Book Review | This Is Really Happening by Erin Chack


Authour:

Erin Chack
Format:
ARC, 229 pages
Publication date:
April 25th 2017
Publisher:
Razorbill
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
2017 seems to be the year of new books from the writers and editors of major social media websites similar to Popsugar, Elite Daily and of course Buzzfeed. This is Really Happening follows this pattern, as it is a collection of personal essays and stories from Erin Chack who is a senior writer at Buzzfeed.

This is Really Happening is another title that I read an excerpt of in 2016, and after reading that preview I knew I needed to read the rest! And fortunately for me, I was able to snag an ARC of it. The book itself truly does read as if you were having a conversation and catching up with an old friend. Erin Chack’s writing is straight forward, relatable, and poignant with just the right amount of humour to save things from getting too heavy and dark. This is especially true as she dives right into the serious topics and discusses her diagnosis with cancer and the reality of learning that you have cancer from the start.

Some of my favourite essays in this book were, “Don’t Read the Comments” about what it’s truly like to have writing as your day job while giving us a glimpse at the behind the scenes at Buzzfeed and what happens when a post you write goes viral. I also enjoyed “Find your Carrot” where Erin shares in an honest and frank manner what’s it actually like to date a person for over a decade and how you grow and change together through the different personas you both inhabit through the years.

Compared to the majority of other memoirs from hilarious women, This is Really Happening is definitely one that would appeal more to the YA audience. However even if YA isn’t quite your jam, it is still worth it to pick up This is Really Happening as it’s an unflinchingly honest, quick and fairly lighthearted read into what life can be like for a millennial which in itself is quite entertaining.

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 | Miss You by Kate Eberlen


missyouAuthour:

Kate Eberlen
Format:
ARC, 433 pages
Publication date:
April 4th 2017
Publisher:
Harper
Publisher Social Media: Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
David Nicholls’ One Day, has a special place in my heart as it was the book that kept me company when I was living alone in Israel. So when I heard that Miss You was being compared to One Day I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy. Fortunately I was able to obtain an ARC allowing me to read it before the release date.

Miss You follows Gus and Tess, who meet briefly as teenagers in Italy during the summer that would become the “start of the rest of their lives”. Miss You started off quite promising and full of hope, however the stories quickly take an incredibly depressing turn which rarely lets up. This is unfortunate as I grew to adore Tess, and it was incredibly heartbreaking to see how miserable she became. Despite giving up everything, her sacrifices never were appreciated instead it was borderline pathetic how she was always waiting for something/someone to “push” her towards seeking better things for herself. I did like the friendship between her and Doll although it was rather unfortunate as to how they fell out with each other. And while Doll does eventually redeem herself, the ordeal further shows how much of a pushover Tess could be as she was way too giving and nice to everyone.

The other half of the equation was Gus. I found it extremely difficult to like him or feel more than an ounce of sympathy towards him. He truly was a dreamer and not in a flattering way as he comes off as a rather awful person at times. And while there were definite similarities between him and Tess, I don’t think this necessarily is a sign that the two were meant to be or are “soul mates”. After all, even though two people are both miserable and have made some foolish decisions in life, it doesn’t mean that they would be perfect together. Perhaps if they had actually interacted more throughout the years, it would’ve been easier to root for him and Tess as a couple, instead the ending feels sudden and random almost as if it came from out of nowhere.

Despite being compared to One Day, Miss You shares more similarities with David Nicholls’ Us, a book which I did not enjoy all that much. Miss You’s premise was definitely promising, however despite its few moments of charm the novel came off as too long and heavy which did not work for the execution of the romance that was to come in the book.

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.

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 | I’ll Tell You in Person by Chloe Caldwell

tellyouAuthour:
Chloe Caldwell
Format:
Trade Paperback, 170 pages
Publication date:
October 4th 2016
Publisher:
Coffee House Press
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I found out about Chloe Caldwell’s second collection of essays, “I’ll Tell You in Person” through an article that was shared on Twitter. It spoke of the collection of essays telling the experiences of a young woman caught between the ages of 20 and 30 which made me feel that perhaps I could relate to what she had to say. Additionally, as I was in the midst of trying to write my own personal essays I felt that it would be helpful to read what others have written. Apparently I’m not alone in doing this, as Chloe also notes in an interview included in the book that she read a bunch of personal essay collections while in the process of writing this book.

