Summer Reads

Is there anything better than spending a lazy summer day reading? The answer is no, nothing is better. A distant memory of my childhood are summer nights spent staying up way too late, with my head, flashlight and a book under the covers reading until my eyes could no longer stay open, and then, revisiting that world the following night. Now, with the help of a Kobo and an unenforced bedtime, I no longer have to hide my nightly reading habit, however my mornings start a little bit earlier since those long-lost nights of staying awake until the wee hours with a book. Now, most of my reading happens during the weekend lounging on the back deck while I forget about that every-growing to-do list I have to conquer, and instead, I let myself get swept away into a different era, landscape, people and stories that are more entertaining than my chores. And this summer, I spent my weekends with some very interesting characters – there was only one that I wish didn’t get invited to the party, but I’ll get to that in my #aliOreads reviews below. Did you read any of these books over the summer?

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield – Setterfield is a master at telling stories, so I’ve been told, and I was excited to read this novel about a young girl presumed dead, yet is magically still alive. This novel pays homage to the oral story telling tradition in England and skillfully weaves together stories that are all connected. However, I found it a slow burn from start to finish, (read: not the page-turner I was hoping it to be) yet the writing and tone of the novel is very beautiful and dreamy. One needs to be in the right headspace to read this novel.

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice – A powerful and haunting post-apocalyptic story about an Anishinaabe First Nations community in Northern Ontario that loses their connection to the outside world at the beginning of a harsh winter. What follows is the portrayal of a community protecting its people. Throughout the novel, Rice includes Ojibwe language and culture, and includes First Nations history and current wrongdoings against First Nations communities. Read this novel.

Daisy Jones & The Six By Taylor Jenkins Reid – I’m a bit late to the Daisy Jones bandwagon, but what a bandwagon it is! If you haven’t read this book, do so asap. An oral history of the sex, drugs, rock & roll lifestyle prevalent in the ’70s that focuses on a fictional rock band, and everything else that comes with being famous: glamour, scandal, heartbreak. A favourite read of 2019.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren – I picked up this flashy paperback on a whim for an easy honeymoon read and was pleasantly surprised that the book’s setting takes places in the same tropical locale my soon-to-be-hubby, at the time, and I were about to jet off to – Maui. It was cheesy, funny, and predictable – do you expect anything else from a rom-com?

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – A heartbreaking story of a girl who is abandoned by her family at a young age. This coming-of-age follows Kya as she navigates life alone along a coastal North Carolina marsh. This is a haunting tale of love, murder, and survival. One of my favourite reads of 2019.

Dirty Work by Anna Maxymiw – A memoir of Maxymiw’s experience as a housekeeper at a fishing lodge in Northern Ontario. For those that have spent their summers working at camps, read this humourous and oh-so-relatable memoir. I gushed about how much I love this book in a recent post found here.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – Glitz, glamour, and gorgeous girls set in New York City in the 1940s. Beautifully written, but I could have done without all of the sex (has that ever been written before?) and with over 450-pages, there is a lot of it that Vivian, the novel’s protagonist, partakes in, even after a sex scandal. Gasp.

My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams – An absurd account of how one woman, Anna Delvey, conned businesses and innocent people into believing she was a wealthy German heiress. Although I did feel bad for the friend, the author of this ‘true story’ who was conned, I couldn’t sympathize with her poor me shtick (check your privilege, girl), and I soon got bored of who perfect she portrayed herself in this memoir.

The Temptation of Gracie – I picked up this paperback purely based on its cover, and the fact that I wanted to be swept away to Italy for a few days without the cost of airfare. This book had it all: mother/daughter relationships, forbidden loves, an art heist, and lots of pasta. A feel-good, lighthearted read.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – I am embarrassed to admit that this is my first Gaiman read, and if his other books are anything like this one, then I need to read them all, as TOATEOTL was pure magic with an equal amount of melancholy. This is a short, sweet, magical and scary (not scary as in gory and ghostly, scary as in how adults no longer look at the world with childhood wonder) story that will make you nostalgic for your childhood innocence as well as break your heart because you will never be able to relive that magical short stage of life again.

Books

A long-winded social media ramble

I don’t know how many hours I waste each week mindlessly scrolling through social media to gather news, stay up-to-date on long lost friends’ daily happenings, or daydream of far away locales, fancy outfits, and home décor. I, like many, am guilty of using these sites to only show a certain perfect part of who I am. Hidden from public scrutiny are tweets of my screw-ups at work, unexpected front facing camera selfies (yikes), or long-winded posts of the current state of the dizzying disarray my head is currently in right now. No one wants to hear or see that, or maybe that is my own insecurity telling me to keep the disorganized hidden for fear of judgment from outsiders. But isn’t that the point of social media, letting the outside world in, to an extant. We all want to live this picture-perfect life that we’ve somehow forgotten how to actually live a genuine life. We communicate in acronyms, emojis and slang through mediums that have begun to define us that we no longer know how to have meaningful face-to-face conversations.

