May To-Read List!

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With April coming to an end soon, I’ve already got a list of books I want to read for next month. Here are the books you can likely expect me to review in May!

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Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

When I heard about this book, I was so excited. Finally! A book about it being okay to be single! By a woman! This is what society has been needing to hear, and I’m just so stoked that someone is finally saying it.

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The Carbon Bubble: What Happens to Us When It Bursts by Jeff Rubin

I try to keep myself reading at least one nonfiction book a month (though I often don’t keep myself to this rule), and this month my choice was Rubin’s title. Especially in attending my media writing course, wherein we discuss a lot of world issues, I found that I really need to get more immersed in Canadian news and where we’re headed. So this book should be an interesting read.

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We Are all Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

I’ve heard nothing but great things about this upcoming YA novel, so I can’t wait to read it. Honestly, I’ve been waiting for a new YA novel to blow me away, so I’m hoping this will be the one!

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Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread by Chuck Palahniuk

I don’t think I’ve ever finished a Palaniuk book yet, just simply out of being busy or not ever getting back to them. This time, I’m not letting myself put it down. It’s summer, and I’ll have no other distractions to stop me from reading this book. And based purely on the title and cover page, I’m very excited to see what it has in store.

Which books are you looking forward to reading this month?

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen: Book Review

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Obtained: Penguin Random House, ARC
Pages: 348
Publish date: March 31, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

I hadn’t read a Sara Gruen book since high school, but knowing how quickly I fell in love with Water for Elephants, I began At the Water’s Edge with full optimism. I’m going to be blatantly honest: both of these books have something in common, and that is the fact that when I read the summaries, I didn’t think I’d like them. Not my usual thing, I don’t like historical fiction. Well, Gruen has made me realize that I should never count anything out.

At the Water’s Edge is about a woman, Maddie, and her husband and his best friend traveling to Scotland during World War II to search for the Loch ness monster. Maddie’s husband, Ellis, experienced a lot of shame in his family when his father was accused of falsifying pictures of the monster, so he brings Maddie and Hank along on his mission to prove that his father was right.

But this isn’t Ellis’s story; it’s Maddie’s story. While Hank and Ellis are off searching for the monster, Maddie stays back at the inn with the folks that run the place, and she begins to learn through her own journey who she is, and what monsters lie beneath the surface in her own life.

The writing and description in this novel were pure magic. Every time I picked up the book, I felt like I was in Scotland, myself. And it kept me coming back for more; if ever I had a free minute away from work or school, I wanted to travel back to Scotland and hang out with Maddie. It’s rare that I find that kind of relationship with characters in a book. Gruen’s characterization and their dialogue were both very realistic, and interesting to read about. I was seriously rooting for Maddie the whole time I was reading, as though she was one of my friends.

Without hesitation, At the Water’s Edge earns 5 stars from me. I’m so glad I was so open-minded with a new genre, because this is probably one of my favourite books in the past year.

Event Recap: Sara Gruen & Lori Lansens

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Tuesday, April 21, the Canadian authors Sara Gruen and Lori Lansens were scheduled to meet at the Toronto Reference Library to talk about their most recent books – At the Water’s Edge and The Mountain Story respectively.

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I read Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants when I was in high school, and it was the book that pulled me into the world of adult fiction. Then recently, Random House gave me an ARC of her latest book, At the Water’s Edge, and I flew through it. Both books were set in worlds I never thought I would find interesting at the time, but I was so captivated by Gruen’s writing and her characters.

So I was really excited to meet her and get my book signed, but I wasn’t too sure about anything Lansens had written. I attended mostly to hear them speak together and learn something about writing. And learn something, I did.

IMG_20150421_191825Lori Lansens reading a section form her novel, The Mountain Story

Both authors read sections from their recent publications, and then sat down with our host to discuss some themes from these books and their writing process. The latter was the topic I actually found most interesting.

While Gruen mentioned that she tended to procrastinate and had to wait for a story to find her, Lansens said her writing process came a little more easily, as her characters for a book came knocking long before she was finished writing the current one. Gruen said she would lock herself in her house for six weeks wearing pajamas while her story poured out of her, and Lansens talked about writing as an addiction, which Gruen agreed in saying that writing is almost a high for her. It just goes to show how there is no one way to be a successful writer.

Lansens also said something to which Gruen agreed that made the audience chuckle; they said that they believe in “method writing”. You almost literally have to become your characters as you think like them and let their emotions pour out of your fingers, and then “go downstairs for dinner and act like a normal human being”.

When asked why these ladies choose to write when the process can be so painful sometimes, Gruen responded, “it’s better to write than to not write”.

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Lansens and Gruen were both seemingly comfortable in front of the crowd (which I know a lot of writers are not okay with public speaking), and were very welcoming to the audience’s questions about their novels.

