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Book Review: Ginny Moon

I’d heard this book recommend to those who liked The Rosie Project, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the execution of that novel, I did like the premise. Ginny Moon is about a 14-year-old autistic girl who can’t seem to find her place in the world. 
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The narration of this novel really caught my attention. It was both captivating and frustrating, and really exuded the way Ginny perceived the world and her surroundings. Whether it’s her trying to quantify who she is (“I am not Ginny. I am (-Ginny)),” remember and articulate new words she’s learned, or trying to make sense of her life before the foster care system, Ludwig did a fantastic job of expressing Ginny’s thoughts and allowing the reader to enter her often discombobulated mind. 

While reading from Ginny’s perspective was frustrating, it was even more troublesome to hear about her parents and family’s perspectives on the matter. Ginny wasn't aware of her own quirks, didn't understand when someone was frustrated and wasn't always able to articulate herself when she’s stressed or scared, often times leading to fights with those around her. Imagine having a son or daughter who never appears to be grateful for what they have, not because they aren’t but because they don’t know how to convey those feelings? Imagine them complaining when you are trying your best to make them feel comfortable, loved and respected? As difficult as it is to be autistic, I cannot even imagine the emotional and physical challenges that being a parent to an autistic child would be. Those frustrations were explained in the book and were both devastating and authentic. Ludwig is the parent of an autistic child, so the owned-voice narration of the parents is particularly appealing. 

“Do you have any idea how much bullshit we go through for you Do you have any idea how high my blood pressure is? Your mother won’t come out of the bedroom and I’m missing a ton of time at work. This isn’t routine, Ginny. This is pretty much unbearable. I’m trying to be as gracious and generous as I can, but I don’t know how much longer we can keep it up.” 

While the novel was told from Ginny’s perspective, that also made it a challenging read at times. Her thought process could be all over the place, her perception of the world could be distorted and there were times I would find myself rereading passages to try and make sense of the story. It’s a fine line between conveying the struggles Ginny faces while making a coherent story, and at times I found this book tread too close to the line. 

That being said, I think that this was an amazing book. I found myself laughing out loud and crying in my bed, but think that it’s a worthwhile read for anyone who is interested in literary fiction. 

xoxo K

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: Review

*note this review may contain spoilers 

Beginning in London, England, 1946, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a heartbreaking story of love, loss and courage in the face of extreme duress. Juliet Ashton, a British columnist and author, struggles to rebuild her life after the war. Having lost her home, family and possessions, she must build a new life for herself. After receiving a letter from a resident of Guernsey, she begins corresponding with members of the community and starts to understand the hardships they faced during the Nazi occupied years. 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an epistolary novel, which can be both engaging and vexing; that is to say, they are not perfect. They often include passages and details in the letters that would not otherwise be written during correspondence and are instead only included to allow the reader to understand the entirety of the story. I found that the letters between Juliet and the residents of Guernsey gave the book a personal touch and allowed the reader an inside glance at the lives of the residents, and how they managed to deal with such gruelling conditions. 

“’Life goes on.’ What nonsense, I thought, of course it doesn’t. It’s death that goes on. Ian is dead now and will be dead tomorrow and the next year and for ever. There’s no end to that. But perhaps there will be an end to the sorrow of it. Sorrow has rushed over the world like the waters of the Deluge, and it will take time to recede.”

I’ve heard a lot of people call this book a charming, funny and sweet novel, but to describe it as such deters from the depth the novel has to offer. In the same way people often refer to chic-lit novels as easy reads, they can contain empowering and harrowing messages below the surface, and to skim this book you can easily miss it. Not only is Juliet forced to deal with her own grief and tragedies during the war, but she seemingly absorbs those of the residents of Guernsey—reliving their fears, heartaches, and hells. I cannot even begin to image the metal strength of those who actually lived in Guernsey would have needed to make it through a day, knowing their children were sent away, the enemy was right at their door, and they scarcely had enough food to make it through the week. The letters between the residents and Juliet show the profound injustices during wartime, and though there were funny passages, they could also take your breath away. 

