Sunday, 13 September 2020

The Exiles by Christine Baker Kline


This weekend, while recovering from my first week back of in person teaching, I devoured The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline.

Through the lens of three women, The Exiles tells the story of the difficult history between England and Australia, specifically, the plight of the women convicts who were transported to Van Diemen's Land and the colonization over the native communities on the land.

The Exiles is inspired by true events and people. It is well-researched, and I have not read many books set in Australia, so I definitely feel as though I learned more about their history. That being said, this history isn't often pleasant, and my heart was heavy while reading about the heartbreaking realities these women faced.

Ultimately, this novel is about survival and of the power of our past to support us, even when we are exiled far from home. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will likely appreciate this novel, as well. It's already been optioned for a television series, so you will want to read it before then!

Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending this copy my way.

Friday, 21 August 2020

Non-Cheesy Anniversary Gifts for Years 6-10

One of the most popular posts of all time is my list of Non-Cheesy Anniversary Gift Ideas for the First Five Years.

Now that we've made it through another five (actually 6, but that's how late I am with this), I thought it was time for the next instalment. If you're looking for either traditional or modern gift ideas for wedding anniversaries 6-10, here are some suggestions!

Sixth Anniversary:  Candy, iron, or wood

*Sugarfina is the very best candy, so I'm always a fan of Sugarfina candy gifts. 
* I also love distressed wooden frames, and they make beautiful gifts. I bought a frame similar to this one and put in two pictures: one of Rob and Seb lying down together and one of Rob and his dad lying down together.
*You can find more "wood" ideas in the original 1-5 post because wood is also one of the suggestions for your fifth anniversary.
*I couldn't come up with anything meaningful for iron, but we definitely joked about stocking up on my iron supplements because #adulting.

Seventh anniversary: Wool, copper, or desk sets

*Rob definitely won the creativity award when he gifted me books with the words wool and copper in the titles. (Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper and Wool by Hugh Howey)
*I, however, gifted him a nice, though possibly boring, merino wool sweater.

Eighth anniversary: Bronze, pottery, linen, or lace

*Comfortable lace lingerie is a gift you can both enjoy! My favourites are the Belle Epoque Lace T-Back Chemise from Fleur't and/or the Panty by Post subscription box (they run small, but they are super cute!)
* For a bronze option, this engraved bronze bottle opener is a nice, useful custom gift.

Ninth anniversary: pottery, willow, or leather

* A pottery lesson à la Demi More in Ghost is fun, but we learned that it is also a ton of hard work!
* I gifted Rob a large leather bound sketch book for his design and coding ideas, and he really liked it. (similar)
*Find more leather ideas from the third anniversary section here.

Tenth anniversary: Tin or diamond jewelry

* We had some family pictures done earlier in the year, so I took one of my favourites and had it printed and framed in tin for his desk at work.
*Entirely for fun, I put the picture with this video game/anniversary themed t-shirt I was certain my retro-loving husband would appreciate. I later learned that, while he thought it was a nice shirt when I gave it to him, it took him three and a half months to realize that the level 10 on the shirt was referring to our anniversary! 
*Leading up to our tenth anniversary, I dropped regular, not at all subtle hints that I wasn't super interested in a tin anniversary gift. Rob came through with this delicate and gorgeous diamond bracelet from Tiffany that I wear regularly.

There you go! I hope that's helpful. Do you have any ideas you'd add?

Monday, 17 August 2020

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

My love for Fredrik Backman is strong, and like many of us, I have been (im)patiently waiting for his new release, Anxious People.

In Backman's newest novel, a failed bank robber ends up taking part in a crime that never really happens and accidentally holds eight anxious strangers hostage.

Through this lens, and drawing on his own experience of once being shot in the leg at a real bank robbery, Backman tells a story about the assumptions we make towards others and the similarities we all share under the surface. This is a story of how we are all connected and of how we affect each other without even knowing it. In Anxious People, Backman honours and calls out how hard life is while reminding us that we are each doing our best, and he reaffirms that what we are doing is actually good enough. An important reminder for us all in 2020. The ending gripped my heart, and I shed a few tears a few different times while reading.

When I saw Fredrik Backman at an event last spring, he spoke about the strong storytelling tradition in Sweden, and he described how he particularly connects with storytelling about real humans and real emotions. Anxiety has been a part of his own life, and he is able to describe what we are all thinking and feeling these days with clarity. Anxious People is funny. It is dark. And I can guarantee you will feel seen. Even the title is a whole 2020 mood.

On a separate note, I continue to be impressed with Backman's translators. His novels always read so seamlessly, capturing well his humour and his poignant messaging. I've heard him say that he feels Swedish may be an easier language to translate because they have less words for things (as opposed to French, which has so many words!)

