Book Review | How to Make a French Family: A Memoir of Love, Food, and Faux Pas by Samantha Verant

frenchfamAuthour:
Samantha Verant
Format:
e-Galley
Publication date:
April 1st 2017
Publisher:
Sourcebooks
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
What happens after you reunite with the Frenchman you fell in love with 20 years ago, and the two of you marry in a romantic, fairy tale California wedding? In Samantha Vérant’s How to Make a French Family we learn what happens after she marries the love of her life and moves to southwestern France to live with him and his two young children.

What I love with regards to How to Make a French Family is that Vérant doesn’t sugarcoat things concerning the various difficulties she has initially with adjusting to life in a foreign country in addition to her role as a step-mother. She faces resistance, isolation loneliness and the occasional humiliation (due to the odd unintentional language faux pas) and yet gradually she learns to adjust to her new life in France all while making a couple of new friends too. Through it all, Vérant draws you into her world with her gorgeous prose and teleports you along her in moments of both sadness and joy.

What’s also interesting in this book is that the author tells us the story of how her first memoir, Seven Letters from Paris came to be. For those who are interested in publishing, it’s an interesting glimpse at one way of how a book can come about. And for those of you who haven’t read Seven Letters from Paris I highly recommend that you pick it up. In fact, before starting How to Make a French Family I picked up Seven Letters from Paris again and it remained just as excellent of a read as I remember.

In Seven Letters from Paris, my favourite parts were of Samantha and Jean-Luc interacting with each other and rekindling their romance from when they were young. However, in How to Make a French Family I adored reading the moments where she interact with her stepchildren and how she forms a bond with them. This is especially heartwarming given the children’s volatile and mistrustful relationship with their last stepmother.

As a person who loves travel and food, this book was a pleasure to read. Food plays a major role in How to Make a French Family and Vérant provides readers with recipes of dishes that she or her family members/friends have made that were mentioned in the book. Once again, Vérant has written another gem that has you cheering her on as she tackles her challenge of “how to make a French family”.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Last Days at Café Leila by Donia Bijan


cafeAuthour:

Donia Bijan
Format:
ARC, 289 pages
Publication date:
April 18th 2017
Publisher:
Algonquin Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I’m a huge foodie, which was why Donia Bijan’s The Last Days of Café Leila  appealed to me. That, plus the cover is gorgeous!

Set in a post-revolutionary Iran in the city of Tehran, The Last Days of Café is a story that is told across time and through three generations of a family through the use of flashbacks and character recollections with the titular cafe being the one stable presence throughout. We follow Noor as she returns to Iran to her ailing father and his failing cafe after being gone for so long after being sent to the USA by her father for her “protection”. As a result of her return, the reader starts to learn more about her family’s tragic past, and the difficult decisions that her father Zod, was required to make.

The prose throughout this book was incredibly beautiful, as evident from the descriptions of Iran and all the food that was being prepared. The authour’s background in the culinary arts have truly shone in this book, as all the food description made my mouth water. On top of that, the book made me wish that there was an actual Café Lelia that I could visit as I would love to visit Iran if such a place as Café Lelia existed there.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was just how powerful it was. I love the fact that it was a story of a family falling apart and eventually coming together in addition to being a story of great loss (and perhaps greater love, and not just the romantic type). My heart truly broke as I read about what actually happened to Noor’s mother, and how Zod had kept the truth to himself for all these years in order to protect his children.

A poignant and emotionally powerful tale, The Last Days of Café Leila is a book that compelled me to stop and appreciate the family I have. It also taught me so much about the immigrant and the student experience in the USA, as well as the history of Iran and how its history shaped it into the country it is today. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy rich family sagas and books that feature food.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #4 (Travel Edition)

  

All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft by Geraldine DeRuiter

allover

Down to earth and written in an easy to relate manner like Geraldine DeRuiter‘s blog The Everywhereist, All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft isn’t your typical travel memoir. While travel is a major theme, the book is more about the role that travel has played in the DeRuiter‘s life and not a tell all about the various travel adventures she’s had one her own and with her husband. This makes the book more of a memoir than a travelogue.

With a gift for telling stories of simple, albeit messy life moments DeRuiter manages to turn these moments into something remarkable leaving a poignant message for the reader. In particular, I loved the chapter where she describes how she slowly “fall in love” with the city of Ashland, Oregon comparing it to how she fell for her husband. And for all those who are not “pros” at travelling, you’ll definitely appreciate the chapter where she comes to the conclusion that getting lost isn’t the end of the world, and that you may not be an expert on travelling but at least you are the “expert” on your own travel experiences which can be just as valuable.

