I Heart New York – and Book Riot too!

Waiting for our adventure to start.
Waiting for our adventure to start.

I went on a whirlwind three days in New York City.  This was a pretty big deal for me because as I love to travel, and always say I want to travel, I have gone places, but nowhere far lately.  I haven’t flown since my honeymoon in 2002.

So when Jolene – my dearest friend, the eggs to my bacon, told me almost a year ago about an event that was coming to NYC – Book Riot Live – naturally I thought it sounded cool, but never really considered going.  Jolene being the seasoned traveller that she is, saw it and thought to herself – of course I’m going to that – I wonder if Danielle will go with me.  Book Riot is an awesome website and community about everything books.  If you’re a reader at all, you should check it out.  They had announced that they were having Book Riot Live – basically a two-day event, with authors, panels, vendors, games, signings, live recordings of podcasts, you name it.  Basically drool worthy stuff for bibliophiles like myself and Jolene.

Book Riot Live!
Book Riot Live!

We had been planning this trip for so long – it never really seemed like it was going to get here, but it did – and it happened November 7th – 9th.

I feel like I want to write this blog post so I don’t forget.  It’s been a week and I already feel like the feeling is starting to go.  The amazing feeling that I felt while I was in New York City.  Admittedly, it’s probably not for everyone.  But I feel like everyone could probably find something there for them.  Jolene was telling me about how much her Dad hated big cities, but he loved New York.  I seriously can’t blame him – there is so much there to love.

Our flight took off on Saturday morning around 5:50.  Between the time I arrived at Jo’s house on Friday night, and with the Niagara Airbus picking us up at 2:20am, I had gotten about 1 1/2 hours of sleep.  It was a good flight and we arrived in one piece on the tarmac at JFK at just after 7am.  We took a cab into the city and dropped our bags off at the hotel.  From there we walked to the Metropolitan West, where Book Riot Live was happening.  It was about a half an hour walk from our hotel.  Our hotel was located on 7th Ave between Central Park and Times Square.  We had to walk through Times Square to get to the convention.  I loved walking in New York.  It really is the best way to absorb everything, and feel like you’re really part of the experience.

Oh yeah - that's Margaret Atwood!
Oh yeah – that’s Margaret Atwood!

Book Riot the first day was awesome.  We got registered, and had our first look around.  We got to do a bit of shopping at the various vendors – all selling bookish goodness.  The day went very fast and included a bunch of different interesting panels, being part of a tattoo chain and actually meeting and getting my book signed by the one and only Margaret Atwood!  That was so cool.

At the end of the day we made it back to the hotel, where we cleaned up, and then went out for dinner before going to see Kinky Boots.  Now…Kinky Boots was awesome.  So much energy, so much light.  If you ever get the chance, I would totally recommend seeing it.

After walking back to our hotel, Jolene and I totally died.  With only 1 1/2 hours of sleep since Friday morning at 5:30, we were both totally exhausted.  No bed was ever quite so comfortable and no pillow was ever quite so soft as ours were that night.

We headed back to the Metropolitan West the next morning – feeling like real New Yorkers as we grabbed coffee and breakfast and ate while we walked.  We had another full, interesting day at Book Riot Live.  I want to take a second to really commend the folks over there.  They are a really quirky (I mean that in the most complimentary way possible) and interesting group of people.  They are so diverse, so forward thinking, so unique.  I love reading their content, watching them on YouTube and following them on Twitter.  They didn’t disappoint in real life.  They’re an amazing crew and should be proud of themselves for putting on a fantastic event.  I hope it’s the first of many.

First sight out of the subway.
First sight out of the subway.

After Book Riot Live was over, we hopped on a subway and made our way down to the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial and museum.  To be honest, I didn’t know really what to expect or how I would feel going there.  We came up out of the subway station and the first thing I saw was the new 1 World Trade Center jetting up into the sky.  It is a beautiful, impressive structure and the first sight took my breath away.  We walked over to the memorial fountains, that sit in the exact footprints of the fallen twin towers.

The museum itself completely blew me away.  In a way, I’m still processing everything I saw while we were there.  It was huge, and beautiful, and so incredibly sad, while still preserving the pride and resilience of New York, the United States, and Americans and Western Civilization on a whole.  In building this museum, they have found a way to preserve the details of that day, and the events leading up to it and following it, in a way that no one will ever forget even the smallest details.  The human factor will never be forgotten.  The planes flew into the buildings that day, but it was in no way about the planes or the buildings.  It was about the people.  The people in the planes.  The people in the buildings.  The people on the ground.  The service people, the families.  I walked through this space, full of people, and for the most part, you could hear a pin drop.  I was quite overcome by emotions several times throughout my time there.  It hit home several times – I remember this day.  I remember where I was, how I heard, how I felt.  This is part of the history of this generation, my generation.  The events of this day changed the world.  For me, there will always be life before 9/11 and life after 9/11.  I can say that.  My son will never be able to say that.  He never knew what life was like before.

