Tuesday, 23 February 2021

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles


“Sometimes I like books more than people.”

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles recently released, and I looked forward to reading it because the title makes it a perfect Jenn-book. Paris + libraries? Yes, please!

This is a WWII novel told through two timelines. Odile in the 1980s is the mysterious French widow who is especially intriguing to her neighbour, a teenager named Lily. Odile in the past was a librarian at the American Library in Paris during the Occupation.

This book is a love letter to libraries, and to the essential roles they play in society. It is also an ode to how books can carry us through tumultuous times, which is a feeling to which I think many of us can relate over the past year. “Libraries are lungs... books the fresh air breathed in to keep the heart beating, to keep the brain imagining, to keep hope alive.”

The Paris Library explores the social history of day-to-day life in Paris during the Nazi regime, where the reader gets a glimpse as to how Parisians found small ways to resist where possible.

Jumping to the 1980s, the French teacher in me loved Lily's perspective just as much as she takes French lessons from Odile. I will say, the French teacher in me was a bit annoyed at a French typo that was repeated throughout the novel, but I'll try to let that go, since I enjoyed the rest of this book quite a bit.

In the end, I think Odile was too hard on herself for how certain events transpired, but with the trauma of war, how one feels might not always make sense to an outsider. I know I've definitely been accused of being too hard on myself, so maybe Odile's perspective is a true reflection of human nature after all. If you enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, you will likely really enjoy this book and its delightful cast of characters.

Thank you to @simonschusterca for sending this copy my way.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Book Review: Grown by Tiffany Jackson

There were many times I considered stopping this dark, wicked book, but I just had to find out what happened, and this story is too important to quit.

Grown by Tiffany Jackson draws loosely from the R. Kelly case, as well as from the author's own experience dating an older man while she was in her teens. In this story, the aspiring singer Enchanted Jones is drawn into the orbit of superstar Korey Fields. He promises to be her ticket to fame, as long as she stays by his side. What follows are months of Enchanted living in a nightmare with drugs, abuse, and murder.

It shocked me, though it likely shouldn't have, just how easy it was for so many people to be bystanders while someone exhibited such predatory, pedophiliac behaviour, especially towards some of the most vulnerable people in our society, young, poor, Black women. This book is about the abuse of power of one man, yes, but it is also about how easy it is to turn a blind eye to that which makes any of us uncomfortable. Korey Fields didn't do this on his own. There was a whole industry and cultural system in place to support him. Systems that still exist today.

Grown is a powerful warning shot to parents, teens, and the music industry, or really, any industry. Tiffany Jackson does not back away from the ugly truth and the role we each have to protect others in our society.

Mature YA with a whole host of content warnings. Be sure to review them before you begin reading.

Thank you Harper Collins Canada for sending me this copy to review.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett


Any other Outlander fans in the house? I have been slowly working my way through the books and the television series. My process has been to read a book and then watch the corresponding season on Netflix. Along the way, I discovered these beautiful books from Tara Bennett. There is one for Outlander seasons 1&2 and this one for Outlander seasons 3&4.

The Making of Outlander is a guide to the behind the scenes process for the creation of the show. It has interviews with the cast and crew, gorgeous photography, and insights into each episode. When reading the most recent instalment for seasons 3 and 4, I particularly enjoyed all of the details about the visual effects work done to bring the show to life. Who knew digital water could be so interesting?! And true Outlander book fans will be satisfied in learning the reasons why the show sometimes takes creative differences from the original novels.

Finishing this book definitely has me excited to pick up the next book in the series. I'm on The Fiery Cross (book 5). I believe the 5th season of Outlander is coming to Netflix in Canada later this week, so this would be the perfect book to browse through before you begin binging the next season.

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me this copy to enjoy. I loved it!

Saturday, 2 January 2021

My Favourite Books of 2020 and 10 Hopefuls for 2021


Picking my favourite books of the year is never easy. I usually try to stick to a top 10, but this year I just couldn't do it. I had it narrowed my titles down to a dozen or so, but then it felt completely ridiculous to keep going back and forth to decide which books I liked just a little bit more than the others. I didn't want to judge them so much, and it felt entirely unfair to the authors. I read so many wonderful books this year, and I want to celebrate all of them. I read 90 books this year, and I made a stack of my Top 16 (in no particular order).

In 2020, I read 10 less books than 2019, but according to Goodreads, I only read about 600 pages less. I definitely read bigger books this year! #thankslesmiserables. I find it particularly fascinating that I read less given the pandemic. I felt like I was reading more, but it turns out that wasn't the case.

In general, I'm quite pleased with what and how I read in 2020. I read so many incredible stories, I made progress on my unread shelves, I used the library a bit more often, and, while I know it can be better, I did read more Canadian authors and authors of colour this year than I ever have before.