A sweet, comforting, and quick read I love how the common thread among all chapters in Geraldine DeRuiter‘s All Over the Place is that it forms one big love letter to her husband to whom the book is dedicated to.

Off Track Planet’s Travel Guide for the Young, Sexy, and Broke: Completely Revised and Updated by Off Track Planet

offtrack

I love travelling and have a serious case of wanderlust. And while I have been fortunate enough to have visited a handful of countries it’s definitely not enough! This year I’m hoping to get the opportunity to solo travel to a place that I’ve been dying to go to since I was little. Anyways to prep for my second (potential) solo trip I’ve decided to read more travel guides starting with Off Track Planet’s Travel Guide for the Young, Sexy, and Broke: Completely Revised and Updated.

With it’s aesthetically pleasing layouts and photographs Off Track Planet’s Travel Guide for the Young, Sexy, and Broke definitely caters to who its intended audience. The photos and colourful fonts and titles definitely scream “fun”. However, I felt that there was a great deal of information that wasn’t relevant to me as I’m not an American nor am I someone who has never travelled before. Still there was some useful information in the planning and research section of the book that I will definitely be taking advantage of.

Off Track Planet’s Travel Guide for the Young, Sexy, and Broke is a well-organized guide for those less “seasoned”/”experienced” travellers that provides a general overview making it a good starting point for those who want to travel but aren’t sure how to go about it or even where to travel to.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Mother of All Questions: Further Reports from the Feminist Revolutions by Rebecca Solnit

motherAuthour:
Rebecca Solnit
Format:
ARC, 175 pages
Publication date:
March 14th 2017
Publisher:
Haymarket Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I first heard about Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and as a result I was pleased to receive a copy of The Mother of All Questions: Further Reports from the Feminist Revolutions which is the follow-up to Men Explain Things to Me.

Lately, I’ve been really getting into essay collections and feminist reads especially given all that has been happening in the news and this book definitely quenched my thirst for more. A powerful, and thought provoking read packed collection of essays by the authour from the past two years, there is a great deal of knowledge in this slim volume.

I loved the fact that the introduction told the story of how as a woman writer Solnit is not immune to being asked incredibly personal questions that people often would never think to pose to men. Furthermore, it feels appropriately fitting that the first essay in this collection is a four parter on the (brief) history of silence given what we’ve seen so far of the new presidency in the USA in addition to all the scandals involving several major celebrities and women that have come to light in the recent years.

However, out of all the essays contained in this collection I was particularly fond of Solnit’s reaction to the GQ Magazine’s article “80 Books All Men Should Read” which concludes with her saying that she would never tell someone to not read a particular book and yet it’s important to note that if someone were to continuously read books where characters who are like them in terms of things like sex, gender, race, culture, sexual orientation among other factors are portrayed in a problematic manner it can become almost like second nature to start viewing yourself in that same negative light. I also thoroughly enjoyed The Case of the Missing Perpetrator because of how it pokes fun at how mixed up the government priorities are and how it illustrates just how misleading language can be.

Whether you’re a Rebecca Solnit fan or just a reader who is looking for a book that will enrich your understanding of modern feminism, The Mother of All Questions is an informative read that serves as an excellent introduction or supplement to all the existing feminist theory literature.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

teaAuthour:
Lisa See
Format:
ARC, 365 pages
Publication date:
March 21st 2017
Publisher:
Scribner
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Although I’ve heard of Lisa See through her well-known book, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan which was also adapted into a film. However, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane serves as my introduction to her writing and perhaps given its setting it was fitting that I started reading it around the time of Lunar New Year this year.

Centering on the Akha ethnic-minority who live in the Chinese province of Yunnan, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is a story about family, especially the complicated relationships between mother and daughter in addition to being a story about love, tragedy and of course tea, in this case Pu’er:Pu’erh tea.

What I loved about The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane was the gorgeous and poetic prose throughout the book. The first two parts of the book focus primarily on the protagonist, Li-Yan’s early life, difficulties and tragedies while the later parts introduce us to the daughter she gave up through various ways such as through the transcripts of a therapy group to emails, letters and reports. That being the case, I do wish Hayley’s story was given more space to be fleshed out as I truly adored her character and it’s rare to read the stories and experiences of Chinese children who are adopted by American parents.