Memorial fountain.
Memorial fountain.

Needless to say, if you are ever visiting New York City, please don’t leave without taking a trip down and making this part of it.  It was worth it, and it was definitely one of the things I will never forget about this experience.

Back on the subway we went, and got off at Penn Station so we could walk over to the Empire State Building.  We crossed off another bucket list item for me by stopping for a slice of pizza on our way there.  The Empire State Building was definitely another highlight of the trip, and I’m so glad we got to see it at night.  Manhattan is so beautiful from up there at night.

After some dessert and some drinks, we made it down to Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Centre, and (the outside of) NBC Studios before heading back for another amazing sleep!

Empire State
Empire State
Amazing shot from the Empire State
Amazing shot from the Empire State

Monday dawned a beautiful day.  We checked out early, and headed over to NBC Studios in the hopes of going on the tour, which was unfortunately booked.  So we went for breakfast instead, after doing a bit of shopping in the store.  After breakfast, we went up to Central Park.  I had been very excited for this for the whole trip.  It occurred to me at one point walking down the street when a dog stopped to do his business on the sidewalk that New York (Manhattan anyway) is a city without grass.  Not a blade to be found everywhere.  So walking into Central Park was crazy different to the rest of the city.  It is an absolutely beautiful green space, and standing there within it looking out at the city around you is an incredible contrast.  One I don’t think you can fully appreciate unless you are there in the middle of it.

Central Park
Central Park
Central Park Selfie
Central Park Selfie
New York Public Library
















After a trip to the BEAUTIFUL New York Public Library, a stroll down 5th Ave looking at all the stores that I could barely afford walking through the front doors, we stopped at Macy’s.  Decorated for Christmas, Macy’s is a feast for the eyes and senses.  To be perfectly honest, we walked in the door and into the handbags.  Beyond that was the cosmetics and fragrances.  Jolene went to some of the other floors, I never made it past that one area.  I was totally in my element.

After a bit more shopping, and a couple more slices of pizza, it was time to hop the subway to head back to JFK.  We got our bags and headed down to the subway, which was just down from our hotel.  Before we went down into the station, I stopped, and did a complete 360, looking around and trying to take everything in.  I knew when I next came out of the ground, we would be at JFK.

Heading home. See you soon NYC!!
Heading home. See you soon NYC!!

I was happy to get home, happy to see my family and crawl into my own bed, but I will always remember this trip and how amazing it was.  How addictive this city is.  I already have looked up flights for the spring so that I can go back and take Joe with me.  It’s completely exhausting.  I normally like to average about 10,000 steps in a day.  In the three days we were there I logged over 57,000 steps.  I ate everything under the sun and still lost 3 lbs while I was there because of all the walking.  It was wonderful, it was life changing, it was one of the best times of my entire life, and I can’t wait to go back again someday.

Auto-Buy Authors

This book changed my life.
This book changed my life.

I saw a post fairly recently about “auto-buy authors.”  The general definition for this is an author that you love so much, that when they release a new book, you automatically buy it, no matter what, because you have to have it, and you have to read everything this person has ever written.  When I saw this, it got me to thinking about who my auto-buy authors are.  Some were obvious, others I only realized qualified when I took a good look at my shelves.

One of my obvious (to me) is Bryce Courtenay.  Someone I admired greatly recommended The Power of One to me when I was quite young.  She knew I loved reading and would often recommend books to me when she came to visit. I read it and it quickly became my favourite book of all time.  I read and re-read it so often that it got to the point that I could pick it up and open it to any spot and start reading with no problem.  My copy is so battered, but only because it is so well loved.  After reading this I bought everything I could by him and there were other favourites too, including Tandia and Four Fires.  Courtenay died in 2012, and though I haven’t read them all yet, I’m pretty confident that I have everything he’s ever written on my shelves.  The Power of One changed my reading life and opened me up to so many other books.  It got me away from the stereotypical teen books and romance novels (which I still love and I’m not knocking them at all) and broadened my horizons to historical as well as contemporary literature.

