveal his true intentions, as Leo begins to heed her Aunt Emmaline's warning:

"In the right sort of legend every pond dweller might be a dragon" p119

Mad Miss Mimic is a love story, a mystery and a thriller all entrenched into one captivating novel.

I fell in love with this book for so many reasons, but here are just a couple...

The setting. It's a combination of two things that I love London and historical fiction. Sarah Henstra does a fantastic job of transporting the reader through homes of the rich and powerful and the slums of the city streets.

The characters. It is nearly impossible to not fall in love with Leo. Her speech impediment and mimicry is so unique and captivating. When she struggles to find her voice, it is hard as a reader to not want to reach out and help her. The empathy you feel for her is soon replaced by the urge to cheer her on as she chooses to use her actions in place of her words. Her bravery to step outside of what is expected of her is inspiring.  

The other character I adored was Tom. Tom is Dr. Drewhurst's assistant who quickly becomes Leo's guardian in the shadows. Their relationship, though complicated, blossoms into much more as they are faced with several obstacles to uncover the mystery of the Black Glove.

"I met in those grey eyes so thunderous an expression that for a moment it was hard to draw breath, and I was filled with a disquiet I did not understand." p17

Just in case my review wasn't enough to convince you to read it, here are a couple more. First, the book trailer. Everyone loves a good book trailer. The video provides a teaser on the book and a few notes from Sarah Henstra on writing a historical YA novel:

Secondly, Mad Miss Mimic is The Morning Show Book Club's March pick. After reading the book, you can enter to win Tea4Two. Check out the details here. The contest closes on March 30, 2016.

I would love to hear what others think of Leo's mimicry. What would you do if you encountered someone with her ability? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Shelfie Bomb!: A Girl's Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber

Book Review + Guest Post = Shelfie Bomb
Let's Take A Shelfie                                     

With all of the Canada Reads craziness over the past couple months, I knew my time to read anything outside of the 5 short listed titles would be limited. Luckily, my long time friend (I just publicly declared that we're friends, it's official now!) and colleague has come to my rescue.

I present to you, J.M.'s very first Shelfie Bomb...

Title: A Girl's Guide to Moving On
Author: Debbie Macomber
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: From Publisher
On Sale Date: February 23, 2016

Synopsis from the publisher's website:

In this powerful and uplifting novel, a mother and her daughter-in-law bravely leave their troubled marriages and face the challenge of starting over. Leaning on each other, Nichole and Leanne discover that their inner strength and capacity for love are greater than they ever imagined.

When Nichole discovers that her husband, Jake, has been unfaithful, the illusion of her perfect life is indelibly shattered. While juggling her young son, a new job, and volunteer work, Nichole meets Rocco, who is the opposite of Jake in nearly every way. Though blunt-spoken and rough around the edges, Rocco proves to be a dedicated father and thoughtful friend. But just as their relationship begins to blossom, Jake wagers everything on winning Nichole back—including their son Owen’s happiness. Somehow, Nichole must find the courage to defy her fears and follow her heart, with far-reaching consequences for them all.

Leanne has quietly ignored her husband’s cheating for decades, but is jolted into action by the echo of Nichole’s all-too-familiar crisis. While volunteering as a teacher of English as a second language, Leanne meets Nikolai, a charming, talented baker from Ukraine. Resolved to avoid the heartache and complications of romantic entanglements, Leanne nonetheless finds it difficult to resist Nikolai’s effusive overtures—until an unexpected tragedy tests the very fabric of her commitments.

J.M.'s Thoughts:
Having read many of Debbie Macomber’s novels in the past, I was pleased to have the opportunity to read “A Girl’s Guide to Moving on” before it was released to the public.  While this novel is written a bit differently than her other novels it is just as enjoyable and kept my attention throughout.  I really enjoyed the interaction between the two main characters.  Nichole and Leanne have both just recently left their cheating husbands.  What makes the connection interesting is that Nichole is divorcing Leanne’s son for cheating and getting another woman pregnant.  Leanne feels responsible for her son’s actions because she stayed in an unfaithful marriage for 35 years, showing her son that it was okay to behave this way in a marriage.  Together; Nichole and Leanne forge new beginnings, friendships and relationships as they continue to deal with the ramifications of their divorces and Ex-husbands.

