What I’m Reading for the 2018 Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge

2018 Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge

Three years ago, I was determined to get out of my reading rut. Enter: The Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge.

What I love most about the challenge is how simple it is–just read twelve books from twelve different categories in twelve months.

I credit the MMD challenge with helping me to rediscover my love of reading. I am a huge fan of memoirs and for years, that’s all I read. But this challenge expanded my reading horizons and inspired me to give books I wouldn’t normally read a chance. Side note: I will forever be grateful to Anne for introducing me to the wonderful world of translated books! Who knew I would end up loving them as much as I do?

In 2016, my goal was to read 100 books. I sat down with a notebook and jotted down a list of 100 books I wanted to read by the end of the year. I went a step further and shared the list on the blog to keep myself organized and accountable. It worked like a charm! I found the simple act of checking titles off my list deeply satisfying and by December 31st, I had read 82 books!

This year, life is wayyyyy busier than its been in a long time. I am juggling school and work and its been tricky finding time to rest much less read. So for 2018, I am focusing on quality over quantity. I want to devote the precious few hours I have to reading books that are worth my time.

If you’re looking to read more books this year alongside an incredibly supportive community of book lovers, I recommend jumping on board. After all, good books are meant to be shared!

You can sign up for the reading challenge here. You can also connect with fellow challenge participants and share (and get) book recommendations via the 2018 Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge Pinterest board.

After much deliberation, here are the books I’ll be reading for this year’s challenge…

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

A classic you’ve been meaning to read 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This one has been on my reading list for the past two years and I am soooo excited to finally cross it off my list.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

168 Hours_You Have More Time Than You Think

A book recommended by someone with great taste

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

Recommended by Anne Bogel. Thanks Anne!

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: It’s an unquestioned truth of modern life: we are starved for time. We tell ourselves we’d like to read more, get to the gym regularly, try new hobbies, and accomplish all kinds of goals. But then we give up because there just aren’t enough hours to do it all. Or if we don’t make excuses, we make sacrifices- taking time out from other things in order to fit it all in. There has to be a better way…and Laura Vanderkam has found one.

After interviewing dozens of successful, happy people, she realized that they allocate their time differently than most of us. Instead of letting the daily grind crowd out the important stuff, they start by making sure there’s time for the important stuff. When plans go wrong and they run out of time, only their lesser priorities suffer. Vanderkam shows that with a little examination and prioritizing, you’ll find it is possible to sleep eight hours a night, exercise five days a week, take piano lessons, and write a novel without giving up quality time for work, family, and other things that really matter.

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive

A book in translation

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist, translated from the Swedish by Henning Koch

My love for translated books runs deep and I try and read at least one every year.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House CanadaIn Every Moment We Are Still Alive tells the story of a man whose world has come crashing down overnight: His long-time partner has developed an fatal illness, just as she is about to give birth to their first child … even as his father is diagnosed with cancer.

Reeling in grief, Tom finds himself wrestling with endless paperwork and indecipherable diagnoses, familial misunderstandings and utter exhaustion while trying simply to comfort his loved ones as they begin to recede from him.

But slowly, amidst the pain and fury, arises a story of resilience and hope, particularly when Tom finds himself having to take responsibility for the greatest gift of them all, his newborn daughter.

Written in an unforgettable style that dives deep into the chaos of grief and pain, yet also achieves a poetry that is inspiring, In Every Moment We Are Still Alive is slated to become one of the most stirring novels of the year.

A book nominated for an award in 2018

To be determined

Guidebook to Relative Strangers

A book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection

Guidebook to Relative Strangers by Camille T. Dungy

This category gave me the most trouble to fill. After asking for recommendations and engaging in some heavy-duty browsing, I finally decided on this essay collection I spotted on Book Riot. It sounds like a good one!

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: As a working mother whose livelihood as a poet-lecturer depended on travel, Camille Dungy crisscrossed America with her infant, then toddler, intensely aware of how they are seen, not just as mother and child, but as black women. With a poet’s eye, she celebrates her daughter’s acquisition of language and discoveries of the natural and human world around her. At the same time history shadows her steps everywhere she goes: from the San Francisco of settlers’ and investors’ dreams to the slave-trading ports of Ghana; from snow-white Maine to a festive, yet threatening, bonfire in the Virginia pinewoods.

With exceptional candor and grace, Dungy explores our inner and outer worlds—the intimate and vulnerable experiences of raising a child, living with illness, conversing with strangers, and counting on others’ goodwill. Across the nation, she finds fear and trauma, and also mercy, kindness, and community. Penetrating and generous, Guidebook to Relative Strangers is an essential guide for a troubled land.

The Reason I Jump

A book you can read in a day

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida, translated from the Japanese by KA Yoshida & David Mitchell

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Naoki Higashida was only a middle-schooler when he began to write The Reason I Jump. Autistic and with very low verbal fluency, Naoki used an alphabet grid to painstakingly spell out his answers to the questions he imagines others most often wonder about him: why do you talk so loud? Is it true you hate being touched? Would you like to be normal? The result is an inspiring, attitude-transforming book that will be embraced by anyone interested in understanding their fellow human beings, and by parents, caregivers, teachers, and friends of autistic children.

