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-stitched 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.


Monday, 17 December 2018

5 Wonderful Authors I Discovered in 2018

I read a lot of authors for the first time this year. #theunreadshelfproject2018 really had me pulling out books from my shelves that have been there for a long while. Plus, working with publishers also introduces me to many new authors.

This year, five of my favourite new-to-me authors all live in the romance genre, so if you love love as much as I do, you will not be disappointed by these writers.

Jasmine Guillory
Author of The Wedding Date and The Proposal, Jasmine Guillory writes diverse characters who get happy endings. The Wedding Date is especially adorable!

Helen Hoang
The Kiss Quotient is one of my top books of the year. I cannot wait to see what Helen Hoang writes next!

Amy Harmon
Amy Harmon's The Bird and the Sword duology had been sitting on my bookshelf unread since last Christmas, at least. I read them both over the summer and really loved them. The fantasy-romance gave me great Sarah J Maas vibes. She has a good number of other books out that I hope to read next year!

Lynda Aicher
Lynda Aicher writes steamy contemporary romance. I particularly loved After Hours which is the first in her series, The Boardroom.

Stefanie London
I found a few of her books in my local free little library, so imagine my delight when I actually bumped into her in person at a Valentine's Day trivia night months later! You can read my interview with Stefanie here. So far, I've read Mr. Dangerously Sexy, and Unmasked is on my TBR as is a French version of Hard Deal called Irrésistible Proposition.

You can see my 5 "new" authors from 2017 here.

Did you discover anyone great this year? Tell me who!


Wednesday, 12 December 2018

New Erotica For Feminists - Book Review

I am so excited about this one! I discovered New Erotica For Feminists on Instagram recently, and I immediately reached out to Penguin Random House Canada to see if they would send me a review copy of this excellent book. 

If you love romance, comedy, and feminism, this is 100% the perfect book for you. New Erotica For Feminists is a collection of short "erotic" stories where all women get their happy ending - equality.

To give you a flavour, here are a few of my favourites:

When I read this one out loud to my husband his reaction was, "That sounds like the perfect date, actually."

I also especially loved the rewrites to the stories of Adam and Eve and Romeo and Juliet. New Erotica For Feminists is a small, little book, but it packs a big punch and sends an important message: civil rights are sexy.

I hope you pick this one up when you see it out and about. It would make the perfect stocking stuffer!


Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.