For those who are familiar with Lisa See’s work, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane will undoubtedly prove to be an enjoyable addition to their reading repertoire. As for those who haven’t read anything by her or who haven’t heard of Lisa See before, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane makes for a decent introduction to her books.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

geekAuthour:
Jen Wilde
Format:
ARC, 440 pages
Publication date:
March 14th 2017
Publisher:
Swoon Reads
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Back in high school, I was in a group of self-professed “artsy” anime geeks. And as we all had fairly strict parents, our dream was to one day attend Anime North. (A fan run anime convention) Which was probably why I enjoyed Queens of Geek so much, I could definitely relate to the excitement of attending to a convention on your own and with your closest friends for the first time.

Queens of Geek is told from the perspective of two girls who are best friends. Taylor is a passionate Queen Firestone fan girl who is prone to panic attacks and in love with her other best friend, Jamie. Meanwhile, Charlie is a YouTuber and actor who’s still recovering from her public breakup with her co-star and discovering that much to her surprise that her crush on special con guest, Alyssa Huntington might not be so one-sided after all.

This is another book that accurately captures what it’s truly like attending to a convention for the first time with your friends. And for those of you who have been to a convention, you guys can definitely relate to the atmosphere in the book as well as some of the experiences of the characters. (Although the majority of us probably can’t relate to having access to VIP backstage passes) On the other hand, if you haven’t been to a convention, I believe the book does a fairly decent job of transporting you to the convention by having you live vicariously through the characters.

Queens of Geek is a book filled with tons of amazing nerdiness and geekiness. I adore the positive portrayal of female friendships and relationships. Charlie, Taylor and even Jamie are all so supportive of each other and their dreams that it’s just so heartwarming. If you’re looking for a delightful book that will bring a smile to your face, then consider picking up Queens of Geek.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Mystery Monday | IQ by Joe Ide

Mystery Mondays

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (and on occasion thriller) genre that we are currently reading and our thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what we should read and review next.

Who is it by? Joe Ide is a writer who is of Japanese American descent. His debut novel, IQ was inspired by his love of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories in addition his early life experiences of growing up in South Central Los Angeles, an economically depressed area with a largely black population and an area where gangs and street crime were far from uncommon. Ide currently lives in Santa Monica, California, with his wife and their Golden Retriever, Gusto.

What is it about? Loner and high school drop out, “IQ” aka Isaiah Quintabe is the man they call when the LAPD needs extra assistance on their cases especially in the neighbourhood East Long Beach with its high crime rate.

Unafraid to get his hands dirty, in this first book Isaiah finds himself investigating various dangerous suspects when rap mogul’s life is in danger and he hires IQ to find out who’s threatening him.

iq

Where does it take place? In a rough area of Los Angeles, California a setting that was inspired by the neighbourhood that the authour grew up in.

Why did I like it? For those who are looking for a mystery novel with a more diverse cast, IQ definitely fits the bill. With its unique, urban setting and characters it definitely made for an intriguing read. The authour does not hold anything back whether it’s the language used by some of the characters, or the somewhat graphic descriptions of violence, abuse and crime, it was refreshing to read a mystery where even when the case is closed it’s not quite closed. After all, in reality just because you solve a case it doesn’t mean that all is well, and sometimes justice may or not be served in a fitting and fair way. Still the ending was satisfying and manages to be somewhat uplifting. Overall, IQ was an interesting modern take on the classic Sherlock Holmes stories. And while I didn’t love this book I am curious enough to want to pick up the next book in the series if only to see “IQ” face more of the demons of his past including trying to solve the mystery of his brother’s death. Finally, for those who are interested in book to TV adaptations, the IQ series is being developed as a TV series which I’m actually looking forward to seeing as I think the story would translate well onto the small screen.

When did it come out? October 18th 2016

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

March Blog Schedule

march-2017

February was a pretty fun filled month that felt like it just flew by, which is why if I’m honest I’m not looking forward to the month of March (with its no work holidays) as much. Fortunately I have a few fun things planned during this month to help the days go by faster. In fact tonight I’m going to an advance screening of the Before I Fall movie and I’m also hoping to go to make it to a GTA Bloggers Hangout later this week as well.

Next month, Words of Mystery will be taking a bit of a break as I will be busy with work and hopefully some travel prep. But I’ll be back with new posts come May. Until then, I hope the following posts this month.

