Monday, 26 April 2021

Broken by Jenny Lawson


"We are broken. We are healing. It never ends. And, if you look at it in just the right light, it is beautiful.'

When Raincoast Books asked me if I'd like to receive a copy of Jenny Lawson's new book, Broken (in the best possible way), I couldn't say yes fast enough. A book about how the pieces of us that are broken might actually matter the most? I can't think of a message I need more.

In Broken, Jenny Lawson writes about her mental and physical health challenges that have left her feeling, for a lack of a better word, broken. In a heartbreaking and hilarious way, she shares the ups and downs she has experienced, ultimately reminding us that we are less alone when we share these struggles with each other.

"...we often try to present our fake, shiny, happy selves to others and make sure we're not wearing too-obvious pajamas at the grocery store, but really, who wants to see that level of fraud? No one. What we really want is ti now we're not alone in our terribleness."

The chapter An Open Letter to My Health Insurance Company broke my heart, and the chapter Awkwarding Brings Us Together made me laugh until I cried.

I'm sure I'm not the only one that has found the past year more difficult than I could have possibly imagined. Feelings of brokenness, imposter syndrome, not-enough-ness, and fear have been regular companions during the pandemic.

It's serendipitous that a book about finding hope and togetherness in our broken parts has entered the world in 2021, like the Japanese art of Kintsugi that puts broken pottery pieces back together with gold. I think all readers would benefit from reading Broken. Not only because I imagine we will all see ourselves in this book somewhere along the way, but also as an act of empathy to take a peek into what life is like for someone who has chronic mental and physical struggles.

Thank you to Raincoast Books for sending this copy my way. I look forward to reading some of Jenny Lawson's backlist books sometime in the future.


Monday, 12 April 2021

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali


"Some things stay with you, haunt you. Some embers nestle into your skin. Shots cannot be forgotten. And neither can that force of love."
The Stationery Shop, Marjan Kamali

Set against the 1950s political upheaval in Tehran, Iran, The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali is a moving tale of love, loss, and remembrance. It follows young Roya as she falls in love and discovers along the way that love may not always conquer all in the end.

I was not prepared for the emotional journey The Stationery Shop took me on. It has been a minute since a book has made me cry. Kamali's writing is deeply engaging, transporting the reader into an often overlooked time and place in history. I feel like I learned so much about Iran's history and culture. The Stationery Shop weaves together two of my favourite genres, romance and history. It is not a "romance", but it is a love story (more along the lines of The Notebook.)

This is a character driven novel that explores the choices people make, their motivations, their emotions, and the power our memories can hold over each of us throughout our lives. If you love compulsively readable novels that are both heartbreaking and beautiful, I encourage you to pick up The Stationery Shop.


CW - child loss, depression, political violence
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for sending this copy my way to review.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly


1907: Venetia Smith is commissioned to design the elaborate gardens of Highbury House. She never expected that this experience would change her life forever.

1944: Highbury House is requisitioned as a convalescent hospital during the war. The gardens serve a new role offering a quiet space for reflection and recovery.

Present Day: Emma Lovett is hired to restore the gardens to their original beauty. As she peels back the layers of history, she uncovers secrets that have long been kept buried.

This sets up the captivating plot of The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly, a story of secrets, sacrifice, friendship, and love. 

I have a special gift of killing any plant that enters my home, but that didn't stop me from being swept away by the vivid descriptions of the lush gardens at Highbury House. I found the idea of women through three generations being connected through this garden to be so compelling. I felt completely transported to this English country estate.

If I had one critique, it would be that there are many characters to follow spanning the three timelines; however, this didn't keep me from enjoying this book.

The mélange of sometimes sad, many times happy historical fiction with touches of romance means that fans of Jennifer Robson and Hazel Gaynor will quite enjoy The Last Garden in England.

This excerpt from Julia Kelly's author's note at the end is also not to be missed, "I believe that, much like books, gardens are organic, unpredictable things, revealing their beautiful how and when they choose. It is up to us to remember to pause and enjoy that beauty every day."


Disclaimer - Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for sending me a complementary copy of this book to review.