Initially when I started reading the first few lines of the book, I found that I’ll Tell You in Person did indeed speak to me. However, my initial infatuation with the book didn’t subside as in the end like any collection, some of the essays were strong while others were not as well written. Furthermore, some of the essays were about topics that I knew little of and/or could not relate though majority of the essays were interesting to read. In the end, my two favourites that stood out in the book, would have to be “Failing Singing” about giving up a talent that you have and “Sister Less‘, a heartwarming essay on the bond that Chloe forms with Bobbi, who the daughter of writer, Cheryl Strayed.

I’ll Tell You in Person, is a short read that makes it the perfect companion for a commuter. However, be forewarned that it does pack a powerful emotional punch, especially for those who find themselves in a similar stage of their life. Meaning one that’s prone to a great deal of imperfection and disillusionment as well as a bit of disorientation. But, hey we all need to go through it at some point, no?

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 | Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

everAuthour:
Erin Summerill
Format:
E-galley
Publication date:
December 27th 2016
Publisher:
Harcourt Childrens Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
If you read my Raincoast Fall Preview post, then you would recall that Ever the Hunted was one of my most anticipated Fall/Winter 2016 releases. Thus I was beyond excited when I was approved for an e-galley of it.

Initially, Ever the Hunted was everything I was expected from it. The world building and descriptions were exquisite and the plot was compelling. I found myself speeding through the first half of the book. However, somewhere along the way I became slightly bored with the story. The protagonist, Britta wasn’t as kick butt as I hoped and her romance wasn’t as swoon worthy as I thought it would be. That being understood I did delight in the revelations and reveal of Britta’s past in addition to whom her mother and what it means to her. And I also found her voice and reactions to be refreshing, realistic given her age and situation.

Overall I felt that maybe the synopsis of Ever the Hunted (or rather my interpretation of it) misled me a bit into thinking that the book would have more of a revenge twist in addition to a cat and mouse type of dynamic between the lead and the guy who was accused of killing her father. Instead, I found that the entire misunderstanding was cleared up early on, leading to a jump into the romance aspect of Cohen and Britta’s relationship which for the majority was lacking in chemistry. All that being understood, however, Ever the Hunted does a decent job at setting up the premise for the series and the ending, while confusing also left me a bit curious as to what will happen in the book following in the series.

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 Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

sunalsoAuthour:
Nicola Yoon
Format:
ARC; 349 pages
Publication date:
November 1st 2016
Publisher:
Delacorte Press
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I’m probably one of the few bloggers who did not pick up Everything, Everything. To be frank, I didn’t feel that the book was for me. However, the person I passed my advance copy of the book to (my cousin) remains obsessed with the book as are several other bloggers who I know.

Yet Nicola Yoon’s sophomore novel, The Sun is also a Star had a synopsis that had me intrigued. And despite its comparisons to Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, a book which I could not finish I actually thoroughly enjoyed The Sun is also a Star. For those of you who have read both, you’ll definitely be able to appreciate the obvious similarities between the two, however The Sun is also a Star truly does stand out as its own unique story.

Taking place all in a single day, The Sun is also a Star tells not only the love story of Natasha, a teenage girl who wants to save her family from being deported and Daniel the younger son of a Korean immigrant family struggling to live up to his parents’ expectations but also the story of those they meet on their adventure. Dispersed among the chapters telling Natasha and Daniel’s story are short chapters on various cultural, scientific and historical topics in addition to the stories of the other characters.

What I loved about The Sun is also a Star is that Natasha and Daniel both feel like real teenagers facing real issues, including the cultural struggles that ring true for those of us who were not born in our current country or who are the children of immigrant parents. I adore how families are portrayed in the novel and it’s refreshing that we are given the back story to characters like Natasha’s father and Daniel’s father who on the surface both appear to be difficult men.

Another thing I adore about the book, was Nicola Yoon’s prose which made for some gorgeous and heartbreaking storytelling. Though the story at times was disjointed and non-linear, I appreciated the fact we are given glimpses into the futures of various characters. Furthermore, I liked how Yoon demonstrates that we are all connected, and how one person’s decision can have major impacts on another’s life without them even realizing it. It makes the reader stop and consider how their actions can affect others. That being said the lawyer in the book annoyed me to no end, and it was heartbreaking how his actions ended up affecting both Natasha and Daniel.

The Sun is also a Star is infinitely more than your average love story, sure it’s the story of Natasha and Daniel but it’s also the story of their parents without whom they would not exist. It’s also the story of all the other people in the book. After all, your story is without a doubt your story, but it does not exist alone. As humans, we are constantly interacting with others, all who have their own stories that are just as important as yours. Reading a book like The Sun is also a Star reminds us that no one story is any less important than another and that you should never discount the stories of others.