Another obvious auto-buy author for me is JK Rowling.  I started reading the Harry Potter series after cuckoo's callingGoblet of Fire came out.  I was hooked.  I truly love this series and the world that Rowling has created.  I became that person in line at the bookstore at midnight, or at the movie theatre hours before the show started on opening day to get a good seat.  I am a shameless Potter Head, and the day I finally walk through the gates at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando will be one for the history books.  So I obviously own all of the Harry Potter books, including the spinoff books from them, such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Naturally, when she started writing other books after the Potter series finished, I scooped them up.  Though I haven’t yet read The Casual Vacancy, I do own it.  I was also very impressed with The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm, both written by Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.  I look forward to the next installation of that series. I know that going forward I will continue to buy anything that JK Rowling releases, both because she is an exceptional storyteller, and also because I feel like I almost owe her, as thanks for the gift of Harry Potter.

Oh Heaven help me.
Oh Heaven help me.

I’m starting to realize the more I think about it that this list I longer than I thought, but one more obvious author that I must mention is Diana Gabaldon.  Outlander is a book that has stuck with me since the first time I read it.  I fell in love with Jamie and Claire and cared about them and what happened to them so much, that I recommend the series to anyone who will listen.  I am not caught up on the reading of the series, but I own them all and will continue to purchase anything she releases.  It is my intent to get caught up, and I was fortunate enough to have the 8th instalment of the series signed by her when I purchased it last June at my local Chapters.  She is as captivating in person as she is by what she puts on the page.  I was blown away by her and think she is amazing.

Last year Outlander the TV series premiered on Starz.  It was everything I hoped it would be, I thought it has kept to the plot and integrity of the story very well, and I can’t wait for the second half of the season to start, which I believe is in a week or so.  If you’re an Outlander fan, I highly recommend tuning in.  You will not be disappointed.  And I believe it has been picked up for a second season already.

I have several other auto-buy authors.  One is the Canadian author Kelley Armstrong, whose first book thatstill alice I read Bitten, grabbed me and compelled me to buy and read everything else she’s ever written, which I’m so glad that I did, because I have never been disappointed by her.  I love books with strong, vital female characters, and her books are full of them.

Lisa Genova is another one.  Still Alice has gained a lot of popularity lately with the movie coming out and Julianne Moore gaining so much recognition for her role.  I read it a long time ago and loved it.  I have also read everything else she has ever written and think she is a brilliant author who is especially gifted at telling a story from the point of view of someone that is actually suffering from Alzheimer’s or other neurological issues.

Others on this list that need to be mentioned are Sue Monk Kidd, Anita Diamant, Veronica Roth, and yes…Lemony Snicket – just for fun.

Who are your auto-buy authors?  Anyone from my list?  I’m looking for suggestions to add to my TBR list – as if it wasn’t long enough already.

Have a great weekend!


Pictures from here, here and here.  Here too.

Exploring the World of….Comic Books?

My first literary love.
My first literary love.

As if I needed further proof that I’m a nerd.  I love being a nerd by the way.

First of all, let me start out by saying that I learned how to read with comic books.  I was completely addicted to Archie Comics.  We went out shopping, and where most kids would be begging for a candy bar, I would be standing there in the checkout with my parents begging for the latest Archie Comics….and a candy bar.

I was an only child and if you were looking for me, you could likely find me with my nose buried in a book growing up.  I remember as I got a little older I loved reading In Grandma’s Attic books, Babysitter’s Club, and then Sweet Valley High, before graduating to Danielle Steel, and eventually broadening my scope to where I would read just about anything.  But it all started with Archie.  My mom tells the story of how I would be sitting there at 4 or 5 years old, comic book in hand, giggling as I read.  She went up to me and asked me if I knew what I was reading, suspecting that I was simply laughing at the pictures.  She sat down with me and I started reading them to her.  So I wasn’t kidding when I said that I literally learned to read with Archie.  I still have boxes and boxes of books in my basement that I haven’t looked at in years, that contain Archie comics, Babysitter’s Club, and almost the entire Sweet Valley High series.  I just can’t bring myself to throw them out.  I feel like it would be throwing my childhood away.

