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.
Total Number of Books: 6 Total Number of Pages: 2,162 Average Pages per Book: 360 Average Rating: 4.7
I had an amazing reading month! I will always choose quality over quantity, and this month I read quite a few wonderful books. I must admit that I am quite liberal with my five-star ratings, compared to most people, but if I really enjoy every aspect of a book I think it deserves those five stars! I also just know what I love in a book, so I tend to abandon other less interesting books and finish the good ones…
The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo ★★★★☆
This book definitely fit in well with September’s changing leaves and gloomier weather. I love that the author told the legend of Sleepy Hollow from the female perspective. There was a nice mix of romance, suspense, witchcraft and creepiness to make this a lovely autumn read. Thank you to NetGalley for this one – I’ll be posting a full review soon!
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald ★★★★☆
I’d read this before (ages ago), but I decided to listen to the audiobook version, narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal. I just adore the language in this book, and it has me seriously yearning for an evening spent at a Gatsby-style party. This era is one of my very favourite settings!
Us Against You by Fredrik Backman ★★★★★
The day I received this in the mail I started reading it. I’m pretty sure I finished it over a weekend, because I just couldn’t put it down! I am in love with Backman’s writing, and enjoyed spending more time with the residents of Beartown.
Harry Potter: A History of Magic ★★★★★
This book is EVERYTHING I LOVE combined into one stunning masterpiece. My major was history, and whilst at university I did a lot of research about magical beliefs and practices throughout history. This essentially looks at the magical creatures and subjects in Harry Potter, and their ties to various practices and people throughout history. It is absolutely fascinating, and is one that I will keep picking up and reading again and again. Plus, it is illustrated and presented in such a beautiful way.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton ★★★★★
I was sent this book as part of the HarperCollins Canada First Look program, and I am eternally grateful because it was one of those mind-blowing reads that you will keep thinking about long after you’ve finished it! Read my full review here.
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover ★★★★★
This book is a fascinating glimpse into a very different life. I was completely captivated by the heartbreaking and unimaginable story of Tara’s childhood.
I have a really hard time sticking to a TBR list, HOWEVER since it is October, there are a few books that I am hoping to read this month:
This House is Haunted by John Boyne (1/3 through and loving it!)
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas
The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston
How many books did you read in September? What were some of your favourites?
If you’re looking for a completely unique, thrilling, atmospheric, and immersive page-turner, this is it!
The book’s premise instantly intrigued me:
“At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed. Again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend. But nothing and no one are quite what they seem.”
I’ve heard this book described as “Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day/Inception,” and I’d agree, but it’s so ingeniously crafted that you really need to read it yourself. The dilapidated Georgian mansion surrounded by untamed, grim wilderness creates the perfect dark and mysterious atmosphere. From the beginning we are abruptly thrown into confusion, as the protagonist grapples with where he is, who he is, and what exactly is going on. We delve into a complex plot, guided by an ominous plague-masked man, and join Aiden in attempting to solve a murder to escape the time loop. Starting each day in a new body presents unique challenges, but each character holds secrets and keys to unlocking the perplexing puzzle. The twisted plot will have you guessing until the very end. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an exquisite, creepy, enthralling and mind-bending story that will keep you reading long past your bedtime.
This is certainly one of my top reads of 2018! It will be on sale September 18th in Canada. A huge thanks to Harper Collins Canada for giving me a first look at this!
Tatiana de Rosnay’s latest novel The Rain Watcher is a beautifully written, emotional, and atmospheric story.
Title: The Rain Watcher Author: Tatiana de Rosnay Genre: Fiction Publication: October 23, 2018 Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Rating: ★★★★☆ Goodreads Synopsis
The beginning of this novel drew me in INSTANTLY – probably because of my absolute love of trees:
“I will start with the tree. Because everything begins, and ends, with the tree. The tree is the tallest one. It was planted way before the others. I’m not sure how old it is, exactly. Perhaps three or four hundred years old. It is ancient and powerful. It has weathered terrible storms, braced against unbridled winds. It is not afraid. The tree is not like the others. It has its own rhythm. Spring starts later for it, while all the others are already blossoming. Come late April, the new oval leaves sprout slowly, on the top and middle branches only. Otherwise, it looks dead. Gnarled, gray, and withered. It likes to pretend to be dead. That’s how clever it is. Then, suddenly, like a huge explosion, all the buds flourish. The tree triumphs with its pale green crown.”
The Malegarde family arrives in Paris for a family celebration. Linden, a successful photographer, has traveled from America to join his sister and parents in celebrating his father’s 70th birthday. As they begin their celebrations, the River Seine rises at an alarming rate each day, due to unprecedented rainfall. Family relationships are strained as drama unfolds amidst the flooding. Their holiday is certainly not going at all as anticipated. As the flooding worsens and wreaks havoc throughout Paris, complicated family dynamics and secrets come to light. Linden’s experience in present-day Paris conjures vivid memories of his past – often painful and emotional. The suspense of the family drama is perfectly paralleled with the dramatic natural disaster. As the Seine rises beyond its banks, the Malegarde family’s secrets and issues that have been held below surface begin to rise as well – demanding to be dealt with.