I really connected with Nichole’s character and found her believable and I was able to sympathize with her and the situation she was in.  While I enjoyed the interaction and relationship between Nichole and Leanne, I had a harder time empathizing with Leanne and understanding some of the decisions her character was making.  I loved following the new relationships these ladies were building and enjoyed how they tentatively accepted new men in their lives!

Unlike Debbie Macomber’s other stories, this is a great stand-alone novel that doesn’t require background or additional reading.  Overall I would recommend this book to any Debbie Macomber fans or for anyone looking for a light and uplifting read.

Disclaimer: A finished copy of A Girl's Guide to Moving On was provided by Penguin Random House Canada for review purposes. All opinions are our own.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Canada Reads 2016: Who will take the crown?

Canada Reads 2016 kicks off today! From March 21 - March 24, five panellists will go head to head to defend their chosen book in an outright brawl. Just kidding... that's not how it works. If it did, my money would be on Clara Hughes and Adam "Edge" Copeland in the final. You read about how to watch the competition here.

The five Canada Reads panellists will defend their book in a televised debate moderated by Gill Deacon. The five titles shortlisted for this illustrious competition are: Birdie by Tracey Lindberg, The Illegal by Lawrence Hill, Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter, Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz and The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami. Each of these books have been reviewed on Let's Take A Shelfie if you want to learn more about them. 

These five books fit the theme of starting over in their own way. What's similar about all of them is the act of starting over is initiated by a loss of a friend or family member. This loss kick starts a path for the main characters to follow which helps lead them to a better life.

If I got to decide the outcome of Canada Reads, here's how I would have it going down:
Day 1 elimination: Birdie by Tracey Lindberg - There's no secret that I found this to be the most challenging of the five. I will be rereading this book because I feel I completely missed the boat on my first go.
Day 2 elimination: The Illegal by Lawrence Hill - Keita's story of oppression and having to leave one's homeland, though important and uplifting, I feel, was not as intriguing when compared to the stories in the books that follow. 
Day 3 elimination: Minister Without Portfolio - Oh, Henry. Even with his faults and poor decisions, you can't help but feel for him. If you put aside the way in which this book is written, you'll uncover a story of perseverance and love.
Day 4 elimination: The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami - This book has made its way onto my favourites shelf. Reading about a father's agony over a poor decision he made in his past was gut wrenching at times. Sripathi's story of overcoming his guilt and now raising his grand daughter in a land that's foreign to her is both moving and endearing.
Winner: Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz - The underlying theme of love and the bond that the two sisters shared is something that has stuck with me since reading it. Saleema Nawaz is a beautiful writer and I hope that her involvement in Canada Reads puts a well deserved spotlight on her work.

Since it's not up to me, we'll have to wait until Thursday to find out who's crowned the winner. I will likely be tweeting about #CanadaReads (and my NCAA Basketball March Madness bracket) over at @oriemg so feel free to join in the conversation. You can also leave your thoughts on who you think will win in the comments below.

Now, for your viewing pleasure, here are the book trailers for each of the five books:

Birdie by Tracey Lindberg


Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz 


 A Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami


The Illegal by Lawrence Hill 


Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter

Title: Minishter Without Portfolio
Author: Michael Winter
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Format: Kindle eBook
Source: Purchased
On Sale Date: February 25, 2014 (First published August 27, 2013)

Synopsis from publisher's website:
Henry Hayward has been living life the way he's wanted—working hard, playing hard—but when his girlfriend tells him she's leaving, it destroys him. In a quest to recover, he joins an army-affiliated contracting crew that takes him overseas to a Canadian base in Afghanistan. In the company of friends, he begins to mend: having laughs and being rebellious, blithely unaware of all he's left behind. But everything changes during a roadside incursion when a routine patrol turns fatal. And Henry, who survives, knows in his heart that he is responsible.