I hadn’t read comics in a very long time, until recently when I was browsing YouTube and came across thisSaga 1 video that talked about comics.  It got me thinking about them again, and I went to the store and picked up Saga Volume 1.  I had heard a bit about it and thought it may be a good place to start again.  I read the first, and got totally hooked.  It’s a far cry from Archie, being a much more mature series, with mature scenes and language.  Overall though, it’s very engaging and I proceeded to head back out to the bookstore to pick up volumes 2, 3 and 4.  I also picked up the first trade for the latest Ms Marvel, which I also read and quite enjoyed.  In a way I feel like I’m a kid again!  But I really have to say that I’m enjoying comics a lot again.  Not only do they make great literary palate cleansers, which are great to read in between books as something that isn’t intellectually taxing, but they are great on their own, and I can really see myself getting into several of the stories.  Of course my husband and parents look at me like I have two heads, wondering why I am wasting my time on kid’s stuff, ms marvelbut I really don’t look at it that way.  In a way, I feel like I’ve come full circle.  Comics are great to read in between more difficult books or chunkies, they’re great for car trips or plane rides as they don’t require a huge amount of concentration, and you can look up from them for a few minutes and then quite easily get back to where you left off.  They’re nice if you just want to read for a few hours and don’t want to get into anything too heavy, or don’t have a lot of time to read and don’t want to commit yourself to starting a new novel.

It really makes sense that I would get back into comics.  I like to read all kinds of fiction.  I like historical fiction, romance, mystery, horror, etc.  But I also appreciate YA and sci-fi, including reading about vampires, werewolves, witches, wizards, hippogryphs, and dragons.  Comics to me seem like a perfect addition to my reading list.  Though my TBR just doubled in size, I’m pretty stoked to read more.

Are you interested in comics?  Do you think I’m crazy?  Do you have favourites you can recommend?  I’m certainly open to suggestions.

Pictures from here, here, and here.

The Best…and Worst Books I’ve Read So Far this Year.

IMG_4393Last year I slacked a bit on reading.  I think I only read 17 books last year.  This may seem like a lot, but for someone who has clocked over 60 books on the Goodreads Reading Challenge, 17 is not very many.  It was a busy crazy year, as you’ll know if you read my last post.

This year though, things have settled a bit, and I’ve been a regular visitor at my local library again.  I love the library, who doesn’t love free books, even if you have to give them back?  Nicholas and I usually walk down once a week, where he borrows several books and a movie.  It’s an amazing service offered by the community, and I don’t know why more people don’t utilize it.

As I said, I have been frequenting the library for my own purposes more often lately, and it’s the 2nd of February and I’m working on book #7 of 2015.  So I thought I would weigh in on the best and worst that I have read so far.

The Bad:

I’ll get the bad one out of the way first.  I typically finish books.  I have this thing where I feel like if I start a book, I need to see it through.  There have been very few books that I have given up on.  Lately though, I feel like if something isn’t going so good, and I give it a fair chance (meaning I have read several chapters trying to get into the story and characters) I am more likely to put it down.  The way I look at it, my TBR (to be read) list is so long, that I’m not likely to get through it during my lifetime as it continues to grow on a regular basis.  I don’t often take as many books off the list as I put on.  There are so many amazing books out there just waiting to be read.  Why waste my time struggling through books that just aren’t doing it for me?  Life is short, read what you want.

I gave up on a book this year already.  I was actually excited to read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I haven’t read a lot of fiction that is surrounding the events and aftermath of 9/11, but I was looking forward to reading this one.  I knew that there had been a movie made a few years back starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.  I hadn’t seen it, but it looked really good.  I just thought I would enjoy it.  I was wrong.  I found this book so hard to read.  The way it was written really annoyed me.  I really struggled to keep up with it.  The conversations in the book had no structure.  Sentences in quotes that were back and forth.  This isn’t a quote from the book, but an example of this might be:

“Hi, how are you?” “Good.” “What are you doing?” “Nothing much.” “It’s a beautiful day.” “Yes it is.” “I think I’ll go for a walk.” “Sounds like a good idea.”

This drove me crazy.  There was no flow to the writing.  I also had a hard time believing that a nine year old boy was scouring the city of New York trying to find a hidden message that his father who was killed in 9/11 had left him with someone named “Black.”  That no one (including his mother) seemed to notice.  Maybe I didn’t get far enough in, maybe there was a reason and an explanation for this, maybe it would all be made clear to those that actually made it through to the end of this one.  I found myself not caring enough to find out.

