Life & Reading Update | 6 months later…

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…)

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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.

Reading Update

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 Daughter by Kate Morton ★★★★
  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur ★★★★★
  • The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur ★★★★★
  • Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? by Jena Pincott ★★★★
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery ★★★★
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne ★★★★
  • Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell ★★★★
  • Keeper’n Me by Richard Wagamese ★★★★
  • By Chance Alone by Max Eisen ★★★★★
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling ★★★
  • Hunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard ★★★★
  • How to Stop Time by Matt Haig ★★★★
  • Wishtree by Katherine Applegate ★★★★
  • Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung ★★★★★
  • Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent ★★★★
  • Brother by David Chariandy ★★★
  • Fablehaven by Brandon Mull ★★★
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz ★★★★
  • The Two Lila Bennetts by Liz Fenton ★★★★
  • Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope by Karamo Brown ★★★★
  • Circe by Madeline Miller ★★★
  • The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton ★★★★
  • The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon ★★★★
  • When We Found Home by Susan Mallery ★★★
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte ★★★★
  • A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin ★★★★★
  • Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★★
  • Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin ★★★★★
  • Rick Mercer Final Report by Rick Mercer ★★★★
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas ★★★★

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Here are a few of my top reads so far this year:

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By Chance Alone by 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.”

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Homes: A Refugee Story by 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.

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A Storm of Swords by 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!

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Daisy Jones & The Six by 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.

Life Updates

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…

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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 Facebook pages for more information.  Our website will be launching soon, with pre-orders happening in July!

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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!

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Top 5 Wednesday | Sept 26th – Favourite Covers

I’ve been pretty bad at keeping up my blog lately.  Let’s blame that on the demands of teaching teenagers?  Anyways, I thought a fun post to get back into things would be to join in on Top 5 Wednesday!  It was originally created by Lainey and is now hosted by Sam from Thoughtsontomes. You can find the Goodreads group, with all the weekly topics here if you want to join in the fun!

September 26th: Favorite Covers
— We’ve done this topic in the past, but with so many new, beautiful covers, it is time for an update!

I am guilty of judging books by their covers…. it’s just too hard not to!  An intriguing synopsis will always persuade me (regardless of the cover), but too often I am swindled by a GORGEOUS cover with a synopsis that leaves me thinking “hmmm, mayyyybe I’d like this story??”

Here are some of my recent Top 5 Favourite Covers. I had to narrow it down to books I’ve read/purchased/received in the last year or so:

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I had been eyeing this book up for AGES, but the only editions available at our bookstores were the movie cover and the white anniversary hardcover. I had seen this one online and FELL IN LOVE with it, so naturally I ordered it from the UK. I don’t even care how long it took to get here, just look at it!

 

 

 

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I love this cover because it is so intriguing! Full of juxtaposition and expertly designed to be thought-provoking.

 

 

 

 

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I adore this cover! Clearly set in the past, and to do with Guy Fawkes, magic, and maybe some destruction… this cover drew me right in!

 

 

 

 

 

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This cover is so perfectly eerie: the ornate Victorian gate, tree branches, birds, and love that it is in greyscale. It perfectly captures the mood and atmosphere of the novel.

 

 

 

 

51em3xUxHOL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This anniversary edition cover of The Name of the Wind is my FAVOURITE! It incorporates so many different aspects of the story, and I love the colours used. Just perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

Hope you enjoyed gazing at these interesting and beautiful covers. I’m excited to see everyone else’s choices!

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Book Review | The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

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!

Book Review | The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay

rain watcherTatiana 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 _Travel is never predictable. That's how adventure shows up._ (1).pngphotographer, 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.

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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!

_Travel is never predictable. That's how adventure shows up._ (2).pngThe 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.

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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.

 

Top Ten Tuesday | Binge-worthy TV Shows

Here’s a last minute Top Ten Tuesday post for you (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl)! This week’s topic – “Binge-worthy TV Shows” just seemed like too much fun to pass up. One of my guilty pleasures is certainly binge-watching shows, and I love seeing which TV shows other booknerds adore.

