May Wrap-up

It's June tomorrow -- JUNE.  I feel like I say this every single month, but how is the year flying by so quickly?  Marko went to kindergarten orientation this week -- KINDERGARTEN.  Seriously.  And at the rate the year is flying by, I'll blink and it'll be September.  I'M NOT READY FOR THAT.

But this post is about the books that I read in May, so let's dive in...

1. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
This book almost lived up to the hype for me, but not quite.  It was beautiful and heart-wrenching but also fell a little flat for me.

2. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
After The Astonishing Color of After, I went into The Great Alone with a little bit of hesitation as the hype for this book was even bigger.  THE HYPE IS REAL PEOPLE; this book was INCREDIBLE.

3. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Three for three with my reading in early May -- Lisa Genova can do no wrong and I'm so pleased with myself for keeping up with her books!

4. Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech
I won't have a review up until August when it's released, but this book satisfied my craving for a perfectly sweet middle grade read.  Sharon Creech is such a wonderful writer.

5. In Honor by Jessi Kirby
I felt like I was still reeling from The Great Alone and, although I was supposed to be buddy reading The Name of the Wind with Jessica @ Novel Cravings, I just craved contemporaries.  In Honor was perfect and sweet and reminded me a lot of Amy & Roger's Epic Detour (minus the playlists).

6. If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila Sales
I've already read and reviewed this one on the blog, but it's a tough read (content wise) but one that is so valid and relevant and needed in today's world.

7. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
LOVED THIS.  So so so much.  Spoiler alert: loved it so much that I ran to the store and bought two more of Lianes' books.  Sorry, not sorry.

8. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Ginger @greadsbooks read and raved about this one, so I put it on hold at the library.  It was such a sweet romance and I absolutely adored it.

9. The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel
I've been craving some good adult contemporary and this one had just a touch of historical, which I loved.  It took a while to get going but once I was sucked into the story I could barely put it down.

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Top 10 Bookish Worlds I Want To Live In

Top Ten Tuesday is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl!  Today's topic is bookish worlds that I want to live in.  There are so many bookish worlds that I WOULDN'T want to live in that I couldn't think of more than five!

1. Hogwarts
This will be at the top of everyone's list, I'm sure!

2. Victorian Era
With a caveat: I want to wear the dresses, but I want to leave this world before I need to pee.

3. Mistborn
Although I've only read the first book in this series, I love the world

4. Red London
With Lila Bard and Kell, of course.

5. The Chemical Garden Trilogy
As I mentioned before, so many fictional worlds are ones that I wouldn't want to live in, but this one straddles the line.  The world itself is horrible (forced pregnancies and early death) but Lauren DeStefano paints the horror in such a beautiful, whimsical way that I think I'd still want to experience it, if only for a short time.

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Book Haul [34] -- SO. MUCH. WORSE.

Last month, I ROCKED at buying fewer books.  But that's okay because I've still only read two library books this year.  TWO.  Every other book has been one I owned (and one borrowed from a coworker).  But I haven't ordered anything from Book Outlet in YEARS and found a book that I absolutely had to have for WAY cheaper than Chapters ... so I had to place an order.  I'm excited for every single one of these books though...and at the time of posting this, I've already read two of my new purchases!

1. A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas
This was a no-brainer -- gotta have the next instalment in the series!  Although I've already heard mixed things, and I think the novella is not really my thing.

2. A History of Loneliness by John Boyne
After reading, and loving, The Heart's Invisible Furies and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I plan to slowly read the rest of John Boyne's books.

3. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
I've already read this one and HOLY COW IT WAS AMAZING.

4. Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
I'm planning to re-read the Shatter Me series this year and I feel like I need more of Tahereh's writing in my life.  After Middle Grade March, I have almost no middle grade left on my shelves!

5. In Honor by Jessi Kirby
6. Moonglass by Jessi Kirby
I've already read In Honor and plan to pick up Moonglass really, really soon.  The saddest part will be that I will have no more Jessi Kirby left to read though =)

7. The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel
I read The Life Intended last year and loved it, and bought The Room on Rue Amélie earlier this year.  I can't wait to read another of Kristin's books.