The Amazing:

I did however, read an amazing piece of literature this month.  The best book I’ve read this year, and actually in a long time for that matter.  I have been a fan of Sue Monk Kidd for many years, enjoying everything I’ve read by her.  This month I added The Invention of Wings to the list.  This book was amazing.  It takes place primarily in 19th century Charleston, before the civil war.  The book cuts back and forth between Sarah Grimke, who on her 11th birthday receives Hetty “Handful” Grimke as her personal ladies maid, the other protagonist in the book.  I was unaware that Sarah and her sister Angelina were actual figures in US history, who were prominent voices in the anti-slave movement, as well as among the first in the feminist movement.  Sue Monk Kidd has taken Sarah’s general story and shown her own perception, taking liberties along the way.  The result is a powerful story, so well written, that took me in from the very first page.  It is a captivating book about two girls who grow into women, very different people, very different lots in life, but whose lives are woven together permanently.

Sue Monk Kidd switches smoothly and effortlessly back and forth between the two women, and each has their own distinct voice.  I found myself thoroughly invested in each character, and once I finished this story, I spent a bit of time researching the story of Sarah Grimke, and learning more about what a remarkable woman she was and the mark she made on history.  I was astonished that I had never heard her name before.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this book, and any other book written by this gifted storyteller.  The Secret Life of Bees is the first book I read by her, it was amazing as well, and I have always been very impressed by her work.

Hopefully there will be more reviews to come.  I have, as I mentioned, been reading more this year so far, and my name is on a long list of books waiting for my turn to read from the library.

Have a great week!

Kelley Armstrong Photobombed Me

The one and only Kelley Armstrong during her Q&A
The one and only Kelley Armstrong during her Q&A

Well, not really.  Not intentionally, it just looked like a photobomb.  Sorta.  So it doesn’t count.  But whatever.  I’ll get to that.

Kelley Armstrong is one of my favourite authors.  I have reviewed some of her books on this blog here, here, and here.  I love her style of writing, I love her characters.  I have read almost all of her novels and novellas both for adults and young adults, and enjoyed each one.  The fact that she is from the London, Ontario area is very cool to me as well.

Naturally, when I heard from my bestest Jolene that Kelley Armstrong was going to be doing a book signing and a pre-release event for her latest book Sea of Shadows where you could meet her and have her sign the book for you 3 days before it comes out, I was in.  Especially when I found out that it was as close as Brampton, ON.  Okay, at first I thought it was in Burlington, not Brampton.  But that’s a long, not very interesting story that doesn’t really bring anything to this story, so I won’t expand on that.

So I got an e-mail from Jolene a few weeks ago, telling me that Kelley Armstrong was going to be in Brampton, because she knows that I like her books a lot.  I immediately asked her if she was free and wanted to meet me there.  A true testament to what an amazing friend she is: she didn’t hesitate to agree to drive over an hour to meet me and stand in line with me to wait for an author she has never read, and probably never will read, as it is a genre that she has no interest in.  I also called my good buddy Karen, who I have to credit with introducing me to Kelley’s books in the first place.  She was in too.  I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I have awesome friends. 🙂

We had an awesome day, got to meet Kelley Armstrong (who is charming as all heck), and got to spend time with two of my dearest friends.  We had a lovely lunch, and we had a great time with lots of laughs.

If you’re into the supernatural at all, both adult fiction and YA, be sure to check out Kelley Armstrong’s books.  She has created an awesome world and characters you fall in love with.  Start with the 13 books in the Otherworld series.  Bitten is the first one.  That’s a good place to start.

Waiting in line
Waiting in line
Meeting a favourite
Meeting a favourite
Sadly, the only pic of Jolene from the day.  She was taking them all!
Sadly, the only pic of Jolene from the day. She was taking them all!
Doesn't it look like she photobombed me?  Maybe?  A little?
Doesn’t it look like she photobombed me? Maybe? A little?

Gone Girl – Book Review (maybe some slight spoilers)

Gone GirlI have been picking up and putting down Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn for months now every time I go into the bookstore.  It was really one of those books that I wanted to read, but I’ve been putting off buying it until it comes out in paperback.  I didn’t know much about it, except that it was a mystery.  Also that it was very popular and I was sure I wanted to read it.

I was browsing through the selections available through my library on my iPad’s handy dandy Overdrive app, and saw that it was there.  It also showed that the hold list was 163 people long.  So just for fun, I clicked on it and became 164.  Sure enough, about a week or so ago, I got an e-mail that I could “check out” my selection.  So I got clicking and I got reading.

This book is a mystery.  I’ll start off by saying that I thought it was really good.  The story is about Nick, who comes home on his 5th wedding anniversary to find his wife Amy missing, and the living room looking like there had been foul play.  It definitely looked like Amy was taken from the house unexpectedly, between the state of the living room and the iron being left on, etc.

