19

Books I Loved This Summer

Officially we have another couple of weeks of summer left. But as everyone heads back to work and school, we all know that actually the summer is totally over. Sure, you can all sneak in some evenings in late summer sunshine, pretending like picnics in the park or at the beach are still every day but you’re lying to yourselves.

I’m not including myself in this because I’ve been waiting for summer to be over since May.

Still, summer is good for some things and one of those is reading. I had a more low-key reading summer than I’m used to but I still did manage to read some wonderful books. I didn’t manage to post about many over the summer so I’m telling you about them now.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Oh my god, this book! I put off reading it because its length put me off. I wasn’t sure I had it in me to finish 479 pages this summer. Don’t let that put you off if you haven’t already read it. This gorgeous multi-generational story set in Korea and Japan is a stunner, a must-read. It was the kind of book I thought about when I wasn’t reading it, one I couldn’t wait to get back to. I told so many people about this book when I was reading it because I wanted to talk about it. A great book club selection if you’re looking for one!

The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992 by Tina Brown. This was a great book to dip in and out of as circumstances required. Brown’s memoir of her time editing Vanity Fair is eye-opening, gossipy and whip smart. It was a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the people who shape our media landscape, made all the better as Brown herself is learning how to play the game. It was refreshing to read a story about a woman going after her dream job and coming to best those who would try and keep her in her place.

Tin Man by Sarah Winman. More of a novella, I wasn’t at all sure that I was going to love this book and then it ended and I felt like I’d been punched in the heart. Tin Man is a kind of unrequited love story with so many layers, it’ll have you thinking about it long after you finished the last page.

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir. We all know I’m a reality TV junkie and I really appreciate when this interest shows up in my reading. It happened with Jessica Knoll’s The Favorite Sister as well (another of my favourites this summer). Both books offered a closer look at the people who make these shows, about what really goes on behind the cameras (I know they’re both fiction but they’re not, you know?), and examines the impact on the people who are featured and the ones who watch.

Isaac’s Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson. This was the only one of Larson’s books I hadn’t read yet and it was hard to find. When I saw a copy at the bookstore early in the summer, I didn’t even hesitate before I grabbed it. Reading this book nearly a year after Hurricane Harvey was kind of unsettling. In 1900, no one took the force of the storm seriously and it ended up killing around 6,000 people and leveling Galveston, Texas. Before the storm, it had been competing with Houston as the fastest growing city in the region. Larson has an incredible talent for finding the human element in all of his stories and Isaac’s Storm is no different. Sadly, it doesn’t seem as if we’ve come that far when it comes to taking weather seriously.

The Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner is the first story to feature Empress Maria Feodorovna and honestly, that shocks me. She saw so much history over her lifetime (1847-1928): married to Alexander III, the mother of Nicholas II, related to English, Danish and Greek royals at a turbulent time for monarchy. Gortner ably handles this overlooked woman in history and I loved every page of The Romanov Empress. Thanks to Catherine @ Gilmore Guide to Books for my copy!

So that’s the highlights tour. Did you read any of these? What did you read this summer that you loved?

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6

Lake Reads: BC Day 2018

We have a long weekend coming up in Canada (hooray for BC Day and whatever you call it in your province!) and even though schedules and weekends no longer actually mean anything in this household (my husband works shifts that jump week to week), we’re still heading out of town for it.

It’ll be the first time we take our small lady on the road and I have no idea how much time I will actually have for reading but I can’t go unprepared. I’m hoping that the addition of some extra grandparent hands will mean I have the chance to sneak off and get some reading done.

Even though I hate packing (you should see the lists for this trip), I loooooooooove packing books. There’s no flight involved so there’s no weight restriction. If I bring it and it doesn’t get read? Oh well.

So, here are the books I’m planning on bringing with me!

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I’ve been meaning to read this book about generations of a Korean family for AGES. Ever since Roxane Gay said it was her favourite book of 2017. But it’s an intimidating size and I think I need TIME to spend with it. So here’s hoping that the lake provides the perfect setting to finally get into this one.

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger.  I hated the sequel to The Devil Wears Prada so I don’t have terribly high expectations for this third book. But it’s a quintessential summer book, I’ve seen people I trust read it and enjoy it and honestly, aside from that one book, Lauren Weisberger hasn’t let me down yet. 

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson. I haven’t read a book written by a man in something like 20 books. I think Larson, one of my absolute favourite non-fiction writers, is one of the only men that could induce me to break this streak right now. His book about the deadliest hurricane in history has been hard to find (I’ve read everything else he’s written). When i came across a copy recently, I didn’t even hesitate in buying it. I’m hoping to get it read while I’m up there and leave it behind for my father-in-law.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz. Ah, another book by a man. OK this is maybe becoming a Thing. When you’ve read a lot of crime fiction, it becomes difficult to find books that are original. Horowitz putting himself into this book makes it stand out and it feels like the kind of book that I always crave when I’m at the lake.

