Book Talk Friday: Beach Read

Where I talk about books that I’ve read and enjoyed because life is better with books. And summer is definitely better with books!

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Published: Berkley, May 2020

Length: 384 pages

Categories: Women’s Fiction / Romance / Humour / Contemporary Romance

The Blurb:

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.SEE LESS

My Thoughts:

January Andrews is suffering from writer’s block. She’s also broke. Grieving the loss of the father she thought she knew, she ends up in the last place she wants to be, the beach house her father left her. Even worse, she finds herself living next door to her college nemesis, Augustus Everett. Turns out he’s also suffering from writer’s block. When avoiding each other doesn’t work, they strike a deal. She’ll write a literary novel. And he’ll write a romance. And they’ll help each other through the process.

I worry when writers, who are not romance writers, write romance. I worry it won’t be a romance at all but an attempt to ‘elevate’ the genre. I also shy away from romances written in 1st person perspective. Just not my favourite perspective when it comes to romance. So, why did this book work for me? The chemistry between January and Gus is immediate. The dialogue is witty and funny and surprising. The writing is clever. January’s grief and sense of betrayal is heart wrenching. So, is Gus’s. Gus is delightfully swoon worthy in a guy-next-door kind of way. And January is quirky and real and just the right amount of over the top.

Also, this was an audio read for me and I have to say the narrator is amazing. Julia Whelan does a fantastic job. I can’t say enough about the great job she does. It’s the first time I’ve haven’t cringed when a narrator switches from a female to male character or vice a versa. I enjoyed her narration as much as I enjoyed Emily Henry’s writing.

This book is a great look at what happens when our egos fail us and the necessity of grieving. And what it looks like to find your way back and forward. Definitely recommend.

Until next time…

What beach reads have you savoured so far this summer? Any recommendations?

Book Talk Sunday: An Image in the Lake by Gail Bowen

Sundays seem like a good time to talk about the books I’ve read! I don’t give ratings, or stars, or gold crowns. Just offering a few of my thoughts. This week I’m taking An Image in the Lake by Gail Bowen, which is an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy).

An Image in the Lake: A Joanne Kilbourn Mystery by Gail Bowen

Published:  ECW Press, September 7, 2021

Length: 350 pages

Categories: Mystery / Cozy Mystery / Women Sleuths / Amateur Sleuths / Canadian Setting

Blurb:

A dark secret threatens the future of the Shreve family

It’s August 24 and Joanne Shreve and her husband, Zack, are savoring the last lazy days of summer and looking forward to the birth of a new grandchild; involvement in the campaign of Ali Janvier, a gifted politician with a solid chance of becoming the province’s next premier; and the debut of Sisters and Strangers, the six-part series Joanne co-wrote that focuses on her early life. The series is the flagship of a new slate of programming, and MediaNation is counting on a big return. Joanne and Zack’s stake in the series’s success is personal. Their daughter, Taylor, is in a relationship with one of the show’s stars, and Vale Frazier is already like family to them.

It seems the “season of mist and mellow fruitfulness” will be a bountiful one for the Shreves. But when a charismatic young woman wearing a grief amulet that contains a lock of her dead brother’s hair and a dark secret becomes part of their lives, the success of Sisters and Strangers and the future of Taylor and Vale’s relationship are jeopardized, and only Joanne and Zack can put an end to the threat.

My Thoughts:

Joanne Shreve and her husband Zack are enjoying the last days of summer, determined to spend more time together and less time at work. But strange things are happening at MediaNation. They are about to air the line-up of fall programs which includes Sisters and Strangers, a six-part series co-written by Joanne about her early life. Then people start to disappear. Joanne and Zack are drawn into the search for answers when information comes to light about a group of four young people who are prepared to break the law in their quest to get to the top.

An Image in the Lake is classic Gail Bowen. Plenty of colourful and familiar faces show up, and we catch up with Joanne’s children and grandchildren. The meandering twists and turns that make Bowen one of Canada’s best mystery writers lead us on a slow but dark and entertaining path to the truth. Joanne (Kilbourn) Shreve is one of my favourite fictional characters. There is a calmness and a self-assuredness about her that is immensely appealing. After reading this book, I can tell you she is a lot for forgiving then I am. She’s also a wonderful example of a woman in her fifties who lives life to the fullest. Her life is never perfect but it’s always compelling.

I really enjoyed this book. And always love a Canadian setting. We need more of those. I would definitely recommend it.