“I was alive at the end of it. Thats what I told myself—Well, you’re still alive. I think of all of us said the same each morning when we woke up—Well, I’m still alive. But the rush is, we weren’t. What we were – it wasn’t dead, but it wasn’t alive either. I was a living soul only a few minutes a day.” 

What I found interesting about this novel was how they portrayed a lot of the Nazi soldiers who were occupying Guernsey. How often is it that you read about the occupied feeling sorry for their captures? It goes to show the strength and compassion of citizens during the war—the realizations they faced that there were no winners at a time like this; everyone was a loser, whether it was their family, their land, their sanity. Five years of torture for all that were involved was enough to make anyone either insane or saintly. Shaffer and Barrows did an amazing job at illustrating these events, creating very real scenarios of love and loss. 

“’To tell the truth,’ Sam said, ‘as long as the Occupation was to last, I met more than once nice German soldier. You would, you know, seeing some of them as much as every day for five years. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for some of them –stuck here knowing their families at home were being bombed to pieces. Didn’t matter then who started it in the first place. Not to me, anyway.’" 

While this novel was filled with harrowing stories, I was very happy with the ending. After reading about the hardships and tragedies those in Guernsey endured, it’s nice to know that happy endings were still possible, at least for some. Is it an ideal ending? Definitely not, but is there even such a thing? Why did the others not race to adopt Kit instead of letting an outsider in? Sometimes, I think, you need to trust that others can do a better job and trust in their love. While Juliet wasn’t ideal in these regards, she did display tremendous love for Kit and her mother, a woman she never met and was prepared to dedicate years of her life to tell her harrowing story. 

Overall, I would highly recommend this novel if you are a fan of historical fiction. 

xoxo K

Living Colourfully. The Lessons I Learned from Kate Spade

I was devastated when I heard the news about Kate Spade's passing yesterday. I was in disbelief for most of the afternoon. After work, as I was scrolling through Twitter and reading articles on her life and career, I found myself getting very emotional. I had never considered how much she had impacted my life until she was gone. 

Kate spade, what Kate spade meant to me,

Like many girls (and boys) my age, my first designer handbag was from Kate Spade. I was working at a garden centre, making minimum wage when I got an email for one of their coveted surprise sales. I wanted something simple and timeless, and after much deliberation with my mom, I opted for a tan satchel purse as a present to myself for landing my first ever job. I used it on a daily basis for years, and still have it to this day. 

Years later, I started a corporate job on a social media team. I was terrified of starting a new job, my first full-time position. I had just finished school and had no idea what to expect in a corporate environment. I opted for a Kate Spade dress on my first day. I wanted to feel confident and empowered while still looking professional. It’s the dress I’m wearing in the picture on my security pass and it’s a subtle reminder every day that you can be a #bosslady while wearing a bow. 

Kate Spade was founded in 1993 in Kate's Tribeca apartment, the year I was born. She cashed in her 401K to make her dreams of owning a handbag company come true, and steadily advanced it into a multi-million dollar business. 

In this vein, I felt like I grew up with the brand and with Kate. As the assortment grew and new retail stores opened,  I too undertook new endeavours in my life. I started junior high, learned new skills and made new friends. There were awkward stages and growing pains, but also learning experiences and opportunities I’d never experienced before. The company was sold in 2007, the year I started high school, but it was like Kate and I were undertaking these changes together. Life was uncertain, but the possibilities were endless. 

Kate spade

To me, Kate Spade represented so much more than a pretty designer brand. Kate Spade, the woman, was an inspiration to me and many other people my age. She embodied the notion that you can be a feminist while still being feminine. That you could wear pink polka dots to a meeting and still be taken seriously. That bringing your work home was less daunting in a floral bag. She inspired a generation to pursue their dreams in the most colourful fashion. 

