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.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Say Hello, Kiss Goodbye by Jacquelyn Middleton

Jacquelyn Middleton's books always hit all of my checkmarks: Canadian author, romance, and mental health advocacy. I was first introduced to her when I read Until The Last Star Fades earlier last year. It blew me away, and I quickly read her other two novels, London Belongs to Me and London, Can You Wait?

Say Hello, Kiss Goodbye is the story of Tarquin and Leia, both left hurt by previous relationships. Tarquin is craving love and commitment, and he wants to settle down, but Leia is ready for a London fling after a terrible divorce. Will these two ever get on the same page?

What I loved:

💖The London setting. Swoon! In a year where we haven't seen much beyond the walls of our own homes, armchair travel is essential.

💖The Canadian pieces peeking through. Leia is originally from Canada, so there are many fun Canadian references along the way.

💖This book is très steamy and super sex-positive. 

💖Tarquin is legit the best hero I've read in awhile. He is so kind and supportive and super sexy as well!

💖The front and centre advocacy for normalizing mental health therapy. More books like this please! (Tarquin and Leia both have mental health challenges in the novel.)

💖Jacquelyn Middleton herself is incredible. She shares her own mental health struggles, remains positive, thoughtful, and generous, and I dare you to find an author who loves her readers more than she does. 

What was trickier:

💖There are beaucoup de side characters. Say Hello, Kiss Goodbye is a standalone novel written in the world of her other books. Many of the characters from the other books appear in Say Hello, Kiss Goodbye.

💖I wanted to throttle Leia sometimes.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. It's full of emotion and sexy times that will keep you entertained and distracted during the long days of lockdown. There is a "realness" to her characters that you don't often find in other romance novels. Until The Last Star Fades is still my favourite Jacquelyn Middleton book, but Say Hello, Kiss Goodbye is well-worth checking out this winter.


Thank you to Jacquelyn Middleton for sending this copy (and a bunch of snacks and swag) my way!

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman


"Love could ruin your life or set you free; it could happen by choice or be a well-planned decision."

Magic Lessons, Alice Hoffman

Magic Lessons is the newest prequel to Practical Magic. This is my first book in the Practical Magic series (can you believe Practical Magic is over 25 years old?!), but I don't think this affected my enjoyment of the novel at all. It's witchy, emotional, and captivating.

Magic Lessons is the origin story of the Owens women and the curse that follows the men who love them. It begins in England with Maria Owens, the matriarch of the Owens bloodline. As a young girl, Maria is sold as an indentured servant and shipped off to New England where she begins to practise the Nameless Art of magic. Always willing to help out a friend or neighbour in need, Maria does her best to spread kindness where she can. However, she is unable to heed her mother's warnings about protecting her own heart, and she falls for a man who cannot care for her in return.

This is a book that asks to be read slowly, as you savour the descriptive writing and the magical recipes throughout. Hoffman's lush writing really transports the reader to the time and place of the novel, which happens to be Salem during the witch trials of 1690s. This is a tale of courage, trauma, mental wellbeing, survival, revenge, and, above all, the many different kinds of love.

Hoffman writes characters incredibly well, even Maria's crow, Cadin, has his own, unique personality and is a true character in this novel.

In Magic Lessons, Alice Hoffman illustrates for us how the truest bonds of love can never be broken, even with magic.

Magic Lessons is out now and available from your favourite bookseller or library. Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for sending me a copy to enjoy. I definitely look forward to picking up the other books in the series, and I especially cannot wait to finally watch the Practical Magic movie!


Sunday, 18 October 2020

Spooky, Gothic, and Magical Reads For Fall

Recently, I was asked for some seasonal fall reading recommendations. Here are a few that might keep you up at night!

Books I've read
🖤Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
🖤The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
🖤Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
🖤House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
🖤Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Books on my TBR
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Happy Reading!

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.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen

It has been heartening to see the bookish community is using its collective voice to lift and celebrate so many BIPOC writers. The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen is absolutely one title to add to your growing TBR from Black authors.

Ethan is a biracial teen who has been raised by his white father. After an incident at school, Ethan is sent to live with his white aunt and uncle in the small town of Ellison, Alabama. Set in 1955, Ethan's blackness is the only thing anyone sees when they look at him. It also makes him an easy target.

Enter Juniper Jones. A fiery redhead with an open heart and a passion for life. She is determined to befriend Ethan, so the two of them can plan the best summer of their lives.

It's Ethan and Juniper against the world, and as Ethan is confronted with what it means to be Black in America, Juniper tries to help him find joy, even on the toughest of days.