A couple of weekends ago, I devoured My Friend Anna, a ridiculous story about a young woman who fooled people into believing that she was a German heiress, was able to scam businesses, and conned the one girl who believed to be her friend, Rachel DeLoache Williams, the author of the story.  A few days after, I stumbled upon the story of Caroline Calloway, another absurd story of an egomaniac, and I couldn’t help but think – is this what we have become in this digital age of constant life sharing? Nothing is authentic and genuine, and because of this, we no longer have the ability to differentiate the real from fake. It’s as if we are in this constant need to prove ourselves to others that we look to the  number of likes and followers we have gained through our beautifully styled grids, which obviously can only mean that we all have our shit together, for reassurance.

Our lives have become highly curated tiles that we will pay money to capture an incredible Instagrammable moment for others to see, or have mastered the monetization of that perfectly poised look by representing brands in a square shaped image, brands one may not believe in, but who cares, they’re paying money, right? Then, we anxiously wait to see the likes roll in that we forget to experience the moment, to live in the moment, and to just accept the moment as is.

Maybe we all want to make beautiful things, and we do this through styling a beautiful picture? Maybe we all want to be viewed as perfect, and we do this by posting that perfect image. And maybe we all want human connection, but instant connection, not something we have to build, we want it right away, and we do this by following and liking, but that’s as far as we’ll go.

However, on the other hand, there is also a lot of good that can be found on these platforms. It has opened the window into landscapes one may never visit personally, started the dialogue with people one may never have the opportunity to converse with, it has made us more aware of what is happening globally, introduced us to new people, and put smiles on our faces – if you don’t follow Tiny Chef or Simon’s Cat, please do so asap.

I don’t really know what I’m trying to get at here, but what I do know is that we have started comparing our lives to something unattainable, we mindlessly live life through a filtered lens, and we spend hours scrolling that we are unaware of what is happening IRL, unless we’ve just seen a livestream of it through our devices. Maybe it’s time for us to step back for a second and just be present and content with life as is, undocumented and unfiltered. Or maybe, it’s time for me to do that?

The irony is not lost on me as I shamelessly share this post on social media, hoping that the title is clickbait-able enough to entice readers. And I should share that this article is me pointing the finger at myself, as I am so guilty of the social media post, like, tweet craze.

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It’s okay to not be perfect.

Let’s Talk Politics

Sure it’s taboo to talk about the current government landscape, especially since we have been advised to never address politics and religion at a dinner party – the elephants in the room – but here I am about to break convention and chat all things political. Well, not really, but I do want to talk about an upcoming important date that should not be left neglected.

With the federal election looming in the foreground of our day-to-day activities, ads begin to interrupt our shows slandering a party leader we may or may not like, radio jingles mock another party, while predominantly red, blue and orange lawn signs decorate, and potentially divide, communities. It’s a who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s better, who’s worse race to The Hill, and we, the people, are left to decide on the right candidate to run our country.

I’m not here to shout at you to vote, but really you should. Nor am I here to tell you whom to vote for, but let’s be honest, it probably shouldn’t be blue. What I am here to tell you is that your vote counts. Yah, it sucks waiting in line in some elementary school’s gymnasium (were gyms always this small?!) and not channel surfing on your couch. True, long lines are annoying, and thoughts of what difference does my vote make, I’m just one person, float through you head (and everyone else’s) as fluorescent lights beam down like some political UFO spaceship propaganda sonar-ing insecurities into your brain. And now you’re next, you walk up to the little cardboard divider, and place an X by the name you want voted in, and good golly, doesn’t that feel good? You completed your civic duty for the day, you helped enact change, you can walk out of that miniature gym with your head held high. Although, you may feel a sense of defeat as the results roll in, but, that shouldn’t sway or dismay you on hitting the polls come October 21st.

So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, who should be the next Prime Minister of Canada? Well, that’s not for me to say, but what I will do is urge you to research each parties’ platforms, their policy priorities, their behaviours, and how they act. Ask yourself where you want to see change, what are you passionate about, what will impact you, but most importantly, what will impact us collectively, our communities and our country. Sure you are voting for yourself, but your vote is also very important to the young, the vulnerable, and the old. Is education, healthcare, affordable housing, climate change, etc. a priority to you? Well then, read how each politician talks about these matters that matter to you, and if you agree with their platform, then vote for them, but if you don’t, then read the next party’s, and then the next, and so on.

