Monday, 21 January 2019

Callisto Crate Review - Inaugural Box + promo code

Callisto Crate is a monthly Canadian book box that launched last year. Their mission is to create book boxes that feature strong women and their compelling stories. #shereadsfiercely The novels selected span a variety of genres. Some examples so far have been historical fiction, women's fiction, and fantasy. In addition to the book, the box includes items inspired by the novel and its characters.

I love that this company was started by two moms who met at the playground. I love their efforts to include local vendors, and I especially their commitment to donate 1% of all profits and products to the Kamloops Y Women's Emergency Shelter to support women and children seeking safety from violent situations.

Cost: $49.95 + shipping. There is a discount when you sign up for a 3-month subscription. You can also take 10% off your order with the promo code messy10.
*Also - be sure to check out their sale on past boxes. The shipping is currently free!

Let's peek inside!


To begin, there is an art print from one of the founders, Tara Pastro. This watercolour is connected to the story because the protagonist of the novel hates tulips. On the back of the print is a summary of the box theme and contents. This theme is The Elephant in the Room.

The debut Callisto Crate featured a debut author: Gail Honeyman and her novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I haven't read this book yet, and I've heard nothing but good things. Such a wonderful selection! Plus, this bookmark with a quote from the book is such a nice touch.

Next is an elephant tea strainer and Darjeeling tea (Eleanor's favourite!) from Teaberry's. I was pleasantly surprised with how much tea was included. It will last me a long while.

Eleanor always has a shopping bag with her and has frog pouf at home, so those two traits where represented together with this frog shopping bag.

Eleanor has pesto pasta every day, so this box includes pesto mix from Made With Love.

To celebrate their inaugural box, Callisto Crate also included a small candle with a quotation from the book.

Finally, a crossword puzzle about the novel because Eleanor loves crossword puzzles!

The products selected really bring the theme together nicely. Many of the items are custom-made, so it's not easy to give exact values for each item; however, I really love this box and the vision of this company.

To sign up for future Callisto Crates, or get your hands on a past box like this one, visit their website. And remember to use the code messy10 for 10% off!


Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary book box from Callisto Crate for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

2019 Reading Goals

I love lists, and I find writing down my goals very helpful. Even if I don't meet every single one; it gives me a direction, and I feel great when I can check some of them off!

Here's what I'm hoping to read in 2019:

1. The 12 challenges for #theunreadshelfproject2019 
My current unread shelf count is 252. I'd like this number to be closer to 200 by December.

▪️January - any unread book
▪️February - a book gifted to you
▪️March - the book that’s been on your shelf the longest
▪️April - the book you most recently acquired
▪️May - a book you bought because of the movie/TV/theater adaptation
▪️June - a book about travel or set in a country you’ve never been to
▪️July - a book from a series on your shelf
▪️August - a book voted for you to read by Bookstagram
▪️September - a book you can buddy read with someone
▪️October - a book that scares you, whether because of length, content, or actual horror level!
▪️November - a book from your favorite genre
▪️December - the shortest book on your shelf

2. Get caught up with the books I've been sent for review (about 25 books)
Sometimes I am sent book for promotional purposes on Instagram (which I don't stress about reading right away), and there are other times I am sent books for review purposes. The publishers and authors I work with are amazing and never pressure me about my reviews; however, this pile is starting to grow taller than I'd like, and I want to get caught up in a serious way. My dream is that every book I was sent for review in 2018 and every book I receive for review in 2019 is reviewed before the end of the year.

3. Read or donate the misc unread books I have by authors with the last name A-I (about 50 books)
I've been reading my unread shelves in alphabetical chunks, and as I work my way through new letters, I always end up acquiring new books from past groups! I've been working on H since August, but I got distracted by a million other books. I'm still working my way through this tower and then will move onto I.

Other soft goals for the year...
  • Read 6 books in French (one every other month or so)
  • Read 100 books for my Goodreads Challenge
  • Read more Canadian authors
  • Read more authors of colour

Here's to some excellent reading in 2019!

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

2018 Reading Reflections

Was #theunreadshelfproject2018 successful for me? I mean, I started out with 233 unread books in my house, read 100 books, and ended up with 247 unread books in my house sooo 🙈. On the surface it looks like a hard no, but I still think it was.

A few things happened in my reading life this year:

1. I completed every single challenge put out by @theunreadshelf.

2. I reread three different book series in anticipation of their 2018 new releases.

3. I joined a new in real life book club.

4. I developed both stronger and new relationships with publishers and authors. (Perhaps too strong given the increase in my unread shelf number.)

5. I purged my books hard. Dozens of unread books were either deleted from my Kobo or dropped into our local little free library.

6. I became much more thoughtful about the books I buy and add to our permanent home library.

Overall, I'm happy with how things went with my reading in 2018. I don't plan to reread nearly as much in 2019 (or even at all), so I expect to make a much larger dent into my unread shelf. I'll be sharing more about my 2019 reading goals soon!

Here are a few other book stats I tracked. In brackets are my 2017 numbers to compare.

29 were published in 2018 (31)
21 were ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  reads for me (26)
12 were rereads (4)
12 were nonfiction (17)
3 were novellas (+ 1 book collection of novellas) (same last year!)
92 were by female authors (88)
7 were by authors of colour (I didn't track this last year)
10 were by Canadian authors (9)
1 Seb and I read together (2)
1 book in French (0)


Monday, 31 December 2018

The Gown by Jennifer Robson - Book Review

Jennifer Robson is one of my favourite authors. Not only is she simply a kind human, she also writes novels with which I always fall in love.