After the questions and a long applause, Lansens and Gruen headed to the back of the Appel Salon to sign books. Both authors were super nice and signed all of my books. I was lucky enough to find a copy of Lansens’s The Girls on my bookshelf that I’ve had forever. I told her that I wanted to be a writer and she was very emphatic in wishing me the best of luck, which was awesome. I love meeting writers and getting their advice on how to perfect my craft. Then I got my chance to tell Gruen how much I am in love with her books, to which she replied, “I only wish I could write them as fast as people read!”

I’ve gone to quite a few author events like this one, and I have to say this was one of my favourites. Both authors complimented each other on stage, and they were both intelligent and kind, and super sweet when I got a chance to speak with them. I’m getting my hands on a copy of The Mountain Story as soon as I can, and really recommend you go check out At the Water’s Edge, as well.

Top 5 Tuesday: Graphic Novels

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Today’s theme is top 5 graphic novels that I’ve ever read – so here we go!

1. Watchmen

Watchmen by Alan Moore

Let’s get the obvious one over and done with. I’ve read Watchmen about three times for a variety of classes in university, and I’m looking forward to re-reading it after having watched the movie again recently. Watchmen is a classic for a reason. The characterization is so clever and the political comments are only made stronger through the strong images. If you haven’t read Watchmen yet, all I have to say is, Why?

2. Ghost World

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

The first time I read Ghost World, I was in my comics class at university. I love literary graphic novels, and one that criticizes hipsters has all the more reason to be near the top of this list. Ghost World has put into words what I’ve been trying to formulate for years now, and it’s not even a new concept: even the outcasts have expectations within their own social group. Everyone’s personality is a construction of what they’ve seen form the past. It was such a fun and honest read for me, I really recommend it to the young adults who love graphic novels.

3. The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes (The Sandman, #1)

The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman

I blew through this ten-part series faster than I’ve read anything before (including all of prequels and off-shoots). Gaiman is such a great writer, and with the visuals to bring his magical world to life, this form has the capacity to bring his story to a whole new level. I just don’t even know what else to say about this series. It’s Gaiman. It’s philosophical and smart and enchanting and creative. Basically genius.

4. Skim

Skim by Mariko Tamaki

This graphic novel makes the list purely out of personal preference. Not because I think a lot of people will like it (and hey, maybe you will), but because it covers a lot of topics that I find really interesting. It’s about a Wiccan, goth girl named Kim whose friend’s boyfriend committed suicide. Now Kim is looking for comfort in a teacher… who she’s falling in love with. It’s just a whole big mess. And it takes place in Canada! So the Tim Horton’s and Swiss Chalet references do not go amiss. It’s just a really quirky, interesting story. I loved it.

5. Seconds

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

This book only goes last on the list because I’ve raved about it on this blog so much already. For anyone who loved the Scott Pilgrim series or the movie, O’Malley brings the same magic to Seconds. It’s got the same sense of humour and the same wonderfully realistic characters, but Seconds offers another level of maturity. The story in this graphic novel mixed with the beautiful imagery honestly makes it one of my favourite books of all time.

Have you read any of these graphic novels? What are some of your own favourites?

Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady: Book Review

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Seven Spoons: My Favorite Recipes for Any and Every Day

Obtained: Penguin Random House, ARC
Pages: 279
Publish date: April 21, 2015
Rating: ★★★★

I have never owned a cookbook before in my life. I don’t cook anything that doesn’t come in the freezer aisle and have microwave instructions. That’s why I got this book; it’s time for Michelle to learn how to cook. And this book is my new playground.

Seven Spoons is written by Tara O’Brady, a food blogger who is so passionate about what she does. This book has great stories about her dishes and instructions that are easy enough for me to follow (which to me, was the ultimate test). The recipes are nicely organized by meals, snacks, or staples, and a lot of them include great Asian or Indian flavours that I am a huge fan of.

When I was told at the Penguin Random House Blogger Preview that O’Brady took all her own photos for the book as well, I was sold. The photos of the dishes are absolutely gorgeous and make you want to devour everything on the pages.

After experimenting with five of the recipes in this book, I only have a few criticisms. First, the recipes don’t tell you how much time they will take on the top of the page, so you have to read through the entire recipe to figure it out. Also, as I mentioned above, the recipes have a lot of Asian or Indian flavors and some of the ingredients may be tricky to track down if you don’t live around any specialty grocery stores. But I can’t see why you couldn’t replace some of those ingredients with your own choices.

Below you can find photos of the dishes I made, or that my friends and family made as I ate. And I can honestly say that they were all really tasty. I’m going to add a star rating to the dishes as well to give you a better idea of my thoughts.