Naoki examines issues as diverse and complex as self-harm, perceptions of time and beauty, and the challenges of communication, and in doing so, discredits the popular belief that autistic people are anti-social loners who lack empathy.

This book is mesmerizing proof that inside an autistic body is a mind as subtle, curious, and caring as anyone else’s.

New York

A book that’s more than 500 pages

New York by Edward Rutherfurd

This sweeping historical novel from the British author was on my 2017 reading list, but I never got around to it. I recently bought a copy and I can’t wait to dive in this winter.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: A blockbuster masterpiece that combines breath-taking scope with narrative immediacy, this grand historical epic traces the history of New York through the lenses of several families: The Van Dycks, a wealthy Dutch trading family; the Masters, scions of an English merchant clan torn apart during the Revolution; the Hudsons, slaves who fight for their freedom over several generations; the Murphys, who escape the Famine in Ireland and land in the chaotic slum of Five Points; the Rewards, robber barons of the Gilded Age; the Florinos, an immigrant Italian clan who work building the great skyscrapers in the 1920s; and the Rabinowitzs, who flee anti-semitism in Europe and build a new life in Brooklyn.

Over time, the lives of these families become intertwined through the most momentous events in the fabric of America: The founding of the colonies; the Revolution; the growth of New York as a major port and trading centre; the Civil War; the Gilded Age; the explosion of immigration and the corruption of Tammany Hall; the rise of New York as a great world city in the early 20th-century; the trials of World War II, the tumult of the 1960s; the near-demise of the city in the 1970s; its roaring rebirth in the 1990s; culminating in the World Trade Center attacks at the beginning of the new century.

Plainsong

A book by a favourite author

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Two years ago I read and loved Haruf’s novel Benediction and fell in love with his beautiful writing. Last January, I picked up Our Souls at Night and read it in an afternoon. I can’t wait to read his debut novel.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl—her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house—is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they’ve ever known.

From these unsettled lives emerges a vision of life, and of the town and landscape that bind them together—their fates somehow overcoming the powerful circumstances of place and station, their confusion, curiosity, dignity and humor intact and resonant. As the milieu widens to embrace fully four generations, Kent Haruf displays an emotional and aesthetic authority to rival the past masters of a classic American tradition.

The Boat People

A book recommended by a librarian or indie bookseller

The Boat People by Sharon Bala

This award-winning new release comes highly recommended by one of my favourite bookstore employees. I trust his taste and I’ve discovered books I would never have picked up on my own thanks to him. (I LOVED his past recommendations like The Door by Magda Szabo and The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola.)

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: When the rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and five hundred fellow refugees reaches the shores of British Columbia, the young father is overcome with relief: he and his six-year-old son can finally put Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war behind them and begin new lives. Instead, the group is thrown into prison, with government officials and news headlines speculating that hidden among the “boat people” are members of a terrorist militia. As suspicion swirls and interrogation mounts, Mahindan fears the desperate actions he took to survive and escape Sri Lanka now jeopardize his and his son’s chances for asylum.

Told through the alternating perspectives of Mahindan; his lawyer Priya, who reluctantly represents the migrants; and Grace, a third-generation Japanese-Canadian adjudicator who must decide Mahindan’s fate, The Boat People is a high-stakes novel that offers a deeply compassionate lens through which to view the current refugee crisis. Inspired by real events, with vivid scenes that move between the eerie beauty of northern Sri Lanka and combative refugee hearings in Vancouver, where life and death decisions are made, Sharon Bala’s stunning debut is an unforgettable and necessary story for our times.

Monkey Beach

A banned book

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

I didn’t want to read any of the popular banned books for this category so I asked a bookstore employee for a recommendation. He didn’t hesitate and raved about the Native Canadian’s first novel. He explained that it was banned in certain communities. This a book I probably would never have discovered on my own.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House CanadaMonkey Beach combines both joy and tragedy in a harrowing yet restrained story of grief and survival, and of a family on the edge of heartbreak. In the first English-language novel to be published by a Haisla writer, Eden Robinson offers a rich celebration of life in the Native settlement of Kitamaat, on the coast of British Columbia.

The story grips the reader from the beginning. It is the morning after the narrator’s brother has gone missing at sea; the mood is tense in the family house, as speculations remain unspoken. Jimmy is a prospective Olympic swimmer, seventeen years old and on the edge of proposing to his beautiful girlfriend Karaoke. As his elder sister, Lisa, faces possible disaster, she chain-smokes and drifts into thoughts of their lives so far. She recalls the time when she and Jimmy saw the sasquatch, or b’gwus – and this sighting introduces the novel’s fascinating undercurrent of characters from the spirit world. These ghostly presences may strike the reader as mysterious or frightening, but they provide Lisa with guidance through a difficult coming of age.

