World-building in Artemis

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

One of my husband’s favourite books is Andy Weir’s The Martian. He made me read it and I ended up enjoying it against all odds. Science fiction is very much not my jam and I really don’t like space.

Yeah, I said it.

So not only reading but requesting Weir’s newest, Artemis, was very out of character for me.


Jasmine ‘Jazz’ Bashara lives in Artemis, the colony on the moon. She works as a porter, a low-paying job that has not-super-legal side-gig potential. But she wants to make a lot more money. Jazz is really smart but never had much time for traditional education routes. Having lived on the moon since she was a small child, she understands the colony like no one else.

When an opportunity comes up through a regular smuggling client, she has the chance to make a lot of money really quickly. But she doesn’t realize she’s suddenly in the middle of a power struggle for control of the moon and it’s resources. Jazz must rely on friends and connections to save the future of the only home she’s ever known.

It sounds a touch dramatic. And it is. But not in a way that’s distracting or annoying. Artemis is a fun space-romp. There’s a murder mystery, power struggles within a completely made up system of government, and some really fun characters.

One quibble I had was that I’m not sure how real Jazz felt to me. I like aspects of her (her brilliance, her take-no-sh*t attitude, but she didn’t feel like a real person. She’s definitely a woman written by a man – she’s sexy but doesn’t really realize it, all men are automatically attracted to her. And science was a really big part of this book which was hard for me because this kind of science always makes me feel like an idiot.

But it was funny and didn’t try to be The Martian which I really appreciated. It was light, it was fast paced and there was some intriguing world building. It almost seemed feasible that at some point, humans could live on the moon!

It was a solid read for me over the Christmas holidays and I can see it being a fun addition to any kind of holiday packing.


The year that was…in books

Hello lovely bookish people!

We have made it into 2018 and for me personally, it’s a massive relief. I know last year was a slog for many people, for a variety of reasons and I was right there with you. What I wasn’t expecting, while I was dealing with a whole bunch of crap in my real life, was that my reading love would also take a hit.

I alluded to some of that in this post. I’m very much an avoider so when things get hard, I just don’t deal with them. In many ways, that was true for this space.

But it’s 2018 now and a lot of the stuff that was a problem for me last year has resolved itself. I’m still climbing out of the anxiety spiral I was in but it’s getting brighter every day.

And even in all of that, I still did manage to read some great books so let’s take a look at my reading in 2017 anyway, shall we?

Stats-wise, I finished 114 books. Out of those 114, 76% were written by women and 31% was non-fiction. My representational or diversity reading could have been stronger – only 23% counted as that.

Last year I wanted to re-read more books and I only managed to do that twice.

What were some of my favourites?

  • Anything I read by Roxane Gay. This included An Untamed State, which I read in January and was confident was the book to beat. I still think about it now. Roxane Gay is just…I can’t put into words how much her work means to me. I also read her short story collection, Difficult Women, and her unflinchingly honest memoir, Hunger. I say this all the time, but please, if you haven’t already, read her work.
  • Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge
  • One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad
  • The Break by Katherena Vermette
  • The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. You may recall that I wasn’t a huge fan of the first novel, My Brilliant Friend. But the way that book ended, eventually I found my way back. The rest of the series blew me away. I recommend these books to people all the time and I know that I’m going to a) buy the rest of the books (a case of having borrowed them from the library) and b) read them again one day.
  • Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine. I went down a Bette and Joan rabbit hole this year thanks to the FX Series. This one was my favourite.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This book is going to be everywhere the closer we get to the movie. Do yourselves a favour and pick up a copy that doesn’t have a move cover.
  • Beartown by Fredrik Backman. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Backman. Beartown was written in a completely different way and I wasn’t sure that I was enjoying it. But then it clicked and I loved it. A book about hockey in a small-town and what happens when sports dreams are achieved at all costs, it felt like a timely read. Enraging, but timely.
  • Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Peterson.
  • Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza.
  • My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
  • The Break by Marian Keyes
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This book was a f*&king delight. Jenkins Reid has caught me off guard twice now with the depth of her ‘fluffy’ girl books.
  • How To Stop Time by Matt Haig. Haig always seems to write the books you need without your ever realizing you needed them. This one is no exception and it should be out in Canada in a month or so!
  • The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. I’ve loaned this out twice already.
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.
  • Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga. It’s been long-listed for Canada Reads 2018 and I can’t think of a more deserving book. This one changed the way I see Canada.

For a year where reading was hard, I still ended up reading some books that really stood out for me.

For 2018, I’m not setting any blogging goals. I want to focus on loving reading again.