The excerpts at the beginning of each chapter (above) add an air of mystery to the already building suspense. Why does everything start with the tree? Whose memories are we reliving? What do they have to do with the present day? She knows what she’s doing…
Tatiana de Rosnay certainly has a distinct style, expertly capturing the setting and atmosphere through vivid descriptions. Although you could describe this as a slow, emotional read, the events unfolded in such a way that kept me constantly wondering and anticipating. She also created realistic and well-developed characters. I just loved Linden as the protagonist! He had such a strong voice throughout the novel, and I felt increasingly connected to him as each part of his past was revealed. The scene with his father – near the end of the novel – had me in TEARS! Not one glistening tear in my eye, but SOBS!
The Rain Watcher highlights how intricately places are connected to memories and emotions. We are transported to the gorgeous, idyllic settings of Paris and Vénozan, which are contrasted with the dark memories attached to those places. It also shows how people are able to survive through challenging times, and accept one another, as well as oneself. And of course, this story is yet another testament to the power of nature. As much as we’d love to be able to control it (or anything else in life…) you just have to accept reality, mitigate the damage, and move on!
This is definitely not a light read, but if you love character-driven, emotional, atmospheric reads, I’d suggest waiting for a rainy day to snuggle up with a blanket, coffee/tea, and this beautiful novel.
Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Tatiana de Rosnay for a digital Advanced Readers Copy. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
Total Number of Books: 3 Total Number of Pages: 739 Average Pages per Book: 246 Average Rating: 4
This was far from my best reading month, but I have legitimate excuses! At the beginning of August, Ryan’s family and friends arrived in Vancouver from England. We spent some time touring around Vancouver, then WE GOT MARRIED at the gorgeous Lac Le Jeune Wilderness Resort. It was an absolutely PERFECT day, and an amazing time spent with family and friends celebrating!
Here are the books I read in August:
Black Klansmanby Ron Stallworth ★★★☆☆ (3.5)
I was ecstatic to win this book in a giveaway by Raincoast books, as it had been on my radar! A Black Police Detective infiltrating the KKK!?!?!? The premise instantly intrigued me. While I found the book absolutely fascinating, the writing was not overly captivating. Interesting, but not “wow” for me. I feel like this COULD have been one of those amazing, mind-blowing books, but it just fell a little flat.
The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay ★★★★☆
A moody and atmospheric read, delving into family relationships and the dark secrets and memories that lay beneath the surface of the beautiful and iconic setting. I don’t want to say too much, as I’m in the process of writing a full review. I will say that it’s the perfect autumn read (expected to be published October 23), and I love love loved the main character Linden.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyby Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows ★★★★★
I made myself read this (or rather listen to it via audiobook) before watching the movie. I ADORED it!!!! At first it was a bit difficult to keep track of all the characters, but I completely fell in love with each and every one of them – well, maybe not Mark. If epistolary novels are not your thing, then you probably won’t enjoy this; however, I found the letters incredibly entertaining, and they allowed the authentic voice of each character to shine through. While reading it, I kept wondering, “How on earth are they going to make this into a movie?” I think they did an excellent job! I’m definitely buying the book and reading it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book OR movie.
Now that summer holidays are over, I am hoping to get more reading done! I am currently reading A Storm of Swords, A Place for Us, and Educated. I also just received The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, and it sounds like such a good one that I am being swayed to start it, even though I already have enough books on the go. Ahhhh!!!!
Title: Fawkes Author: Nadine Brandes Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publication Date: July 10th 2018 Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction Rating: ★★★★✰
Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.
Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.
But what if death finds him first?
Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.
The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.
The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.
No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.
First of all, can we please take a moment to appreciate how STUNNING the cover of this book is!? The cover was 100% the reason I gravitated towards this book. I’m happy I did.
The protagonist of the book is Thomas, Guy Fawkes’ son. Essentially it is a coming-of-age story in which he learns more about himself, his father, the plagued world of Igniters and Keepers, and of course love. Although some parts seemed a little drawn out (it could probably be 50 pages shorter), the rest of the story kept up a pretty good pace.
I found the world absolutely fascinating. For the first 200 pages, I was constantly asking questions about how the whole colour power thing worked, and I felt like the difference between the Igniters and Keepers was so vague. When I reached page 204, I realized that the reader was kept in the dark just as Thomas had been until that moment. Thomas actually says on that page, “Finally, I was getting answers,” and that’s exactly how I felt! It was at this point that my history nerdiness crept in and I was giddy to see how Brandes has taken the conflicts between religious sects during this period in England, and rewritten it as a war between two groups with differing magical practices: the Keepers and the Igniters. All of the pieces came together in my mind, which of course I exclaimed out loud; then I had to explain to Ryan everything that had happened in the book, how I had been feeling about it, as well as the revelation that had just occurred.