In and out of the emergency room as a child, Lisa is a fighter. Her smart mouth and temper constantly threaten to land her in serious trouble. Those who have the most influence on her are her stubbornly traditional, machete-wielding grandmother, and her wild, passionate, political Uncle Mick, who teaches her to make moose calls. When they empty fishing nets together, she pretends she doesn’t feel the jellyfish stinging her young hands – she’s Uncle Mick’s “little warrior.”

We watch Lisa leave her teenage years behind as she waits for news of her younger brother. She reflects on the many rich episodes of their lives – so many of which take place around the water, reminding us of the news she fears, and revealing the menacing power of nature. But Lisa has a special recourse – a “gift” that enables her to see and hear spirits, and ask for their help.

A Mother's Reckoning

A memoir, biography, or book of creative nonfiction

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

Columbine was one of my favourite reads last year. It was a difficult read, but such an eye-opening and important one. My friend Sarah from Glowing Local said I need to add A Mother’s Reckoning to my list and I always, always enjoy the books she recommends.  I am really looking forward to this one!

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.

For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?

These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.

The Break

A book by an author of a different race, ethnicity, or religion than your own

The Break by Katherena Vermette

This award-winning first novel from Métis author, Katherena Vermette has been recommended to me more times than I can count. I am starting with this one tonight!

Synopsis from House of Anansi Press: When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.

In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed.

Have you ever done a reading challenge? What are your reading goals for 2018? I’d love to hear in the comments!

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Happy Weekend + Links I Love

beautiful-fall-day-in-mount-pleasant-cemetary

Happy Sunday, everyone! It’s officially fall, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. We’ve been enjoying hot and sunny weather and I hope it sticks around a bit longer.

The Toronto International Film Festival ended last Sunday and I’m a bit sad. It was a whirlwind 11 days and I managed to attend 3 film screenings. I highly recommend seeing Roman J. Israel, Esq., The Mountain Between Us, and In the Fade when they hit theatres.

I’m catching up on some much-needed sleep this weekend and starting this book. Got any fun plans? If you’re in the mood for some Internet browsing, I’ve got you covered with my favourite links this week…

This Vanity Fair cover story, Meghan Markle, Wild About Harry. “I don’t read any press. The people who are close to me anchor me in knowing who I am. The rest is noise.” Such a class act.

In related news: Prince Harry is in town for the Invictus Games Toronto 2017, an international Paralympic-style sporting event.

TIFF invited actors and filmmakers in town for the fest to sit for portraits in their studio. All portraits were snapped with a Huawei P10 smartphone and they are stunning. See the full gallery.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Mountain Between Us. Kate Winslet x Idris Elba: Actor x Actor. Real talk about the craft of acting, how they worked together on the film, their first impressions of one another, and more.

My friend Alyssa raved about Ear Hustle so I subscribed and I am officially hooked. Last night, I listened to episode 3. Do you listen?

A great piece from the New York Times: From Prison to Ph.D.: The Redemption and Rejection of Michelle Jones.

Meet South Africa’s ‘boxing grannies’. “Many claim that they no longer suffer from the ailments they had before and are stronger than ever.” This is the best thing I’ve seen all week. Inspired me to give boxing a try.

Score, a documentary about movie soundtracks sounds so fascinating. Watch the trailer.

Celeste Ng: By the Book. I loved Everything I Never Told You. And I’ve heard great things about her latest book, Little Fires Everywhere.

I’ve been on the hunt for a backpack and I am loving this one in the prettiest blush shade.

For all you adventure lovers out there, Mel shared this Palm Springs travel guide.

Everyone is talking about Hillary Clinton’s new book. I’m adding it to my fall reading list.

Also, I just ordered Anne’s new book Reading People from my local bookstore.

Summer 2017 Reads

As much as I hate to admit it, the final days of summer are upon us. This summer feels different; I’m juggling work and school and finding time for reading has proved challenging. But I’m making up for lost time this month.

This season’s list includes titles perfect for devouring on long flights, next to the pool, at the beach, or wherever your summer takes you.

Here are the 15 books I’m diving into this season…

Fitness Junkie

Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin—the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin—her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. Sure, Janey has gained some weight since her divorce, and no, her beautifully cut trousers don’t fit like they used to, so Janey throws herself headlong into the world of the fitness revolution, signing up for a shockingly expensive workout pass, baring it all for Free the Nipple yoga, sweating through boot camp classes run by Sri Lankan militants and spinning to the screams of a Lycra-clad instructor with rage issues.

At a juice shop she meets Jacob, a cute young guy who takes her dumpster-diving outside Whole Foods on their first date. At a shaman’s tea ceremony she meets Hugh, a silver fox who holds her hand through an ayahuasca hallucination And at a secret exercise studio Janey meets Sara Strong, the wildly popular workout guru whose special dance routine has starlets and wealthy women flocking to her for results that seem too good to be true.

As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can’t help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place? A hilarious send-up of the health and wellness industry, Fitness Junkie is a glorious romp through the absurd landscape of our weight-obsessed culture.