I hated pink when I was a teenager. I thought it was too girly, too childish. But Kate elevated it to a sophisticated shade, something to be coveted, not mocked. Despite having been removed from the company for 11 years, Kate still represented the colourful aesthetic that I abide by: live colourfully. 

Kate Spade was an innovator, entrepreneur, and inspiration to so many. It’s heartbreaking to think that she shaped my life in such a positive way, yet she was trapped in her own darkened corner. Kate exemplified everything I wanted to be as an adult, and the lessons I’ve learned will remain with me for years to come. 

May she finally find her colourful lining and may she rest in peace. 

xoxo K

Recently Read: March

After a very slow reading month in February (I only read one book!), I finally found my groove again and got through 6 books in March, and I attribute a lot of the de-slumpness to Ruth Ware, as I read two of her novels and wanted to devour so many more.

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recently read, what I'm reading, books I've read, books, reviews, the woman in cabin 10, the death of mrs. westaway, ruth ware, birdbox, josh malerman, the room on rue ameile, Mata Hari

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The Woman in Cabin 10: 4/5
I've quickly become a huge fan of Ruth Ware, and have read all of her books now (considering her latest comes out in May and I've already read it--reviewed below--I'll probably be waiting quite a while for her next one). Her writing style is reminiscent of Agatha Christie, but with modern twists, and they're some of the most engaging stories in the thriller genre, in my opinion.

The Woman in Cabin 10 was reminiscent to In A Dark Dark Wood, insofar as it's a closed circuit crime scene, so if you liked that novel, then I think you'll really enjoy this. It begins with a group of eccentric characters boarding the maiden voyage of a luxury cruise ship, whilst being introduced one by one a la Agatha Christie style. A crime seemingly takes place on the first night of the cruise, but no one on the ship believes what Lo saw, and attributes her claim to the excessive amount of alcohol she consumed. Throughout the course of the novel, Lo attempts to prove what she saw and alienates herself from other passengers.

While I love Ware's writing, I think you do need to suspend disbelief when going into her novels. There are twists and turns galore, and a very large one near the end of the book that was a bit farfetched. There was also quite a few red herrings in the book that was very annoying and didn't necessarily add to the value of the novel.

I think Ware's books are great escapists though. Although the storylines are repetitive, I love how quick they are to read, and I find the implausible storylines are just what I'm looking for when I need to get out of a slump.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway: 4/5
I won't go on about my love of Ruth Ware again, but I will say this book was one of the most far-fetched and somehow most enjoyable. It starts with Hal Westaway, fending for herself as a Tarot card reader after her mother's sudden death three years earlier. After falling behind on rent and bills, she turns to a loan shark for help, but despite having paid him back three-fold, he is still looking for more money when an unexpected letter arrives saying the grandmother she never met has passed away and bequeathed her money. While Hal know's that she isn't her biological granddaughter after doing some quick research into her mother's records, she attempts to con the family out of enough money to pay off her debt.

As the novel progresses and Hal meets her unknown family while spending time at the Westwood Estate, Trespassen, she discovers things about her mother that she never knew, and uncovers the lengths that families will go to protect each other.

While I recognize that the loan shark element of the story was necessary to explain Hal's actions, I felt like it wasn't well written. After arriving at Trespassen, that part of the storyline essentially died out and was never resolved. I also found the writing to be very repetitive (you could take a shot every time Ware wrote "suddenly" and be drunk a few chapters in). The family dynamic and family tree were also very far fetched. Yet, despite all these glaring problems, I really enjoyed this book. It's a very quick read and I didn't actually see the ending coming (although there were multiple twists). I also appreciated that it wasn't just another alcoholic unrelatable narrator, yet a strong-willed female who was trying her best to make a life on her own.

Bird Box: 4/5
Wow, just wow. I've heard so many BookTubers rave about this book, and it's been sitting on my shelf for a while before I finally gave it a go. I'll start by saying that I don't read a lot of science fiction, so this apocalyptic style book took me for a bit of a ride. News travels fast around the world as people begin killing themselves and others after seeing "something" outside. People begin to lock themselves in houses, covering all blinds and doors and must learn to adapt to this new world where seeing could kill you.

