An Anonymous Girl, by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

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Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt? 

Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about?

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study, she thinks she’ll just be answering some simple questions. What seems at first like an innocent experiment grows more and more unsettling as the mysterious Dr. Shields raises the stakes…

I hadn’t read Pekkanen and Hendricks’ first novel, The Wife Between Us, but when I was given an ARC from Macmillan via Netgalley, I was hooked from the first page.I loved this book for its disturbing, voyeuristic elements and if you like inventive narrative and twisted heroines with dark pasts, you’ll love An Anonymous Girl too!

Riveting and Suspenseful

I devoured this book. While there are a lot of “domestic” thrillers out there, and An Anonymous Girl certainly has some domestic elements, I found the angle of a medical study to be unique. Even though Jessica spends a fair amount of time in the beginning alone in a room, answering questions on a computer screen, the plot was far from stagnant. At every turn, there is the delightful feeling that there are dark secrets to be learned.

Deliciously Creepy

What stood out the most for me with An Anonymous Girl was the inventive narrative structure. Predominantly, we hear from Jessica in first person point of view, but in alternating chapters, there is an unsettling shift to second person. This shift in perspective is interesting, because second person is an alienating point of view. It gives the impression that the reader is being watched, which only served to ratchet the stakes and build tension early on. In other books, using second person in this way can be a bit campy, since it breaks the fourth wall and brings the reader into the narrative. However, in An Anonymous Girl, the effect was engrossing and deliciously creepy.

Intrigue, Among Other Things

Read this book if you love a good thriller with lots of intrigue and suspense. I love a good, twisted heroine with lots of dark secrets, and Jessica Farris has a fair share of dirty little secrets to reveal (whether she wants to or not!) An Anonymous Girl is the ultimate voyeuristic indulgence!

 

 

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR

Winter TBR

 

My TBR stack is never-ending. Just when I think that I might be done buying books, some new sale happens and I end up buying way too many books! #booknerdproblems am I right? As part of That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday meme, I’ve written my own TBR list for the winter. Well, anyway, here is my current TBR list for the winter. At least until I hit the library and decide to add about a million more books to the list.

 

  1. Sometimes We Tell The Truth, by Kim Zarins – I just heard about this book the other day and I’m RIDICULOUSLY excited that it exists!!! It’s a contemporary retelling of The Canterbury Tales featuring teens each telling a different, sometimes fantastical story on a bus ride to Washington, DC. It looks fantastic. (Check out Kim Zarins’ site here if you want to know more).
  2. The Kiss Quotient – I’m hoping that this book fulfils my quirky romance quotient. See what I did there? Did you?
  3. The Boat People, by Sharon Bala – Not gonna lie. I picked this one because I loved the cover. Also, it seems like a timely topic.
  4. Damn Fine Story, by Chuck Wendig – Because when is it *not* a good idea to read something that Chuck Wendig wrote? That guy is a hilarious, awesome genius who I sort of, kind of worship. (He also has an equally hilarious blog).
  5. You Think It, I’ll Say It, by Curtis Sittenfeld – Because short stories are important, too. Don’t let the lame grade nine collection of short tales turn you off this genre!
  6. Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata – A book about a strange, alienating person. I like strange books.
  7. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue, by Mackenzie Lee – YES I know. I KNOW! I should have read this one ages ago. Boarding schools and not-so-gentlemanly gentlemen? YES PLEASE.
  8. Precious Cargo, by Craig Davidson – A little non-fiction is good for the soul, and since Craig Davidson has written some pretty excellent fiction titles, I think I’ll give this one a whirl. Bonus points for Davidson, because it’s about his time as a school bus driver. This sounds hella cool.
  9. The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman – I feel like this book will have a lot of the same whimsy and magic that Practical Magic had.
  10. Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory – Because who DOESN’T want to read about a family of psychics?

*Insert about five million, billion other titles here.

Kid Gloves, by Lucy Knisley

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Lucy Knisley is one of my favourite graphic novelists out there. I have read and re-read all of her other books, so when I was given an ARC from Netgalley of her soon-to-be released book, Kid Gloves, I was extremely excited.  This instalment of Knisley’s autobiographical series follows Lucy as she embarks on a challenging journey into parenthood, rife with miscarriages, health problems and a near-death experience. It is a fascinating and heart-rending read.

A Perfect Blend of Narrative & Science

What I love about Knisley’s books is that woven throughout her personal stories are facts and histories relating to the topic that she is covering. In Kid Gloves, she examines not only her own struggles as a young woman trying to conceive and carry a child to term, but she also delves into the complex history and science of reproduction. I think that this connection between autobiographical stories and the wider history acts to draw the reader in. Even though Knisley’s narrative is personal, it begins to feel personal to the reader in this way too.