Educated by Tara Westover. Everything I’ve heard about this book makes me think it could be kind of a heavy read. So it feels like a good idea to bring it to a place that makes my heart happy. A memoir about growing up thinking the End of Days was coming, cut off from the world with a father who was growing increasingly violent? That sounds like the kind of book that needs to be read in the sun.

I think I’ll probably cap it at five books this time. A year ago, this list would have been a good start, now it’s definitely aspirational. But we wouldn’t be bookworms if we didn’t spend our time thinking about all the books we’d like to read.

Happy long weekend, friends!

10

Antilibrary Liberation

A couple of weeks ago, Naomi @ Consumed by Ink posted this article on her facebook.

I can never resist bookish content so I immediately clicked on it and read it.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

The article basically gives permission to have stacks and stacks of unread books in your house. The idea of an “antilibrary” is basically to show you all the things that you have yet to learn, to reinforce the idea that you don’t know everything, which makes you a smarter person in the long run.

I had been feeling BAD about all the books that had been piling up around my house. Since we’ve moved, I’ve been driving to work instead of taking transit and I’ve lost about 2 hours of reading time every day! So the unread books have been accumulating much more quickly. I’ve been mostly avoiding the library and trips to the bookstore didn’t hold the same joy because they just made me think about all the books I already had that needed reading.

Since I’ve read this article I’ve been released from that guilt. I’ve been adding books to my stacks at an alarming pace. Don’t believe me?

These are the books I’ve brought home since reading the article just over a week ago:

  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
  • The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson
  • Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman (yeah, I did)
  • Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • The Girl in the Woods by Camilla Lackberg

belle_library

If you’re wondering how I died, just know that being crushed by all the things I didn’t know was the way I’d always hoped to go.

18

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!

9

Lake Reads: Summer 2017

It is the point in this dumpster fire of a year, personally and globally, when I take a time out and go to my in-laws for some outdoor reading, wine drinking, ice cream tripping and lake dipping.

And as ever, in the service of creating more bookish lists, here’s what’s coming with me.

lake reads

I have been thinking about what’s coming with me for WEEKS. It is has been a hellfire of a couple of weeks, and focusing on what books I could bring is an exercise in joy.

I’m looking at two long car rides and FIVE days of glorious freedom spent with my (sunscreened) nose in a book.

Not too long ago, I went on a bookstore binge. Somehow I have managed to keep Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me, Taylor Jenkin Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network for lake reading. I can just feel that these books will be HEAVEN.

I also managed to keep my impatient hands off of Roxane Gay’s Hunger. Roxane is coming with me to the lake!

Matt Haig’s How To Stop Time. So I had written down this book’s July release date, ready to march to the bookstore and pick up a copy on the day. Turns out, that was the U.K release date and I’d have to wait until FEBRUARY to get mine. NOPE. I ordered it from book depository.com – it arrived last week and I’ve been counting the days until I can read it outside in the garden. This one is the story of a man who ages more slowly than the rest of us – as in, he was born in the 1500s and is still kicking. The one rule: don’t fall in love. You know I loved The Humans, and The Radleys and I’ve only heard the most wonderful things about How to Stop Time.

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante. Well, guys. This will be it. The fourth and final book in the Neapolitan Novels series.  I’ve been undecided if I want to read this ASAP or wait to find out what happens to Lila and Elena. The draw of reading the finale in the sunshine proved to be too much. Plus, it was at the library when I went – a sign. I’m going to have to go back and buy all these books at some point. The thought of not owning these is kind of a heartbreaker.

Sleep Baby Sleep by David Hewson. Would a trip to the lake be complete without some kind of crime fiction? No, it would not. I’ve fallen in love with the Pieter Vos books, set in Amsterdam with the kind of hardboiled, crusty detective we’ve all come to expect in this type of book. Turns out Amsterdam is a perfect, sinister setting for some seriously f*cked up crime. A girl who works at the famous flower market disappears. When she turns up, she’s barely alive, tied to a stone angel inside a ring of fire. Her body contains traces of a drug that connects her to a series of murders called The Sleeping Beauty Murders. Vos is on the trail of a serial killer. Yesssssssssssssssssssssss.