I did struggle to connect with most of the main characters. Thomas became slightly annoying at times, and I wanted so much more from his father (as I’m sure he did as well). We also meet Fawkes’ co-conspirators (who really existed!), and Emma (who is entirely fictional). I think that the choice to include Emma – strong, determined, and independent – was a great one. She was definitely my favourite character.
I appreciate this unique combination of historical fiction and fantasy. I was also highly invested in the setting, as I have studied the time period throughout various history courses and have visited many of the locations in my travels. I also liked how the novel delved into some of the complexities of wars, disease, and racism – rampant in 1600’s England – but also of relevance at pretty much any point in human history.
Despite some points that lagged, and my inability to connect to some characters, I did really enjoy this book! Magic-infused 1600’s England was a fun (and slightly terrifying) place to hang out for awhile.
Have you ever read a book that combined historical fiction and fantasy?
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a complimentary e-copy of this book in exchange for a review. All views and opinions expressed are my honest and unbiased, as I was not required to write a positive review.
Do you listen to audiobooks? They’re relatively new to me, and I must admit that a good audiobook can be the perfect way to experience a story. I first started listening to them out of frustration, really; I was slogging my way through the fifth novel in the Outlander series – The Fiery Cross – and I was struggling to get through it. I had abandoned it months before, opting for lighter and shorter reads. Determined to finally finish it, I checked out the audiobook version from my library’s app. Although seeing the length of the recording (55 hours and 34 minutes *GASP*) was daunting, I soon realized that listening to an audiobook made monotonous household tasks – cleaning, laundry, cooking, and snow shoveling – SO much more entertaining! This also happened to be last winter, when our tractor was broken down for the duration of the season and we got seemingly endless piles and piles of snow; I finished the second half of the audiobook ONLY listening to it whilst shoveling snow.
I’ve also recently listened to Amanda Lindhout’s A House in the Sky and Naomi Klein’s book about climate change: This Changes Everything. Although I enjoyed those audiobooks, Born a Crime, narrated by Trevor Noah (the author), was a completely unique experience. I had seen various clips of Trevor Noah on YouTube, but to be honest I didn’t know much about him. I had been eyeing up Born a Crime every time I entered a bookstore. I had read the synopsis and a few reviews; I was not-so-patiently waiting for it to come on sale… aaaand it didn’t. I recently subscribed to Audible, and when I first saw Born a Crime on there, I was hesitant, mostly because I had been waiting to buy the print version for so long. Upon noticing that it was narrated by Trevor himself, and after skimming a few reviews, I dived in. I haven’t read the print version of the book (I think I’ll buy it eventually… if it ever comes on sale!) but I wholeheartedly recommend listening to the audiobook regardless. Perhaps it was destiny that the hardcover book just wasn’t coming on sale. Even if you’ve read the print version, LISTEN TO THE AUDIOBOOK! Sorry, I feel like I am shouting this from the mountaintops, but that’s how good it is! Listening to this book felt like sitting down with Trevor Noah over coffee and hearing him tell his life story. He is such a natural storyteller, and is downright hilarious; he had me regularly laughing and guffawing out loud, which garnered concerned looks from my fiancé. His voice brought this emotional, brutal, insightful and hilarious story to LIFE. Trevor Noah was born at the tail end of apartheid: the period of systemic, institutional, government-sanctioned racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa. He was born to a deeply religious, independent, and charismatic mother. He starts out by describing how he was, quite literally, born a crime:
“On February 20, 1984, my mother checked into Hillbrow Hospital for a scheduled C-section delivery. Estranged from her family, pregnant by a man she could not be seen with in public, she was alone. The doctors took her up to the delivery room, cut open her belly, and reached in and pulled out a half-white, half-black child who violated any number of laws, statutes, and regulations—I was born a crime.”
As a mixed-race child, Trevor straddled the various groups in South Africa – he looked “colored,” but identified as black. His childhood was complicated, as he tried to find his identity and place in a divided society. He effortlessly weaves hilarious anecdotes and escapades with heart wrenching and tragic accounts of poverty, violence and racism. His story is both entertaining and insightful. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it – and in fact, I actually cleaned and organized beyond what I needed to, just to keep listening. I learned a lot about life during and following apartheid in South Africa, and I completely fell in love with Trevor and his mother.
Now I am listening to it for a second time with my fiancé, because I just had to share it with him. If you end up listening to it, I’d love to know your thoughts about it.
Title: Born a Crime Author: Trevor Noah Publication Date: November 15, 2016 My Rating: ★★★★★
(P.S. The Hardcover book is actually on sale now… now you know my next book purchase!)