8. The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
This book is the reason why I placed the Book Outlet order.  Hannah @ So Obsessed With binge read this series and loved it, and I absolutely ADORED The Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly earlier this year.  It was $22 from Chapters, but only $4.99 on Book Outlet!

9. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
More Jennifer Donnelly?  Couldn't say no.

10. Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales
I really enjoyed This Song Will Save Your Life when I read it a couple of years ago and I also really enjoyed her most recent book (and I reviewed it last week -- go check it out!)  So of course I need some more of Leila's books in my life.  She writes really intense contemporaries.

11. Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
12. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
The Vancouver Public Library had a book sale last month and I snagged both of these -- The Poisonwood Bible is one of my all-time favourite books and I can't believe I'm so behind on Barbara's books!  A week after I snatched up these two, I was approved on Edelweiss for her newest book -- now I just need to decide if I should catch up on her backlist first, or dive straight into her latest book.

13. Exodus by Leon Uris
A former coworker told me that this was his favourite book of all time -- and it was $0.50 at the book sale, so I thought, why not?

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Marko Monday [30] - Pout-Pout Fish

When Marko was around three, we borrowed a book called The Pout-Pout Fish from the library, which was an instant favourite.  The cadence of the story is so rhythmic and fun to read with a perfect rhyming bounce to the story.  One afternoon, we were browsing the bargain bin at our local independent bookstore and spotted The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark and this book was a HUGE hit.  The Pout-Pout Fish has to go down into the deep dark water to rescue his friend's lost pearl.  Marko's love for angler fish was revived while reading this book, as the Pout-Pout Fish struggles with his fear of the dark and finally finds a friend to help him conquer that fear.  Then, last week, we went to Victoria for a quick visit and Marko spied a new Pout-Pout Fish book on the shelves of another of our favourite independent bookstores and exclaimed with glee that the Pout-Pout Fish was wearing a backpack!  After we read the story together, Marko was delighted by the fact that the Pout-Pout Fish was going to kindergarten, just like he is.  The Pout-Pout Fish gets lost trying to find his classroom and is worried that he isn't smart enough for kindergarten, but it turns out that he's just in the wrong room.  I'm going to be on the lookout for more of the Pout-Pout Fish series (it looks like there's a Hallowe'en one!) as these stories are as sweet as they are fun to read.

Marko is OBSESSED with the idea of going to kindergarten -- and here's hoping that this love will continue once he actually gets there.  We've been working a lot on independence (we've babied him a lot with getting dressed and self-feeding so we're currently trying to get him caught up to where most five year olds are at!) and now he frequently says, "Mama, I have to do this by myself.  When I go to kindergarten, no one will do this for me!"  It's too cute for words, but my little boy is currently growing up way too fast.  I've already booked off the first week of school, knowing that I am not going to be emotionally capable of being in the office that week.

Seriously though -- just LOOK at his beautiful big brown eyes...

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If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say - Leila Sales

Rating this book is almost as tough as reading it was.  On the one hand, I want to give it three stars because it was a tough read with a main character that I struggled to connect with.  On the other hand, I want to give it four stars for eliciting that type of reaction from my -- Winter is not a character that the reader is meant to love and for that I have to applaud this book.

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say tackles some tough subjects that are oh-so-relevant in today's online world.  Winter posts a racist comment online and her post goes viral overnight, which leads to internet vigilante and mass online public shaming.  Her entire world falls into ruin as a result of her "mistake" and, as she struggles to figure out where to go next, she also struggles to come to terms with her actions.

What makes this book tough to read is Winter's lack of remorse for the majority of the book.  She's such an unlikeable character and even worse than most anti-heroes I've read in recent years.  Although the online smear campaign that she's subject to is definitely not deserved, she spends the majority of the book not understanding why people reacted the way that they did.  This book will be eye-opening to many, many teens who would probably feel the same way as Winter: one off the cuff remark and a complete lack of understanding of the concept of the digital footprint.  In today's online world, so much of who we are is encapsulated forever in our digital footprint and it's so important to be cognizant of how we portray ourselves online.