***

March 6 – IQ by Joe Ide
March 9 – Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
March 14 – The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
March 16 – The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
March 22 – Mid-Week Mini Reviews #4
March 23 – The Last Days of Café Leila by Donia Bijan
March 28 – How to Make a French Family: A Memoir of Love, Food, and Faux Pas by Samantha Verant
March 29 – Waiting on Wednesday #24
March 30Miss You by Kate Eberlen

Frenzy Picks (Spring/Summer 2017 Edition)

picmonkey-collage

 

On Sunday I had the privilege of attending a Frenzy Presents event at the HareprCollins offices. Usually they only have an event in August to showcase their upcoming fall titles so I was really excited that they had one in the spring to showcase their their summer titles as summer usually means more contemporary fiction! Anyways without further delay, here are five titles from all those presented that I’m looking forward to:

Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me by Lily CollinufThe title with the earliest release date from my list (it’s out next week), this is a collection of essays written by the actress Lily Collins whose father is the singer Phil Collins. I’m curious to see what she has to say as she talks about issues like body image, self-confidence, family and dating. Out March 7th, 2017.

Almost Adulting: All You Need to Know to Get It Together (Sort Of) by Arden Rose

aa

 

I was a bit wary about this book, but Suman totally sold me on it! With chapter titles like “Do Tour Laundry or You’ll Die Alone”, it sounds like it will be a hilarious read for those of us who dread “adulting things”. Plus I’m kind of looking forward to her take on topics like fashion, travel and dating. Arden Rose also created a fun book trailer to promote her book, which you can check out here. Can’t wait until this book is in stores next month. Out March 28th, 2017.

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

rb

Ramona Blue is teenaged girl who 6 feet tall (quickly outgrowing her trailer home) with blue hair whose life was forever changed when Hurricane Katrina hit. Though she’s just a teenager, she finds herself juggling multiple jobs to help her family afloat.

While I wasn’t in love with Dumplin’ like so many of my fellow bloggers, I did enjoy Side Effects May Vary. Based on the synopsis I was intrigued to pick up Ramona Blue as it not only examines the complexities of sexual orientation but also addresses other issues like family, sisterhood, poverty and race. Fortunately, everyone who attended the Frenzy Presents event was gifted with an ARC which I almost immediately started to read and so far am enjoying. Out May 9th, 2017.

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
me

A book that doesn’t fit into just one genre, this book follows three different girls from three different places and time periods. Interestingly enough, there is a heartbreaking connection between the three girls although I was also promised that it would be a hopeful book as well. This premise had me curious and I was lucky enough to get an ARC of it at the event. Out June 13th, 2017.

I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski

londonfrance

The latest book from Canadian authour, Sarah Mlynowski this book promises to be the perfect vacation read. As you guys may (or may not) know, I’m a huge fan of books that have travel in it and if I were to be honest this was probably my most anticipated title from the list presented. I See London, I See France best friends Sydney and Leela as they travel all over Europe together after Leela’s boyfriend cheats on her and she decides to take Sydney on their trip. Unfortunately, Leela’s ex-boyfriend also ends up going on the trip and along with his best friend, there’s bound to be a ton of drama. I got an ARC of this book as part of my gift bag so if you guys are interested in seeing my review of this one let me know. Out July 11, 2017.

So what spring/summer HarperCollins titles are you guys eagerly anticipating? Feel free to chime in below!

Waiting on Wednesday #23 | How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life by Lilly Singh

wed Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that highlights upcoming titles that we’re looking forward to/dying to read. It is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

bawse

Synopsis:

Lilly Singh isn’t just a superstar. She’s Superwoman—which is also the name of her wildly popular YouTube channel. Funny, smart, and insightful, the actress and comedian covers topics ranging from relationships to career choices to everyday annoyances. It’s no wonder she’s garnered more than a billion views. But Lilly didn’t get to the top by being lucky—she had to work for it. Hard.

Now Lilly wants to share the lessons she learned while taking the world by storm, and the tools she used to do it. How to Be a Bawse is the definitive guide to conquering life. Make no mistake, there are no shortcuts to success, personal or professional. World domination requires real effort, dedication, and determination. Just consider Lilly a personal trainer for your life—with fifty rules to get you in the game, including

• Let Go of FOMO: Temptation will try to steer you away from your goals. FOMO is just a test for your priorities, a test that a bawse is ready to pass.
• Be Nice to People: Treat niceness like a task on your daily to-do list. People will go out of their way to help and support you because you make them feel good.
• Schedule Inspiration: Lack of motivation isn’t permanent or a sign of weakness. Expect it and proactively schedule time to be creative.
• Be the Dumbest: Challenge yourself by surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do. It’s a vital way to learn and improve.

