“Where there are bees there are flowers, and wherever there are flowers there is a new life and hope.”
Christy Lefteri, The Beekeeper of Aleppo
I finished The Beekeeper of Aleppo feeling speechless. My heart ached. It still aches. I feel the need to thrust this book into the hands of everyone I see. Maybe if more people read it, we’ll see more empathy and compassion. Maybe it would propel us closer to a remedy for the issues plaguing our era. It’s not very often that a story touches my heart as this one did. I’m still crying for Nuri and Afra. Images of burnt hives and lifeless bodies are still etched in my mind. I can still taste the sweetness of fresh honey, smell the smoke, feel the icy water, and hear the marble rolling across the floor. Books like this one remind me of the power that words truly have.
Nuri is a beekeeper, and his wife Afra is an artist. They live in Aleppo with their young son, Sami. Their idyllic life, filled with laughter, family and friends, starts crumbling as they witness the unimaginable horrors of the civil war. War hits their home with an unthinkable tragedy, leaving Afra without her sight. As their lives in Aleppo become increasingly unrecognizable, Nuri convinces Afra to leave their home behind. They embark on a journey to escape Syria, with hopes of claiming asylum in England.
The story flows seamlessly between the present and past. In the present, Nuri and Afra are living in limbo, as so many refugees are. They’ve left their home in Aleppo and survived the perilous journey to England. They’re living at a Bed & Breakfast, awaiting the results of their asylum claim. We’re transported back to their life in Syria and journey to the UK through Nuri’s memories, flashbacks, and dreams. While the novel follows their physical journey from Syria to England, it also follows the journey of their relationship, as they navigate seemingly insurmountable challenges while plagued by trauma and grief.
I found my heart aching for the memorable and complex characters in this novel. It is full of raw emotion, and had me in tears several times within the first 100 pages. Past and present are woven together skillfully, which is far more engaging than if it were presented chronologically. Despite already having the knowledge that Nuri and Afra make it to the UK safely, I still desperately needed to find out how their journey unfolded. My curiosity propelled me through the book at a speed that I didn’t think was possible with a 3-month-old baby.
Lefteri has drawn inspiration from her own experiences volunteering at a centre for refugee women and children in Athens. She is also the daughter of Cypriot refugees. Her experiences and research are evident in the vivid details and descriptions throughout the novel. I tend to gravitate towards books that tackle important social and political issues. While this book does that, it is so much more than that. It is a heart-wrenching, achingly beautiful story that touches your soul and reminds you of our shared humanity.
To sum up my feelings: READ THIS BOOK.
What is a book that you feel the need to thrust into the hands of everyone you meet? Tell me in the comments below!
After yet another few months away from my blog, I’m back! I don’t feel like the same person I was when I left you…
I began my journey as a new mama on August 16th, 2019 when our beautiful baby girl Ellie Rose was born. Now she is almost THREE months old !@?#$%*
It’s been a whirlwind since then! Caring for a newborn is exhausting and challenging, but also amazing. I swear she changes every single day, and it’s incredible to see her grow and develop her own little personality. With this new chapter of my life, I’m also taking a new direction with my blog. My main platform is Instagram, and when I became pregnant I chose to expand my account from solely focusing on books to also including other snippets of my life. Through doing so, I’ve been able to connect with so many more people and have meaningful conversations about books AND so many other topics! I’m going to take my blog in the same direction.
I’ll admit that it’s more difficult these days to transform my thoughts into sentences you can actually comprehend… but I’m going to try ♫ with a little help from my friends ♪ (coffee, coffee… and more coffee).
I plan to continue with monthly wrap-ups and the occasional longer book review, but I’ll also be writing about the rest of my life. I’m FINALLY crafting a post with photos and details from our vintage bookish wedding (umm, yeah that happened over a year ago…), and I’ve got some pregnancy, birth, and new mama life posts coming your way! Let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to write about.
I hope you’ll still continue to join me on this little journey of mine.
July has been a great reading month for me! Who knew that being 9 months pregnant could be so enjoyable 😉 I had THREE five-star reads this month, which is pretty good… although one is about childbirth and I can’t reveal one of the others.
Total Number of Books: 8 Total Number of Pages: 3,310 Average Pages per Book: 414 Average Rating: 4.06
Okay… so the best book I read this month, I actually can’t include or talk about! It’s slowly killing me to keep my mouth shut about it, because it’s a contender for my top reads of 2019. BUT we are likely including it in our debut book subscription box this October, so I don’t want to spoil the surprise for those of you who follow my bookstagram/blog and who will also be ordering the box. So you’ll have to be patient and wait a few months for me to gush about how much I loved it!