The police are called, and it of course doesn’t take long for the case to become that of national headlines, and for Nick to become the prime suspect.  The book switches back and forth between Nick’s point of view and diary entries that were written by Amy – 7 years worth of diary entries, all leading up to the point where she was gone from the house.

This book is somewhat of a roller coaster.  It leads you to believe several things.  At the beginning of the book when Nick got home and found his wife gone, I thought based on his reaction that there was no way he could have had anything to do with her disappearance.  But then reading Amy’s diary entries, I start to wonder.  It is obvious that their marriage was far from perfect, and that both of these people were very odd.  Something was not quite right about either of them.

This book had me hooked.  I was reading  and reading, waiting to find out what the hell happened, and then when I finally figured out what had happened, I kept reading to find out what the hell was going to happen next.  The power in the book shifted so many times, I literally had no idea how it would ultimately turn out.

Then it ended.

If I ended my blog post right now, that would be a small indication of how I felt when I realized that this book was done.  There was no closure, no explanation, nothing.  I know that this might be considered a cliffhanger, but I considered myself slightly cheated.  I felt like I had been running through this forest, over and under branches, through the mud, swinging on vines, desperate to get through to the other side.  Then about 50 feet from where the forest ended, I tripped over a bag of potatoes that somebody had left there, and fell.  And then I stayed there for all eternity.  I don’t get up, I don’t know if I broke anything, I don’t get to leave the forest, I don’t find out if there’s civilization on the other side.  Just laying there, facedown in the mud.  Forever.  Slightly dramatic I know, but COME ON!

I suppose that my dramatic reaction is saying something.  I was invested enough in this story to want to know what happened to the characters.  I wanted to see people get what they deserved.  I wanted questions answered.

Maybe I’ll write some fan fiction some day and tie up all the loose ends.

Overall, this book was a solid 4 stars.  Maybe 5.  Because of the ending, I made it a 3 on Goodreads.

Have you read Gone Girl?  Did you like it? Hate it?  Please feel free to comment below.  Thanks for reading.

Love Anthony – Book Review

love anthonyEvery now and then in life you come across an author that just pulls you in with everything that they write.  Lisa Genova is one of these authors for me.  She did it to me with Still Alice and again with Left Neglected (you can read my review of that here.) She has done it again with Love Anthony.  I actually had no idea that Lisa Genova had written another book until I was strolling through the aisles at Costco one day and saw it there.  Having the experience that I had with her writing, I knew it had to be good.

I really don’t want to give too much away, but this book is about two women – Olivia and Beth, who both are going through the most difficult times in their lives.  They are experiencing different circumstances, but they are both devastating, though in different ways.  Both of these women are on Nantucket, and their lives intersect briefly on a few occasions, and then once in a way that will tie them together forever.

Olivia is a woman who is mourning the loss of her son, Anthony.  Anthony was severely Autistic, and as those who have dealt with Autism know, the challenges that come from raising a child with Autism are many, they are constant, and there is never a break from them.  I don’t know this first-hand, but I think you have to be a special person to deal with Autism and how it affects everyone involved.

Beth is a wife and mother who is delivered devastating news in the most brutal of ways, which leads her to have to re-evaluate her life, her marriage, and her future.  The story of these two women is very interesting how they end up connecting on almost a spiritual level through means neither of them would have ever thought possible.

Lisa Genova, as I have written before has her PhD in neuroscience from Harvard.  She knows much about the topics she writes fiction about – Alzheimers, Left Neglect, Autism.  This gives her great resources and obviously gives her books in depth medical knowledge that truly helps the authenticity of the story.  The thing I love about her is that while she doesn’t hesitate to show the harsh realities of these conditions, she  is exceptional at portraying the affects that these conditions have on the people, and on the families and support systems of these people.  She makes the condition about the person, not just about the details of the medical condition.  She does this beautifully.

Highly recommend, a great summer read, as are her other books if you haven’t had the chance to read them either.


Enjoy! 🙂

The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Book Review

HedgehogA little while ago, I finished reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.  It was actually a book club selection.  A friend of mine had mentioned it as a possibility earlier and it seemed interesting.

Let me start off by saying that I like to read.  A lot.  Last year and the year before, I read over 60 books each year.  I started reading this book in November.  For the length of it, I should have had it done in a week, tops.  I finished it March 2nd.