Told in Lilly’s hilarious, bold voice, and packed with photos and candid stories from her own journey to the top, How to Be a Bawse will make you love your life and yourself—even more than you love Beyoncé. (Yes, we said it!)

I’ll admit that I’m a latecomer to “Superwoman” and her YouTube videos (having just discovered her stuff last year), but once I discovered them I was hooked! She’s just so relatable and entertaining, and I love that we have the same alum mater from the same university program as well!

Having read some of her writing (from her New Year’s post) which I enjoyed, I’m definitely looking forward to this book and all the empowering messages and advice contained in it. Although, I’m most likely just going to get the audiobook rather than the physical book for How to Be a Bawse since its narrated by Lilly Singh herself.

What books are you “waiting” on this week?

Book Review | Traveling with Ghosts by Shannon Leone Fowler


travelghostsAuthour:

Shannon Leone Fowler
Format:
ARC, 294 pages
Publication date:
February 21st 2017
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Both the authour, and the (human) love of her life, Sean were only in their twenties when Sean was stung by a jellyfish in Thailand and died almost instantaneously. What follows is the authour’s journey of learning to live with this tremendous personal loss. I can’t begin to imagine the amount of grief, she must have felt losing the (second) love of her life due to the first love of her life, the sea.

I love an excellent travel memoir, and in Travelling with Ghosts, the authour takes us back to the times and places she travelled to with her fiancé. This done both through flashbacks to when Sean was alive in addition to descriptions of her return to these countries, this time on her own. I particularly enjoyed the section where she goes to Israel to visit the two Israeli girls who stayed with her when Sean died in Thailand. It was fascinating to read how different the country was back when the authour visited Israel compared to when I went there eight years later.

However, Travelling with Ghosts is more than just a beautiful travelogue, it is also a story about loss, grief, and one woman’s journey that follows. Unlike the majority of memoirs, nothing is sugar-coated here. As is the case in real life occasionally there are no silver linings, but regardless, we must find a way to manage and continue on with our lives despite being forever changed.

If you are someone who enjoys reading poignant memoirs that are somewhat longer than you should consider picking up Travelling with Ghosts. While I felt that some sections dragged on for too long, Travelling with Ghosts was overall a decent read that encourages people to be courageous and not be afraid to venture on their own.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #3

 The Art of Living Other People’s Lives: Stories, Confessions, and Memorable Mistakes by Greg Dybec

art

What I liked most about The Art of Living Other People’s Lives: Stories, Confessions, and Memorable Mistakes by Greg Dybec is just how relatable some of the essays in the collection are. They are also quite entertaining in a self-deprecating manner which leaves the reader with a lot of good quotes you can’t help but scribble down. Two of my favourite quotes from the book are “A great writer knows when not to fake being a expert” and “If anything breakups should be renamed breakdowns. That’s all they really are. Whatever drew two people together in the first place eventually breaks down,” these two were the most memorable for me because they are simple yet so true.

Of all the essays in the collection I particularly was fond of the collection’s titular essay because who here hasn’t at least once found themselves listening in onto the conversations of strangers around them? I also enjoyed “Life on the Other Side of the Internet” because it gives you a “glimpse” at what’s its actually like working for a major Internet site.

Overall if you enjoy reading Elite Daily articles (the authour is the managing editor of the site) you will probably like this book, but even for those who are millennials who are only vaguely familiar with the site (like myself) Dybec’s musings on life, family and relationships could definitely be appreciated as being relatable.

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

vicBefore reading Daisy Goodwin’s Victoria, I have to admit I knew very little about the history of Queen Victoria other than that she is (now) the monarch with the second longest reign (Queen Elizabeth II recently just surpassed her record). However, I am a fan of Daisy Goodwin and what she does when it comes to historical fiction so I was looking forward to Victoria.

In Victoria, Daisy Goodwin once again does what she does best in historical fiction and really whisks you away to the 1800s and into the life of a young royal who is coming of age and into her role as a country’s monarch. While naïve, it was difficult not to root for a young Victoria as she struggled to find her way into her new role against so many obstacles and barriers and with a whole lot of spunk. In the end, knowing what becomes of many of the characters from Victoria’s youth in real life made this book an incredibly bittersweet and emotional coming of age novel.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Mystery Monday | Escape to Havana by Nick Wilkshire

Mystery Mondays

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (and on occasion thriller) genre that we are currently reading and our thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what we should read and review next.