An Image in the Lake is set in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada! My home city. I love reading books set in Regina. Regina is also a great city to visit with lots of fun activities and opportunities to offer visitors!

Check out Must Do Canada for other traveling Canada inspiration!

Until next time…

Have you read any great mysteries lately? Or any of Gail Bowen’s other books in her Joanne Kilbourn series?

Book Talk Sunday: Burnout: The Secret of Unlocking the Stress Cycle

Sundays seem like a good time to talk about the books I’ve read! I’m not going to give ratings, or stars, or gold crowns. I’m just going to offer a few of my thoughts.

Burnout: The Secret of Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA

Published:   Ballantine Books, 2020

Length: 304 pages

Categories: Self Help / Personal Development / Non Fiction / Psychology / Feminism

Blurb:

Burnout. Many women in America have experienced it. What’s expected of women and what it’s really like to be a woman in today’s world are two very different things—and women exhaust themselves trying to close the gap between them. Sisters Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, are here to help end the cycle of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Instead of asking us to ignore the very real obstacles and societal pressures that stand between women and well-being, they explain with compassion and optimism what we’re up against—and show us how to fight back. In these pages you’ll learn

• what you can do to complete the biological stress cycle—and return your body to a state of relaxation
• how to manage the “monitor” in your brain that regulates the emotion of frustration
• how the Bikini Industrial Complex makes it difficult for women to love their bodies—and how to defend yourself against it
• why rest, human connection, and befriending your inner critic are keys to recovering and preventing burnout

With the help of eye-opening science, prescriptive advice, and helpful worksheets and exercises, all women will find something transformative in these pages—and will be empowered to create positive change. Emily and Amelia aren’t here to preach the broad platitudes of expensive self-care or insist that we strive for the impossible goal of “having it all.” Instead, they tell us that we are enough, just as we are—and that wellness, true wellness, is within our reach. 

My Thoughts:

Who couldn’t use some help dealing with burnout and stress? Life can elevate stress levels at the best of times. Add in a global pandemic and…yikes. Our lives have changed, and continue to change. This book was written in the Before Times, but it’s definitely worth reading in the Now Times. It’s the first self-help book I’ve ever managed to read all the way through to the end.

I learned human Giver Syndrome is a thing and what it means, and things make so much sense now.

Human givers must, at all times, be pretty, happy, calm, generous, and attentive to the needs of others, which means they must never be ugly, angry, upset, ambitious, or attentive to their own needs

emily nagoski and amelia nagoski, burnout

By understanding societal norms and living with the daily expectations of what it means to be female, we can avoid disappearing beneath the weight of those expectations. Recovering from the weight of being everything to every one before looking after ourselves can be a daunting task and I was happy to find practical advice.

I wanted a book about stress that centred on the female experience. I wanted relatable content and practical advice. I feel like I got both those things with this book. I feel like I have a better understanding of how necessary it is to acknowledge feeling burnt out, and how to develop strategies to deal with both stress and with stressors.

I felt seen reading this book. I found resources. I found strategies. I would definitely recommend it.

Until next time…

Anyone else feeling stressed these days? Have you read Burnout? What did you think?

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Merry Christmas

I don’t think I’m ready to delve into what I’ve learned about myself and life in 2020 yet. That will come in time. Now, when the days are short and the nights are long and times are uncertain, I do know that I am thankful.

Thankful for healthcare workers, all hospital staff, those caring for our elderly and all other caregivers, first responders, those who serve and protect, the cashiers and cleaners and all others dealing with the public. To all of you who will continue to battle this pandemic while those of us who celebrate Christmas pause for the holidays, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

Anne Lamott

Until next time…

Stay home. Stay safe. Be well.

The Results of My 2020 Reading Challenge

When I put together my reading plans for 2020, I had no idea that the world was going to implode because of a virus. You would have thought that would have made reading lots of books easier. Nowhere to go, no place to be. But, as many of us have experienced, maintaining focus long enough to finish a book has sometimes proven a struggle.

2020 and COVID 19 has also changed my reading habits. My book club, which had run for almost 20 years (there’s always a debate over our start date), decided not to meet until things settled down. Of course, that hasn’t happened. No one suggested we meet online. I don’t think any of us had the energy, or the desire, to figure out how to make it happen.

I’m finding that’s okay with me. I’m enjoying reading what I want at my own pace without stressing over having to read a book I don’t want to read or choosing one that no one else would find interesting. A break from reading a book club pick each month has allowed me to focus on reading more Canadian fiction with a focus on Indigenous, Black and writers of colour as a way to diversify my reading.