Love and First Sight

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a charming, quiet girl named Cecily. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty–in fact, everything he’d heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

Told with humor and breathtaking poignancy, Love and First Sight is a story about how we relate to each other and the world around us.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a small town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The rape wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

Around the Way Girl

Around the Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson

Synopsis from Simon & Schuster Canada: With a sensibility that recalls her beloved screen characters, including Katherine, the NASA mathematician, Yvette, Queenie, Shug, and the iconic Cookie from Empire, Taraji P. Henson writes of her family, the one she was born into and the one she created. She shares stories of her father, a Vietnam vet who was bowed but never broken by life’s challenges, and of her mother who survived violence both at home and on DC’s volatile streets. Here, too, she opens up about her experiences as a single mother, a journey some saw as a burden but which she saw as a gift.

Around the Way Girl is also a classic actor’s memoir in which Taraji reflects on the world-class instruction she received at Howard University and how she chipped away, with one small role after another, at Hollywood’s resistance to give women, particularly women of color, meaty significant roles.

Fierce Kingdom

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: After school on a late October day, Joan has taken her four-year-old son, Lincoln, to one of his favourite places on earth: the zoo. Just before closing time, as they need to go home, she hears some loud pops like firecrackers. Not thinking much of it, they head for the exit…until Joan realizes the eerie human emptiness means danger, then sees the figure of a lone gunman. Without another thought, she scoops up her son and runs back into the zoo. And for the next three hours–the entire scope of the novel–she does anything she can to keep Lincoln safe.

Both pulse-pounding and emotionally satisfying, Fierce Kingdom is a thrill ride, but also an exploration of the very nature of motherhood itself, from its saving graces to its savage power. At heart it asks how you draw the line between survival and the duty to protect one another? Who would you die for?

The Alice Network

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

What to Say Next

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David.  Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Spaceman

Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Mike Massimino

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to find yourself strapped to a giant rocket that’s about to go from zero to 17,500 miles per hour?

Or to look back on Earth from outer space and see the surprisingly precise line between day and night? Or to stand in front of the Hubble Space Telescope, wondering if the emergency repair you’re about to make will inadvertently ruin humankind’s chance to unlock the universe’s secrets? Mike Massimino has been there, and in Spaceman he puts you inside the suit, with all the zip and buoyancy of life in microgravity.

Massimino’s childhood space dreams were born the day Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Growing up in a working-class Long Island family, he catapulted himself to Columbia and then MIT, only to flunk his first doctoral exam and be rejected three times by NASA before making it through the final round of astronaut selection.

Taking us through the surreal wonder and beauty of his first spacewalk, the tragedy of losing friends in the Columbia shuttle accident, and the development of his enduring love for the Hubble Telescope—which he and his fellow astronauts were tasked with saving on his final mission—Massimino has written an ode to never giving up and the power of teamwork to make anything possible.

Spaceman invites us into a rare, wonderful world where science meets the most thrilling adventure, revealing just what having “the right stuff” really means.

Not a Sound

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters—her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?

Born a Crime

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

The Identicals

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Identical twin sisters who couldn’t look more alike…or live more differently.

Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She’s inherited her father’s rundown house on Martha’s Vineyard, but she can’t hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking.

Two beautiful islands only eleven miles apart.

Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She’s also inherited her mother’s questionable parenting skills–Tabitha’s teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode–and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion.

One unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.

After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands–and lives–to save what’s left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they’d outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Alyssa Mastromonaco worked for Barack Obama for almost a decade, and long before his run for president. From the then-senator’s early days in Congress to his years in the Oval Office, she made Hope and Change happen through blood, sweat, tears, and lots of briefing binders.

But for every historic occasion-meeting the queen at Buckingham Palace, bursting in on secret climate talks, or nailing a campaign speech in a hailstorm-there were dozens of less-than-perfect moments when it was up to Alyssa to save the day. Like the time she learned the hard way that there aren’t nearly enough bathrooms at the Vatican.

Full of hilarious, never-before-told stories, WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? is an intimate portrait of a president, a book about how to get stuff done, and the story of how one woman challenged, again and again, what a “White House official” is supposed to look like. Here Alyssa shares the strategies that made her successful in politics and beyond, including the importance of confidence, the value of not being a jerk, and why ultimately everything comes down to hard work (and always carrying a spare tampon).

The Shark Club

The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: One summer day on the beach in Florida, two extraordinary things happen to Maeve Donnelly. First, she is kissed by Daniel, the boy of her dreams. Then, she is bitten by a blacktip shark.

Eighteen years later, Maeve has thrown herself into her work as a world-traveling marine biologist discovering more about the minds of misunderstood sharks. But when Maeve returns home to the legendarily charming and eccentric Hotel of the Muses where she was raised by her grandmother, she finds more than just the blood orange sunsets and key lime pies she’s missed waiting for her.

While Maeve has always been fearless in the water, on land she is indecisive. A chance meeting on the beach with a plucky, irresistible little girl who is just as fascinated by the ocean as Maeve was growing up leaves her at a crossroads: Should she re-kindle her romance with Daniel, the first love she left behind when she dove into her work? Or indulge in a new romance with her colleague, Nicholas, who turns up in her hometown to investigate an illegal shark-finning operation?