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 | Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley

Authour:flames
Sarah Raughley
Format:
ARC, 353 pages
Publication date:
November 22nd 2016
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
The moment I heard it about a book that was pitched for fans of Sailor Moon, and Avatar in addition to featuring a group of kick butt female leads, I was in and Fate of Flames became probably my most anticipated YA title from Simon and Schuster’s fall catalogue.

Fate of Flames is about four girls who all have control over an element resembling fire, water, or air. What’s intriguing about these girls is that there are always four of them, when one dies, another girl comes into her powers in addition to all the memories of her predecessors. This brings us to our protagonist, Maia whose effigy powers awaken during a lockdown at her school. This causes her to realize that her predecessor, the fire effigy has Natalya has died. She is at that point quickly thrust into the world of the effigies and fighting phantoms.

What I enjoyed about Fate of Flames was that it incorporated modern elements in a fantasy/science fiction story. Social media is a major element in the story, as are online forums which Maia tends to go on even before she became an effigy. I also liked the fact that Maia existed as a fangirl before she became an effigy as it makes this more relatable. Interestingly enough, I think the book took a realistic approach to how someone who is a fangirl transition into become one of the “heroes” they looked up to. Maia is definitely out her comfort zone, and it was refreshing to have a protagonist who doesn’t just easily adapt into her new powers and her role as a fighter, especially since it’s clear that Maia did not have any pre-existing badass attributes or abilities. Unfortunately, not much happens in Fate of Flames, the reader is thrown a great deal of history/backstory and information with little explanation. Furthermore, there isn’t much fighting until the near the conclusion of this book. Maia, the protagonist is incredibly useless for the majority of the book and instead her role is relegated to gathering the other effigies. Once the four girls, Belle, Lake and Chae Rin are gathered that’s when the story proceeds to move forward.

Overall as a first book in a trilogy, I’d consider Fate of Flames to be a decent read. I just hope all the hints, back stories, and mysteries lead up to a thrilling and satisfying story. My interest is definitely piqued, at least for book two which I hope will focus more on the girls learning to work more effectively as a team. Fate of Flames is a book for those who desire a female group focused fantasy novel that is refreshingly light on the romance.

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 | Faithful by Alice Hoffman

faithAuthour:
Alice Hoffman
Format:
Egalley
Publication date:
November 1st 2016
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Before Faithful, I’ve only read one book by Alice Hoffman which was Aquamarine, a book I read back when I was in elementary school. Thus, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Faithful besides gorgeous prose.

Told from a third person, omniscient perspective, Faithful is the story of a woman named Shelby, who struggles with immense guilt when a car accident leaves her best friend brain-dead while she is virtually unscathed. As a result, Shelby spirals downwards and engages in countless self-destructive behaviours before she is slowly able to come to terms with the fact that she “survived”. What I liked about Shelby’s story was that Shelby undergoes lots of terrible things yet in the end she is able to come out of it as a stronger character. It just goes to show that no matter how broken somebody may be, they can eventually come back from it.

Another story element I enjoyed within Faithful were the female relationships. In particular, the friendship between Maravelle and Shelby was incredible and I adored the way that Maravelle’s family gradually became a substitute family to Shelby. It was touching to witness her begin to care for others all while assisting her in her journey of learning to love herself again. The other central relationship throughout the book was Shelby’s relationship with her mother. It was lovely watching their relationship evolve over time and their bond becomes stronger as both grew older and begin to understand each other better.

In spite of the fact that I enjoyed Faithful for the reasons mentioned above, there were two things that I wasn’t fond of. One was the romance in the book, the relationship in the conclusion felt underdeveloped and if I were to be honest, this book would have been more than fine without any romance plot. The other thing that made me slightly uncomfortable was what happens to Shelby’s friend, Helene. Despite being brain-dead she is kept “alive” on life support so that people can come to and worship her for miracles. While it is understandable that her parents are unable to let go of their daughter, it’s also depressing to read how she is kept alive like this after having read about what she was like.

Faithful, is a powerful novel that demonstrates how amidst all the tragedy, loss, guilt, and shame there can be love, hope and perhaps even a “rebirth” of sorts. And that “magic” does exist and in manifests itself in unexpected ways in real life. All in all it was a fairly quick and engrossing read that I would recommend to readers who love stories of redemption and stories with dogs!