Upon returning home, tormented by guilt, he resolves to take care of the people and places around him: Martha Groves, whose boyfriend was killed in Afghanistan; his friends and neighbours; and a summer home that needs revitalizing. Henry tries his best to seek roots after a rootless life, collecting around himself a "community of a hundred people" for whom he cares deeply and is responsible. But he hasn’t factored in family history and social infidelity—and Martha has a revelation of her own that may change everything.

Minister Without Portfolio illuminates the power and violence of self-creation. It asks: To whom are we beholden? Who do we adopt—and who couldn't we live without? It is an emotionally affecting work, filled with truths about the frailties and miracles of human nature, by a writer of exceptional talent.

After living what he believed was a normal and content life, Henry's world was turned upside down when his long term relationship ended. To help get over the pain and loneliness, Henry continued to bury himself in his work. This lead him to Afghanistan where he experienced a life changing event - the loss of a co-worker and friend. As he begins to come to terms with the loss of Tender Morris, Henry begins to evaluate his life and realizes that he has nothing. Not a person, a house or land to call his own.

"I am a good man, Henry thought, but I’m not a good man. I’m following kinky side routes that do harm to the moral fabric of many lives. What was it Tender called me—a minister without portfolio. What a disparaging comment. Let me get a portfolio." Loc 574

Now, being fully aware of his situation, Henry decides to make a home for himself in Renews. A coastal community in Atlantic Canada. He leans on his friends for support and everyday necessities like water and electricity as he begins his journey. He plans to build a home out of Tender Morris' run down house. He pours all that he has into the house so it can act as an anchor and foundation for his new life. 

"But what isn’t refutable is you only have one life and you better make the most of it." Loc 926

With the house being taken care of, Henry realises that he is also missing a human connection. A night of passion becomes a budding bond between himself and Tender's widowed girlfriend, Martha. The two become close as they mourn Tender's loss. Together they face obstacles with land ownership, the building of a new home and the expected hardships that one would expect with their relationship.

"We live individual lives with the consciousness of death and awareness of the past. But the most important part of that sentence is the individual part. Let yourself be humbled by the experiences people have been having for thousands of years. And speak of it." 2112

Minister Without Portfolio surprised me. As I flipped through the first part of the book, I was unsure of whether or not I would be able to finish it, let alone learn anything from it. I'm glad I continued on. Henry's story, though gut wrenching at times, was one that I was happy to read. He is a symbol of hope and hard work. Despite all of the negativity that surrounded him from his break up with Nora to all that followed it, he continued to push through.

It is an inspiring story which left me to question how close this fictional story was to reality. Reading about the hardships that the various men and women were experiencing. From finding work in Western Canada to the women's loneliness as their loved ones left for long periods of time just doesn't seem too far of a stretch. 

From the setting in Atlantic Canada to the completely different writing style, Minister Without Portfolio was an enjoyable book. I do think some readers may have to overcome a few hurdles as the writing does take a bit of getting used to. If you like punctuation marks and the lack of them bothers you, this one will definitely make you cringe. But, I do believe the story it tells is a very engaging and inspiring one.

"Evolution is a force as conscious as gravity" Loc 3063

Canada Reads
Source: CBC.ca
This is the final book I read from the Canada Reads short list. Minister Without Portfolio is being defended by Adam Copeland. Copeland is likely better known to most as former WWE wrestler, Edge.

I think Minister Without Portfolio has a chance to do fairly well in the competition. However, for it to do well, I think, lies in the hands of Mr. Copeland. He will have to ensure his points during the debates are concise and focus on Henry's gut wrenching journey as he begins his new life.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami

Title: The Hero's Walk
Author: Anita Rau Badami
Publisher: Vintage Canada
Format: Kindle eBook
Source: Purchased
On Sale Date:

Synopsis from the publisher's website:
After the release of Anita Rau Badami's critically acclaimed first novel, Tamarind Mem, it was evident a promising new talent had joined the Canadian literary community. Her dazzling literary follow-up is The Hero's Walk, a novel teeming with the author's trademark tumble of the haphazard beauty, wreckage and folly of ordinary lives. Set in the dusty seaside town of Toturpuram on the Bay of Bengal, The Hero's Walk traces the terrain of family and forgiveness through the lives of an exuberant cast of characters bewildered by the rapid pace of change in today's India. Each member of the Rao family pits his or her chance at personal fulfillment against the conventions of a crumbling caste and class system.