A Light Touch

There are moments in this narrative that will smash your heart, but there are also some hilarious episodes too. I liked reading the lighter anecdotes such as the one about crazy morning sickness (i.e. learning that Charlotte Bronte died from morning sickness! What?!?) This kept the tone of the narrative light, which balanced out the heartbreaking stories about her early miscarriages and the many other hardships that she faced. Reading Lucy Knisley’s books feels like talking to a good friend that you haven’t seen in a while and I think it is because  her writing is accessible. This is especially important if you consider that the message of her book–that health care for women isn’t necessarily in line with their needs–is an important one.

Read this Book! Read it! Why? Because it will change the way you view pregnancy and childbirth along with a million other fascinating ideas. Read it because her story will make you cry. Read it to fall in love with her art (it is beautiful). Read it to feel like you’ve just discovered your book best friend, because seriously, if you haven’t yet discovered Knisley, it’s time. Okay, good talk. Now go pickup a copy of Kid Gloves on February 26, 2019.

 

Have you read Lucy Knisley’s books? Which one is your favourite?

 

Note: I was given a copy of Kid Gloves in exchange for an honest review.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz: When Fact & Fiction Blur

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Recently, there’s been some controversy surrounding the bestselling novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. While there has been some issue surrounding the many historical inconsistencies in the novel, what seems to be the biggest problem revolves around the author, Australian born Heather Morris who is (according to online sources) not Jewish. On Twitter, The Tattooist of Auschwitz has been described the book as “a sexed-up romance novel/memoir,” claiming that Morris has little true information about the real Lali Sokolov. The plot is Lali’s story and is based on the only surviving account of a Jewish prisoner employed in Auschwitz as a tattooist.

Fiction and reality are always blurred, but when it comes to controversial topics such as the Holocaust, how far is too far?

Truth or Fiction?

Truth is stranger than fiction, but how true do we need a story to be? Some would argue that works of fiction, while based on real stories are simply interpretations of a true event. Theoretically, a work of historical fiction wouldn’t *have* to be true. The Tattooist of Auschwitz isn’t exactly the first work of fiction to be written about the Holocaust. The Book Thief, Maus & The Boy in the Striped Pajamas are just three popular narratives centred around the holocaust. Usually, when I’m looking for information on something, my first inclination is to read a biography or to check out some journal articles, not fiction and especially not romance novels.

So when it comes to fiction, when is it acceptable to leave out the truth?

Entertainment or History Lesson?

The truth is that we don’t go to fiction just to be entertained. Literature teaches us even when we are not actively seeking a lesson. Through the lens of fictional characters we are better able to imagine the people who lived through important and often terrifying historical events and that sets a new precedent around historical fiction. We aren’t just imagining made up characters anymore. Or fictional places. It becomes a question of representation.

It has also been suggested here that being familiar with historical events through fiction helps us make connections and draw our own conclusions about past and present events. So if a story like The Tattooist of Auschwitz is supposed to give context to the larger narrative of the Holocaust, what is there to be learned?

 The Truth About Stories

When we are writing about sensitive topics, it is crucial that we respect the truth behind the fiction. There will always be a seed of truth in any fictional account. Perhaps this should inspire readers to delve deeper if they want to learn more about a topic? Even so, I wonder  just how mad we ought to get when delving into fiction for our truths.

 

Will you read The Tattooist of Auschwitz? 

A Syllabus for Writers

Writerly Wednesday

 

One of my favourite things about going to University was the syllabus. Every fall and Winter semester, I’d excitedly pour over the books on my course lists before running over to the campus bookstore and filling my bag with hundreds of books. Being an English major, there were always a lot of novels to read, which I loved! When I left school, it felt strange—like I’d lost something special. Recenlty, while in a writing rut, I decided to create my own writerly syllabus for inspiration. If you’ve ever been (or are currently) in a rut, consider these titles. Or, better yet, why not add on some new ones?