You can read the results of my 2019 Reading Challenge here.

A Classic: My thought was to listen to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier on audiobook. Then the Netflix adaptation came out and, well…I watched it instead.

A Historical: Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback. You can read my review here.

A Cookbook: Didn’t happen. But I have one in mind for 2021.

An Indigenous Author: I read several great books. My favourite was Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline. You can read my review here. Followed closely by Moon Of The Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice (Dystopian/Horror) which I really liked but which freaked me out. Followed closely by Maggie Blackbird, Indigenous Canadian romance writer.

A Romance: I read several, because…pandemic. A lot of old school Sandra Brown and Nora Roberts because those books are my jam. But I also read The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang and loved it.

A Graphic Novel: I bought one, but I haven’t read it. Yet!

A Science Fiction Novel: Also, didn’t happen. Don’t even have one in mind. Definitely could use some recommendations as I don’t even know where to really start.

A Book of Poetry: I have one…will read it in 2021.

A Non-Fiction Book: Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. I can’t say enough good things about her writing and how it speaks to me. I’m still crushed by her sudden passing in 2019.

A Canada Reads Book: So…I picked Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward’s Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles. Then the pandemic hit and I could tell by page ten it wasn’t going to happen. Not that it wasn’t a fabulously written book but I knew it was going to be intense and I just didn’t have it in me. Luckily, I’d already read Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson, which I loved.

A Memoir: Mistakes to Run With by Yasuko Thanh. It was raw, honest and articulate. Highly recommend.

A Young Adult: I know I’m late to the party, but I finally read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and wished I’d read it sooner because it’s such a great book.

There you have it. I think I had a pretty successful reading year, despite finding it difficult to focus at times.

I’d love to hear about other reading challenges you did this year. Or if you have any reading recommendations, I’d love to hear those too.

Until next time…

Fall on the Prairies

It’s October and the temperatures and cooling down. I’m enjoying the moment and the last of the fall days. Being able to be outside these last four months has been a lifesaver. Hopefully, October will see lots of backyard fires, blankets and cups of tea under the Big Dipper and the North Star.

Fall is raking leaves, blowing out sprinklers, cleaning out flower pots. I love fall, but it can be short in this part of the world. Winter is on the horizon. I even ordered a new winter coat yesterday. I’m determined to spend more time outside this winter.

Somehow fall also means organizing to me. Watching The Home Edit on Netflix was timely incentive. I’ve tackled the storage area in the basement and gotten rid of the first of the things that need to be recycled or taken to the dump and put together a donation pile.

But I still had time to read some books!

My Thoughts On:

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Just when you think you have nothing left to lose, they come for your dreams.

Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden – but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.

I’m one of those people that love to read dystopian books, even in the midst of a pandemic. I LOVED this book. There is a reason this book has won or been shortlisted for many awards. Though The Marrow Thieves is a young adult book, it’s also a book for all ages. Set in a near future ravaged by pollution and climate change. it’s the story of group of Indigenous companions who struggle to make their way north while being hunted for their marrow, their very essence, by white people who have lost the ability to dream and their humanity.

Each member of the tight knit group of characters has a coming-to story, a harrowing tale of what they survived before they found the group. By witnessing their stories, we learn how the destruction of the world began and what lengths people will go to save their way of life. Both the hunted and the hunter. A talented writer, Cherie Dimaline has a way with words. With storytelling. With craft.

It is gripping, and bleak, and enlightening. But hopeful. Dark, but somehow full of colour.

“‘Dreams get caught in the webs woven in your bones. That’s where they live, in that marrow there.’”

Miig, The Marrow Thieves

Until next time…

Do you like to organize your spaces? Have you watched The Home Edit? Or read The Marrow Thieves? What did you think?

Canadian Book Settings

I love Canadian settings. I think it started when I was a young girl with Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery which was set on the beautiful province of Prince Edward Island. It continued with Gail Bowen‘s Joanne Killbourn mystery series, which remains a favourite of mine, that is set in and around Regina, Saskatchewan. And so many others. For much of my twenties, I read a lot of Canadian literature. A lot.

Canada is more than maple syrup and hockey.

Not knock an often touted cliche, but while a picture can give you a great first impression of the sights, a book gives you the whole picture. A book can describe the tastes, the smells, the sounds, and the texture of a place.

Books can take you to a place you’ve never been, especially in a time when we’re not going anywhere, and if you want to know what life in Canada smells like, tastes like, sounds like, or feels like, there are a no end of books that can bring you here.