It’s easy to get swept up in the ideologies of those that you surround yourself with, but know that you don’t always have to agree with them. Do you research, form your own opinion on who the next leader should be and vote with that in mind. You don’t have to tell anyone, or do the taboo, and talk with your family and friends. Ask them who they are voting for, and why. Listen to their reasons, and who knows, it may help in guiding your decision at the polls, or it may sway you in a completely different direction.

I heard someone compare Canada’s current political scene as Batman’s villain, Two-Face: we are for climate-change, but also pipelines. We welcome immigration, yet ban religious symbols. We tout gender equality, and then our government bullies women out of office. Our options this election are difficult: one is a problematic duality, the other is struggling, and the other ‘popular’ party is hella terrifying. So, I would say this election, your vote really does matter. Voting

Summertime sadness is a real thing, yo

This time of year is always bittersweet for me, and I know I’m not alone in that melancholic feeling of summer’s passing faster than preferred. The cooler evenings, late sunrises, and back-to-school jingles are all signs of the changing season – one that I’m not yet ready to embrace. I know, I know, summer is still here for a few more weeks, but the start of September is the month that slowly creeps into fall, and those dogdays of summer slowly revert back into our reverie, becoming a distant blurry memory that is out of reach for another 290-or-so days. Summers are too short, too hazy and too perfect to only last a couple of months. Summer, that’s it, I am putting my foot down, do not leave us yet, it’s just not fair.

I recently read Dirty Work by Anna Maxymiw, and I loved it for many reasons, but the main one being that it brought me back to a time when I was a teen and would venture off to camp as either a helper in the kitchen (holy hell, feeding young kids is hard work), and then as a camp counsellor for the brightest most imaginative souls I have ever met. Maxymiw’s camp work adventures were a bit more strenuous than mine (we’re not comparing cabins to cabins here), but what Maxymiw did do through her book was build a connection to a time in our lives when life was a little less complicated, a little more innocent, the air, at times, fresher, and the food, cheap, greasy and damn delicious, especially after a 12-hour day of non-stop sweaty kitchen chores. If you haven’t read the book, read it. There’s still time this summer to escape to the wilderness, even if it is just through Maxymiw’s words.

Speaking of camp, what screams summer more than camp? Nada! Freedom for a week+ from authority figures, chores and societal rules that bind our day-to-day behaviours. Sign me up. Beach days, sport days, dress-up days; ghost stories, bonfires, week-long crushes that inevitably end when the bus leaves the campground; friendships forged, clothes swapped, numerous rolls of film taken of innocent experiences; laughter, joy, and depending on age, a bit of homesickness that often fades once a friend is made. There is a childhood innocence to summer camp that is fondly remembered, a time when life was easy, carefree and ‘perfect.’ What I would give to relive those days again. Maybe that is why those summer adult camping experiences are such a hit, but this time, a bit of booze is added to the mix. And as we all now, the best stories are made with a little, or a lot, of liquid courage.

Summer is so sweet because that thick humid air wafts nostalgia from summers past. It’s in the fireflies dancing during dusk, the lazy afternoon soundtrack of cicadas in the trees, the endless pool parties, slumber parties, sticky ice cream fingers, grass stains, camping, fireside stories and roasted smores. It’s those memories that we want to relive every year, and every year the season is too short to experience those summers of our childhood past. That 9-5 hussle is great when it comes to making bank (hah) and adult decisions, but it also means saying “summer, bye” to sweet August and July. Mind you, summer 2019 was one for the books – the best book (see #vanderlaenderstietheknot & #vanderlaendersinhawaii), it still evaporated faster than my money in Aritzia. Much like buyer’s remorse is a real thing, so is summertime sadness. So give me all that nostalgic summer memorabilia and let me relive memories of the past to help me imagine the summer memories I will make in the future. I only have 10 months to daydream.Camping

February Reads

Being gifted with a short month during the winter is a nice treat, yet when one has a race with time because of an impending major work event, and a very major life event, 28 days is just too short. Where did you go, February? Minus the work and life stresses, I was still able to zoom through four reads. So, here is a belated (sorry) roundup of the books I read in February.

My (not so) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella is part love story part work drama, and a fun read that I could not put down. Before Cat Brenner was a junior associate at a branding firm, she was Katie, a farm girl from Somerset who dreamed of living in the big city. Living in London is all that Katie wanted, but the life she lives is not as glamourous as the life she posts on social media. She lives in a tiny flat, on a very tight budget, and works for a flaky, demanding boss, Demeter, who has no idea who Cat is or what she does. But this is nothing Cat can’t handle, that is, until  Demeter fires her, and Cat/Katie returns home to the farm, and slowly returns back to her true self.