The thing is, I don’t really know why.  I will blame part of it on having a small child at Christmas time.  You definitely get sidetracked by other things and life gets very busy.  That doesn’t account for the first two months of the New Year though.  This is a book that you need to be able to sit down and dedicate an afternoon or two to reading.  I never seemed to be able to do that.  A chapter here, a chapter there is not the way to read this book.  When I finally was able to sit and dedicate some time to it – on March 2nd – I finished it all and actually quite enjoyed it.  So please don’t be put off by the time it took me to read it.  It’s not the book’s fault.

This book was actually pretty good.  It was originally written in French, so what I read was a translation, and perhaps it was because of that, but the language used was very lovely.  It allowed for description without becoming boring.  It was actually a very simple story, of three very unlikely characters who impact each others lives greatly.

The main character in the book is a woman named Renee.  She is the concierge of a prestigious apartment building in Paris.  She is quite an interesting person actually.  She is plain in appearance,  and seemingly kind of dumb I guess.  She harbours a secret though: she is secretly in love with books and movies, and is fairly intelligent.  Not that she would ever let this on to anyone else.  She tries like crazy to just keep up the image of the “simple, grumpy old concierge.”  Her character actually has quite a bit of depth.

Then there’s Paloma, a 12 year old genius living in this building who is the same as Renee in that she is constantly trying to hide her brilliance from the world.  She looks on most of her family and the rest of the world with disdain, and has quite a bleak outlook on life and where it’s headed, especially at the beginning of the book.  She sees so much more than anyone gives her credit for.  She seems to be looked at as one of the least important members of the family, though it is written from her point of view, so it is possible that situation is biased slightly.

Enter Ozu.  A Japanese man who bought one of the vacated apartments.  He becomes quite the sensation in the building and the object of everyone’s curiosity.  He is an intelligent and insightful man who sees beyond the masks that both Renee and Paloma wear.  He brings the two unlikely characters together and he himself into the circle in a way that is endearing.  I liked this character very much.

Overall, a good book.  The narrative switches back and forth between Renee and Paloma, which in some books can be irritating, but in this one not so much so.  The font is different and bolder during Paloma’s parts, and hers are shorter, more tidbits throughout Renee’s story.  I found it easy to read in that respect.

Try this one if you’re looking for something to read, though I do recommend that you pick it up when you have larger chunks of time to devote to reading.  I liked it.  The ending was unexpected, and emotional, I didn’t see it coming.  Another thing that I like when I’m reading.

Gabriel’s Inferno/Gabriel’s Rapture – Book Review

I love Pinterest.  It’s so awesome.  Filled with all the recipes that I’ll never have the time to make, the decorating that I’ll never have the money to do, the crafts that I’ll never be creative enough to make.  I pin and repin, hoping against all odds that I’ll someday accomplish all these wonderful things.

One thing that I love about Pinterest is browsing through the humour pins.  I often find myself chuckling out loud as I scroll through.  There are a lot of the someecards – which are hilarious.

So I’m browsing through the laughter section of Pinterest, when I come across this pin:


Okay…I thought to myself, I know who Gideon Cross is (more on him later) and I definitely know who Christian Grey is.  I mean come on, doesn’t everybody?  So who the heck is this Gabriel Emerson, and why the heck would I cheat on Christian Grey with him?

Four words: Thank goodness for Google. Within a few seconds, I was able to find out that Gabriel Emerson is a fictional character in a two book (so far) series, including Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture by Sylvain Reynard.  Well, if this guy was dreamy enough to compete with, or mentioned in the same context as Gideon Cross (oh mercy – more on him later) or Christian Grey – well where do I click to download these books?

I was quickly pulled in by these books.  I have to admit, the first 1/3 of Gabriel’s inferno had me questioning things and maybe a little confused.  Once it got going though, and some questions were answered and things explained, I started to enjoy the books.  I thought it was kind of cool that the primary location for the book was at the University of Toronto.  I always like reading books that mention streets and buildings that I am familiar with.

The book follows the story of Professor Gabriel Emerson.  He is a Dante Specialist at the U of T.  This also made it interesting to me as I read The Divine Comedy in high school and it remains one of my favourite works to this day.  All the Dante, Beatrice and Virgil references were quite interesting to me.

Back to Prof. Emerson.  So upon first meeting him, we get the idea that he is pretty much an ass.  A gorgeous ass, but definitely an ass.  We are also introduced pretty much right away to Julia Mitchell, a MA student, studying Dante and writing her thesis.  She seems shy, compassionate, and quite nervous around Professor Emerson.  The story unfolds, though a bit slowly at first, to reveal a past and current connection between Gabriel and Julia.

