Thursday, 2 April 2020

Postscript by Cecelia Ahern



Postscript is the sequel to the bestselling novel P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern. Postscript (which can be read as a standalone) meets up with Holly seven years after the death of her husband, Gerry. After hearing about her story on a podcast, a small group of terminally ill acquaintances seek out Holly's help. They are inspired by Gerry, and they'd like to prepare special goodbyes for the own loved ones. Their own special messages and gifts for their families to comfort them in a time of sorrow.

I never read P.S. I Love You, but I did watch the movie before reading Postscript. I had avoided this book/movie, because I thought it would be too heartbreaking, and I was pleasantly surprised by the movie. I found it to be touching and hopeful.

Postscript is an emotional book. The messages about grief and loss are powerful, and the moments Holly spends with the different patients in the book are heartfelt and moving.

Unfortunately, I think this book is a victim of me reading it at the wrong time. This is not a comfort read, and I found it much more heartbreaking than the P.S. I Love You movie. Additionally, I didn't alway agree or understand Holly's perspective, but I've also never experienced profound grief the way she has, so it's difficult for me to judge.

If you loved Holly and Gerry in the first book, definitely read Postscript. There are many flashbacks to the two of them and a few more surprises in store for the reader. Be warned that the theme of death and loss will pull deeply at your heart, so maybe save it until after our pandemic is over.

xo
Jenn

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

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!

xo
Jenn

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.



xo
Jenn

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.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Ideas to Keep Everyone Entertained at Home During COVID-19

My March Break began by taking a school group for 10 days to Belgium, France, and England, and it has ended with my whole family in self-isolation for two weeks. And we can expect to still be social distancing after that.

You won't find any colour-coded schedules here, but we need some semblance of organization during this chaotic time.


Here's what I've come up with to help our family navigate our new home life for the next little while.


* Rob did quite a bit of grocery shopping before I got home. He stocked our fridge and freezer, filled the car with gas, and ensured we had a good amount of cash on hand.

* We change out of our pjs, open the curtains, and do our regular morning routine each day. We're not hunkering down for a month of Sundays here. We need to get up and get moving as much as we can.

* We move our body. We're self-isolating right now, so we can't even really go for a walk or head to the park.
Here are some great videos online:





* Tackle that thing you need to do. I'm going to sort and organize our digital photos and video clips from 2019. I give myself 30 mins/day to work on this task. I did all of our previous years last summer, so I have a system in place already. Here's the post about how I got it all done! We also need to do our taxes....le sigh.

I'd like to add that it is 100% okay if you don't tackle the thing you need to do. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, and no one needs the pressure to write the next epic novel.

* Keep Sebastian busy. It's inevitable that we'll be getting more screen time than usual around here, but here is a list of the activities I'm hoping will also keep our 7-year-old occupied for the next month!

  • Lego - He's currently working on the Hogwarts Castle
  • Puzzles - I recently purchased this Super Mario one.
  • Snap Circuits - Snap Circuits are a huge hit in our house and are good for hours of fun. We also have the Arcade version.
  • Crafts - Sebastian loves bead design kits that you iron, he has a wooden boat kit to build, and we just bought this Disgusting Science kit.
  • Baking - I've been trying to do this a little more myself lately, so we'll try out some new recipes this month. Weelicious is my to do website.
  • Activity books - Seb loves Sticker Mosaics, Extreme Dot to Dots, or anything with math activities.
  • Board games - Some of our favourite board games we've found at Value Village to save $. We found a few old school Harry Potter trivia and Harry Potter Clue games that we play regularly. We also love UNO, Jenga, and Ticket to Ride. Robot Turtles is an excellent board game that teaches young children coding principles.
  • Family Read Aloud - We are currently reading the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Next on our list is Dog Diaries by James Patterson.
  • Silent Reading - 20 minutes a day. Our 7-year-old loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Captain Underpants, and Dogman.
  • Facetime his friends (and grandparents). I know he misses his buddies, and they always have a hilariously fun time when they can Facetime each other.
  • Family Movie Nights
  • Video Games - Sebastian has a Nintendo Switch, and he has a certain amount of time he's allowed to play each day.
  • Virtual Visits to our favourite attractions - Ripley's Aquarium has live events daily, take a virtual ride at Canada's Wonderland.

A few other fun things to try

- Live music online! Many musicians are going live with mini concerts on Facebook and Instagram. Two of my favourites are from Alan Doyle (daily at 5pm EST) and Sean McCann (daily at noon EST).

- What's your little's Hogwarts house? We did the test for Rob and Sebastian, and they are both Ravenclaws!



- Order in your meal. Uber Eats is offering free delivery for local restaurants who have or are arranging take out options. This is a great way to support your local community while at home.

- Josh Gad (aka Olaf) is reading storybooks on Twitter and Instagram each night. A perfect 10 minute distraction for your children at bedtime, or you can catch them later the next day.

 


- Online learning. Many educational websites are offering free access to their content while schools are closed.


A few I love are:
  • Scholastic (20 days of mini lessons and activities for kids divided by grade level)
  • Brain Pop (Excellent, short, animated videos on a variety of topics. We use them at school all the time!)
  • Kahoot (My students' fav.)
  • Get Epic (35 000 free digital books for children)
  • Duolingo (for language learning - it's always free)
  • Mo Willems is hosting free art tutorials at 1pm everyday. How fun?!

Finally, let's try to enjoy the slower pace. Read a book. Do a face mask. Paint your nails. Nap if you can (maybe that's just my jet lag speaking). Whatever treat you give yourself when you have extra time, do that thing.



Rob and I are both expected to work remotely, and Sebastian's school will start online learning next week, so adding that to the mix will be a new bridge to cross and a new routine to find. It won't be perfect, and we're bound to get irritable, but we'll take it day by day.

I hope you are all able to get what you need during this uncertain season. Resting is important to keep your body healthy and everyone sane. Remember that we will not be able to achieve our normal productivity because we are not living in a normal world with our normal resources. So, I also hope you can show yourself grace. When you don't make the same meals you used to, or when your littles get more screen time than ever before, give yourself grace. You're doing the best you can.

You have made it through hard days before, and you will make it through this.

We all will.

xo
Jenn

PS - I also put together 27 Tweets that made me smile during the COVID-19 world.

Monday, 2 March 2020

The Upside of Falling by Alex Light



True readers know that sometimes you pick a book up at exactly the right moment for your reading life. This is how I felt when I started The Upside of Falling by Alex Light. I had recently read a few rather strange novels, and I have been far too caught up in global current events. I needed a distraction. Something to warm my heart, occupy my head, and whisk me away.

Enter The Upside of Falling.

The Upside of Falling is told in dual perspectives between Becca and Brett. An awkward moment in English class leads to an agreement between Becca and Brett to create a fake relationship between them. They weren't friends beforehand, but they realize that a fake relationship is mutually beneficial. Brett gets his Dad off his back for not having a girlfriend and Becca saves face in front of classmates who are convinced she doesn't understand true love.

Becca and Brett realize they have more in common than they might have initially thought, and that, while their relationship as school may be fake, their growing connection is 100% real.

I thought The Upside of Falling was completely adorable. The high school fake romance trope was exactly what I needed to read this weekend. Brett and Becca are endlessly likeable, and their chemistry is so super sweet. I especially loved that this book showed a popular teen boy having real emotions and real tears as he worked through challenges in his life. Becca is a bookworm which makes her easy to connect with, and underneath the story of Becca and Brett is a love letter to escapist literature and the power of stories to help us when we need them.

The Upside of Falling is out now and available from your favourite bookseller.

xo
Jenn

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

Saturday, 22 February 2020

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman


"If you are loved, you never lose the person who loved you. You carry them with you all your life. They were with her as she ran." 
Alice Hoffman, The World That We Knew


The World That We Knew is the latest release from Alice Hoffman. Inspired by an encounter with a woman she met at a library reading years ago, The World That We Knew tells the story of the efforts of a mother to save her child during World War II. In 1941 Berlin, Hanni Kohn begs Ettie, a Rabbi's daughter, to use ancient magic and create a golem to protect her only daughter, Lea, on the dangerous journey out of Germany. The golem, a mythical creature from Jewish history created from mud and water, is named Ava and is tasked with protecting Lea at all costs. Ettie, Lea, and Ava then become linked forever in this story of courage and love.

Hoffman's writing is both beautiful and heartbreaking. I found the overlay of magical realism and historical fiction compelling. A delicate balance is required to craft a story of how magic saved people from a very real horror that existed in our history, and The World That We Knew walks this line with grace. This novel of a mother's devotion and the will to live and love when darkness surrounds you will interest anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this novel from Simon & Schuster Canada. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, 27 January 2020

The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham


"I have seen enough days to know we have no say over any of them."
The Forgotten Home Child, Genevieve Graham

Books like The Forgotten Home Child remind me of exactly why I love historical fiction. Well-written historical fiction novels sweep me away with a powerful story and teach me about a time or place or perspective in history that I may not have otherwise known. The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham does exactly this.

This is the story of the British Home Children, a child relocation program where approximately 100 000 children were shipped from the United Kingdom to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. These were poor or orphaned children who were sent away in an effort to clean up the impoverished streets in the UK.

The Forgotten Home Child focuses on three friends sent to Canada in the 1930s. Jack, Mary, and Winny were purchased by families looking for cheap labour. While their agreements were to treat the children well, and be sure they were given time to go to school, many Home Children suffered heartbreaking abuse while they worked as indentured servants.

Recently, Canada has been going through a period of facing the hard facts of its history. Importantly, the truths of Indigenous residential schools are being exposed. Exploring the history of these Home Children is another uncomfortable truth in Canada's history that could use more light. The Forgotten Home Child is that light.

It marries fiction and reality in a bittersweet story of friendship, family, and resilience. Told in dual timelines, 97-year-old Winny knows she doesn't have many days left ahead of her, and when her great-grandson asks about their family tree, she decides it is time she told her family the truth of their history.

The Forgotten Home Chid is a powerful story that will stay with you long after you finish reading. Look for it on March 3, 2020, and it's available for pre-order from your favourite bookseller. This was my first Genevieve Graham novel, but it won't be my last. I love Acadian history, so I think I will be picking up Promises to Keep next.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this novel courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Where The Light Enters by Sara Donati


"She was learning to ignore the noises men made when they were feeling put out by a female."

Where The Light Enters by Sara Donati is an enormous book. It has 650 pages and almost as many characters, but do not be intimidated! This rich, emotional story is also incredibly readable.

This is the story of Dr. Sophie Savard, an obstetrician returning to New York City in the late 1800s after the untimely death of her husband. She is reunited with her dear friend and cousin, as well as fellow physician, Dr. Anna Savard. As Sophie tries to rebuild her life in New York and create more opportunities for disadvantaged women to study medicine, Anna's husband, Detective Jack Mezzanotte seeks their support for two of his cases. One is the missing wife of a prominent banker, and the second is the death of a women who may be tied to a serial murder from the previous year.

Where the Light Enters can be considered a follow up to The Gilded Hour, but it also stands entirely on its own. I have not read The Gilded Hour, and I enjoyed reading Where the Light Enters very much.

The first part of book is told through a collection of letters, medical reports, police reports, and news articles that set the scene as Sophie returns to New York. Letters and news articles continue to be woven into the narrative as the book continues. This story not in a hurry to get anywhere. It takes its time, unfolding slowly. The writing is both descriptive and engaging.

This is a novel about grief, family, friendship, race, and the status of women. It is about early medical wonderments on mental health and the tension between religion and science.

The last third of the book is where the action really picks up with regards to the cases Jack is working on and how Anna and Sophie are involved. It's not always an easy read because of some of the content, but this story reflects the reality of the times. Where the Light Enters subtly highlights how far we've come for women and children in many ways, alongside the areas where we yet still have work to do.

Content warning - pregnancy loss and abortion

xo
Jenn

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

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Start Here by Pier Bryden and Peter Szatmari



It's no secret that mental health challenges among youth are on the rise; however, it's much easier for us as parents to diagnose (or at least suspect) a broken leg than it is for us to make a decision about depression or an eating disorder.

Star Here hopes to help parents navigate the initial steps towards finding help and supporting your child if there is a mental health issue. Broken into eight sections, Dr. Pier Bryden and Dr. Peter Szatmari use their combined experience to discuss anxiety, substance use disorders, eating disorders, sleep disorders, depression, trauma, suicide, psychosis, ADHD, and autism.

In each section you can find a road map on:
- how to recognize a child in distress
- risk factors
- prevention
- treatment

I thought it is helpful to explicitly describe the differences for each illness between a child in distress and a child going through a developmentally appropriate phase. The authors describe the warning signs to watch for and explain when to seek professional help.

I also thought it was helpful to include so much information on medications. This may feel overwhelming and scary for parents, because if and when to medicate your child is an enormous question. Dr. Bryden and Dr. Szatmari clearly explain when medication can be helpful, what kinds of medication may help each mental illness, when medication may not be the best option, and what other treatments are available either on their own or in conjunction with medication.

I hope that in reading this book, parents see that mental illness isn't anyone's fault and that, when parents are vigilant, there is much they can do to help.

My one criticism for Start Here is that in each scenario presented, the child/teen/school was open to support. However, what strategies are available for families who have children and teens who are not open to treatment? Secondly, at a time when budgets are constantly being cut, what tools and language can we give parents to walk into a school and advocate for their children?

This isn't a book everyone needs to read, but it is one to look though if you start to have questions about your child's mental health.

Start Here is available on January 28, 2020 from your favourite bookseller.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book from Simon and Schuster Canada for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Meet Me In Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb


"Each scent holds a mystery - its own story."
Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, Meet Me In Monaco

During the Cannes Film Festival, Grace Kelly is trying to dodge a British photographer and slips into the perfume boutique owned by Sophie Duval. What follows is a touching life-long friendship between Sophie and Grace, as well as a special connection between Sophie and James, that British photographer Grace Kelly was initially trying to avoid. Years pass, Grace's own romance with the Prince of Monaco progresses, and James finds himself back in France to cover the royal wedding.

Sophie and James long to see if a relationship is possible between them; however, the sacrifices they must make may simply be too enormous.

Meet Me in Monaco is romantic and bittersweet. The landscape of Monaco, Èze, and Cannes, as well as the sensual descriptions of the different perfumes, create a wonderful atmosphere in this story. It is perfect for readers who loved The Gown by Jennifer Robson. I didn't know much about the life of Grace Kelly before reading this novel, and I always enjoy books that have me Googling world history.

I lived in France for a year, so I have a soft spot for novels that transport me back to that country. I even spent a weekend in Monaco, Èze, and Nice, and I remembered those places fondly when I thought of James, Sophie, and Grace.

I enjoyed this collaboration between Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb quite a bit, and I look forward to reading The Last Christmas in Paris next.

xo
Jenn

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

Friday, 3 January 2020

#readlesmis2020 Reading Challenge

What is one book you know you want to read in 2020? When I talked about my reading goals for 2020, the main feeling I have this year is to rest and reset when it comes to finishing books. I want to read for joy, and I want to read books I've been thinking about for ages.

Less rushing to read what's new.

More finding gems on my own unread shelves.



One book I'm reading this year is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. I loved the musical when I saw it, and who could ever forget Joey's On My Own solo from Dawson's Creek? #teampaceyforever

When Whitney at The Unread Shelf discovered last year that this book has 365 chapters, and therefore can be read a chapter a day, I thought this would make a fun reading challenge for the year. Plus, 2020 is a leap year, so we have a bonus day to finish :)



There are plenty of editions to choose from. I came across the Penguin Classics clothbound edition in New Orleans last summer, and I immediately knew this was the book I'd want beside my bed all year.

When I posted on Instagram that I'd be taking on this challenge, I was so surprised by how many people wanted to join! Right now there are about 60 of us reading Les Mis this year, which is amazing. If you'd like to read along with us, there is still time to join in; we're only on chapter 3. Hop over to Instagram and check out/use the hashtag #readlesmis2020 to participate. We also have a group chat going on Instagram, so you can send me a message over there (@jennbairos), and I'll add you.

Happy reading, friends.

xo
Jenn

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

My 2020 Reading Goals


Overall, I'm pleased with how and what I read in 2019.

I continued to be ruthless about abandoning books that weren't holding my interest, I used the library more often instead of rushing out to buy every book I wanted to read, and I've gotten better at reading books shortly after I purchase them.

I started a series that's been on my TBR for years, I read a bit more in French, and I wove more Canadian literature into my reading life. I also completed both #theunreadshelfproject2019 and the Toronto Library 2019 Reading Challenge.

This year, I would like to complete both #theunreadshelfproject2020 and the 2020 Toronto Library Reading Challenge, again. Aside from those lists, here are a few other intentions I'm setting.


1. Read for enjoyment
Before I started blogging, I would wander the bookstore and pick up whatever paperbacks I thought I would love. I never paid much attention to new releases (and couldn't afford hardcovers anyways), and I loved taking suggestions from friends. I didn't let Goodreads influence me, and I had no idea how many books I read in a year. I never ever ever felt like reading was "work".

I want to get back to this feeling.

I want to pick up authors I've never heard of. I want to put a recommendation from a friend to the top of my TBR. I want to read more backlist novels. I want to fall less into the FOMO that exists on bookstagram with books that are new and shiny. While I will still blog and share some new releases, I want to remind myself to only accept books from publishers that truly make my heart sing.


2. (Almost) No more numbers
For three years in a row, I've read 100 books. That is nearly 100 000 pages. For me, that is beaucoup. This year, I'm setting my Goodreads goal at a whopping 1. I will absolutely read more than one book, but I want to not care about the final number. And that also means I won't be counting my monthly wrap ups. Books will come into my life, and books will be shown the door, but I'm not going to count it all up.

One of my other intentions this year is to spend more quality time with my family on weekends, and that inevitably means I'll read and blog a bit less. I'm okay with that, so I'm simply finding ways to weed the garden with respect to what I share online.

The one number I will track is the number of unread books I have in my home. Right now, I own 229 unread books. I'd love to have this under 200 by the end of the year, but we shall see!

Here are 10 books I hope to read in 2020.



Did you set any reading goals for yourself this year? What are they?

xo
Jenn

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