Plus, I’m honestly not sure what my reading year will look like. In June, we’re expecting a new little bookworm to join our family. I hear conflicting reports on ease of reading with a new baby. If you have tips or tricks, let me have ’em!


Heartwarming without the cheese

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

In this great big scary, f*cked up world, it’s been difficult to find books that strike the right balance. I want something hopeful but not saccharine. Sometimes I want my book to say something, other times I want it to be light hearted and fun.

music shop

The Music Shop, the new book from Rachel Joyce, is a nice light hearted hopeful book that won’t choke you with sweetness.

It’s 1988 and Frank owns a music shop. He only sells vinyl, despite pressure from suppliers to begin stocking CDs, and he will sell you the music that you need, not necessarily what you think you want. He has a special knack for reading people, for seeing the things that they would rather hide, and in his quiet way he’s able to show them that he sees all of them.

But then Ilse Brauchmann walks into his life and he’s completely discombobulated. He just can’t get a read on this quiet woman with the green coat, the dark curls and the intense eyes. When he looks at her he only hears silence. She asks him if he will please teach her about music, the way he sees it and so they begin to meet once a week.

Frank’s record shop is one on a street of mom and pop type businesses. But these businesses have started to close and a development company has been buying up the properties. Frank and his colleagues on the street, Father Anthony with the gift shop, Maud from the tattoo shop, the Williams’ brothers from the Undertakers, all have their livelihood threatened by “progress.”

I wasn’t completely sure where I was going to fall with this book. I was charmed by it early on but I worried that there wouldn’t be enough substance to get me through to the end.

Oh but there was! By the end of this book, I had completely teared up and my heart was soaring. The Music Shop is a lovely book about community and music and love and sticking to your guns. In choosing to set her story in 1988, Joyce has simplified the lives of her characters (in terms of technology) which is one of the only ways I think that this story could have worked. Had it been set in 2017, it wouldn’t have been believable.

And while it’s not unusual to see books that are love letters to reading, I can’t recall ever reading one that was so in love with music. The way Joyce writes about music will have you running to iTunes or even an old record shop to find something that moves you.

Joyce has once again crafted a little story with a big heart but without the cheese. I completely recommend this to those with a bruised heart, or those looking for a sweet escape this holiday season.


White Saviour Complex

On a Costco trip in the summer, I picked up a copy of Bianca Marais’ Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. I meant to read it up at the lake at some point but I only just read it.


In June of 1976, Robin and Beauty’s lives will change forever. Nine year old Robin’s idyllic white suburban life comes to a shattering end when her parents are murdered on their way to a party and her maid, Mabel walks out forever. Beauty is in Johannesburg to find her daughter Nomsa, after Nomsa took part in the Soweto Uprising. When Beauty cannot find her she needs to find a way to get papers to stay in the city or she will be arrested.

From Goodreads:

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection.

For whatever reason, when I bought this book, I assumed the author was a Black woman. Don’t ask me why, it was just something that made sense in my brain. When I saw that the author was in fact a white woman, I was a little disappointed. When I finally started to read the book, I was impressed by how Marais handled apartheid and the language she uses to describe the times. Marais doesn’t shy away from showing the realities of apartheid and honestly, sometimes the language can be shocking and horrific. Marais shows how a lot of white South Africans had a complete disregard for their Black countrymen and women, how they wouldn’t even see them as people.

I appreciated the way Marais alternated the story between Robin and Beauty’s viewpoints. Each was able to tell her own story, from her own perspective, coloured by the part of South Africa that each inhabits.

But the last third of the book disappointed me. Because in the last third, Robin takes over both stories and becomes a White Saviour.

Suddenly a NINE YEAR OLD GIRL is the one that provides salvation to a grown ass Black woman. A woman who has shown herself to be completely capable of looking after herself, and her family and of navigating a world meant to keep her down.

Robin is a selfish child. She makes decisions about the lives of Beauty and her daughter based on how they will affect her. In this way Robin is very much a product of her world – she disregards the needs of a woman who has shown her love and compassion because she finds her own needs more important.

I think I could have lived with a story that ended with Robin reaping the consequences of her actions. But instead, she is offered redemption and Beauty’s story is sacrificed.

It’s a shame because up until that point I was blown away by the eloquent prose, the seemingly honest portrayal of life for black and white people in the South Africa of 1976. Marais explored homosexuality, race, class and religion without being heavy handed.

But in her choice of ending, she let her own story down.


In which I’m surprised by my own personality

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

I think my love of Gretchen Rubin’s work is well documented in this space. I learn so much from her books and I have definitely encouraged others to read them as well!