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 | Don’t I Know You? by Marni Jackson

don't knowAuthour:
Marni Jackson
Format:
E-galley
Publication date:
September 27th 2016
Publisher:
Flatiron Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Written by Canadian journalist, Marni Jackson’s Don’t I Know You? has an intriguing premise to it. Rose McEwan is an ordinary woman who lives a fairly regular life except for her various random encounters with random celebrities among them, Joni Mitchell, Meryl Streep, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Taylor Swift.

While the first chapter where Rose encounters John Uplike was weird and to be honest, slightly creepy the following chapter with Joni Mitchell made up for it although I hated how passive Rose was. This was generally the tone of the book, a few of the encounters were strange while others were charming and cute. My favorite story in the collection is, probably, Mister Softee where Rose first encounters Leonard Cohen for the first time. I loved that it concerns family and dealing with death, and while it was a simple story it was incredibly poignant. The Reading featuring Meryl Streep and Exfoliation with Gwyneth Kate Paltrow giving Rose a facial in addition to Free Love with Joni Mitchell were all memorable and were close runner-ups. And obviously the final chapter with a featuring a canoe trip that Rose takes with Leonard Cohen, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and Taylor Swift stood out as the most unrealistic yet charming of all the stories in this whimsical collection.

Being a Canadian myself, I love that the author takes the time to highlight the various sights and sceneries that can be found in Canada. Thus whether intentional or not, it felt as if this collection of stories served as a homage or even a “love letter” to the country itself even if the book wasn’t completely set in Canada. Don’t I Know You? is a book that I’d recommend for those who appreciate short story collections that are slightly unusual yet charming throughout.

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 Hating Game by Sally Thorne

hategameAuthour:
Sally Thorne
Format:
ARC; 372 pages
Publication date:
August 9th 2016
Publisher:
William Morrow
Publisher Social Media:
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
When I first heard about Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game, I thought it would be the perfect summer read for me since I do love a good romantic comedy. Furthermore, my contact at Harper thoroughly enjoyed it, describing it as “a romantic comedy movie in a book, think a movie with the likes of Anna Kendrick and Zac Efron”. (By the way I would totally watch that) Anyways, just as she predicted I did end up enjoying The Hating Game.

One of the reasons I enjoyed it was that I could relate to the characters who both work in an office environment in fairly administrative roles. Additionally, if you are a book nerd too, you’d be able to appreciate the fact that Lucy and Josh both work for a large publishing house that was merged from two smaller publisher houses. Coincidentally (or maybe not), the situation reminded me of when quite recently, Penguin and Random House merged and became Penguin Random House. Anyways, there are numerous book and publishing references that I book bloggers and publishing nerds would appreciate.

Another time I found refreshing about this book was the relationship between Lucy and her boss, instead of a stereotypical evil boss Lucy as a boss that truly looks out for her well-being and wants to mentor her. There are, however, numerous stereotypes and the CEO that Josh works for could definitely fall into the “horrible” boss category. That being said, while the story is predictable, the banter between the characters is amusing and the chemistry between Josh and Lucy is definitely hot and steamy. And while Josh made me uncomfortable in the instances where he became jealous as he was kind of terrifying, he does help Lucy stand up for herself and she does bring out the softer side to his personality. All in all The Hating Game is a rollicking ride of a novel that is basically catnip to readers who are fans of the hate “turned to” love trope.

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 | Baggage Check by M.J. Pullen

baggageAuthour:
M.J. Pullen
Format:
E-galley
Publication date:
July 12th 2016
Publisher:
Thomas Dunne Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Having not read any of the previous books in M.J. Pullen’s the Marriage Pact series, I went into this book with little judgment concerning the protagonist, Rebecca who had tried to “steal” her best friend’s husband, Jake in the first book. And perhaps this was a good thing, as I ended up enjoying Baggage Check more than I probably would have if I had read Marci’s book first.

The premise of Baggage Check is basically what you’d expect it’s mainly light, fluffy and entertaining read, however amidst all that, it also shows how Rebecca has to confront her past demons in order to move on and become truly content in life. What I liked best was how early on in the novel, Marci committed to moving on from her feelings for Jake, her friend’s husband and stuck with it in spite of it being difficult for her. Of all her friends, I personally found Rebecca the most relatable in that there are times when I feel lost and talentless compared to those around me. In addition, I could relate to her younger self running away from her problems at home in Alabama to Georgia after her senior year as I would’ve done the same at her age if I was in her shoes.