Storm: It’s a Curse to Remember by Gurpreet Kaur Sidhu ★★★
Thank you to the author for sending me a copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review! I loved the premise of this book and the plot was captivating. I got hung up on some of the wording, and sometimes the shifts in time and perspective had me a bit confused and having to flip back and re-read through sections. Having said that, there were many suspenseful parts where I could not put this book down. Overall I enjoyed it, and I’m interested in seeing where the author takes things with the second book in this series.
Home Front Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan ★★★★
Written as a series of letters between two women during WWII, this book sheds light on the everyday experiences of women on the American home front.It was a delightful read, reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (although not quite as magical).I’ll disclose that I’m a history nerd, and I love most novels set during this era, so I am slightly biased.I adored witnessing the developing friendship between Rita and Glory. I love how the letters capture their inner and outer lives in such a personal and relatable way.I wouldn’t say it was an amazing novel, but it was definitely a quick, light, and enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend this book to readers who love historical fiction. Publication date September 3rd 2019. Thanks to HarperCollins Canada for this ARC.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert ★★★★
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Blair Brown, and I really enjoyed it! I loved the colourful array of characters at the Lily Playhouse, and was drawn in by the witty dialogue. I was fully captivated by the era and atmosphere, and I had fun exploring 1940s New York through the experiences of Vivian. My attention waned a bit towards the end of the novel, but I think that was just because I missed the entertainment and debauchery…
Gilbert has said that, “My goal was to write a book that would go down like a champagne cocktail- light and bright, crisp and fun.” In my opinion, she succeeded in meeting her goal!
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt ★★★★★
I am going to have to keep this short, because I have so many thoughts and feelings about this book! Eventually I’ll sit down and write a proper review of it. There are such mixed reviews for this book, and I completely understand why. Personally, I absolutely adored it! Tartt’s prose is beautiful and evocative. It is a deep, moody, and immersive book that needs to be read slowly and savored. It is not a carefree or easy read, but if you love literature, detailed, rich prose, and gravitate towards art and philosophy, then I would recommend it.
Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison ★★★.5
First of all, I loved the setting of this novel! An old, prestigious girls boarding school in a small town created the perfect atmosphere for intrigue and murder. I loved the gothic feels, secret societies, and overall creepiness. It was full of secrets and had a good twist that I didn’t expect. I did find some of the characters annoying, and feel like the story would have been more convincing set further in the past rather than the present. The story kept my interest and was enjoyable, but wasn’t amazing. Expected publication December 31, 2019. Thanks to HarperCollins Canada for this ARC.
Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth About Pregnancy and Childbirth by Jenny McCarthy ★★★
A funny and entertaining look at all of the changes that you may experience during and after pregnancy. It was good for a laugh!
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth By Ina May Gaskin ★★★★★
Very informative and interesting. I was terrified of childbirth, but this book along with the Positive Birth Company’s hypnobirthing course and of course our amazing doula have completely changed my mindset and made me realize that it is a completely natural process that our bodies are made for! I’d definitely recommend this book to all pregnant women!
What was the best book you read this month!? Any recommendations? Thoughts about any of the books included here?
Swirling around endlessly, beckoning to be released.
Tormenting you until you put pen to paper.
Always appearing at the most inconvenient of times:
In the middle of the night,
In the early morning hours.
Your body and mind plead with them:
Let us rest for a few more hours.
Defeated, you rise
And let the deluge of words pour from your mind,
Washing over the page.
No matter how insignificant or incoherent,
The words have been set free.
It’s five o’clock in the morning. I sit here in the sweet silence, because your wiggles woke me. You are 37 weeks old today. Each day brings us closer to your arrival. Each day brings an onslaught of new thoughts and emotions, bubbling up at seemingly insignificant moments. Washing over me like waves.
Yesterday, I sat on the deck, book propped on my swollen belly, surrounded by the gentle sound of rainfall. As I inhaled the cool, crisp mountain air, a hummingbird flitted up to a flower basket, prodding the bright pink blossoms in search of sweetness. I felt an instant surge of emotion rise up through my body, tears welling in my eyes as I reflexively rubbed my belly. What absolute beauty our world holds – a beauty that I can’t wait for you to experience.