I’m going to leave you with four books that are not recent releases, with the exception of Mistakes to Run With, but ones that will give you a glimpse into the corners of Canada that you might not know existed or have read about, and not all of them paint a pretty picture.

Elizabeth Hay, Late Nights on Air

Richard Wagamese – Indian Horse

Miriam Toews – A Complicated Kindness

Yasuko Thanh – Mistakes to Run With: A Memoir

Until next time…

Anyone have a book recommendation that includes a Canadian setting? I’d love to hear it!

How Is It August Already?

If you’d like another month of summer, raise your hand. I know I would. For a couple of reasons. One: another month before September, and flu season, are once again upon us would be awesome, as COVID-19 continues to take a toll. Two: I’m not ready for summer to be over.

Our Saskie mermaid! She’s a strong swimmer and even though it’s an incredibly cute product I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who is not a strong swimmer and very comfortable in the water. I am not! Putting this tail on causes me all kinds of no-thank-you-I-prefer-not-to-drown-today.

A Saskatchewan summer usually means hot, dry weather and our province averages the most sunshine of any Canadian province or territory. Which is a good thing because I’m fuelled by sunshine. I don’t mind the odd rainy day, but otherwise I’m solar powered. Much like the summer cereal crops we grow here. Or the pulse crops. Or the oilseeds.

What I’m reading:

SOMETHING ABOUT YOU

FATE HAS THROWN TWO SWORN ENEMIES…

Of all the hotel rooms rented by all the adulterous politicians in Chicago, female Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Lynde had to choose the one next to 1308, where some hot-and-heavy lovemaking ends in bloodshed. And of all the FBI agents in Illinois, it had to be Special Agent Jack Pallas who gets assigned to this high-profile homicide. The same Jack Pallas who still blames Cameron for a botched crackdown three years ago—and nearly ruining his career…

…INTO EACH OTHER’S ARMS

Work with Cameron Lynde? Are they kidding? Maybe, Jack thinks, this is some kind of welcome-back prank after his stint away from Chicago. But it’s no joke: the pair is going to have to put their rocky past behind them and focus on the case at hand. That is, if they can cut back on the razor-sharp jibes—and smother the flame of their sizzling-hot sexual tension…

I’ve been exploring new romance authors in July and August and I’m really enjoying Julie James. Someone To Love is an older book. You can read a sample here. Generally, these cutesy covers send me running in the other direction. But I took a chance on this book because of the blurb. It appealed to my suspense loving nature, and I’m enjoying that part of the book although it’s definitely lighter on the suspense and heavier on the romance.

Until next time…

Is anyone else enjoying the heck out of the August? Or are you a Autumn person? Let me know what you’re reading?

A Summer Tea Party

Doing summer during a pandemic takes some creative ingenuity. But trust my daughter to come up with a fun activity. A tea party, which proved to be an excellent stay-at-home activity.

Everyone should have tea parties. They are a blast. Hats, ties, special treats, china cups and laughter. That’s a win in a time of anxious uncertainty.

And what a way to engage the imagination. We got very adventurous and made pavlova nests we filled with a lemon curd. I would definitely make these delightful little nests again using the right type of piping bag and decorating tip. Kudos to my sister for doing an amazing job despite the improvised tools. Also, I baked them a smidge too long and they weren’t a nice crisp white. But they tasted delicious. And practice makes better!

Menu decided, we dressed up, donned hats and ties, and sipped from china cups my mom donated for the occasion. We gave ourselves fancy names and thought of as many British words as we could manage.

Until next time…

Who else has had to think outside the box for activities this summer?

Photo of the Week: Summertime

I took a beginners photography class this spring – part in person and part online – because of the Covid. I love taking pictures. I can’t wait to get out there with a camera and take more pictures as I’ve got a black and white project in mind for a very blank wall that needs some creative touches. Also, photography is one of the ways I recharge my creative batteries. And in these uncertain times, that is a must.

This photo won’t be used in any art project, but it is a glimpse of our new backyard patio area where we love spending time. This space used to be a no-man land’s of wasted side/front yard that never saw any use. We’ve reclaimed it as part of our backyard and we couldn’t be happier with the results. And, again, in this new normal we’re adjusting to, this space has seen a lot of use because we simply aren’t out and about as much.

What I’m reading: Child of Mine by Jana Richards

Favourite Podcast of the Moment: Fated Mates: A Romance Novel Podcast with Sarah MacLean and Jen Prokop

Until next time…

Have you created any new spaces for yourself? Or found any safe, new spots to spend time in this summe?