Set against the intoxicating backdrop of palm trees, calypso bands, and perfect ocean views, The Shark Club is a story of the mysterious passions of one woman’s life: her first love and new love; the sea and sharks that inhabit it.

the perfect girl.png

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Zoe Maisey is a seventeen-year-old musical prodigy with a genius IQ. Three years ago, she was involved in a tragic incident that left three classmates dead. She served her time, and now her mother, Maria, is resolved to keep that devastating fact tucked far away from their new beginning, hiding the past even from her new husband and demanding Zoe do the same.

Tonight Zoe is giving a recital that Maria has been planning for months. It needs to be the performance of her life. But instead, by the end of the evening, Maria is dead.

In the aftermath, everyone—police, family, Zoe’s former solicitor, and Zoe herself—tries to piece together what happened. But as Zoe knows all too well, the truth is rarely straightforward, and the closer we are to someone, the less we may see.

The Things We Wish Were True

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house.

Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts—until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors’ intertwined lives begins to unravel.

During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it’s impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?

What’s the best book you’ve read so far this summer? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

 

waterfront-views

Happy Sunday, everyone. The end of summer is fast approaching and I’m trying to make the most of it by getting outdoors as much as possible. How are you spending these final days of summer?

If you’re in the mood for some internet browsing, here’s a roundup of the links I’m loving lately…

This week, I spent more time than I would like to admit googling the upcoming solar eclipse. Fun fact: I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up! This feature is pretty cool: a team of NASA-funded scientists will be chasing the moon’s shadow in two WB-57F research jets.

Also, this Atlantic article is absolutely fascinating: How blind astronomers will observe the solar eclipse. “Diaz Merced, an astrophysicist, is blind, with just 3 percent of peripheral vision in her right eye, and none in her left. She has been working with a team at Harvard University to develop a program that will convert sunlight into sound, allowing her to hear the solar eclipse.”

The Toronto International Film Festival is less than 3 weeks away and the final batch of films was announced this week! Here’s the updated list of films premiering at this year’s fest.

From Gala Presentations to TIFF Docs to Contemporary World Cinema, here’s every single trailer released so far.

I finally watched Concussion a few weeks ago. I can’t stop thinking about it and Will Smith gave a mind-blowing performance. Have you seen it?

In related news: This interactive piece from the NY Times. 111 N.F.L. Brains, All but one had C.T.E. Timely, informative and really well done.

Garance shared this moving and empowering personal essay, Late Bloomer. “My story has helped me to understand the enormous amount of pressure that is put on women to be mothers, a pressure that I had completely internalized and that I question today.”

5 interview questions that will help you hire better people. These are soooo good!

Trapezing is up there on my list of things I must try. This incredible post (and the accompanying photos) gave me the push to finally make it happen! The day my kids flew.

For the past month, I’ve been getting terrible headaches and muscle pain. This post on why we need magnesium couldn’t have come at a better time.

Joanna recently gave us a tour of her family’s Brooklyn apartment. Such a beautiful, warm and inviting space. Just look at all that natural light!

I’ve been a pretty big fan of grilled cheese since childhood so I’m excited to try this grown-up version: loaded caprese grilled cheese.

Claire shared the recipe for her version of Rhum Corner’s The Jungle Bird cocktail! It looks like the perfect summery drink.

Summer reading update:

A few weeks ago, I picked up Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips and raced through it in two days. A mother and son spend an afternoon at the zoo. As closing time approaches, they hurry to the zoo’s exit. But the mother witnesses something shocking and what she sees has her running for her life and doing everything in her power to protect her son. Beautifully written and well executed.

Earlier this week, I finished E.K. Johnston’s YA novel, Exit, Pursued by a Bear. It’s an engaging and devastating, yet empowering and hopeful story about the captain of a high school cheerleading team who is raped at summer camp. Johnston focuses on how she deals with the aftermath and fights to regain control of her life with the support of family, friends and therapy. Beautifully written, thought provoking, and necessary.

I also just finished Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. I’ve been dying for the release of this one and I’m happy to report it doesn’t disappoint. Laugh-out-loud funny and relatable.

Happy {Easter} Weekend + Links I Love

Sherwood Forest trail

Happy Easter weekend, everyone! Got any fun plans? I’m heading out of town to spend  the long weekend with family.

I hope you have a good one! As always, I’ve rounded up my favourite links from the week for you to check out…

+ How to write TV in the age of Trump. The showrunners of ‘House of Cards’, ‘Veep’, ‘Scandal’ and ‘Madam Secretary’ tell all.

+ Who’s your celebrity crush? I burst out laughing at Joanna’s running commentary and “Looking at photos of him is like looking at the sun” would make a great t-shirt slogan! Also, I loved loved loved the comments.

+ This Cadbury mini eggs skillet cookie looks amazing (and potentially dangerous!) I see myself eating this in one sitting.

+ I love getting a behind the scenes look at just about anything really. Megan shared her creative process for a spring gathering shoot she worked on for Midwest Living.