So here we go… these are my ALL-TIME TOP TEN BINGE-WORTHY TV SHOWS (in no particular order):

  • Outlander: who doesn’t enjoy swooning over Jamie Fraser on page and on screen 😉
  • Peaky Blinders: because my life is so far removed from theirs in every way possible – it’s fascinating! (plus swoon…again…)
  • Departures: this is how I satisfy my inner travel bug throughout the year while anticipating my next adventures.
  • The Big Bang Theory: I enjoy laughing, and this show makes me laugh.
  • Les Revenants: It is SO CREEPY, mysterious and atmospheric. I haven’t checked whether the third season has been released, but the first two were AMAZING!
  • This Is Us: I don’t know if I’ve ever cried so often watching a show… but I do love an emotional rollercoaster.
  • Downton Abbey: this is a classic in my eyes! I have watched the full series through countless times, and will continue to do so! Still mad that they killed my favourite character off so soon, but whatever….
  • Modern Family: preparing myself for the chaos of family life? Probably not, but it’s very entertaining!
  • Friends: AWAYS AND FOREVER!
  • Orange is the New Black: completely unique and filled with memorable characters.

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AND I have to include my favourite binge-worthy movie: LEAP YEAR

A super cheesy but absolutely adorable romantic comedy set in Ireland’s countryside – THE BEST! I also visited quite a few of the filming locations on the Aran Islands, which makes watching it that much more enjoyable!

 

 


What are some of your favourite binge-worthy TV shows or movies?? Do we have any in common? Let me know in the comments below!

Janice

Mailbox Monday | Featuring Health Tea Book Crate

Time for Mailbox Monday! Technically I’m on a self-imposed book-buying ban, since I have exactly 50 unread books on my shelves. I am failing myself, because I keep making excuses like: “but these thrift store books are SO cheap, it would be stupid NOT to buy them!” Okay, let’s talk book subscription boxes, since they aren’t REALLY counted when you’re on a book-buying ban – are they? As you may have read in my first ever blog post, it was a book subscription box (Novel Editions) that really renewed my love of obsession with reading.

I have had a hard time finding a box that I adore as much as I did Novel Editions. There are countless YA boxes, but YA is not really my preferred genre. I also dislike receiving items that are not useful. Candles, bath bombs, tea, soap, bookmarks, stationery, tote bags etc. are all items that I love, because I will actually USE them. I am not really inclined to “collect” things, and I don’t think there’s any book/series I love enough to want art prints of its characters (even Harry Potter/Outlander/GoT don’t make that cut!). Of course this is 100% personal preference, but it is honestly difficult to find good book boxes that don’t have a YA or specific book/fandom theme to them.

1This brings me to my most recent snail mail on this Mailbox Monday! I don’t remember how I came across Health Tea Book Crate, but I may have fallen in love just by browsing through their Instagram feed. Tea and books are two of my favourite things (along with brown paper packages tied up with string). Add in the vintage aesthetic they’ve got going on, and I was hooked! I was ready for the impulse buy, but when I went to check out I saw that they only shipped within the U.S.A. Fraught with disappointment, I instantly DM’d them on Instagram, expressing both my adoration and lamentation, and guess what!? They added international shipping: WIN!

Without further ado, here is the aesthetically delightful unboxing of the July Health Tea Book Crate. Spoilers ahead!

Included in the July Health Tea Book Crate:

EVERY item is absolutely gorgeous. When opening this box I felt perfectly pampered. Everything was packaged in such a lovely manner, and it is clear that such care and thought went in to every little detail.  Of course the most important aspect of the box is the book, and I am so excited to start A Place for Us. 

Since I’m located in Canada, and this is a box from the United States, the only downside is the higher cost due to the exchange rate and customs. I can pretend that I care for a few moments, but then I just look at how beautiful it all is!


Do you subscribe to any book boxes? Which are your faves!?  What do you like to receive in subscription boxes?

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