And because I’ve been deep diving into the non-fiction this year…

First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Anderson Brower. This book has been on my list for forever. This book, that looks at the most underestimated positions in the world, covers the women who held the position from 1960 to the present day. I’m looking forward to spending time with Jackie, Lady Bird, Pat, Rosalyn, Hillary and of course, Michelle. It also includes a cheeky afterword regarding the expectations of Melania in the role…

A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Remarkable Story of an Italian Mother, Her Sons, and their Fight Against Fascism by Caroline Moorehead. It’s taken me a LONG time to recover enough from A Train in Winter to even THINK about reading another of Moorehead’s books. I am confident that, dealing as it does with an Italian mother, this one will have more blatant ass-kicking and less heartbreak. It’s the true story of the Rosselli family, a part of the cultural elite in Florence, who were vocal anti-fascists. The price they paid for their activism is documented in this book, which also looks at the rise and fall of Mussolini and his black shirted thugs, and what it meant for Italy as a whole. You know, just some light summer reading.

So that’s probably enough, but just in case I will also bring War and Peace with me to fill in any reading lulls. Will I read all of the books? Definitely not. But I will always have something to suit my mood and that’s how I roll.

7

Library Checkout – April 2017

Another month, another Library Checkout! Visit Charleen @ It’s a Portable Magic for the full story!

librarycheckout2

Well as you all know, my reading wasn’t strong in April. And while I found that I had a hard time finding time to read, that my focus was lacking when I did read, a funny thing happened when I was at the library: I got excited about the books I was finding.

For a hardcore booknerd this might not seem that noteworthy. But I was struggling, you guys. Instead of seeing possibilities when I looked at the books I had to read, I saw one other thing I had to do. When I looked at my TBR stacks, I didn’t see stories, I saw chores.

But the trips I took to the library had me leaving with a smile. I got that feeling you get when you know you’ve found exactly the books you were looking for.

I didn’t read a lot this month but I feel like everything will be better in May. So here’s what the month with the library looked like:

Read
Sisi: Empress On Her Own by Alison Pataki (the first book was better)
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (so fun)
The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto

Returned Unread
The Lights of Paris by Eleanor Brown

Currently Out
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield (for the second time)
The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (currently reading)
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler
Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine (can you tell that I have a new obsession?)

On Hold
Nothing right now. See list above!

What about you? What did you find at the library? Link up with It’s a Portable Magic!

13

Lake Reads: Easter 2017

It’s been pretty quiet around here eh?

I’m going through another reading rough patch – I’m having a lot of trouble concentrating on reading! It’s been really busy at work and we’re still house hunting (which is the most intense experience out here) so I don’t have much left for this space.

BUT.

That’s about to change because it’s Easter and you know what that means? I’m headed to my in-laws’ house and all that’s expected of me in the next few days is to read and have some drinks. Maybe also run to town for ice cream.

lake reads

I have been looking forward to this weekend for weeks and weeks, thinking about what books will come with me. I’ve changed my mind many times but in the end, these are the books that I’m taking with.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante. You may recall that I wasn’t a massive fan of My Brilliant Friend. It took me more than a year to take a chance on the second book in the series, The Story of a New Name. Well, that one converted me. I fell for that book hard and I think it’s safe to say that I’m obsessed by the friendship between Lila and Elena. I can’t wait to get into the third book.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. This account of a white journalist going undercover as a black man in the Deep South in 1959 is more serious lake reading but it feels important and timely.

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter. What can I say? I’ve been in a murder state of mind. I’ve been listening to as many episodes of the My Favorite Murder podcast as time will allow. Given my non-focus abilities recently, I need something to grip me. I was haunted by Slaughter’s Pretty Girls. I look forward to her scaring the crap out of me again. This book needs to be back at the library on Tuesday – someone is waiting for it!

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. When I saw this post from Amy @ Read a Latte I was intrigued. I mean, it’s serious if you read a book twice in a week. When I was next at the library, I saw this book sitting out and felt like it was meant to be. I like the idea of an office duel between competing assistants who hate each other right about now.

The Secrets You Keep by Kate White. I don’t want to brag but I know the guy who took the picture that they used for this cover. When he told me about it I looked the book up and it sounded interesting: what would you do if your new husband is keeping secrets from you, ones that are potentially dangerous? I pre-ordered it (something I NEVER do) and now I’m taking it to the lake.

The Edge of the Fall by Kate Williams. I read the first book in this promised trilogy (The Storms of War) quite a while ago. It was the story of a German-English family navigating society into the First World War and what it meant for their place in it. Kate Williams is an incredible biographer and she has taken equal care in crafting some solid historical fiction.

And that’s “it.” Three full days, 10 hours worth of car rides – I can do some serious reading damage this weekend. Promise that when I get back, I will actually post about some of it.

Happy Easter, friends!