+ This Everygirl article broke my heart. (Grab the Kleenex.) “Since his death, I have celebrated life each day. I hug each person I love when I say goodbye, as he would have done. I treat strangers with extra kindness, knowing that at some moment we will all experience loss and will have to continue to be out in the world unsure of what’s ahead.”

+ Good news for all US readers: Jetblue is offering anyone who owes taxes the chance to win a free flight!

+ Going under the knife, with eyes and ears wide open. After two surgeries and slight complications with general anesthesia on both occasions, I would still prefer to be asleep while being sliced open. How about you guys?

+ The 2017 Pulitzer Prizes were handed out earlier this week. Here’s the complete list of this year’s winners.

+ Such a great interview with Audrey Gelman, co-founder and CEO of The Wing, a New York-based co-working space for women. “I think courage is going to those hard places when you really don’t want to.”

+ When darkness seems to hide His face. This vulnerable post made me cry.

+ This essay: Why I gave up my glossy magazine job to be a butcher.

(Photo from Sherwood Forest last spring.)

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

Beltline last spring

Happy April, everyone! How are you spending the weekend? I’m hoping to get some spring cleaning done. (Wish me luck!) In case you missed it, I shared my spring 2017 reading list yesterday.

I hope you have a relaxing one! If you’re in the mood for some Internet browsing, I’ve got you covered with my favourite links…

+ Flaws and all. I really appreciated this real and beautiful post.

+ Cup of Jo featured this cool book-filled loft in Toronto!

+ Flour 101. This guide makes my inner nerd very, very happy!

+ I’ve always had a thing for parfaits and I’m dying over this cute cereal version.

+ This New York Times Magazine video by Lynsey Addario, A Long Separation had me in tears. The accompanying article is worth reading as well.

+ The NBA’s secret addiction. So surprising and adorable.

+ Anne shared her favourite podcasts (15 of them!) I’ll be adding Off Camera and Smartest Person in the Room to my rotation for sure!

+ I am loving Man Repeller’s podcast, The Call and this week’s episode is well worth the listen: Wendy Carillo on what it’s like to run for Congress.

+ Beauty foods 101. McKel shares the top 10 beauty foods to add to your diet and advice on how to boost your beauty!

+ Do’s and don’ts of adding personality to your resume. Loved this.

+ How gorgeous is this strawberry malted milkshake Easter cake?!

+ Weekend reading: I started Behind Her Eyes last night and I am hooked. Have you read it?

(Photo snapped by Kay Gardiner Beltline last spring.)

Spring 2017 Reads

It’s a wet spring day here in Toronto and I’m counting down the days until it’s nice and sunny enough to read outdoors. This season’s list includes a handful of debut novels, big spring releases I’ve been dying to get my hands on, and a couple of juicy memoirs.

Here are the 15 books I can’t wait to dive into this season…

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Last weekend, I picked up Angie Thomas’s debut novel; I read it in 24 hours. This is a story that desperately needed to be told and Thomas tells it with such honesty, intelligence, courage, clarity, passion, and wit. If I had to pick one word to describe this book, that word would be “alive”. While reading, all I could think was: “this feels so real.”

Starr’s voice couldn’t be more authentic and the dialogue leaps right off the page. I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking while reading certain parts. I cried, I laughed, I felt sick to my stomach, but I mostly, I felt angry.

Fiction does what news media can’t. It takes us inside the hearts and minds of characters and invites us to walk in their shoes for a couple hundred pages or so. This book goes a step further: breaking our hearts for what matters, teaching empathy and tolerance, and inspiring us to fight with our most valuable weapon—our voice.

This should be required reading for everyone. I won’t soon forget it.

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

What She Knew by Gilly MAcmillan

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.

Where is Ben? The clock is ticking. . . .

so-much-love

So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: When Catherine Reindeer vanishes from the parking lot outside the restaurant where she works, an entire community is shattered. Moving back and forth from her outer circle of acquaintances to her closest intimates, So Much Love reveals how an unexpected disappearance can overturn the lives of those left behind: Catherine’s fellow waitress now sees danger all around her. Her mother seeks comfort in saying her name over and over again. Her professor finds himself thinking of her constantly. Her husband refuses to give up hope that she will one day return. But at the heart of the novel is Catherine’s own surprising story of resilience and recovery. When, after months of captivity, a final devastating loss forces her to make a bold decision, she is unprepared for everything that follows.

A riveting novel that deftly examines the complexity of love and the power of stories to shape our lives, So Much Love confirms Rebecca Rosenblum’s reputation as one of the most gifted and distinctive writers of her generation.

Juliet's Answer

Juliet’s Answer by Glenn Dixon

Synopsis from Simon & Schuster Canada: When Glenn Dixon is spurned by love, he does something unusual. He travels to Verona, Italy, to become a scribe of Juliet, Shakespeare’s fictional character, all in an attempt to understand his heartbreak. Once there, he volunteers to answer the thousands of letters that arrive addressed to Juliet, letters sent from lovelorn people all over the world who long to understand the mysteries of the human heart.