All that being said, my favourite element of this book were the blog entries by Marci. Possibly for the reason that I too am I blogger, I enjoyed reading the entries as they gave another perspective to the events of the book and detail what’s happening with the rest of her friends while Rebecca is back in Alabama cleaning up her family’s mess. In the end, while I would have liked to see more of Alex and Rebecca together I felt that Baggage Check was a satisfying conclusion overall as it brought all the characters together in the finale in a realistic manner

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 Name Therapist by Duana Taha

nameAuthour:
Duana Taha
Format:
ARC, 347 pages
Publication date:
April 5th 2016
Publisher:
Random House Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
What’s in a name? According to the authour of The Name Therapist there’s a whole lot. To be honest, I never had any issues with my name growing up, it’s rarely misspelled and almost never mispronounced. In fact I couldn’t imagine having another name. My parents, who were immigrants picked it for the reason that it was simple plus it easily translated from English back to Vietnamese. Still I found Duana Taha’s The Name Therapist to be an intriguing read.

Duana Taha is a self-styled “name therapist” who writes for the gossip blog, Lainey Gossip additionally she also works in Television where she gets to name characters which is basically the dream for a “name nerd” akin to herself. And while I’m not much of a “name nerd”, Duana’s enthusiasm for the subject had me slightly excited about it too. Part memoir, and part social science study throughout The Name Therapist readers are introduced to a bit of history behind certain names and their popularity in addition to how Duana’s love and fascination with names started. My favourite aspect of, The Name Therapist was learning about the various different types of name research and theories exist, including an app that tells you what careers has the greatest amount of people with your name. (In case you’re curious apparently there are numerous people named Lynne that are Interior Decorator/Designers).

Another section that intrigued me what, when the topic of anglicizing your name was brought up, especially if you’re an immigrant with a name that is definitely not a “Western” name. While there was never a need for me to anglicize my name, it made me remember an odd incident back when I was an undergraduate student. Back when I was trying to find a thesis supervisor, I often was required to send emails to professors expressing my interest in working with them. For some reason, I noticed that whenever I signed the email off with my full name which contained a very Vietnamese last name in my email was ignored, however when I signed the email with just my first name I often received replies, and invitations to meet with the professor in person to discuss potential thesis ideas. While it may have just been a coincidence, it struck me as strange at the time and I would be lying if I said it did not bother me. Anyways other than that, I do not believe my name has caused me any problems.

I guess it’s true what Duana writes in her book, there’s always something to be talked about when it comes names and it’s quite entertaining to hear stories behind people’s names. Thus if you are looking for an amusing and a different type of nonfiction read, you should give The Name Therapist a shot. Or if you’re just looking for another perspective on naming your unborn child The Name Therapist is the book for you.

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 Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

looseendsAuthour:
Carrie Firestone
Format:
ARC, 346 pages
Publication date:
June 7th 2016
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I’ve never been good with dealing with death, the only people I’ve lost (to date) that I knew well enough to miss were my grandmothers and my mother’s brother. And maybe that’s why I found Carrie Firestone’s The Loose Ends List such a soothing and comforting read since its approach to death and dying is such a refreshing change. Having a YA novel tackle it in such a matter of fact manner is both impressive as it’s essential to obtain different perspectives when it comes to a controversial issue like a person choosing to die via physician assisted suicide.

So, what is a loose ends list? As the protagonist, Maddie explains it’s a list of things that you want to accomplish before you move on to either college (similar to Maddie) or even before you are to die (similar to Maddie’s grandmother). In that sense it’s akin to a “bucket list”. This remains a theme throughout the novel that ties up nicely in the novel’s conclusion.

While Maddie is technically the protagonist of The Loose Ends List, it’s her Gram that steals every scene she’s in. I adore the way she just owns who she is and is unapologetic. And without spoiling too much, I must say that she stays true to who she is with no regrets til the very conclusion. To be honest, I wouldn’t have minded it if I had a grandmother similar to her.

Another element of this novel that lead to me picking it up was how travel would be a major factor in the novel as the entire family boards a cruise that takes them around the world. While at times it was riddled with clichéd stereotypes of the various locales as evident in the pages detailing Maddie’s trip to Taiwan, it was at other times enjoyable to witness how being forced to travel together as one gigantic insane family unit impacted each of the individuals.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read for me that had me tearing up enormously by the conclusion. And I appreciated how realistic the novel was at capturing how different ages and personalities come to grips with those who are dying and the (eventual) death of a beloved family member. The Loose Ends List was an unforgettable read concerning endings and new beginnings with extremely flawed characters, however that is what makes them appear more human and as a result, by the conclusion the characters feel as if they are your family too.

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