Anita Rau Badami explains that "The Hero's Walk is a novel about so many things: loss, disappointment, choices and the importance of coming to terms with yourself and the circumstances of your life without losing the dignity embedded in all of us. At one level it is about heroism - not the hero of the classic epic, those enormous god-sized heroes - but my fascination with the day-to-day heroes and the heroism that's needed to survive all the unexpected disasters and pitfalls of life."

The Hero's Walk is a story about a father, Sripathi, who disowns his daughter, Maya, after she chooses to break an arranged marriage and instead marries a different man, a white man. The father and daughter are not given the time to reconcile as Maya and her husband die in a tragic car accident years later. Their daughter Nandana, fortunately, was not in the car with them. Nandana is left in the care of her estranged grandfather who has travelled from India to take her home.

Throughout the book we learn of Sripathi's struggles with his ailing mother, his sister, his wife and his son. Each of them feels that he has wronged them at some point in their life and is to blame for their misfortunes. He is also now left to care for his grand daughter who knows nothing of this new and, yet, backwards country. As time goes on, Sripathi and Nandana begin to form a bond and he is given a second chance to mend the bond that was torn between him and his daughter so many years ago.

Sripathi's story is one that I truly enjoyed. Where I think some readers may have a challenge with this book is its cultural aspect. With over 95% of the book being set in India, readers are immersed in a culture which may be unfamiliar to them. Though the various aspects may be foreign to some readers, I think it adds to the overall experience of the book because you are able to empathize with Nandana. For readers who stick with it, you will find a story filled with love, heart ache and second chances.

Source: CBC.ca
Canada Reads
The Hero's Walk is being defended by Vinay Virmani. Vinay is a Toronto native with a background in writing and acting.

I think Vinay has an opportunity to go very far in this competition if he focuses on the books underlying themes of starting over and getting second chances.

Friday, March 18, 2016

ARC Review: This is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang

Title: This is Where the World Ends
Author: Amy Zhang
Publisher: Greenwillow
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher
On Sale Date: March 22, 2016

Synopsis from the publisher's website:
A heart-wrenching novel about best friends on a collision course with the real world from Amy Zhang, the critically acclaimed Indies Introduce and Indie Next author of Falling into Place.

Janie and Micah, Micah and Janie. That’s how it’s been ever since elementary school, when Janie Vivien moved next door. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. It’s the perfect friendship—as long as no one finds out about it. But then Janie goes missing and everything Micah thought he knew about his best friend is colored with doubt.

Using a nonlinear writing style and dual narrators, Amy Zhang’s astonishing second novel masterfully reveals the circumstances surrounding Janie’s disappearance.

I have been waiting to read this book since I finished reading Falling into Place by Amy Zhang. I found her characters easy to relate to and the storyline quite believable. I was expecting this to resonate in her upcoming release, but, for me it fell short.

The story is about a friendship that, on the outside seems real and exciting. Aren't all secret relationships? But, when you peel back the layers and think for a moment, you realize it was toxic. They were terrible friends to those around them and to each other. Maybe it was just the theme that didn't hit a note for me, but it didn't seem as real. What I think bothered me the most was there was a lot of build up and piecing together of the story. I just wish that the ending, the big reveal, was given a bit more attention.

On the brighter side, it wasn't all negative. Amy Zhang did not disappoint with her writing style. She manages to keep the story afloat and engaging despite the use of a nonlinear style. This book was just not my cup of tea, but may still interest other readers especially those who are drawn to YA contemporary.