IMG_20150412_184945Feel-Better Curried Soup with Crispy Chicken (p. 109)
★★★★★

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Mushrooms and Greens with Toast (p. 91)
★★★★★

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Salad Rolls with Sesame Dressing and Tamari Dipping Sauce (p. 75)
★★★

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Roasted Red Pepper, Almond and Feta Salad (p. 186)
★★

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Avocado Toast (p. 96)
★★★★★

Overall, I am super pleased with this cookbook and I cannot WAIT to try more recipes. If you’re a first-time cook like me, or a more experienced home chef, I really recommend Seven Spoons.

A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes by Madhur Anand: Book Review

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A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes

Obtained: Penguin Random House, ARC
Pages: 96
Publish date: April 14, 2015
Rating: ★★★

I’m not a person who reads a lot of poetry. I’m a Poe fiend, but when it comes to modern writings, I find myself utterly in the dark. When I saw that this particular poetry book combined science and words into one concise work, I knew I had to check it out.

Anand, an ecologist, uses poetry in this case as an index for her own scientific ideas, finding a beautiful way to bring order and chaos together in one copacetic book.

I suppose the thing about poetry is that it’s hard to review. Do you look at it from a personal stand point (what did you get out of it on a spiritual/emotional level?) or do you look at it technically and mention the techniques the poet used? I guess I’ll do a little bit of both.

As I read through A New Index, felt Anand’s use of language was wonderfully descriptive and evocative. Usually when I read poetry, I get lost in the words and end up losing the entire meaning of what the poet was trying to say, but because this was a poetry book that used scientific terminology, I actually understood a lot of what was going on. It made me view these terms as beautiful poetry instead of stale words used only for practicality.

Overall, I think you have to read this index yourself to get a feel for the language. If you don’t like science or find poetry dull, you’re going to get out of this exactly what you anticipate. But if this sounds at all interesting to you, it probably will be; it definitely was interesting to me.

Nothing Like Love by Sabrina Ramnanan: Book Review

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Nothing Like Love

Obtained: Penguin Random House, ARC
Pages: 415
Publish date: April 7, 2015
Rating: ★★★

The ladies at Penguin Random House raved about this novel, recommending that this be the book I request for the month. So I heeded their advice and began reading as soon as possible, and I found myself having an interesting relationship with this book.

Nothing Like Love takes place in 1974 Trinidad and tells the story of Vimla Narine, a straight-A student who is ready to take her place in a teaching position. Everything seems to be on track for her. Until she gets caught with Krishna Govind – the pundit’s son. Suddenly, the village of Chance has been rocked and Vimla’s life is no longer as easy as she expected.

From a writer’s perspective, this book was amazing. The dialogue was witty, magical, and very realistic not only in content but in form. The description in Nothing Like Love brought me right to the setting and time period, making me feel like I was watching the events play out right in front of me. I wish I had the skill and creativity to create such a novel.

As an entertained reader, I’m not sure if I was so. At a point, I often found myself drifting off in the middle of a page, being forced to re-read it.

Overall, I was really impressed with Ramnanan’s debut novel. It was beautifully written, but just not something I personally wanted to read about for 400 pages. If it sounds interesting to you, I’m positive you’ll give it five stars with no hesitation.

February/March Book Haul

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I know this post is a little late (okay, a lot late), but I’ve decided that instead of posting my monthly book hauls only to my YouTube channel, I’d post them on here. It’s become a lot harder for me to maintain my videos, so I prefer this website.

So here are the books I was able to get for the months of February and March!

The only one I purchased these months was Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and I regret nothing. Totally worth the money on this one.

I was also given six titles during the February Penguin Random House book bloggers preview, which was pretty exciting. I’m currently reading Boo and I really can’t wait to start Robot in the Garden.


On top of those books I received, I also requested a few books from Random House as well. Wild Oats Project was one of my favourites of the year so far, and I am counting the days until I can finally set my life aside for the summer and read Finding Audrey.


Those are the books I got in February and March! (Why are so many of these covers green?) Keep an eye out for my April book haul, which I will post at the end of the month!

Writing Prompt Wednesday!

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So here is the second series that I’m going to have on my blog, and that’s Writing Prompt Wednesday! It’s exactly what it sounds like. I have so many books that offer writing prompts; I’m going to share one of the prompts with you fellow writers and show you my response to said prompt.

Today’s prompt comes from 642 Things to Write About.

What can happen in a second?

One second can change your entire life. All it takes is the wrong moment, or something to happen when you’re feeling a little off. Maybe you were manipulated. Maybe you were just naive when you answered his question. That’s what happened to me. It was the sheer excitement of seeing him go down on one knee; I imagined a wedding full of smiles and laughter, and not having to die alone.

One second.

I had one second and I thought about the flowers and who my bridesmaids would be. I didn’t think about the fact that he didn’t want kids, or that he would never let me be right. I didn’t think about how boring my life would be since he didn’t want to travel or go on adventures with me. Instead, I thought about how I would tell people I had a ring on my finger. One second, and I made a mistake.