How can such a simple, fleeting moment bring me to tears? How can I already feel such a deep love for you? You have already changed me irrevocably.
The calm before the storm.
The quiet before the chaos.
The last, fading moments
of lives about to change forever.
You stretch and squirm,
adjusting to your increasingly cramped quarters.
The only home you’ve ever known.
Pushing the boundaries.
Responding to the mysterious sensations surrounding you.
We clean, organize, learn,
and savour our moments together.
“Things will never be the same,” they say.
Of course they won’t be.
You’ve already altered our lives.
Ever since those two little blue lines
appeared magically in front of us.
The questioning and worrying.
You have grown so fast.
Time has passed so quickly,
yet now it seems to slow.
My body urges me to relax,
Preparing me physically and emotionally
for what is to come.
The worries and hesitations
that have so long surrounded birth
as I realize that I’ll endure anything
just to finally hold you in my arms.
I feel calm.
Still in wonder of the miracle moving inside me.
A bit of a departure from my usual book reviews and wrap-ups, but I hope you enjoy anyways.
Hi everyone! Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve made an appearance here… so much for my monthly reading wrap-ups and frequent book reviews…
I think I’ve got a pretty good excuse though? Coincidentally, my last blog post was around the time we found out that I’m growing a tiny human inside of me! (Well, to be honest, the human is not feeling so tiny these days…)
We are SO excited to welcome a little bookworm into the world this August! I won’t say I haven’t had time for blogging, but I certainly haven’t made time for blogging. Between teaching full time, being ridiculously sick during the first trimester, buying and moving into our first house, and preparing for baby, I’ve been pretty exhausted. I have still managed to stay on track with my reading goal for this year – miraculously!
So here’s a little update on reading and life.
My Goodreads reading challenge for this year is 50 books! I know my life is about to change a LOT, so I lowered it from last year’s goal.
Well, instead of a monthly wrap-up, let’s go for a 6-month wrap-up! Here’s a summary of my reading from January-June.
Total Number of Books: 30 Total Number of Pages: 9,702 (that was way too much math for a Saturday morning) Average Pages per Book: 323 Average Rating: 4.06
Here’s the list with my ratings (and a summary of my rating system below):
The Clockmaker’s Daughterby Kate Morton ★★★★
Milk and Honeyby Rupi Kaur ★★★★★
The Sun and Her Flowersby Rupi Kaur ★★★★★
Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?by Jena Pincott ★★★★
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery ★★★★
The Boy in the Striped Pajamasby John Boyne ★★★★
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell ★★★★
Keeper’n Meby Richard Wagamese ★★★★
By Chance Aloneby Max Eisen ★★★★★
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?by Mindy Kaling ★★★
Hunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard ★★★★
How to Stop Timeby Matt Haig ★★★★
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate ★★★★
Homes: A Refugee Storyby Abu Bakr al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung ★★★★★
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent ★★★★
Brotherby David Chariandy ★★★
Fablehavenby Brandon Mull ★★★
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universeby Benjamin Alire Saenz ★★★★
The Two Lila Bennetts by Liz Fenton ★★★★
Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hopeby Karamo Brown ★★★★
Circeby Madeline Miller ★★★
The Wisdom of Psychopathsby Kevin Dutton ★★★★
The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distractionby Meghan Cox Gurdon ★★★★
When We Found Homeby Susan Mallery ★★★
Jane Eyreby Charlotte Bronte ★★★★
A Storm of Swordsby George R.R. Martin ★★★★★
Daisy Jones & The Sixby Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★★
Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeedingby Ina May Gaskin ★★★★★
Rick Mercer Final Reportby Rick Mercer ★★★★
On the Come Upby Angie Thomas ★★★★
Here are a few of my top reads so far this year:
By Chance Aloneby Max Eisen ★★★★★
Max Eisen just turned 90 years old. His memoir details his tragic, brutal, and heartbreaking experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust. His story is incomprehensible, but so important. I had to set the book down several times because it made me so emotional. But that is what it is meant to do. Some of the most important books are the hardest to read. I am so happy that this book won Canada Reads 2019, because it truly is a story that needs to be told and shared – especially amidst the rise of divisions based on race, ethnicity, and nationality.
“I am inspired by the need to document my story so others may learn from the past. On a personal level, I have a highly developed sense of observation of the world around me, which constantly inspires and motivates me to take action.”