While I love the premise of this book, I thought there were a few things that were tied up too neatly for my liking, and some elements of the story were just too convenient. For example, what are the odds that both Malorie and Olympia would enter the safe house pregnant and be due around the same time? What are the odds that Malorie and some of the others could have found their way to the house and to grocery stores and other places while blindfolded? Unless you knew the area like the back of your hand, which admittedly Malorie didn't, then it would be a near-impossible feat. Especially when they tried driving there. The housemates did attempt to calculate steps and distances based on a map they had, but I wonder how accurate that actually would have been.

There were also a series of events near the end of the book that I won't mention for spoiler reasons that seemed to tie everything up too quickly for my liking. It left me feeling unsatisfied and even more confused than I was with the rest of the book.

All those negatives aside, I really did enjoy the book, and it's one that has stayed with me long after reading it. I've been telling friends and family all about it and questioning how I would react in a similar situation. Would I turn violent like some of the people? Would I be able to adapt to the new world? Or would I have just decided I didn't want to live in a world where you had to stay hidden and blindfolded at almost all costs? I think the sign of a good book is when you start questioning your own role in it, and this book did not disappoint in that regard.

The Less you Know, the Sounder you Sleep: 5/5
I have so many thoughts on this book that I'm going to share in a stand-alone post, coming soon!

The Room on Rue Amelie: 3.5/5
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. As you can probably tell from previous reading roundups, I'm a huge fan of historical fiction but I felt like this book was a bit too repetitive for my liking. It tells the story of an American woman, British RAF pilot and a young Jewish teenager whose lives intersect in German-occupied Paris during World War II.

I really enjoyed following each of the three main characters storylines. I think they were three unique perspectives, and the interconnection between them and the sacrifices they made during were remarkable. I love how the novel showed the effect war had on people of different ages and ethnicities as well, and particularly loved the strength of Charlotte, the 11-year-old Jewish neighbour to Ruby and the bond they developed. The story of what her family went through and the disbelief her community felt were some of the most heartbreaking scenes in the novel.

And while I did absolutely love the first half to two-thirds of the novel, I found it got very repetitive towards the end. The same events happened multiple times, whether to different or the same characters, and it felt like it cheapened the novel a bit. And for these reasons, I felt like it dragged on too much. It could have told an equally compelling story by taking out a hundred or so pages and keeping it quicker paced and more engaging. I also found the romance to be a bit too much in this book, where every character needed to find a romantic partner to help them through the horrors of the war, whereas I would have liked to see the focus remain on friendship for some of the characters.

Mata Hari's Last Dance: 2/5
I feel bad giving this book such a negative review, especially as someone loaned it to me, but if you don't like it, then you don't like it, right? Mata Hari is sold as a captivating novel about the infamous exotic dancer, and possible spy Mata Hari. The description talks about her sitting in a cell in 1917 in Paris, after being charged with treason leading to the death of thousands of French soldiers.

However, and this is a big however, there was next to nothing about her being a spy in the novel. I think the first reference was about 180 so pages in. It primarily focused on her role as an exotic dancer, the men she slept with and the woman she wooed to work her way up the social ladder. She always seemed too willing to create this new life for her self and would do almost anything to get what she wanted, including leaving her children behind. Ultimately, I found she came across as desperate. The flashback scenes to her abusive husband did provide some sympathetic moments and explained, to a degree, her eagerness and urgers to begin a new life. I found this novel to be like a historical fiction version of Pretty Woman, where there were certain rich suitors who wanted to help this poor, beautiful woman and bring her from rags to riches through her provocative dancing.

I think had the description of the novel been different, and it not been sold as her being a spy, then I would have enjoyed it more. But I went into it expecting a brave heroine like in The Alice Network and was left with a woman who spent more time on her back than fighting for her country.

What have you been reading lately? I'm just about to start Three Things About Elsie after hearing Simon from SavidgeReads rave about it.

xoxo K