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader's Copy of Extraordinary Means from Harper Collins Canada (HCCFrenzy). All opinions are my own.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Teaser Tuesday #23: Canada Reads Series, Part 5 - Minister Without Portolio by Michael Winter

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

This week's teaser comes from Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter

This is the last book in the Canada Reads short list that I have left to read. Enjoy the teaser!

"We live individual lives with the consciousness of death and awareness of the past. But the most important part of that sentence is the individual part. Let your self be humbled by the experiences people have been having for thousands of years. And speak of it." Loc2112

What teasers do you have this week? Leave your link below so I can check it out.

Top Ten Tuesday #6: Ten books on my Spring TBR

This week's Top 10 features books that I've added to my spring TBR list.

1. The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha - I've been a fan of Neil Pasricha ever since I first read The Book of Awesome. His books always manage to put a smile on my face while also providing tips and life lessons.

2. Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra - I've owned this book since the week it was released. I've tried to read this a few times, but just haven't found my groove. I'm willing to give it another shot. I really like the premise of the book and have read a ton of positive reviews. Mad Miss Mimic is the March pick for The Morning Show Book Club.

3. Andre The Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown - Most readers of this blog will likely remember Andre the Giant from his role as Fezzik in The Princess Bride. I remember him from his wrestling days. My grandparents and I would snuggle in their bed and watch him and WWE (back then it was known as the WWF) buddies beat each other down in the ring.  I've been waiting for this book to reach the top of my pile for two reasons: 1) I'm really curious about what life was like for a 7'4", 500lbs person. 2) It's a graphic novel!!

4. Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin - I've been reading a lot of self-help type books over the past few months. Better than before is one that I've been eyeing for a while. Now that it's in paperback and lot more portable, I figure now would be a great time to finally give it a go.

5. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab - Yet another YA series I was hoping to get into sooner rather than later. I started this one the day it was released and for some reason it never left my night stand. I plan to finish it with hopes to continue on to the book's sequel A Gathering of Shadows shortly after.

6. The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney - I featured this book in one of my recent Waiting on Wednesday posts. Will all of the dark thriller/mystery type books I've been reading, I thought The Nest would offer a nice break. The synopsis describes it as a "warm & funny" book about a family who is brought together because of a shared inheritance. This one is out next week and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!

7. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert - From the author that brought us Eat, Pray, Love. I was drawn to this book first, because of its cover, then as I continued to read what it was about, I was intrigued even more. As mentioned earlier, I've been finding self-help/inspiring reads to be more interesting over the past little while. Reading the authors' varying perspectives on how to improve one's life through change help me reflect on my own life and the groundwork that I begin to lay for my children's future.

Last but, not least, I've added Justin Cronin's The Passage Series to my list. It consists of three books: The Passage, The Twelve and The City of Mirrors. The final book is scheduled to release on May 24, 2016. The lovely folks at Penguin Random House Canada sent one of the best book packages I have ever received to promote The City of Mirrors. In addition to the books, the Binge Box contained a Red Bull, some popcorn, medication (it was really gum in disguise) and a handy dandy night light. I haven't heard of this series before, nor have I read anything by Justin Cronin, so this one is going to be an adventure...a creepy, spine tingling adventure.

Which books made your spring list? Leave me your Top Ten Tuesday post in the comments so I can 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.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Birdie by Tracey Lindberg

Title: Birdie
Author: Tracey Lindberg
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Format: Kindle eBook
Source: Purchased
On Sale Date: May 26, 2015

Synopsis from publisher's website:
Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, leaves her home in Northern Alberta following tragedy and travels to Gibsons, BC. She is on something of a vision quest, seeking to understand the messages from The Frugal Gourmet (one of the only television shows available on CBC North) that come to her in her dreams. She is also driven by the leftover teenaged desire to meet Pat Johns, who played Jesse on The Beachcombers, because he is, as she says, a working, healthy Indian man. Bernice heads for Molly’s Reach to find answers but they are not the ones she expected.