Glenn’s journey takes him deep into the charming community of Verona, where he learns the traditions of the townspeople and becomes involved in unravelling the truth behind Romeo and Juliet—Did these star-crossed lovers actually exist? Did they live in Verona? Why have they remained at the forefront of hearts and minds for centuries? And what can they teach us about love? At the same time, we learn about Claire, Glenn’s unrequited love, the source of his heartbreak. Was she truly his soul’s match, or was she, like Rosalind in Shakespeare’s classic play, a mere infatuation who pales in comparison the moment his real Juliet enters his life?

When Glenn returns home to Canada and resumes his duties as a Grade 10 English teacher, he undertakes a lively reading of Romeo and Juliet with his students, engaging them in passions past and present. But in an intriguing reversal of fate and fortune, his students—along with an old friend—instruct the teacher on the true meaning of love, loss, and moving on.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son, and to start at a new school where she knows no one.

Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

the-new-jim-crow

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as “brave and bold,” this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a “call to action.”

Called “stunning” by Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Levering Lewis, “invaluable” by the Daily Kos, “explosive” by Kirkus, and “profoundly necessary” by the Miami Herald, this updated and revised paperback edition of The New Jim Crow, now with a foreword by Cornel West, is a must-read for all people of conscience.

after-the-bloom

After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara

Synopsis from Dundurn Press: A daughter’s search for her mother reveals her family’s past in a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War.

Lily Takemitsu goes missing from her home in Toronto one luminous summer morning in the mid-1980s. Her daughter, Rita, knows her mother has a history of dissociation and memory problems, which have led her to wander off before. But never has she stayed away so long. Unconvinced the police are taking the case seriously, Rita begins to carry out her own investigation. In the course of searching for her mom, she is forced to confront a labyrinth of secrets surrounding the family’s internment at a camp in the California desert during the Second World War, their postwar immigration to Toronto, and the father she has never known.

Epic in scope, intimate in style, After the Bloom blurs between the present and the ever-present past, beautifully depicting one family’s struggle to face the darker side of its history and find some form of redemption.

Behind Her Eyes

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Synopsis from Macmillan Publishers: Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before.

David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong—and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Word by Word by Kory Stamper

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Many of us take dictionaries for granted, and few may realize that the process of writing dictionaries is, in fact, as lively and dynamic as language itself. With sharp wit and irreverence, Kory Stamper cracks open the complex, obsessive world of lexicography, from the agonizing decisions about what to define and how to do it, to the knotty questions of usage in an ever-changing language. She explains why small words are the most difficult to define, how it can take nine months to define a single word, and how our biases about language and pronunciation can have tremendous social influence. And along the way, she reveals little-known surprises—for example, the fact that “OMG” was first used in a letter to Winston Churchill in 1917.

Word by Word brings to life the hallowed halls (and highly idiosyncratic cubicles) of Merriam-Webster, a startlingly rich world inhabited by quirky and erudite individuals who quietly shape the way we communicate. Certain to be a delight for all lovers of words, Stamper’s debut will make you laugh as much as it makes you appreciate the wonderful complexities and eccentricities of the English language.

the-door

The Door by Magda Szabó, translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: The Door is an unsettling exploration of the relationship between two very different women. Magda is a writer, educated, married to an academic, public-spirited, with an on-again-off-again relationship to Hungary’s Communist authorities. Emerence is a peasant, illiterate, impassive, abrupt, seemingly ageless. She lives alone in a house that no one else may enter, not even her closest relatives. She is Magda’s housekeeper and she has taken control over Magda’s household, becoming indispensable to her. And Emerence, in her way, has come to depend on Magda. They share a kind of love—at least until Magda’s long-sought success as a writer leads to a devastating revelation.

The Year of Living Danishly

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Denmark is officially the happiest nation on Earth. When Helen Russell is forced to move to rural Jutland, can she discover the secrets of their happiness? Or will the long, dark winters and pickled herring take their toll?

A Year of Living Danishly looks at where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.

A Life in Parts

A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston

Synopsis from Simon & Schuster Canada: Bryan Cranston landed his first role at seven, when his father cast him in a United Way commercial. Acting was clearly the boy’s destiny, until one day his father disappeared. Destiny suddenly took a backseat to survival.

Now, in his riveting memoir, Cranston maps his zigzag journey from abandoned son to beloved star by recalling the many odd parts he’s played in real life—paperboy, farmhand, security guard, dating consultant, murder suspect, dock loader, lover, husband, father. Cranston also chronicles his evolution on camera, from soap opera player trying to master the rules of show business to legendary character actor turning in classic performances as Seinfeld dentist Tim Whatley, “a sadist with newer magazines,” and Malcolm in the Middle dad Hal Wilkerson, a lovable bumbler in tighty-whities. He also gives an inspiring account of how he prepared, physically and mentally, for the challenging role of President Lyndon Johnson, a tour de force that won him a Tony to go along with his four Emmys.