Heart-Breaker by Claudia Dey is a tale of a missing mother, a cult, everything 1980s, and weird traditions told by three primary narrators – a girl, a dog, and a boy. A strange story, that I am still questioning what I read.

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory begins with Nikole on a date at a Dodger’s game with a guy she is casually dating. In front of a stadium of cheering fans, and to her horror, he proposes to her on the jumbotron. Nikole wants to and needs to say no, and she does, but needs help when the camera crew bombard her and make the situation even worse. Here, we are introduced to Carlos, and the rest is history. I loved the diversity in this book, the humour, and the portrayal of  relevant, yet tough topics.

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey is a tale told through letters, journal entries and newspaper clippings. Based loosely on the 1885 Alaska expedition led by Henry T Allen, this novel follows Lieut. Col. Allen Forrester as he treks through wild Alaska, and his wife Sophie, who navigates her own frontier. A beautifully written novel on love, loss and longing.Feb. Reads

An Ode to Stuff

It’s been almost two months since the Marie Kondo phase hit households via television sets and social media, and it is no surprised that Tidying Up with Marie Kondo took onlookers by storm. The show was released during the gloomiest month, New Year resolutions were still top of mind, and to boot, Marie Kondo appears to be the most genuine person to ever appear on TV. Viewers went wild about tidying, folding, and sparking joy; #KonMari posts went viral, memes were shared, and people kept folding their clothes into tiny little rectangle shapes (what is that kind sorcery?!) I admit, I joined in and purged my clothes, but quickly stopped after I realized that the donation pile had more clothes than what I had left in my closet. Maybe that is the point.

As we witnessed in Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, it is difficult to part with items that have served as protection, securement, and enjoyment. Not only is it difficult, in some cases, it is truly daunting. No wonder so many basements are scary, they are haunted by the ghost of lives lived past. Don’t get me wrong, I am not encouraging one to hoard every odds and ends they meet; if it no longer provides comfort, happiness, or value, then out it goes. Personally, I have discarded/donated many things that no longer hold any meaning (pictures, notes, agendas, clothes), and the act of disposing something that is no longer a loved item is quite cathartic, especially if the mementos being trashed are from toxic experiences. There’s peace in a clean space, just as there’s peace in a clean heart. Yet, there is so much happiness looking at a shelf that holds trinkets from travels, memorabilia from yesteryears, and sacred possessions handed down from generations.

The types of reality shows where we are invited in to see someone else’s chaos makes us feel better about our own mess, be it physical or internal, and these shows allow us the opportunity to quietly judge those on the screen from the comfort of our couch. I could never live that way. How could they let that happen to their home. Thank goodness my place does not look like that. Maybe that is another reason why Tidying Up quickly became such a sensation, Marie Kondo seems to truly care about the people and their homes that she entered.

As the saying goes, “one person’s junk is another person’s treasure,” so who are we to judge the state of someone’s home. And TBH, a home that is lived in is better than a house that is pristine. I want that fridge door that is crowded with a little one’s artwork, school pictures, and postcards. Give me a bookshelf that is overloaded with stories shared with kids, friends, and novels read in peace. I want a house with blankets on the couch, shoes at the front door, and coats hanging on the hallway hook. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and besides, who wants perfect anyways, it’s too much gd work.IMG_1359

January Reads

Oh, January, you were cold, snowy, depressing and never-ending, but you did gift me ample time to read and binge-watch T.V. and for that, I am thankful.  If you follow my reading adventures on Goodreads, or on Instagram, then you have already seen my January #aliOreads, but I figured new year, new post idea as many of the books I read do not get a dedicated book review on this site, or their own Instagram post. And, I know that you are really interested in what I read, so with that in mind, here’s a peek at what I read in January.

Full Disclosure written by Beverley McLachlin, the former Chief Justice of Canada. This is a quick-pace read, set in Vancouver and centres on Jilly Truitt, a young professional criminal lawyer. This is a court room drama with family feuds, and a millionaire’s wife found dead – a fun whodunnit with a few unexpected twists.

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn is a psychological thriller that will ensure you lock your doors and windows. A dark, twisted tale that will definitely give you the creeps.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney is a delightful tale that needs to be on your TBR list. For fans of fashion, New York, and advertising, this read is one that won’t disappoint.

The Only Woman in the Room, written by Marie Benedict, is a historical fiction that left me disappointed – I wanted so much more out of this read. Too much emphasis on beauty, and not enough on Hedy Lamarr, the scientist and inventor.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman is a dark love story about secrets, flawed characters, crime, murder, and lies. A masterfully written novel that you won’t be able to put down. screen shot 2019-01-29 at 1.07.46 pmWhat were some of your favourite January reads, or books that you are looking forward to reading in February?