Backman is back with another masterpiece. Anxious People releases on September 8th, and you can preorder a copy from your favourite bookseller. You will not regret it!



PS - You can read my review here if you're also interested Fredrik Backman's non-fiction book, Things My Son Needs To Know About The World.

Disclaimer - Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for sending a complementary copy of Anxious People my way.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Earlier this spring, I had fun reading The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. If you missed it, you can read my review here. The duo is back this summer with the sequel, The Heir Affair.

After their scandal-filled wedding, Nick and Bex go into hiding; however, unexpected events bring them back to London where they are confronted with an angry queen, the paparazzi, hurt feelings, and a healthy dose of family secrets.

The Heir Affair has a different flavour than The Royal We as the romance of Nick and Bex is not the main focus of the novel, though, I think I enjoyed it even more. It is a perfect escapist read, and I could not put it down.

There continues to be so much of Will and Kate's history woven into the novel, and Eleanor is much more likeable! I love the normalcy with which mental health is integrated, and I found everything about this book deeply satisfying by the end.

You do need to read The Royal We before you pick up The Heir Affair; however, I promise you will enjoy them. This pair of books is the perfect, dishy royal distraction we all need this summer.


Disclaimer - I received a complimentary copy of this book from Grand Central Publishing for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngzoi Adichie

"Racism should never have happened and so you don't get a cookie for reducing it." Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

If you haven't yet had the pleasure of reading one of Adichie's books, please let me introduce you to a deeply gifted writer. Her narratives are masterful. They engaging and warm and, Americanah especially, will encourage you to think about perspectives that are possibly different from your own.

Americanah is a novel with many facets. A simple plot overview could say this is the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, young friends who fall for each other in Nigeria and are pulled apart as their lives head towards different futures. Ifemelu in the US and Obinze in the UK. Looking deeper, the reader will find subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) explorations on racism, immigration, identity, love, and home.

I find that Adichie's novels cannot be read quickly. It is almost as if they demand that the reader slow down and pay close attention to the messages being shared. The keenly observant truths woven into Americanah about Western life will sit with me for some time to come.

Now is absolutely the right time to pick up a copy of this book, and I encourage you to listen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reading parts of Americanah here. If you have already read Americanah, I also highly recommend Half of a Yellow Sun and any of her non-fiction work.


Tuesday, 14 July 2020

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

The Friend Zone is a debut contemporary romance novel by Abby Jimenez that tells the story of Kristen and Josh. As the maid of honour and best man, these two are working together to plan their best friends' wedding.

Kristen keeps a secret. Due to a medical condition, children will never be in her future. Josh, on the other hand, has always dreamed of a large family. Kristen tries to keep Josh at arm's length, but as their attraction grows, this becomes ever more challenging.

Kristen is sassy and honest, and I loved the banter between her and Josh. These two have such fun chemistry, and they are both easy to like.

I will say, I was not prepared for the ending! I won't spoil anything, but I think it is important to know that there is some heavy stuff before they reach their HEA. Keep a Kleenex nearby ;)

Women who struggle with uterine fibroids may see themselves in Kristen's story, and it is interesting to read the author's note where she talks about her real life friend who inspired Kristen's character.

I will definitely pick up the author's next book, The Happily Ever After PlaylistThe Friend Zone is a standalone novel, but I have to find out what happens next in the series!


Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this novel from Hachette Book Group Canada for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

"The day we stop fighting for others is the day we might as well pack it all up and go home."

Chanel Cleeton has a gift for being able to seamlessly immerse her readers into a new time and place. This was true of Next Year in Havana, and it continues to be true for her newest release, The Last Train to Key West.

Set over Labor Day weekend in 1935, the lives of three women will intersect during the most powerful hurricane the area has ever seen.

This novel is told in three perspectives. Key West is all Helen has ever known, but she dreams of escape for herself, and for her unborn baby. Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon and is adjusting to her arranged marriage. She knows little of her husband but senses a growing attraction between them. Elizabeth arrives in Key West searching for her brother, a WWI veteran working in the camps nearby. She hopes that finding him may help save her once-wealthy family after the Wall Street crash of 1929. As the dangerous hurricane approaches, who will find what they are looking for in the end? 

I flew through The Last Train to Key West and finished it in two days. Chanel Cleeton writes strong women and characters that are easy to care for. Both the infamous Labor Day hurricane of 1935 and the dismissive treatment of WWI veterans were well-researched, and I learned quite a bit about both of these heartbreaking historical moments as a result. I love historical fiction that has an escapist story while simultaneously teaching me about a new time and place.

For me, so much of this book is about how we find moments to help when we can. What we do for others defines us, so how might we reach out or speak up when it's important? What doors will open when we do?

The Last Train to Key West is available now from your favourite library or bookseller. Enjoy!


Disclaimer - Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy of this book to review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.