Of course, Cranston dives deep into the grittiest details of his greatest role, explaining how he searched inward for the personal darkness that would help him create one of the most memorable performances ever captured on screen: Walter White, chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin.

Discussing his life as few men do, describing his art as few actors can, Cranston has much to say about creativity, devotion, and craft, as well as innate talent and its challenges and benefits and proper maintenance. But ultimately A Life in Parts is a story about the joy, the necessity, and the transformative power of simple hard work.

What are you most looking forward to reading this spring? I’d love to hear!

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

Kay Gardner Beltline

Happy Sunday, everyone. I hope you’re enjoying the weekend. I am putting together my spring reading list and I’ll be sharing it with you all on Tuesday!

If you’re looking for some weekend reading, I’ve got you covered with my favourite links…

+ Last night, I started The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I am already 100 pages in. This is a story that desperately needed to be told. It’s tearing me apart. I can’t stop my hands from shaking while reading certain parts. All I can think is “this feels so real.” And that’s because it is real; it’s happening every single day. Here’s a great interview she did with Atlanta magazine. I am ecstatic it’s being adapted into a movie!

+ LOVED this essay. The Personal is Political.

+ Emma Roberts has an online book club, Belletrist. I really enjoyed her exclusive interview with Joan Didion about her new book South and West.

+ Will’s incredible profile in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times is so well-deserved!

+ A fascinating long read: ‘London Bridge is down’: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death. I haven’t read this piece in its entirety, but I will soon.

+ How to Get What You Want (it’s a lot easier than you think). I can definitely relate to  number 3.

+ The Super Bowl Champ, and the Dying Author Who Changed His Life. “Your book ‘Exclamation Mark’ … changed my outlook on life. It taught me that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from—there is a place in this world for you. You just have to stay strong and keep moving forward.”

+ This cake is just so beautiful.

+ I’m dying to make this matcha ginger affogato. So gorgeous!

+ Have you heard of Code Switch? It’s an NPR podcast by journalists of colour that launched last year May. Gosh, I’m late.

(Photo snapped by Kay Gardner Beltline last spring.)

Spring Jackets

Today is the perfect spring day. The sun is shining, the sky is the most brilliant shade of blue, and there is a bit of a chill in the air. But the weather can be a bit unpredictable this time of year, so I won’t be packing away my snow boots and winter coat just yet.

In the meantime,  I’ve been hunting down jackets and coats to get me through the winter to spring transition. Here are 10 jackets I’ve got my eye on this season…

ASOS Skater Mac

ASOS Skater Mac

Free People Open Dolman Jacket

Free People Open Dolman Jacket

cupcakes and cashmere Abria Drape Front Jacket

cupcakes and cashmere Abria Drape Front Jacket

Madewell Fleet Jacket

Madewell Fleet Jacket

Mango Crop Biker Jacket

Mango Crop Biker Jacket

Lovers and Friends Morning View Coat

Lovers + Friends Morning View Coat

Mango Waterfall Jacket

Mango Waterfall Jacket

Jack by BB Dakota Marilou Suede Moto Jacket

Jack by BB Dakota Marilou Faux Suede Moto Jacket

Mango Adjustable cord parka

Mango Adjustable Cord Parka

Jack by BB Dakota Cayenne Jacket

Jack by BB Dakota Cayenne Jacket

Which one is your favourite?

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

Canoes

Happy Saturday, everyone! I hope you’re having a beautiful weekend so far. Got any fun plans? I’m catching up with the girls over Sunday brunch and I can’t wait.

If you’re in the mood for some weekend reading, I’ve got you covered with my favourite links this week…

+ Watch: how to run away and join the circus. Talk about taking the leap!

+ Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the author of the popular Modern Love essay, “You May Want to Marry My Husband” died of ovarian cancer earlier this week. Reese Witherspoon shared a touching post on Instagram, complete with illustrations by the children’s book author.

+ This vanilla latte coffee scrub sounds amazing.

+ Man Repeller launched its new podcast The Call this week and it is so good. I am really looking forward to future episodes. You can listen to episode one here.

+ Loved this powerful and beautifully-written essay that Meghan wrote for Time Magazine: Periods, Potential, and the Path to Education.

+ Have you heard about the fashion search engine TAGWALK? A former assistant quit her job to create it! Here’s her story. “Van Houtte’s startup is designed to help the fashion industry track down looks with as much specificity as possible, from runway shows in Paris, Milan, London, and New York that occur twice a year. It’s like Google, but in Anna Wintour-speak.”

+ Diane von Furstenberg shares some of her greatest design inspirations in this short video.

+ What life as a human rights lawyer is really like. “We need those who will work to amend, change, or even break laws if need be, all in the service of protecting our fundamental right to a life of equality, freedom, and dignity. Being a human rights lawyer is one such way.”

+ Photographer captures ballerinas in this stunning underwater photo series.

+ I’ve been snacking on protein balls lately. These pistachio matcha snack balls and these salted caramel protein balls sound so delish!

+ Whipping up this creamy raspberry protein smoothie this weekend.

(Photo snapped by the Toronto Waterfront last spring.)