Ethan and Juniper are easy to love, and though this is a fictitious novel, the reality of the events that transpire rings true. I had so many feelings by the end of this book. It will leave you in tears but also wanting to give it all the stars. I have been looking for YA novels by Black authors to suggest to my students, and I cannot wait to tell them about The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones.

Daven's author's note at the beginning is not to be missed as she shares her intention for this to be a novel where one may find empathy for those who look different or where one may simply feel seen.

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones is available now from your favourite bookseller or library.


Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book for review purposes from Wattpad Books. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

The Very Marrow of Our Bones by Christine Higdon

My latest #quarantineread was The Very Marrow of Our Bones by Christine Higdon. This story begins in the late 1960s near Fraser River, British Columbia. Two women from the town, Bette Parsons and Alice McFee, disappear on the same day. Did they run away? Were they murdered? Lulu Parsons thinks she knows why her mother is gone, but she doesn't tell a soul. The silent egg seller, Doris Tenpenny, suspects Alice's husband is involved, but she also doesn't share her secret.

Told over the span of decades, The Very Marrow of Our Bones dives into the question How do hidden secrets change us?

This novel definitely takes its time to reveal itself to the reader. I nearly put it down after the first 75 pages or so; however, I'm so glad I stuck with it as it picks up steadily and I couldn't put it down by the end. Doris' chapters kept me engaged in the beginning, and she remained my favourite character throughout.

This is a heartbreaking story that sensitively navigates abuse and loss. Christine Higdon writes so well that you will feel the pain of these characters, at times, but you also will feel their hope when those moments come. I truly loved the ending. Given that I read this during the pandemic, this story of missing mothers really made me miss my own mom, and she's only a few hours away.

If you were a fan of the books Oprah used to pick for her book club back in the day, you will quite enjoy The Very Marrow of Our Bones. It's been out for a few years, so look for it at your local library or bookstore.


Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book from ECW Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Dog Diaries: Mission ImPAWsible

Sebastian and I are getting a ton of extra reading time together in quarantine. We finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and this week we sped through Dog Diaries: Mission ImPAWsible by James Patterson and Steven Butler.

I had no idea James Patterson also wrote children's books, and this was such a delight to read! Mission ImPAWsible is the third book in the Dog Diaries series (which is, itself, a spinoff of his Middle School series). Seb and I hadn't read any books from those series before, and Mission ImPAWsible can be read as a standalone. However, we enjoyed it so much, we quickly placed a hold on the earlier books at the library.

Mission ImPAWsible follows the tale (no pun intended!) of Junior as his family plans for a trip to Hollywood. Junior hopes to go with them, but what happens when he is left behind? Junior, along with his neighbourhood puppy pals are in for an adventure.

Told from the perspective of Junior, this book is laugh out loud funny. It has a blend of text and images in the style and reading level of Captain Underpants, Big Nate, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Sebastian enjoyed it a ton! He wanted to make sure I added this warning to my review - do not read the back copy or the synopsis with your children. It spoils a lot of details from the story!

We highly recommend Dog Diaries to young readers. We even loved that a few activity pages, themed to the book, are included in the back!

Dog Diaries: Mission ImPAWsible is out now and available from your favourite bookseller.

Jenn and Seb

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

Saturday, 9 May 2020

The Royal We - Book Review

The world loves a good royal wedding, almost as much as they love a juicy royal scandal, and this book has both.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan is inspired by Will and Kate's love story through the couple, Bex and Nick. What might it have been like for these two to meet at university? What where some possible challenges in their fledgling relationship? What missteps might have happened along the way? Is true love worth all of the royal drama?

This was such a fun read. Bex is a bit of a mix of both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, and she has her own unique characteristics, as well. I loved her as a character, and it was easy to root for her along the way. An American moving to London to study art and then falling for a prince? I really wanted her to have her fairy tale ending. I also loved learning a few insider tidbits about royal protocols. Did you know, to avoid creating a dishy photo op for the paparazzi, royals will weight down the hems of their dresses, so they don't get swept up in the wind?

My only frustration with the story, is that I was a bit annoyed that Nick was so completely clueless as to what Bex was going through throughout the book, both when he kept their relationship a secret and again later on when he finally brought her to the palace. However, I felt he made up for it in the very end.

If you need a royal romance to keep you satisfied until the next Netflix Christmas movie is released, The Royal We is it. The Royal We is perfect for royal watchers and chick lit lovers. Book two in this series arrives this summer, so keep your eyes peeled for The Heir Affair in July.