Honing your craft 101: Inspiration & Other Important Writerly Things

 

  1. Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg & Julia Cameron
  2. The Trickster’s Hat, by Nick Bantock
  3. The Pocket Muse, by Monica Wood
  4. The Art of Character, by David Corbett
  5. Damn Fine Story, Chuck Wendig
  6. Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder
  7. Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway
  8. The Superior Person’s Book of Words, by Peter Bowler
  9. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
  10. Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
  11. The Seven Basic Plots, by Christopher Booker 
  12. Naming the World, by Bret Anthony Johnston

Bruised Ego 201: a salve for the burn of rejection

  1. Real Artists Have Day Jobs, by Sara Benincasa
  2. The Gift, by Lewis Hyde
  3. How to Get Published in Literary Magazines, by Allison K Williams
  4. Zen and the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
  5. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert
  6. Daring Greatly, Brene Brown

How Did They Do It 301: Following in the Paths of the Greats

  1. House of Dreams, by Liz Rosenberg
  2. On Writing, Stephen King
  3. Negotiating with the Dead, Margaret Atwood
  4. Jane Austen at Home, Lucy Worsley
  5. The Bronte Myth, Lucasta Miller
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, Humphrey Carpenter
  7. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin

Independent Study 401: Read Widely

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…This one is really up to you. Sometimes, I like to make myself a list of books from the same genre that I’m writing in, or even books that might evoke the same feeling that I am trying to convey in my own book. If that doesn’t work, read what you love and inspiration will follow.

What books do you read to help inspire your writing practice? Why not write them in the comments below?

The Ultimate Vegan Breakfast Book, by Nadine Horn & Jörg Mayer

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A while ago, I thought I might just try and fit back into my pre-baby pants. First, I decided NO MORE SUGAR. (spoiler alert: I still eat sugar). Then, I bought spandex jogging pants. I huffed and puffed around the block every day and I did the whole “clean eating” thing too. I do not fit into my pre-baby pants. (They went out of style, anyway). But you know what? I did kind of feel a bit…glowy.

Full disclosure: I still can’t wrap my head around vegan “sausage” or “eggs” or “cheese.” I am a cheese-loving, too-much-bacon-loving, sugar-consuming lady. BUT The Ultimate Vegan Breakfast Book has a lot of good recipes that are delicious even for someone who isn’t ready to jump into the full vegan movement.

Smoothie Heaven

My favourite recipes in this book were the smoothies. While the milks are traditional nut milks, the smoothies turn out looking beautiful with the added bonus of being healthy too! In particular, I liked the blueberry almond milk smoothie, because it was flavourful and (if I’m being honest) not all that bogged down in “greens.” (I do realize that “green smoothies” are healthy, but so often they end up looking like disgusting swamp water, which let’s face it–it just isn’t appetizing! In contrast, all of the smoothies in this book are lovely and worth slurping down.

Breakfast Doughnuts Anyone?

I’ll admit it. I eat doughnuts for breakfast. Probably more than I should. If you’re like me and you’d take doughnuts over kale-whatever-whatever smoothies any day of the week, then Horn & Mayer’s “breakfast doughnuts” recipe might just be the answer to your sugar-coated prayers. They actually taste like doughnuts. Trust me–I wouldn’t lie to you, fellow doughnut lovers. These baked doughnuts are delicious and well worth the time it takes to mix up the ingredients (which, for the record, aren’t super hard to find).

The Ultimate Vegan Breakfast Book feels like a win for vegans and non-vegans alike. It is most definitely a DIY DO if you have an interest in trying out some vegan recipes.

The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook, Olivia Hops

Besides reading as much as humanly possible, trying feverishly to complete my publishing program and write a lot, every once in a while, I like to try out DIY projects. I too, have been lured in by those fabulous Pinterest sirens. There were the glitter shoes (cracked and never recovered), the countless recipes that festered in my crock pot and the knitting projects that just…never happened (because who really has time to knit? Okay, someone out there does. It’s just not me right now. Props to you, knitters of the inter web. I salute you with my non-callused fingers and my long-forgotten knitting needles lying somewhere, someplace in my house).

Since it’s that time of year where Pinterest is exploding with awesome super-mom lunches and costumes that look like they cost a million bucks (but apparently only cost pennies), for the next few weeks, I’ll be featuring some cool DIY books.

This week’s review is for The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook by Olivia Hops. It’s a fun DIY cookbook that will have you drooling for more…

Clean Layout, Pretty Pictures

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from The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook, 2018.

Aside from the actual recipes, which are excellent and worth checking out, the actual book is well-organized, with sections for how to make “safe-to-eat” cookie dough and desserts that include various cookie dough recipes. I also appreciated the introduction, which told the story of how Olivia Hops came to invent her delicious recipes and start up her business as well as the beautifully stylized pictures.

How Much Do You Love Cookie Dough?

I was honestly on the fence about the whole edible cookie dough fad before reading this book. Sure, I like to sneak a bite of raw cookie dough while mixing up a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but with the wild assortment of flavours you can find in Hops’ new cookbook, it elevates edible cookie dough to a whole other level. My favourite? The Key Lime Pie flavoured dough. (If you’re looking for a sample recipe of Olivia Hops fantastic creations, The Washington Post recently published her famous recipe for MONSTER Cookie Dough.)

Overall, I’d classify The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook as a DIY DO!