Who is it by? Nick Wilkshire is a lawyer in addition to being a writer. Escape to Havana is the first book in his Foreign Affairs Mystery series. He currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

What is it about?After a very public scandal involving his wife, and a divorce that followed soon after the last thing Charlie Hillier wants is to remain in Ottawa where his ex-wife is. So when a posting in Cuba opens up, he’s more than willing to go. What he wasn’t expecting to find in his new position are the drugs under his bedroom floor…

eh

Where does it take place? Havana, the capital city of Cuba where Charlie has his first foreign posting.

Why did I like it? Escape to Havana was a title that wasn’t actually picked by myself but rather it won a twitter poll to be the next title to be featured on “Mystery Monday”. To be honest, it felt like it took an eternity for something to actually happen and for a mystery there was not much sleuthing going on. That being said, the protagonist, Charlie is quite likeable and a character that us regular folks can generally relate to. And things do really pick up in the last few chapters before the book ends. Escape to Havana was a fairly light read with a satisfying conclusion however I’m not sure if I’m be picking up Book 2 in this series.

When is it out? November 12, 2016

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Elephants in My Backyard by Rajiv Surendra

elepAuthour:
Rajiv Surendra
Format:
Hardcover, 288 pages
Publication date:
November 22nd 2016
Publisher:
Random House Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

” I had no choice here. This was the clarity I needed–Pi was everything to me, and here on out, it was all or nothing.” p. 166

As kids we are taught that if you work hard, you will succeed. No one (or rather few people) ever talk about failing to realize their dream or major goal. Sure, it’s easy to tell a person to just pick themselves up after failing, and to just shake it off the feelings of hurt and disappointment to move forward, however that is something that is without a doubt easier said than done.

Thus I was enticed enough to pick up Rajiv Surendra’s The Elephants in My Backyard. The premise of The Elephants in My Backyard follows Rajiv as he goes on this journey to obtain is dream acting role, “Pi” from Yann Martel’s renowned novel, Life of Pi. Non-spoiler alert, but despite the lengths Rajiv goes through to be the best possible “Pi”, he doesn’t land the role of “Pi”. In the end, while he doesn’t obtain his dream role, he does end up making several new friends throughout his journey which furthermore results in him becoming acquainted with himself and accepting who he is as a person.

Rajiv’s passion for Life of Pi, and in particular the character of “Pi” truly shines through his writing, which made you root for him even more despite knowing the outcome. And while a few of the sections felt as if they went on forever and it took time for me to immerse myself into the story. However, there were certain sections that had me completely engrossed. Among them were the one where he shares his experience of learning how to swim in addition to the chapter detailing his dysfunctional family life and how it affected his personal life.

Part memoir, part travelogue The Elephants in My Backyard also has several gorgeous hand drawn illustrations done by the authour. This is one story that is both powerful and emotional and will resonate with those of us who have put our all into something only to be passed over for it in the end.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

refugeesAuthour:
Viet Thanh Nguyen
Format:
ARC, 440 pages
Publication date:
February 7th 2017
Publisher:
Grove Press
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
You may have heard of the writer, Viet Thanh Nguyen from his Pulitzer (and other prizes/awards) winning debut novel The Sympathizer. And while the synopsis of The Sympathizer didn’t truly appeal to me, I was looking forward to The Refugees as my introduction to his writing.

The Refugees is a collection of eight short stories that have previously been published before in some form. While all the stories are stand-alones they share the common themes of family, identity, love and often how the characters’ lives were either directly or indirectly affected by the Vietnam War (known as the “American” War by numerous Vietnamese people).

Though I am of Vietnamese descent, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been born into a somewhat privilege background, however reading stories concerning those who fled South Vietnam made me re-examine my parents struggles.  While I could not relate to some of their experiences there were several other elements of the stories that I could relate to. For instance, my family knew people who owned convenience stores and tailor shops and the story, The Transplant gave me chills as my father was a recipient of an anonymous organ donation. Lastly the sisters’ relationship in Fatherland is vaguely reminiscent of the relationship that I have with my sister albeit we were both born in Canada.

Of all the stories, Someone Else Besides You and Fatherland both of which are stories where the fathers play a major role are the ones that stood out to me as the most memorable ones. Though, regardless of my personal preference each of the eight stories in The Refugees are thought provoking and emotionally powerful contributions to this collection of stories that excels in its observation of human experiences.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.