A few more bookish stats (2019 numbers)

34% were published this year (39%)
29% were ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  reads for me (23%)
0.5% were rereads (0%)
17% were nonfiction (27%)
0.5% novellas (2%)
80% were by female authors (85%)
18% were by authors of colour (14%)
22% were by Canadian authors (20%)
0% books in French (2%)

Right now, I own 226 unread books. This year, I want to have as few reading commitments as possible (outside of my IRL book club.)

What I am keeping in my reading life for 2021:
*Focusing on my unread shelves
*Not setting a numerical goal for the year
*Seeking out compelling stories from BIPOC/LGBTQ+/Canadian authors

What I am focusing on in my reading life for 2021:
*Less reading challenges and buddy reads
*Discovering and reading more books in French

Reading from my unread shelves remains a priority for me and on that note, here are my top 10 TBR for 2021.

Friday, 1 January 2021


We are all taking our first steps into this new year today, and it is not easy. We are still in the midst of trauma, and from what I can glean from our social media posts recently, many of us are endeavouring to begin healing at the same time.

So, while I navigate this tension between an ongoing difficult situation and lessons learned, I will walk gently into 2021. 

I will hold space for hope; however tentative it may be.

I just finished reading Wintering by Katherine May, and it has been a long time since I so readily highlighted passages from a book. In one section she says, "Life meanders like a path through the woods. We have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again."

I imagine us all to be here. At that point when the leaves have fallen, and we are all exposed. We are entering this new year raw and drained and clinging to any light we may find in our day for nourishment. At least, I know I am.

My intentions for 2021 are soft. I hope to be kinder to myself and more patient with others. There will be many days that I forget this intention, but I hope deep breaths and the kindness that is often shown to me by others will help me remember. I hope that for all of us.

"In the meantime, we can only deal with what's in front of us at this moment in time. We take the next necessary action, and the next. At some point along the line, the next action will feel joyful again." Katherine May, Wintering.


Sunday, 27 December 2020

Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson - Book Review and Announcement


One of my favourite authors, Jennifer Robson, is kicking 2021 off with her newest release, and I cannot wait for you to get your hands on this novel when it releases on January 5th.

Our Darkest Night is a story of Italy and the second world war. To escape the Holocaust, a young Jewish woman must pose as a Christian farmer's wife. What follows is the epic tale of Nina and Nico as they navigate love, loss, sacrifice, and hope.

It's easy to mark D-Day as the "end" of the war, but Our Darkest Night is a powerful reminder that for many places in Europe, and especially in Italy, D-Day was merely the beginning of the end, and that numerous horrors continued for months while people waited for the Allies to arrive.

Our Darkest Night reminded me somewhat of Jennifer Robson's earlier novels, but it also just felt like so much more. More depth, more emotion, more real, more everything. 

I was moved to tears thinking of the suffering, humiliation, and overwhelming difficulties that many Jewish people faced during that time. Yet, through the sympathetic characters and their engaging, suspenseful journey, Jennifer Robson finds a way to keep hope alive. The landscape of Italy and the timing of the novel craft a unique story, unlike other WWII novels I've read in the past. And by the end, my heart was pounding and full of emotion for Nina and Nico. 

After you finish reading, be sure to hop over to Jennifer Robson's website where she has posted maps and research photos that bring to life the characters and villages from her novel.

Want even more?! Jennifer Robson will be my guest for an Instagram Live event on January 7th, 2021 to chat about her book. You can check out the event at 7:30pm on our Instagram pages @jennbairos and @authorjenniferrobson.


Disclaimer - Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending me this copy of Our Darkest Night to enjoy.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Friendsgiving by Shoshana Stopek

Looking for the perfect gift for your Friends-loving friend? I definitely recommend Friends Friendsgiving by Shoshana Stopek.

This book is divided into three parts.

Part 1: The Recipes

This section includes all of your favourite Friends recipes: Nestlé Toulouse Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, Joey's Meatball Sub, the Moist Maker and more!

Part 2: The Entertainment Guide

This section is full of all the tips and tricks you need to prepare for your dinner and includes the ultimate Friends-themed playlist with all of the hit songs heard on the show.

Part 3: The Activities

This might have been my favourite section of the book! If you are looking for Friends-themed games to play, this is the book to check out. My friend and I slayed the A to Z Challenge (can you come up with Friends-themed references for each letter of the alphabet?), and we also had fun with the game Would You Rather....With Friends.

Full of photos from the show along with Friends foodie quotes, this book is a ton of fun to read. So, whether you plan a Zoom Friends-themed gathering or simply a Zoom gathering of friends, there are plenty of ideas in Friends Friendsgiving to get you started.

Want a taste of the Would You Rather game? Answer below!

Would you rather....
- Eat a slice of Rachel's trifle...or drink the fat?
- Have to wear super-tight leather pants all day...or seven layers of clothing all day?
- Ask a friend to pee on your jellyfish sting...or be asked to pee on a friend's jellyfish sting?


Disclaimer - Thank you to HBG Canada for sending a complementary copy of Friendgiving my way to review.