Homes: A Refugee Storyby Abu Bakr al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung ★★★★★
Homes was another Canada Reads finalist, and I love this story and also how it ended up being written. Abu Bakr’s family fled their home in Iraq and moved to Homs Syria, just before the civil war broke out. The book details Abu Bakr’s experience growing up in a war zone and eventually finding safety in Canada. Winnie Yeung, his high school English teacher here in Canada, has listened to his story and written it, as told by him and his family. It’s eye-opening, and sheds light on the experiences of immigrants and refugees. Another important and timely read.
A Storm of Swordsby George R.R. Martin ★★★★★
The last season of Game of Thrones on TV got me back into reading the book series (because it is just so much better!). I just love the description, detail, and all the different plot lines. If you haven’t read the books, I definitely recommend them!
Daisy Jones & The Sixby Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★★
I listened to this on audiobook and it was SO GOOD! An entire cast reads it, and it honestly felt like I was listening to interviews with real people who had experienced these things. In fact, it was so convincing that I googled the band and was looking for some photos and their songs… when I realized that they don’t actually exist. THAT is good fiction! I can’t say whether it would be as engaging to read, but I would definitely recommend the audiobook.
As I mentioned above, it’s been a big year for us! We are expecting our first baby in August, which we are so excited about! We’ve decided to keep the sex a surprise, and are looking forward to meeting our little munchkin this summer. I’m lucky that my pregnancy has gone well so far. I had a lot of “morning” (hah – it’s actually 24/7) sickness in the first trimester, but since then I have just been tired, hungry, and sore. I’ve always wanted children, but I always dreaded being pregnant. Surprisingly, I’m enjoying it for the most part! Sure, some days are frustrating and increasingly uncomfortable, but it is also amazing what my body is going through. I love feeling baby move around and watching my belly wiggle and ripple, trying to figure out which body part is jutting out here or there. Yup, now I’m being one of those cheesy people who declares that pregnancy is just “such a miracle!” Haha… who’d have thought.
We also bought and moved into our first house this spring! We absolutely love it, and I’ve enjoyed collecting plant babies…
Plus we have the perfect reading window ledge in our bedroom (pictured here).
I’ve now finished teaching for the year, and it’s going to feel so strange not going back in September! I’m definitely going to miss all of my students and coworkers, but I’m also looking forward to new adventures in motherhood.
My little bookish shop, Bibliophile Belle’s Boutique, is still going strong, and I’m currently working on my last restock of book sleeves before baby arrives!
AND just because there aren’t already enough new and exciting things happening in life this year, my friend Kristen (@my.book.is.calling) and I have started a Canadian book subscription box – The Uniquely Bookish Box – which will debut in October. Visit our Instagram or Facebookpages for more information. Our website will be launching soon, with pre-orders happening in July!
Well, that’s about it for now! Hopefully I’ll be around more often now that I am off work and have a bit more time on my hands. Let me know what is new in your life – reading or otherwise!
Happy December! Sorry for the delay in my November wrap-up, I’ve just been too busy relaxing in my cozy, Christmasey home 😉
Total Number of Books: 7 Total Number of Pages: 2,469 Average Pages per Book: 353 Average Rating: 4.4
Here are the books I read in November:
The Girl They Left Behindby Roxanne Veletzos ★★★★★
First of all, a huge thank you to JKS Communications and the author for sending me a copy of this book. I always gravitate towards books set in the time period of the Second World War. I love learning about the lesser-known pieces of history. The Girl They Left Behind is a fascinating and deeply moving novel based on the lives of the author’s mother and grandparents. The story gives us insight into life in Romania – first ravaged by war, then faced with political upheaval, economic uncertainty, and loss of freedom under Stalin’s rule. This novel captured my heart immediately, and had me crying within the first 50 pages. It was an emotional ride, exploring war and family relationships. The characters are deep and multi-faceted, providing an endearing and riveting read.
Sea Prayerby Khaled Hosseini ★★★★★
“I have heard that we are the uninvited. We are the unwelcome. We should take our misfortune elsewhere.”
Hosseini wrote this as a response to the Syrian refugee crisis, and it is a beautiful, heartbreaking, and timely work. Written as a prayer/letter from father to son, this book is a truly masterful piece of art. It features stunning illustrations by Dan Williams, and both the images and words are breathtakingly beautiful. It’s short, yet impactful. It requires slow contemplation and leaves you heartbroken. Yet another one that brought me to tears this month…
The Return of History: Conflict, Migration, and Geopolitics in the Twenty-First Century by Jennifer Welsh ★★★.5
This was my only non-fiction read of November. It is the book version of Welsh’s CBC Radio Massey Lecture, in which she refutes Fukuyama’s idea of “progress,” and argues that many of our past struggles – the ones we presumed would disappear or be solved – have returned. She discusses the mass movement of refugees and displaced populations, the invasion and annexation of territories, and the continued attempts to annihilate ethnic and religious minorities. This is clearly intended as more of a surface overview than a deep dive into the problems and potential solutions. It is interesting, and provides a good entry point for those interested in the current state of our world.
