Monday, 30 December 2019

10 Books I Loved in 2019

Picking my favourite reads of the year is always tough. I've read 100 books this year, and I've become relentless at abandoning books I'm not enjoying, so that means I've really enjoyed the books I've read this year.

There are always a few that rise to the top, and I've tried to spread the love through different genres. Additionally, I read some really fantastic library books and books I gifted forward to others, but my list includes only books I have kept in my home library.

Of the 100 books I read...  (2018 numbers)

39 were published this year (29)
23 were ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  reads for me (21)
0 were rereads (12)
27 were nonfiction (12)
1 was a novella (+ 1 collection of novellas) (3 + 1 collection)
85 were by female authors (92)
14 were by authors of colour (7)
20 were by Canadian authors (10)
2 Seb and I read together (1)
2 books in French (1)

In no particular order, because ranking them would be actually impossible, here are 10 books I loved in 2019!

1. On Boards, Lisa Dawn Bolton
If you follow me on Instagram @jennbairos, it's no secret that one of my new passions this year is making crowd-pleasing charcuterie boards. On Boards is my "go to" cookbook for inspiration! Read more about On Boards in this post.

2. A Ladder to the Sky, John Boyne
The Heart's Invisible Furies made my top ten list last year, so A Ladder to the Sky was a highly anticipated read of mine this year. With an antihero you will love to hate, this is a compelling book. Perfect for book clubs! You can read my review here.

3. A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, Alicia Elliott
One of my reading goals this year was to read more Indigenous literature. A Mind Spread Out on the Ground was a beautiful book that landed in my mailbox earlier this year, and I'm so glad it did. These essays are thoughtful, controversial, and absolutely necessary. Here's my review. (Also, Goodreads tells me this is the highest rated book I read this year coming in at 4.58/5!)

4. Us Against You, Fredrik Backman
I read four (!) Backman books this year, and it was hard to pick a favourite. A Man Called Ove is wonderful, Things My Son Needs to Know About the World is charming and relatable, but being back in the world of Beartown tugged at my heart the most.

5. Until The Last Star Fades, Jacquelyn Middleton
I read all three of Jacquelyn's books this year and was lucky enough to meet her in person! I love her romances, and Until The Last Star Fades is my favourite. Here's my review.

6. Dear Mother, Bunmi Laditan
I love pretty much anything Laditan writes, and her first poetry collection touched the core of my mama heart.

7. Under Pressure, Lisa Damour
The best book for professional reading I did this year is Under Pressure. I was also able to see Dr. Damour speak earlier this year. Hearing and reading her words about how we talk about stress and anxiety among teens has profoundly shifted how I address these topics with my students. Read more here.

8. All We Ever Wanted, Emily Giffin
This was my first Emily Giffin book, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it! She takes on class, race, social media, rape culture, parenting, and marriage. While it feels like it's tackling a lot of issues, they are woven together in a compelling read that kept me turning the pages to find out what happened next. Read my review here. It's perfect for fans of Beartown by Fredrik Backman.

9. My Lovely Wife, Samantha Downing
I've learned that I am super picky about my thrillers. They seem to be published left, right, and centre, and I read a handful this year, but My Lovely Wife is the only one that really had me on the edge of my seat. I cannot wait for her next release!

10. Daisy Jones & the Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid
Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo made my favourites list in 2017. Daisy Jones is a completely different style, but also similar with a strong woman at the core of the story. Here's my review.

What was one of your favourite books this year?

If you're interested, here are my top 10 reads from 2018 and 2017.

Friday, 27 December 2019

Bibliostyle by Nina Freudenberger

"I don't want to sound pretentious, but I don't understand people who don't have books."
Emmanuel de Bayser.

Bibliostyle By Nina Freudenberger is a beautiful coffee table book that would be the perfect addition to any bibliophile's home. It is full of breathtaking photography of some of the most compelling personal libraries and bookstores from around the world.

A few highlights for me were peeking inside the home library of Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus, and learning about how Coralie Bickford-Smith designs the gorgeous clothbound Penguin classic covers book lovers have come to adore.

If you feel like you are always running out of bookshelves in your house (I know I am!), you will find comfort in seeing how other readers live at home with books in every corner.