These books are somewhat similar to the 50 Shades and Crossfire series, in that they are very steamy.  The sexual tension in these books is palpable.  However, there aren’t 50 million love scenes in these books like there were in the other ones.  Actually, most of both of these books are about the building of a relationship without all the sex.  They certainly don’t jump into bed with each other the way they do in the other series.  It’s not so much about the sex act as the buildup to the sex act.

Of course there is also the typical plot line where the gorgeous god of a man who seems like such a jerk is actually dealing with a whole bunch of crap from a really horrible past, and the woman in the story is usually a saviour of sorts, saving them from their past, from their current state of miserableness, and from themselves.  This seems to be a fairly prominent theme in romance novels in general, but especially the blockbusters of late.  The man is usually in a position of power, wealth and huge control over everything around them.  The woman comes along and shatters them, showing their true vulnerability and opening them up to a whole new world.  One they never thought they wanted, or perhaps deserved.

One thing that I found very interesting was that Sylvain Renard is actually male.  I did not think these books read like they were written by a male.  Often when sex scenes and relationship stories are written by a male, the sex, and a man’s anatomy tend to be prominent in the writing.  This was not the case here.  Not to say that male or female writers are any better suited for one genre than another, but finding out that these were written by a male surprised me.

Overall, there are a lot of twists and turns, a lot of ups and downs.  I wasn’t totally blown away, but I did like these books.  They announced just recently that there are plans for a third book.  I’m definitely interested enough to read on to see what is next in store for these two characters.



The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Book and Movie Review

When I first picked up The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, I had heard that it was very good.  I didn’t expect that it would be in the format that it is – a series of letters written by the main character Charlie, to an unknown entity simply referred to as “Friend.”

Charlie is a teenage boy, and where we pick up on his life, he is just getting ready to start high school.  He really isn’t looking forward to it.  He at that point is trying to come to terms with the suicide of his best friend Michael, who shot himself without leaving a note a few months earlier, as well as the death of his Aunt Helen, who was his favourite person in the world.

It’s hard to describe Charlie exactly.  In reading these letters, there is a innocence about him, and to be honest, there are times when I wondered if he was a bit developmentally challenged.

We follow Charlie as he finds his way through his first year of high school, where a short way in he is discovered and befriended by a very interesting duo – half brother and sister Patrick and Sam.  A couple of seniors who seem to see something in Charlie and take him under their wing.  Charlie is introduced to many new things and new people.  He is accepted right away by their friends, and though it is pretty obvious from early on that he is smitten by Sam, he dates one of the other friends, Mary Elizabeth for a time during the story.  He is introduced to things such as drugs and parties – as well as the complex relationships between people and the fact that as much as you seem to think you know someone, that they are never all that they seem.

Charlie also becomes very close to his English teacher Bill, who also seems to see things and potential in him.  He gives Charlie several extra books to read throughout the year, and has him write reports on each one.  He is a positive figure in Charlie’s life, and he encourages him to his full potential.

This is a book about the coming of age of a teenage boy, discovering love, coming to terms with events of the past, and hope in moving forward.  It is funny at times, usually in the brutally honest way and unfiltered way that Charlie looks at everything, especially his own family and friends.  It is heartbreaking, as we find out the events that turned him into the person that he is, and it is heartwarming to read about the relationships that he develops in the book.  It is thought of by some as a modern day Catcher in the Rye.

So our book club read this book and then decided that we would go see the movie, which we did just a few nights ago.  It stars Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller in the principal roles.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, or how they would translate the format of the book, being the letters – into a movie.

I was not disappointed.  This was really a very good movie.  Perhaps the fact that Stephen Chobosky wrote the screenplay helps, though that is not always the case as in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, where Seth Grahame-Smith managed to completely screw up his own book while turning it into a movie.

This was a very good interpretation of the novel.  There were minor differences, mostly for the sake of continuity, a few things left out, mostly I believe for the same reason.  What they were able to do in the movie that was hard to do in the book was clearly define Charlie.  Because of the way the book was written, I said above that there were times when I actually thought that Charlie was mentally underdeveloped.  The movie does not depict him this way.  Though he has struggles socially, mostly due to events and things that have happened to him in his life, he really is mostly just a sweet, generous, vulnerable young boy with some issues.  Major issues.  The movie, being a visual tool, clearly depicts him in the situations in a way that the book does not.  It actually made me want to go back and read the book again, just to see it through eyes that have seen it on the big screen.

Overall, I was very impressed, both with the book and the movie.  If you haven’t read the book, read it.  Then go see the movie.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry.