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.


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


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


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.


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?