Disclaimer - I received a complimentary copy of Bibliostyle courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, 23 December 2019

5 Authors I Discovered In 2019

One of my favourite things I like to do at the end of the year is reflect on the new authors I discovered that year. Here are five writers I came to know and love this year.

Diana Gabaldon - I have finally joined the Outlander fandom! I read the Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, and Voyager this year, and I have fallen fully in love with Jamie Fraser. Rob and I are about halfway through watching season 3 of Outlander on Netflix, and then I'll dive into Drums of Autumn.

Jacquelyn Middleton - If you want a love story with a lot of heart, I encourage you to check out Jacquelyn Middleton's books. I read all three of her novels this year. Until the Last Star Fades was my favourite by far. You can read my review for it here.

Lyssa Kay Adams - I love discovering new romance writers, and Lyssa Kay Adam's book, The Bromance Bookclub, is excellent. Plus, it's a married romance! I can't wait to read her next release, Undercover Bromance.

Samantha Downing - I've learned that I am pretty picky when it comes to my thrillers. I was lucky enough to win a copy of My Lovely Wife in a giveaway over on Instagram, and it blew my mind. It's a little bit dark and twisty but compulsively readable.

Heather Webb - So, I haven't actually read a book written solely by Heather Webb, but I did read Ribbons of Scarlet and have started Meet Me In Monaco, and she did collaborate on both of these wonderful historical fiction novels. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

If you're interested, here are the "new to me" authors I discovered in 2018 and 2017.

Did you come across anyone new this year? Who was it?


Sunday, 22 December 2019

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin wove together all of my favourites: Paris, books, true love, and the movie, The Holiday.

Sophie needs an escape from the drama of the city and Sarah is ready for an adventure outside of her small town. The two friends agree to a last minute bookshop exchange, and Sarah finds herself managing an adorable bookstore along the Seine in Paris, with views of the Eiffel Tower to top it all off. She's delighted to be in the City of Light, but not everyone who works at the bookshop welcomes her with open arms. Sarah must navigate managing the busy shop, preparing for the holidays, all while trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge.

Rebecca Raisin crafted a beautiful Paris setting, that will fulfill your armchair travel needs while you cozy up beside the fireplace this winter. Her descriptions of the sights and sounds in Paris were so vivid, I could truly picture myself there with Sarah. I also really enjoyed the mystery surrounding the stack of old letters Sarah discovers in the store.

I will say, that I did feel that Sophie was a bit unreasonable towards Sarah throughout the novel. It was Sophie's idea to switch bookshops, with almost no notice right around the holidays, and she still gave Sarah a hard time when there were bumps along the way.

Overall, this cozy book is such a treat to read. I loved watching Sarah build her confidence and take risks. The French culture and history peppered among the pages are delightful, and the characters are easy to cheer for.

The Little Bookshop on the Seine comes out January 7, 2020, and I'm giving an early copy of this book away over on Instagram this week. Click here to find out how to enter!


Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this novel courtesy of Harper Collins Canada to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

The Uniquely Bookish Box - December 2019

The Uniquely Bookish Box is a subscription box that combines two of my favourite things: great literature and Canadian businesses. I was recently invited to help them promote their boxes this winter, and I couldn't be more delighted to show off what was inside their December box!

Here are the details you need to know first:

What's in each box - a recently released or classic novel along with 4-5 self-care and bookish items from small Canadian businesses.

Cost - $56.99 for one month. There are discounts for purchasing 3 or 6-month subscriptions, and shipping is a flat rate of $15. Use the coupon code SPLENDID10 to receive 10% off any order. Shipping is available to Canada and the U.S.

The Uniquely Bookish Box alternates between shipping a classic novel and a recent release; however, if you'd like only classics, or only recent releases, simply choose that option at checkout!

The December theme was Winter Woods. Here's what was inside.

I have received compliments every time I've worn this necklace, so far. My friend, Jen, said to me, "It really makes you look and keep looking."

And these book nerd socks are so cozy! My very unofficial estimate is that the items in the box have a value of around $80 which is well above the cost of the box. If you're looking for a bookish box that will give you cozy, hygge vibes, I absolutely encourage you to check out The Uniquely Bookish Box. And remember to use the code SPLENDID10 for 10% off.

Their upcoming January theme is Read, Write, Relax and will feature a classic novel.
Their upcoming February theme is Journeys and will feature a highly-anticipated 2020 release.


Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary December box from The Uniquely Bookish Box for promotional purposes. All thoughts and opinions are true and entirely my own.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Our Favourite Children's Christmas Books

Does anyone else have a special library collection they pull out only for the holidays? One of my favourite things to do is snuggle up with Sebastian by our tree and read cozy, Christmas stories together. Here are some of our favourites.

Christmas is Coming, An Advent Book by Katie Hickey - This is a beautiful, hardcover advent book full of crafts, activities, stories, and songs for you and your little ones as you countdown to Christmas. Sebastian loves the little flaps on the cover for each day, and the art inside this book is stunning.

A Very Marley Christmas by John Grogan - The author of Marley and Me also wrote an adorable children's series about Marley. My 7-year-old loves these books because Marley is always stirring up trouble!

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig - A great chapter book for the holiday season!

1001 Things To Spot at Christmas Sticker Book - My son loves all things I Spy, so this book was a huge hit when I first brought it home. He still keeps it and plays with it each year. We also have this I Spy Christmas book, but it's actually less Christmas-y.

Santa is Coming to Toronto (and the similar Santa is Coming to Canada) - It's always fun when children can see their own community in a book, so these two books are great fun. There are a few "Santa is Coming" books, and the Canada one is perfect if your specific town or city doesn't have one yet.

The Best Worst Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson - I have such fond memories of my own mother reading me this book when I was little. It is a hilarious chapter book about a Christmas pageant gone awry.

Disney's Countdown to Christmas - Countdown to Christmas with 25 Disney stories! One for each day, these short stories revisit all of your old favourites (Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, Cars, etc) as they get ready for the holidays.

A Merry Scary Holiday - My son is obsessed with Scooby Doo, so if your child is as well, this is their holiday themed reader. Keep your eye out for it in thrift stores.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss - No collection is complete without a copy of this classic!

Merry & Bright isn't a picture book, but it is a beautiful keepsake journal to help you cherish your holiday memories. This book is where you can record special events, movies, gatherings, gifts, and photos from your Christmas celebrations. There are enough pages and prompts for you to use this journal for a decade, so it will keep us going right until 2029!

What are some of your favourite Christmas stories?

Disclaimer - Thank you to Raincoast Books for sending us copies of Santa is Coming to Canada, Christmas is Coming, and Merry & Bright.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Middle School Matters - A Must Read for Parents!

Did you realize that every middle schooler today was born after September 11, 2001?

Their world is completely different than the one in which we grew up. While much has remained the same ("Oh no! There's the boy I like." or "I'm not going to try out, because I know I won't make the team."), so much is different ("Should I vape with my friends?" or "She posted that picture on Snapchat just to make me jealous!").

I don't yet have a middle schooler of my own; however, I have spent the last 15 years teaching middle school. It certainly has its ups and downs, but I firmly believe in the importance of the middle school years in a child's development. Students in Grades 6 to 8 need adults in their corner as they test boundaries, emerge from childhood, and discover who they are going to be in the next chapters of their lives.

However, if there's one thing that's predictable about middle school, it's that it's unpredictable! Phyllis L. Fagell is a licensed clinical professional counselor who works actively in schools and in private practice with parents and their children. She wrote Middle School Matters as a guide for parents (and educators) with the key skills we can help foster in our middle schoolers.

I found myself nodding along in the scenarios she described, as I have seen many of them in our day to day life at school. Fagell tackles shifting friendships, bullying, sexual health, anxiety, academics, and more. What I love most about this book is that throughout each chapter, she provides possible conversation starters you can use to speak to your children or students.

Since I teach middle school, my students all head off to high school after they're finished with me, and then many of them plan to attend college or university. It's easy for me to get locked into the mindset of preparing them for high school; however, I loved being reminded that the purpose of school isn't to get into another school. Our purpose as teachers is to prepare them for their career and for their relationships with others as they grow. This resonated quite a bit with me.

I wonder about the middle schoolers who don't have a supportive home life. How might we help them see their value in this world? How might we guide them during difficult moments in their lives? How might we build our relationships with these students in a meaningful way to be their safe space?

Middle School Matters is a must-read for parents with children middle school. I quite enjoyed it, and I suspect parents of middle school students will glean important insights and tips for all of the ups and downs that come along with this transitional period in their children's lives.


Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book from the publisher to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.