Disclaimer - Thank you to Read Forever Publishing and Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy to enjoy. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Sebastian: 8-Years-Old and 20 Questions

Sebastian is 8 today! Having a birthday under quarantine is definitely not ideal for an 8-year-old, but we've managed to find a few ways to make it special. One of my favourite things we did this year was a video we put together with clips of all of his friends and family sending him birthday wishes. It was so fun to watch together this morning, and I know it meant a lot to Sebastian to know that everyone was thinking of him.

Each year, we ask Sebastian these 20 questions on his birthday. This is the 6th edition of his birthday interview!

1. What is your favourite colour? pink (for the six year in a row!) red, orange, yellow, rainbow, light green 
2. What is your favourite toy? my Nintendo Switch that I got for Christmas and my Wii that I got from Derek
3. What is your favourite fruit? watermelon
4. What is your favourite tv show? Captain Underpants
5. What is your favourite thing to eat for lunch? tacos
6. What is your favourite outfit? pyjamas
7. What is your favourite game? Super Mario Odyssey, Super Mario Maker 2, and all the other Switch games that I have
8. What is your favourite snack? Starburst
9. What is your favourite animal? cat (for the third year in a row)
10. What is your favourite song? Wannabe
11. What is your favourite book? Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants
12. Who is your best friend? Jude, Mom, Dad, everybody in my family, my classmates
13. What is your favourite cereal? Corn Pops (for the second year in a row)
14. What is your favourite thing to do outside? play games
15. What is your favourite drink? milk and lemonade
16. What is your favourite holiday? Christmas (for the fourth year in a row)
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? my stuffy and blankets and pillows obviously 
18. What is your favourite thing to eat for breakfast? waffles and pancakes
19. What do you want for dinner? cake
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? a person that writes books

If you're interested, here are his answers from his 7th birthday6th birthday5th birthday4th birthday, and 3rd birthday.


Thursday, 30 April 2020

One Good Reason by Séan McCann

I finished reading One Good Reason a few days ago, and I still cannot stop carrying this book around. (Not that I'm really going anywhere, pandemic and all, but still, it keeps making its way around the house with me.) And when I'm not carrying it from the kitchen to the living room to the bedroom, I'm thinking about it.

I knew this book was going to be a different flavour than the memoirs from his ex-bandmates, but I was not prepared to so profoundly feel while I was reading it.

One Good Reason is written by both Séan McCann and his wife Andrea Aragon. It is the story of the abuse he suffered as a teen, his subsequent addiction to alcohol, and his inspiring recovery. It is a book that proves we can do hard things and that those hard things become easier when we are connected to others, when we hope, and when we never give up.

Reading these honest stories can be an act of empathy, and it can also be unsettling.

Can I still look back at those Great Big Sea concerts with the extreme happiness I felt when I was there? Can I still remember the moments I had with roommates, dancing away to their CDs, with joy? How do I reconcile these memories now knowing they came fuelled from someone's pain? These are questions for which I have no answers.

One Good Reason is full of stories, songs, and art. I could not stop reading and yet I wanted to slow down and savour every word. I especially enjoyed the lyrics and drawings peppered throughout the pages. It added so much to my reading experience to pause and listen to the songs when they appeared in the book.

One Good Reason is deeply personal for both Séan and Andrea, and I admire how open they are willing to be as voices for hope, mental illness, and recovery.

One chapter in the book that really touched me was when Séan wrote about his speaking event at the London Recovery Breakfast in Ontario, September 2014. Inspired by the speaker before him that morning, Séan finally spoke his full truth aloud to the room and shared the secret that had been haunting him for more than 30 years, the story of his own sexual abuse from a priest and family friend. It was heartbreaking to read, and I can only imagine what the energy in the room that morning must have been.

Séan then writes that that same evening he had solo singing event booked at a small room in the bar C'est What in Toronto.

"I have no memory of the show itself, only a feeling of euphoria and release. I let my songs fly like arrows of love and I felt every heart in that tiny room melt together into one. With every song I grew stronger, and for the first time in twenty-five years the stage felt like exactly the place where I was supposed to be. My mask had come off and the people in the audience would finally witness the real me as I evolved into the best version of myself."
Séan McCann, One Good Reason

Friends, I was at C'est What for that show.

These were my pre-Twitter days, so I had no idea what Séan had revealed at the Recovery Breakfast that morning, and while he may not remember the show itself, I do.

Sebastian was only one, and Rob and I still weren't going out much, but when I saw that Séan was coming to Toronto, I thought this was the perfect opportunity for us to get a babysitter and plan a date night.