With the arrival in Gibsons of her Auntie Val and her cousin Skinny Freda, Bernice finds the strength to face the past and draw the lessons from her dreams that she was never fully taught in life. Part road trip, dream quest and travelogue, the novel touches on the universality of women's experience, regardless of culture or race.

When I first picked up this book, I read the tagline in Goodreads that said:

"Monkey Beach meets Green Grass, Running Water meets The Beachcombers in this wise and funny novel by a debut Cree author"

So, needless to say, I was expecting a bright and uplifting story that tells of a teenaged girl growing up in Cree culture. I was wrong, so very wrong. Instead, I found a book that was extremely difficult to get into. The first hundred pages were a blur. I couldn't get a sense of Birdie, the main character. It was difficult to understand who she was and what had forced her to become the jaded girl we read about page after page. I also constantly mixed up the supporting characters, I became increasingly difficult to remember who was who and why each one was significant.

After I got over the hundred page hurdle and Birdie's situation became increasingly clear, I started to feel for the character, although still slightly confused. The passage below somewhat explains who she is.

"She is so hungry. Not for food, not for drink, not for foreign skin. This appetite that sits next to her now is relatively unknown and persistent. She is hungry for family. For the women she loves. For the sounds of her language. For the peace of no introduction, no backstory, no explanation." Loc 1171

Recent reviews on Goodreads and on various social media outlets are praising Birdie for its unique nature and gripping writing. Unfortunately, I just didn't see the book in the same light. I truly believe that this book tells an important story. I need to and, I will, give it another chance one day.  Some advice to potential readers of this book: Birdie is not the type of book that you can pick up and read a few pages at a time while on a noisy train. It requires a lot more attention, concentration and time.

Canada Reads
Image Source: CBC.ca
Birdie by Tracey Lindberg is being defended by Bruce Poon Tip. A native of Trinidad who grew up in Calgary.

Birdie addresses the topic of starting over. It was a difficult and gut wrenching journey for Birdie and her family. Will this book be the one all Canadians should read? I don't think so because of the barriers I feel readers will have to overcome. Now, with that said, many people believed the same of last year's winner: Ru by Kim Thúy, so, we'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday #3: Glory Over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is Glory Over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Publication Date: April 5, 2016

Synopsis from the publisher's website:
The author of the New York Times bestseller and beloved book club favorite The Kitchen House continues the story of Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, whose deadly secret compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.

Published in 2010, The Kitchen House became a grassroots bestseller. Fans connected so deeply to the book’s characters that the author, Kathleen Grissom, found herself being asked over and over “what happens next?” The wait is finally over.

This new, stand-alone novel opens in 1830, and Jamie, who fled from the Virginian plantation he once called home, is passing in Philadelphia society as a wealthy white silversmith. After many years of striving, Jamie has achieved acclaim and security, only to discover that his aristocratic lover Caroline is pregnant. Before he can reveal his real identity to her, he learns that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South. Pan’s father, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, pleads for Jamie’s help, and Jamie agrees, knowing the journey will take him perilously close to Tall Oakes and the ruthless slave hunter who is still searching for him. Meanwhile, Caroline’s father learns and exposes Jamie’s secret, and Jamie loses his home, his business, and finally Caroline.

Heartbroken and with nothing to lose, Jamie embarks on a trip to a North Carolina plantation where Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, who is intent on getting Pan to the Underground Railroad. Soon the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, the notoriously deadly hiding place for escaped slaves. Though they have help from those in the Underground Railroad, not all of them will make it out alive.

Thoughts: I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of Glory Over Everything from Simon & Schuster Canada. When this was pitched to me by the publisher, I had no idea it was a follow up novel to one of the author's previous books. I was also pretty unsure about whether I would enjoy it. Happy to say I'm just over 50% done and I think this one will be another favourite.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Want to participate in Waiting on Wednesday? Grab the logo, post your own WoW entry on your blog, and join the conversation!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Teaser Tuesday #22: Canada Reads Series, Part 4 - The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami

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

This week's teaser comes from The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami

Book 4 of 5 in my road to Canada Reads series. I'm just over 50% through this  book and I'm enjoying it so far. The main theme of "starting over" is quite evident for many of the characters in the book.

