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Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Hi everyone! I had a horrible reading month in February (this was the only book I read!) so I thought I would do a dedicated review for it. It was an excellent book. Keep reading to hear my thoughts! 


Told in alternating perspectives, Tangerine tells the story of newly-wed Alice Shipley as she navigates the formidable and uncharted landscape of Tangier in 1956 while confronting her difficult past.

The bustle of the markets, the sweltering heat and culture shock leave Alice feeling isolated in Tangier, Morocco, a far cry from her hometown of London, England. But when former college roommate Lucy Mason makes a surprise appearance in Tangier, after years of separation, Alice’s confusion and reluctance to accept her former best friend proves to exasperate her anxieties over her new life and dark past. While struggling to come to terms with her husband’s love affair with not only the city, and with Lucy’s unexplained presence, Alice paranoia grows stronger as the country strives for independence.

One could be alone but entirely dependent, like Alice. She was alone at Bennington, and she was alone here. . . I was another species although.

I really enjoyed this book, but because of a crazy work schedule and the Olympics, I read it over the course of a month. Had I read it in a few sittings, I think I would have picked up on some of the more minute and eerie details (some of which I’m gathering now going through my notes) and enjoyed it all the more.

There are numerous overlaps in the story, showing both Alice’s and Lucy’s accounts of different situations. Their interpretations of the events and feelings towards one another are often at odds, whether it was how they first met, the incident about the bracelet or their perceived friendship in Morocco. These overlaps add an element of intrigue, as it’s difficult to gauge who has a more accurate account of the situation. The perspectives each seem believable until reading from the other when you begin to question the validity of the previous statements while trying to reconcile the two accounts.
The differences in personality also make for unique dialogue. Alice is riddled with self-doubt and is constantly questioning her own sanity, wondering if it is Lucy and those around her trying to fool her or if it is her own mind playing tricks. Lucy, on the other hand, is courageous, outspoken and adventurous, yet she has an unhealthy relationship with the things and people in her life.  The story shows Alice’s fixation on the accident in her final year and Bennington, her internal struggles between trusting Lucy and questioning her manipulative personality.

My studies began to suffer, but I didn’t mind. Tom was my major now—and my life, my happiness, depended on knowing everything about him.

One of the things that drew me to this book was the writing style. It felt like you were sitting in a bar, listening to the story from this engaging femme noir, cigarette in hand in a smoke-filled, dimly lit room. It felt like the way Truman Capote intended Breakfast at Tiffany’s to be read, from the perspective of another, intimately involved character recalling the story.  

The language was also very meaningful, playing on the relationship between both Alice and Lucy and Tangier and the tangerines. Mangan shows what it’s like to live in this romantic, exotic setting while feeling like a stranger, and how the setting parallels Alice’s feeling towards other elements in her life.

We are talking about the oppressor and the oppressed, aren’t we? What topic could be more sensitive than that?

While the story was captivating and engaging, it was the ending that really stood out to me. While I won’t risk spoiling it, it was not what I had envisioned, and I was pleasantly surprised with how the story played out. I think those of you who love slow burning mysteries and/or historical fiction would love this book, but I would still recommend it to almost anyone.

Recently Read: January

This year is already flying by! But after my dismal November reading, I was afraid to fall back into a slump once I got settled into my routine again. But I was happily surprised with what I was able to read in the month of January. Keep reading to hear my thoughts on these books! 

Autumn: 3.5/5
Focusing on the divisiveness in the UK during Brexit, Autumn focuses on how the events of the last few years have impacted multi-generations. It questions who we are, what we want out of life and how our actions shape history. 

I was talking to the author of The Woman In The Window (which I reviewed last month) at an event with Harper Collins a few days ago and mentioned I had recently finished this book. He asked how I liked Ali Smith's writing style because he's tried reading 3 of her books before and could not get into it, and I completely agree. I had heard that her writing style was quite divisive but still wanted to give it a try. There were times when I really enjoyed reading this book, but I felt like it contained so many metaphors that I found myself completely lost in a lot of places. This may be because I'm not from the UK and didn't experience Brexit, or it could just be her writing style. 

But there were some beautiful prose in the book, and at times I found myself completely emersed in the passages. But there were equal amounts of time when I wanted to give up on the book. Whether it was referring to social media as a cesspool of shit, commenting on how the news is "like a flock of speeded-up sheep running off the side of a cliff", questioning the role of democracy and what it has become, or humans natural ambivalence to understanding the world around them, I think this book touched on so many important issues. The book was so much more than just Brexit. It talked about the hopes and dreams that are promised, the promise of new and brighter things that never come. It talks about how politicians and those in power ask us to wear rose coloured glasses and overlook the fundamental flaws. I think if you are a fan of her writing (or very metaphorical, poetic style writing) then you'll definitely enjoy this book, but I don't think it was for me. 

The Perfect Nanny: 4/5
Myriam hires the "perfect nanny" for her young children after returning to work. Louise seemed like an ideal fit; she's quiet, polite and devoted to the families she works for. But as the family and nanny become more co-dependent, tensions build and the power dynamic is challenged. Challenging ideas of power, class, race, domesticity and motherhood, this debut novel is a must-read. 

I think I was expecting something a bit quicker in pace, as it was a thriller, but this was more of a slow-burning novel. I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. I was scrolling through GoodReads and saw someone describe this book as a "quiet, ugly little book [that] crept right under my skin" and I couldn't agree more. The novel is so unique in the sense that it starts with the crime on the first few pages, and reverts back to when the trouble began and slowly works toward the events that lead to the murder. 

The novel shows how Louise, the nanny, completely emersed herself into her employers lives, to the point they thought she was indispensable. But it also shows how she is simultaneously strange and necessary, a burden and overbearing. What I think I liked most about this book is the underlying tensions in each chapter, in the way Myriam second guesses her self, but continues to trust the nanny despite the fact she often feels ill-at-ease. 

Overall, I found this book quite haunting, as I've seen others describe it as, and I think that if you enjoy thrillers, this offers quite a unique take on the genre, and I'd highly recommend it. 

How To Fall In Love With A Man Who Lives In A Bush: 4/5*
Set in the beautiful city of Vienna, Julia spends her days teaching English to unemployed Austrians and spending her weekends with her cat and best "friend". When Julia runs into Ben, an adventurous, handsome and homeless man from Canada, she starts to question her mundane lifestyle. The two embark on a stranger than fiction romance that is both heartbreaking and hilarious. 

This book has exceptionally bad reviews on GoodReads, but I really enjoyed this book! I'm a fan of Scandinavian humour in general, and this was no exception. It's a quirky little book about finding love and finding yourself. While it comes across as light and fluffy, I love how it still touches on class differences and on relationship struggles. It focuses on how we judge people based on their jobs, education and perceived societal status while making light of these elements. I think this book is definitely an acquired taste, but I found myself laughing throughout the entire thing (the first sentence in the book is "I love cock" and would definitely recommend it if you are looking for a quick read (I read it in a few hours!)

The Alice Network: 4.5/5
Amercian college student Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried and lost. She embarks on a mission to find her cousin, who went missing in Nazi-occupied France during the war when she runs into Eve Gardiner. As the two embark on the quest to find Rose, Charlie uncovers Eve's secretive past as an English spy during the first world war, and her time in the "Alice Network". Told in alternating chapters, it explores the lengths people will go to for love and retribution. 

I think what really pushed this book over the edge for me was learning that it is based on a real person, Louise de Bettignies (Alice Dubois). I'm loving historical fiction right now, and this was no exception. While I definitely prefer Eve Gardiner's perspective, I did enjoy Charlie St. Claire, despite her somewhat annoying tendencies. I loved the exploration of the prominent and often overlooked roles of women during the war, and how, because it was told from the perspective of women, they were viewed as persistent and independent, instead of nuisances or slutty, as in often the case from male perspectives. 

Both Eve's and Charlie's stories were equally engrossing, and the situations depicted were very well written. Quinn's description of the French countryside is beautiful, which emphasized the stark contrast to the dirty situations the women found themselves in. Their stories were equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring, especially in light of the Alice Network being an actual network of spies. I think if you are a fan of historical fiction or books with female protagonists, you'll absolutely adore this book! 

Beartown: 5/5*
Set in a tiny community in Northern Sweden, Beartown is a dying community, or so they say. An old ice rink acts as the centre of the town, with the junior hockey team riling the community together. As the National semi-finals draw nearer, the hopes of the community rest on the shoulders of these teenaged boys. Yet this pressure is the catalyst for a violent act that ripples through the community and puts everything the town has worked towards in jeopardy. Beartown exquisitely explores the bonds of community and the secrets that tear them apart. 

This was the first novel that I read in 2018 and I absolutely adored it. I had read A Man Called Ove last year and really enjoyed it, but wasn't expecting this book to be such a departure from his previous books. 

I will say that the beginning of the book can be a bit slow, and it focuses heavily on the role hockey plays in the town. As someone who was born and raised in Canada, and who played a competitive sport growing up, I can appreciate the focus on the role of sport in the community; however, I have seen some critiques of the heavy focus on this. 

What I loved the most about this book was the vilianization of the victim in this book, especially in light of the #metoo movement, and how people make rash judgements on something that they don't have the facts for. It paints an important picture of how hard it is for victims to come forward after waiting, and the disbelief others will have when the accused is a prominent figure in the community. It's hard to talk about the plot without spoiling it, but I think that this is such an important book and one that everyone should read.  

What have you been reading? What would you recommend I read next? 

* provided for review

Recently Read: November and December

I'm going to include my November and December books in one wrap up this time (mostly because I only read one book in all of November and I didn't even really like it).

December reading, reading wrap-up, every note played, book review, the woman in the window, furiously happy, the seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Last Christmas in Paris

December reading, reading wrap-up, every note played, book review, the woman in the window, furiously happy, the seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Last Christmas in Paris, the rules of magic

This book has fairly high reviews on Goodreads and was one of the picks for Reese Witherspoon's book club, but I didn't really get what the hype was about. The book is a prequel to Practical Magic, and centres around the Owens siblings--Franny, Jet and Vincent, who are witches in New York in the 1960's. They struggled with the family curse that entails any person who falls in love with them is doomed to die. 

Without getting into too much detail, I found the story very slow and a bit all over the place. I didn't find it flowed between characters and the third person narrative made it feel quite disjointed. The siblings all came across as whiny, unmotivated adolescences. It's a marker of a bad book when I can't even remember the story, let alone the details that I disliked. It's unfortunately a forgettable book. 

From one of my most disappointing books to one of my favourites of 2017. Former Hollywood icon and famous reclusive Evelyn Hugo is ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life and enlists the help of the relatively unknown reporter Monique Grant to tell her story. As Hugo's life unfolds, Monique learns the truth behind the actresses marriages and affairs, and how they ultimately intersect with Monique's own life. 

I loved it. I loved this book so much. Some of my favourite booktubers had raved about this book, but I was hesitant to pick it up, despite owning it for months. While the storyline seemed interesting, I thought it would be a light, fluffy novel. But the story of love, loss and fame has more twists than expected and focuses on racial and sexual discrimination and the lack of women's rights in the 50's. The story was so romantic and heartbreaking, while uplifting and funny. I found myself rooting for Hugo even when I hated her actions. Overall, I think this book has a lot more depth than it would appear, and I'd highly recommend it if you haven't read it yet. 

Anna Fox lives alone in her New York City home, unable to venture outside due to her extreme agoraphobia, among other issues. She spends most of her day drinking, watching classic movies and spying on her neighbours. While watching her new neighbours one night, Anna see's what she believes is a murder, but when she reports the crime, her credibility is questioned and everything she believes to be true is flipped upside down. As things become darker for Anna, she must come to grips with her conditions and what she truly believes she witnessed.  

I'm very conflicted about this book. I'm someone who reads a lot of thrillers, so it takes a lot to surprise me at this point. I loved the comparison to Rear Window, one of my favourite Hitchcock movies, but with a more sinister protagonist. The references to classic black and white movies was a great addition and added some colour to the mundane life that Anna lives. But I found the writing style to be a bit abrupt at times and didn't find that the storyline flowed as much as I would have liked. But I think my main critique of the novel would be the overuse of the thriller trope--the mentally ill, self-depreciating, reclusive, alcholic woman who lives alone in a run-down home, incorrectly dosing on her prescriptions making her an unreliable witness. It seems like most modern psychological thrillers have a similar protagonist because it can draw out the story and adds an element of self-doubt and determination. In this case, I find it a bit too long and repetitive. 

And again, I don't know if it's because I read so many thrillers, but I didn't find the ending all that surprising. The culprit was too innocent, in my opinion, and while I didn't see it play out exactly as it did, I still wasn't overly surprised. I think if you don't read a lot of thrillers, and you were a fan of books like Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, then you will likely enjoy this book. But I think if you read a lot of thrillers like me, there's nothing new or intriguing here. 

Accomplished concert pianist Richard is one of the most renowned classical musicians of his time, that was until he developed ALS. Eight months after his diagnosis, his entire right arm is paralyzed and he knows that his left will soon go. His bitter ex-wife Karina refuses to believe that Richard is actually ill, and is only seeking attention with his postponed and cancelled tours. But when Richard is no longer able to live on his own and is unable to pay for long-term care, Karina must make a difficult decision whether she will be his full-time caretaker. As Richard deteriorates, Karina must try to reconcile their past, for herself and daughter, before it's too late. 

I'm a huge Lisa Genova fan--I've read all her books, starting with Still Alice not long after it first came out and have steadily been reading her new releases since. There was something about the beginning of this book that didn't seem like her usual writing style, and I found the book a bit boring at the beginning because of it. But as the novel (and disease) progressed, I found myself flying through the pages. I think where Genova shines as an author is her ability to make complex diseases understandable to anyone, not just those with science backgrounds; she brings awareness in the most compelling ways. In her journey towards transparency on ALS, she can be a little. . . over descriptive at times, as was the case when Richard got locked out of his apartment after being given a laxative. I think if you are a fan of her writing or of complicated family dynamics, this book won't disappoint. 

Furiously Happy is a memoir on Jenny Lawson's life as she deals with severe depression and a host of other conditions while trying to live her life to its fullest. 

I got about half-way through this book before I DNF'ed it. I thought the beginning was very funny and found myself laughing out loud (like a crazy person) on the subway when I first started it. But I think that the book is very repetitive and way too long. Some stories were funny, while others were just very boring. The kind you would tell your friend and you could see their eyes glazing over but wanted to continue on anyway. I think there are much funnier and more poignant memoirs on mental illness.

The book begins in August of 1914 as Will Elliott and Thomas Harding enlist to become soldiers in WW1. Many Brits, including Will's sister Evie, believe the war will be over before Christmas. But as the war draws on and tensions grow high, the unimaginable realities of war become more transparent, and everyone must come to terms with the changing world and find their place in it.

I think I'm officially a Hazel Gaynor addict now. After reading The Cottingley Secret, I knew I wanted to read more of her books. I picked up this just before Christmas and thought it would be a light read over my few days off. The story is told through a series of letters during the first world war, which made it a very quick read. I loved the historical context the book provided, regardless of how accurate it may have been. But what I loved most of all (aside from the enduring love story) was the focus on the role of women during the war and how their contributions were often overlooked. I'm currently reading The Alice Network and loving it, so I'm sensing a theme here. I do think you would have to be a fan of historical fiction to appreciate this book, but if you are, then I'd highly recommend picking it up!

* provided for review 

xoxo K

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Hello everyone! It's been a crazy busy few weeks at work and dealing with a never-ending cold/cough. But I thought I would sneak in here with a (mostly) beauty holiday gift guide! I'm definitely more into skincare than makeup in my old age (she says at the ripe age of 24), but I tried to put together a collection of things that almost anyone on your list would appreciate!

Origins have a ton of gift sets right now for a variety of skin types. I'm a huge fan of the ginzing range, and I think it works for a variety of skin types. I'm super oily and acne prone and I find it works really well on my skin, but my mom has mature, dryer skin and she loves it too. There are also some amazing deals--the ginzing set is only nominally more than the full sized moisturizer included in it!

I'm a huge fan of the Ultra Facial Cream. While it's quite a heavy cream, I find its one of the best things to help my super sensitive skin in the cooler months. I purchased the Face Care set as something to use in the depths of the winter, but I'm also loving the Disney editions they have of some of their classic items!

The sugar lip balms are some of my favourite all-time lip products, and every year Fresh brings out different sets including at least one of the lip products. I received the Sugar Lip Prep 'N Paint set which has the lip exfoliant and serum, but the Sugar Lip Beauty Box would make an amazing present.

Peter Thomas Roth: 
Most of us have multiple skin issues that we want to address, so having a gift set with a wide range of products is an excellent idea. I get a version of the Meet You Mask set every year and am particularly keen on the pumpkin enzyme mask included!

Clé de Peau: 
For an actual makeup product, I've been loving the eye crayons from Clé de Peau that I was kindly sent. They're super easy to throw on and blend in, and the colours can transition from subtle to smokey very easily. It's more of a luxury item, but it's something that beauty lovers would love and probably wouldn't treat themselves to.

Gift cards:
When in doubt, give them a gift card. I threw in a Roots one here because it was the only one I had on hand, but Sephora, Shoppers Drug Mart, Ultra, or wherever else you want is bound to have one. Or for a more versatile option, you can always get a pre-paid credit card. They look super festive this time of the year and work almost anywhere.

I hope this post gave you some ideas for treating people on your Christmas list!

xoxo K