I remember showing up at the "doors open" time listed on the tickets only to find that there were no seats left in the tiny, little room. C'est What is a restaurant/bar, and many people had arrived for the show early. I had come ready to listen to music, sing along, and enjoy my favourite musician. However, I was still a new mom to a very young child, and my days of standing all evening long in a bar were behind me. I remember feeling a very real panic that we'd have to leave, and I nearly cried (likely from the lack of sleep throughout the year). Saving the day, my calm, easy-going husband, went to speak with the wait staff. I don't know or care what he said, but he somehow convinced them to create some space for us at the centre table. This room was small, friends. There was one longer table in the centre of the room, a few small ones along the side, a simple stage, and that was it.

Matt Wells played a few songs to start. I hadn't heard of him before, but we all enjoyed his set. Then, Séan came on and sang songs from his album, Help Your Self. We sang, we drank, we listened, and there definitely was a special feeling in the room that night. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I could sense that there was something big happening behind the scenes, and yet Séan sang his heart out for all of us. To make the evening even more special, he patiently and happily chatted with every single person who wished to say "hi" after the show.

Reading in One Good Reason about just how special that show was to Séan, and knowing that I was a witness (dare I say participant?) to that event gives me chills and makes me teary, to be honest. His intimate show was perfect, and I left the bar that night with joy and music filling my heart.

One Good Reason is a story of hope. It reminds us that showing up for our loved ones is what matters in the end and that recovery is possible, even after the most darkest of days.

I believe that when we're able to share our struggles with others, it helps everyone feel less alone, and isn't that what we all ultimately need to survive? Connection? Whether it's sharing a meal, singing along with a musician at a concert, or chatting with a friend through Zoom, I think these invisible threads bind us and keep us going from one day to the next.

One Good Reason is out now and available from your favourite bookseller. It's sold out in hardcover on Amazon, so now may be the perfect time to support your local indie. You can also get your hands on a personalized, signed copy when ordering from Séan's website.


PS - For any other Séan McCan and Great Big Sea fans reading this, I have a few previous posts about Séan and the band here and here from waaaay back in 2013 when I started writing this little blog.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

Has your reading life changed in the past few weeks? Mine hasn't shifted too much yet, but I am looking for books that are a complete distraction from my real life. I recently picked up The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton. I haven't read a thriller in awhile, and this book did a good job at keeping me from checking the news every 15 minutes!

Here's the premise: Juliette and Nate had a short, but intense relationship that ended about seven months ago. Nate wanted space. Juliette, determined to eventually win Nate back, plays by his rules. She stays away. However, Juliette has a plan. During this time she is remaking herself. She loves Nate, will do whatever it takes to prove to him that they are meant to be, and will not let anyone stand in her way.

Told from Juliette's perspective, The Perfect Girlfriend is eerie to read. Juliette is a compelling protagonist, and the twists in this book were engaging, and I could not have predicted the chilling ending and resolution.

As an aside, Juliette is a flight attendant and Nate is a pilot, and I found it really interesting to learn the inner workings of flight crew.

If The Perfect Girlfriend is sitting on your unread shelf or if you can get an e-copy from your local library, definitely pick it up soon!


Disclaimer - Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending me a complementary copy of The Perfect Girlfriend to review.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

27 Tweets To Make You Smile While We Weather The Coronavirus Storm

Covid-19 is all kinds of awful and has changed our entire world. The silver lining, should we be open to seeing one, is that there has been some Twitter gold during this crazy time. We are united in a battle protecting the health of every person on this planet, and heaven knows we could all use an extra smile these days.  Enjoy 💗

1. These are exclusively the type of tweets I want to see in my feed.

2. #truth

3. It sounds so fancy when you put it that way!

4. The connections we maintain with others will help get us through.

5. There is goodness in this world and it sounds a lot like Celine Dion.

6. We can do hard things while we are #alonetogether

7. Don't forget :)

8. It was a different time....

9. It's a mystery.

10. The teacher in me laughed so hard at this.

11. Le Coach by Soprano is my students' favourite song. I love his remix to protect against coronavirus.

12. For all of the educators. We got this.

13. Also, no pressure but...

14. Though seriously, we are in the middle of a global pandemic. It's okay to simply survive the day.

15. Yes :) Let's try this!

16. The Office makes for perfect binge-watching during self-isolation.

17. Same.

18. #sorrynotsorry

19. Too bad they can't answer us back.

20. Sorry to my cat....

21. Dogs are always so joyful!

22. I feel attacked.

23. These all sound like the perfect escape right now.

24. Can someone please write this book?

25. The whole world just feels so weird right now.

26. A wise reminder.

27. I live for this day.


PS - If you need ideas to do with your little at home these days, check out my post about how to keep everyone entertained while school is closed.