Her newest book, The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too), is no exception!

In this one, Rubin posits that there are four personality tendencies based on how you react to internal and external factors. That is, are you motivated by internal pressures or external? Both? None? Based on this, you have a personality trait: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel.

There’s a quiz at the beginning of the book (and you can find it here if you’re interested. You ARE) so that you can find out where you land before you read the rest of the book.

Basically the Four Tendencies break down thus:

  • Upholder (responds well to external and internal expectations, has no trouble making time for themselves and achieving things others expect from them)
  • Questioner (responds well to internal obligations, will only achieve those things that make sense to them, you have to convince a questioner that something should be done)
  • Obliger (responds well to external obligations, likely to burn out because they don’t say no and don’t make time for themselves)
  • Rebel (doesn’t respond to external or internal obligations, only do things they WANT to do, if you tell them to do something they automatically don’t want to)

There is also some overlap – you can be an Upholder with Obliger tendencies or a Rebel with Questioner tendencies. Each chapter breaks down a tendency and then how to deal with it if you are one, are in a relationship with one, have a child who is one or work with one.

As ever, Rubin’s work is accessible and so interesting. I learned so much about myself, my relationship, the people I work with. I’ve loaned the book out twice already (once to my manager!) and forced so many people to take the quiz! I thought I was an Obliger but it turns out I’m a REBEL! Basically this means that I don’t respond to any factors, I only do things when I WANT to. Very, very true. When I was reading the Rebel chapter, I had to laugh because it said that IF a Rebel was in a long term relationship, it was with an Obliger. Turns out, my husband is an Obliger.

Anyway, if you’re at all interested in learning more, I really recommend this one. It’s an easy read – 220 pages. You can feel Rubin’s enthusiasm for the work, she includes anecdotes from people she’s encountered and you can really start to see the people around you in the tendencies as you read. I read this sometime last month and I still think about it all the time.


Bonfire fails to spark

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII. Remember me? I KNOW. But here I am, trying to make some kind of amends.

Today we’re going to talk about Bonfire by Krysten Ritter. I guarantee that you have seen this book in your social media feeds – Ritter has a following because she’s kind of an awesome actress. I always enjoy watching whatever she’s in, although I still have not watched Jessica Jones!


Bonfire is her first novel. In it, Abby Williams, returns to her small town for the first time in a decade. She went away to college, has become a lawyer working in environmental law and never looked back at the life she had before. She’s back in a professional capacity, set to investigate Optimal Plastics, the company that’s lauded as the reason Barrens came back from the brink of extinction.

But they could also be poisoning the water supply.

While she’s back in town, Abby can’t help but remember weird things that happened in the past, especially the illness and disappearance of a former friend of hers, Kaycee Mitchell. Before she disappeared, Kaycee would pass out and one time Abby saw her throwing up blood in the girls’ bathroom.

Everything that I had heard about Bonfire before I read it was positive. And I will say that I did enjoy reading it! But I’m not sure that this is a book that I’ll be raving about.

The story itself was enough to keep me invested but it felt like Ritter was trying to do too much. There was the plastics company potentially poisoning the town, the disappearance of Kaycee and that would have been enough. But Abby is also still dealing with the death of her mother years and years ago, and some kind of trauma surrounding her maybe abusive father? She’s also getting involved with two different guys in town – classic bad boy vs clean cut guy and not  all is what it seems – while letting her hometown get into her head and mess with everything she has built.

Sometimes a lot of different elements like that serve to make a richer, more layered story. But in this case it didn’t feel like that to me. The prose felt kind of basic and while it was a fun story to rip through on a weekend, it wasn’t one that will stay with me for much longer.

But hey, I did actually post about it so that’s a win.


Non-Fiction November: New to my TBR

And here we are, the final day of November, the last post for Non-Fiction November. This month long celebration of all things non-fiction is hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Julie at JulzReads, Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves, Lory of Emerald City Book Review, and Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

This week is hosted by Lory at Emerald City Book Review.

A whole month of non-fiction bingeing begs the question: what books made it onto your TBR List?

This year I actually kept track! These are the books that replaced the ones I read this month (and then some because it was not a strong reading month for me!):

Thanks again to Katie, Julie, Sarah, Lory and Kim for hosting another great month of non-fiction. Even though I definitely didn’t get as much non-fiction reading in as I wanted or hoped to, the non-fiction that I did read was pretty great.

(Any event that gets Catherine @ Gilmore Guide to Books to read non-fiction is a success!)

And I’ve added some great new titles to my TBR juuuuuuust in time for Christmas.