Sky in the Deepby Adrienne Young. ★★★.5
I am still a bit torn about this one. I was so excited to read this book – a stunning Viking-esque cover, a badass female protagonist, and an interesting premise. The novel starts out strong by thrusting us straight into battle with Eelyn. Right from the beginning I felt immersed in the story, and subsequently drawn in by Eelyn’s emotional turmoil as she discovers that her brother – who she thought she saw die previously in battle – is still alive and now fighting alongside the enemy tribe. I was eager for the mystery to unravel, and as a history and mythology nerd, I delighted in the Viking-inspired setting. Ultimately, I was not fully captivated throughout the whole novel. There were a few points where I really had to push myself to keep reading. I suppose it just wasn’t as impactful as I had anticipated. I had trouble connecting with most of the characters, and I wasn’t thrilled about the romance that seemed to develop abruptly. I did enjoy the book, but it didn’t “wow” me as I expected it would.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ★★★★★★★★★★★★★ (just all of the stars in existence…)
First of all, I can’t believe it took me this many years to read The Book Thief. It graces many book nerds’ all-time favourites list, so I suppose my hesitation was due to the fact that I had high hopes and did not want to be let down. Well, I can tell you that I was certainly NOT disappointed in any way. The Book Thief is everything I want and need in a story. It gave me the most horrendous book hangover I’ve ever experienced, and I know that I will re-read it over and over again, just to spend more time with the characters. Zusak’s writing is so poetic, and the fact that this novel is narrated by Death makes it so unique and fascinating! I could go on and on and on about this book, but I need to finish this post, so I’ll exercise restraint.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli ★★★★☆
This was such a fun and endearing read! I absolutely adore the characters, and was drawn into the story right away. It was a quick and light-hearted read. Now I NEED to see the movie…
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee ★★★★☆
This is another one that I had so much fun reading! From the outset, I loved and hated Monty. He is one of the most entertaining protagonists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and his wit and sarcasm had me giggling constantly. I just adored his relationship with Percy. This book is full of humour, adventure, and romance! Plus it’s set in history, with English gentlemen being not-so-gentlemanly. Just read it!
Looking back at my TBR for November, I read ONE of the five books I had planned to read. In my defence, I did disclose that I am horrible at following a set TBR…
I’m currently reading:
Witch Born by Nicholas Bowling
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (FINALLY!!!)
Two books that I am DETERMINED to read in December (because I need all the magical reads this month) are:
The Toy Makers by Robert Dinsdale
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
Let’s see if I can accomplish that at least! 😉
How was your reading month? Any amazing recommendations?
“October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I can’t believe it is already November! The last stubborn leaves have given up and fallen to the ground, where they’ve been covered in heavy frosts and falling raindrops. We’ve been gravitating towards our comfort foods, and our home, yard and vehicle are now ready for the blanket of snow that will soon cover us…
October was a decent reading month for me. I didn’t finish as many books as I’d have liked to, but I have completed my 2018 reading challenge: I’ve read 60/60 books! I also didn’t have any 5-star reads this month, which is unusual! I didn’t write any reviews in October, and I am struggling to read any of my NetGalley picks, because I really just despise reading on my e-reader. If I have the option of choosing a physical book, I will read that every time – regardless of how interesting the book on my e-reader is. The good news is that I own approximately 60 unread books…. which should last me another year without buying any (HAH, as if that will happen… )
This House is Haunted by John Boyne
Where the CrawdadsSing by Delia Owens
No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need by Naomi Klein
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
I also read an amazing graphic novel of Poe’s Stories & Poems! I didn’t count it towards my challenge, but for all of you Poe fans out there: it is BEAUTIFUL!
I am still currently reading:
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton
November (maybe) TBR:
I’m horrible at actually following a set TBR, because I am a mood reader. These are some I’m really hoping to get to though.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
The Toy Makers by Robert Dinsdale
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
See any books that you’ve read or want to read!? Let me know in the comments below.