"But such was life. LIke those numberless buses, you never knew what you were getting into or where you were headed until the very end, and then it was too late to get off." p132

"I am not turned to stone, he wanted to say. I am full of tears, but if I let go I will not be able to carry on walking this hard path to the end of my life. Control is everything now." p173

What teasers do you have this week? Leave your link below so I can check it out.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

She's Not There by Joy Fielding

Title: She's Not There
Author: Joy Fielding
Format: Hardcover
Source: From the publisher
On Sale Date: February 23, 2016

While celebrating their anniversary at a resort in Mexico, surrounded by friends and family, Carole and Hunter Shipley experienced a devastating tragedy. Their infant daughter, Samantha, was kidnapped from their hotel room. Fifteen years later, Carole is divorced and remains isolated from the horrific events. Every year on the anniversary of her daughter's disappearance, she is once again forced to relive the experience as newspapers and reporters call and visit her home digging for a story. This year is a bit different. When the phone rings, it is not a nosy reporter, instead it's a young girl claiming to be her sweet Samantha.

This revelation brings back a flood of memories and ignites the flame of hope that her daughter is still alive. Carole is unable to get the support she needs from her family and does not know who to believe. As she gets deeper into her investigation of this mystery girl, she comes to realize that even those close to her cannot be trusted.

One sentence review...
She's Not There is one of my favourite books of the year. *mic drop*

More than one sentence review...
As a parent of two children, aged 2 and 4, it was quite easy for me to imagine what Carole was going through. There's even a part in the book where the family is driving to the resort in Mexico that just seems so familiar. Similar exchanges happen between me and my four year old while driving in our car at least once a week. Being able to put myself in her shoes definitely heightened my bond with Carole's character and drew me deeper into the book.

I made a bold statement at the beginning by saying She's Not There is one of my faves of 2016. The book was hard to put down for many reasons. First, the premise, for the entire you book you just want to find out if this mystery caller is indeed Samantha. You can't help by analyse every detail that's given about her and every step Carole takes to try and uncover the truth.

The next reason, readers can relate to so many of the situations (I hope the kidnapping isn't one of them). I already mentioned the car ride for parents, there's the relationship between a teenager and her mother - I've had many similar arguments with my mom and I'm pretty sure I'll have them with my daughter a decade from now.

Lastly, Carole's character. You can't help but feel sorry for her. True, she made a terrible, terrible decision and is now just living the consequences of that. But, nothing since Samantha's disappearance has gone her way. Despite everyone around her moving on, she just doesn't appear to have anyone on her side. It's time she got a win and readers can't help but cheer her on.

She's Not There was a fast paced and engaging novel. It left me hanging at the edge of my seat page after page. If you decide to read it, come back and let me know what you thought of it in the comments. I'd love to know if you found it as "unputdownable" as I did.

Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of She's Not There from Penguin Random House Canada. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday #2: The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney.
Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
Publication Date: March 22, 2016

Synopsis from the publisher's website:
A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.
Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs' joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the futures they’ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.

Thoughts: I love a good story about family. I've noticed this book popping up on my various social media accounts. When I took a peek into what it was all about, I was sold.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Want to participate in Waiting on Wednesday? Grab the logo, post your own WoW entry on your blog, and join the conversation!

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

Title: The High Mountains of Portugal
Author: Yann Martel
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Format: Hardcover
Source: From the Publisher
Publishing Date: February 2, 2016

The Life of Pi is another book I should have added to my "Books I never read because I watched the movie instead" list. It was a beautiful movie and really enjoyed the story. So, when I was given the opportunity to read Yann Martel's new book, I jumped at the chance.

The book is separated into three sections: Homeless, Homeward and Home. Each part of the book tells a distinct story, which eventually comes full circle in the final pages. The first section, Homeless, is centred around Tomás, a man who has lost his way. In a span of seven days he lost everyone he loved, his father, his wife and his son to illness.