Her newest release, The Gown, moves between post-WWII England and present-day Toronto. After her grandmother passes away, Heather discovers a set of hand-stiched flowers that look strikingly like those on Queen Elizabeth II's wedding dress. She takes an opportunity to fly to England and discover a secret history her grandmother had hidden from their family.

Woven through Heather's journey, the reader learns about her grandmother, Ann Hughes, and Ann's close friend Miriam Dassin, a French émigrée who escaped the Nazis and came to find work in London after the war. These two women forge a deep friendship as they work on embroidering the royal wedding gown.

Though I have loved Jennifer Robson's previous books, The Gown is refreshingly different because the central storyline does not focus on a romance. And while, The Gown will absolutely appeal to those interested in the royal wedding, this is not a story about the royal family. This is, instead, a story about the women behind the scenes.

As the royal family sought to bring light to a country still emerging from the darkness of war, what was life like for the women working tirelessly behind them? This is a book about their friendships, their hardships, and their hope for the future during a time when hope was likely hard to find.

Ann, Miriam, and Heather are all characters who will warm your heart, and if you've read Goodnight From London, there are a few familiar faces you will meet again! And for the romance lovers, don't worry, there is still a touch of romance in this novel. 💗

There is so much truth and history in The Gown that I was regularly Googling post-war designers and dresses. I personally love it when books make me feel like looking things up. I love historical fiction for that very reason. I always believe that reading is a gateway to learning and to empathy for other people and other places. To that end, The Gown marries fiction and reality beautifully.


Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of The Gown from Harper Collins Canada for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Quiet by Susan Cain

At a teaching conference a few months ago, I was in the initial phases of formulating the questions and challenges I wanted to take on this year. I knew I wanted my focus to be somehow connected to oral communication.  As a second language teacher, I spend a good part of my day encouraging people to speak. To take risks. To make mistakes in front of their peers. For my students, I recognize that this is not easy and it is not for everyone. So, how do we do it anyways?

One of the other participants told me I'd probably be interested in reading Quiet by Susan Cain. This book describes what life is like for introverts and how we can harness the power of those who aren't often the loudest speakers in the room.

I consider myself a velocireader, so I'm always happy to take on new book recommendations. I immediately borrowed a copy from a co-worker and started reading.

Quiet really has me asking myself what speaking fluidly means and has shifted my perspective. Speaking slowly doesn't mean that a student is not speaking fluidly. Additionally, the medium is not always the message. If the message is thoughtful, there is room in second-language education to acknowledge this, even if it is "easier" to evaluate errors that are right and wrong. And my students who are fluent and don't speak extensively in class are still fluent. As I enter report card season, this is something I am keeping in my mind much more than I ever have before.

Another interesting point is that the rise of social media and the Internet has given introverts a "voice", especially with writing. My question is, "How can I transfer this to oral communication?" Flipgrid is a start.

Being mindful of seating was something else that I had never thought of before. Don't seat quiet students in "high-traffic or high-interaction" areas. It will increase anxiety, decrease concentration, and they won't actually speak more.

And finally, never underestimate the power of empathy. I'd like to find more opportunities to check in with my introverted students before presentations. To encourage them. To tell them that I also get nervous, but it does get easier with time. I loved reading how we should teach our students the importance of rehearsal and practice. This is a concept I've been hammering home with my students more recently, and it's validating to read that I'm on the right track with this one.

I'd definitely say that Quiet is a must-read for second-language teachers. It certainly gave me quite a bit to think about!


Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Ten Of My Favourite Books From 2018

"Top Ten" lists are hard. Best means something different to everyone. I read nearly 100 books this year. Some were published in 2018, some not. I don't read a lot of contemporary YA, and I steer clear of horror and anything about American politics. I love historical fiction, romance, and inspiring essays. If you think you're reading tastes align with mine, here, in no particular order, are ten excellent books I read this year!

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne - I can't adequately describe how fantastic this book is. It will make you laugh and cry and you will not be disappointed you picked it up.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang - A gender-swapped Pretty Woman that will make you swoon! Read my review here.

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah - I picked this one up as part of #theunreadshelfproject2018, and I'm so glad I did. The story of the two sisters in this novel is not one I will soon forget.

Down Shift by K. Bromberg - I think this is the best romance I read this year! K. Bromberg's books are always steamy and a ton of fun.

The Bird and The Sword by Amy Harmon - I'm cheating because this is a duology and I loved them both. Fantasy mixed with romance. I think I may have even enjoyed the second book (The Queen and the Cure) more than the first!

Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle - The essays in this book are so honest and relatable. It's hard not to love them.

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy - This is the prequel to Anne of Green Gables you didn't know you wanted but will be so glad you read. Here's my review.

Bibliophile by Jane Mount - I love books about books, and the art inside Bibliophile is exceptional, plus it will add about 100 books to your TBR!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (illustrated edition) by J. K. Rowling - Sebastian and I read this aloud together, and I love how much he loves it!

The Gown by Jennifer Robson - Set in post-war England as embroiderers prepare for Princess Elizabeth's wedding, this is a story about friendship, family, and determination.

You can see what I loved in 2017 here.