“His father had been his sole supporter, telling him to live for his love for Dora, in precise opposition to his uncle's silent opprobrium. Dora was relegated to invisible duties deep within the kitchen. Gaspar lived equally invisibly in the Lobo household, invisibly loved by his father, who invisibly loved his mother.” p7

Driven by his need to find himself and his faith again, Tomás sets out on a journey to find an ancient relic. His travels lead him through rural Portugal until he arrives at his destination, Tuizelo located in the High Mountains.

Part two of the book, Homeward, describes the life of pathologist, Dr. Eusebio Lozora including the fateful day he meets Maria Dores Passos Castro. Maria Castro's life was intertwined with Tomás's discovery in Tuizelo. She has come down from the mountain for Dr. Lozora to perform an autopsy on her deceased husband, Rafael.

"Open him up and tell me how he lived' p184

The final section of the book, Home, begins fifty years later in Ottawa, Ontario. Senator Peter Tovy, having suffered the loss of his wife, decides to adopt a chimpanzee and return to his roots in The High Mountains of Portugal. It is in these pages where the story comes full circle.


My thoughts right after finishing the book...
What just happened?

My thoughts after I started writing the book synopsis for my review...
Oooh! Now, I get it!

As you can tell from my comments above, The High Mountains of Portugal took some time to get used to and in my case...eventually understand. My first impressions weren't the greatest, but as I thought more about the story and how it wove together throughout the three parts, I started to feel a bit differently.

Let's start with the writing. Yann Martel is a master wordsmith. The writing in this book flows so effortlessly with many memorable passages. One of my favourites below is about the power of love:

“Love is a house with many rooms, this room to feed the love, this one to entertain it, this one to clean it, this one to dress it, this one to allow it to rest, and each of these rooms can also just as well be the room for laughing or the room for listening or the room for apologizing or the room for intimate togetherness, and, of course, there are the rooms for the new members of the household.” 

Martel also vividly describes the main setting of the book, rural Portugal in the 1930s with such precision that it helps transport readers into believing that they're riding next to Tomás on his journey to the High Mountains.

In summary, I liked the book...after I put my thoughts together. I also believe that my lack of knowledge in Portuguese culture (language, customs, etc.) may have also been a factor in my ability to enjoy the book. My advice to readers - take notes. Either that or be prepared to bookmark sections you think are important. Sounds like a lot of work, but it may help you make sense of it all at the end.

If you have read the book, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Were you just as confused, or was it just me?

Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of The High Mountains of Portugal from Penguin Random House of Canada. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Top 10 Tuesday #5: Books I read when I'm in the mood for a trip...down memory lane

This week's Top 10 4 features books I read when I'm in the mood for a trip down memory lane.

Many of my childhood memories can be tied back to books. I got them as gifts and as rewards, mostly because I preferred them over toys. There are many kids books out there that not only transport me into the world the author has created, but it also brings me back to a moment in my life that is still clear as day some 20-25 years later.

1) The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams - This book was read to me any time I was sick, without fail. The story of a sick boy and his best friend. I found this story to be so magical, and really heightened my imagination.

2) Mr. Men & Little Miss series by Roger Hargreaves - I adored these books as a child. They were short books that were cute and almost always taught readers a lesson.

3) The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter - Sometimes, I think collecting these books were more fun than reading them - sometimes. Growing up, our local Shell gas station sold these books at the counter. For weeks, our standard routine was for him to fill up the tank while he gave me money to pay for gas and pick up the next book in the series. When we got home, I read it with my parents. These books survived over the years and are proudly displayed on my kids' bookshelf.

4) Lastly when I'm feeling super nostalgic, I pick up my tattered copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It was the first chapter book I ever read. It introduced me to the world of Narnia and started my love for other fictional worlds that I would encounter as an adult.

Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me. Which books remind you of your childhood? Feel free to share in the comments below or leave me your Top Ten Tuesday post so I can 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.

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