In the end, I settled with a four star rating for this book.  Winter's character made me squirm and cringe and the reading experience was an unpleasant one but I think that was Leila's goal with this book.  It saddens me that the ratings on Goodreads are quite low for this book because I think it's an important topic in today's world and Leila has handled it really well.  Sometimes the best books are the ones that make us a bit uncomfortable and If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say does just that.

Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Books I Hated But I'm Glad I Read

Top Ten Tuesday is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl!  This week's topic is books that I hated but I'm glad I read, mainly for the bragging rights.  There's a lot of low rated books that I read for university, but I can't say I'm necessarily glad that I read any of them.  So, I'm just going to go with ten of my lowest rated books on Goodreads.

If any of these books are your favourites, I'm glad that you enjoyed them!  But not every book works for every reader, and these ones just didn't do it for me...

1. Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
I loooooove me some Atwood, but this one was absolutely AWFUL.  It's supposedly one of her best and more popular works, but if I had read this book first I would have been turned off her work permanently.

2. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
I read this beast of a book for book club and I think it was the first time I'd ever encountered a book that was entirely character-focused.  Although I love a book where the characters are really well-developed, this book lacked anything but characterization and the characters weren't likeable at all.

3. Lord of the Flies by William Goldman
I read this in Grade 11 and did not like it at all.  Honestly, what part of this book was a 17-year-old girl supposed to engage with?

4. The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, et al.
Based on my reaction to this book, I shouldn't have even purchased Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy.  This book was the beginning of the end for me realizing that novellas are just not my thing.

5. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
This was one of the first adult fiction books that I read and I think it came from one of those pamphlets the library handed out, probably a list of Oprah's book club picks.  Thankfully, I also picked up The Poisonwood Bible and White Oleander off this list too, so it wasn't a total waste.

6. Marked by Kristin Cast and P.C. Cast
I laughed out loud when I saw that I gave this book two stars ... because I proceeded to read at least five more books in this series!  This was back in the day when I felt compelled to finish any series that I started.  I'm glad that I don't feel that way anymore!

7. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I know, I know -- I'm the only person in the whole wide world who felt this way!  But I did NOT enjoy this book.  At all.  In fact, on Goodreads I gave it two stars, but as time goes on I dislike it more and more ... I'm going to change it to one star.

8. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
Thankfully this book didn't turn me off Jenny Han altogether because I adored her To All The Boys I've Loved Before series.  I didn't continue on with the Summer series though because this book was awful.  A main character named Belly, seriously?  

9. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
There is SO MUCH LOVE around the blogosphere for Patrick Ness, but I didn't care for this book.  So much so that I've avoided picking up any of this other books, although I have been tempted.  I feel like he's like Neil Gaiman -- I might be the only person in the world who just doesn't love their books.

10. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
I still want to give Jellicoe Road a shot (even though I've picked it up and put it down once already), but Finnikin was definitely not what I had hoped it would be.  Even buddy reading it didn't result in it being higher than two stars.

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Reading On My Mat - Welcome Home

One of my resolutions this year was to resurrect some of my old features.  I decided to start Reading On My Mat in the summer of 2015 as a way of bringing in some of my non-reading interests to the blog.  The subsequent posts that I shared are some of my favourite posts that I've written on this blog and I've been itching to write another one.

Since I shared my introductory post about my reading journey, I stopped going to the yoga studio and fell into a lengthy period of not doing too much fitness-wise.  2016 was a bit of a blur with packing and selling and buying and moving and moving again.  Once life calmed down a bit, I started looking for a way to bring fitness back into my life.  My commute is an hour and a half each way, and as much as I would love to escape to a yoga studio for some deep, meaningful mat time, I knew that going to yoga once a week wasn't what I needed.  So I started using 20 minute yoga sessions on the Yoga Download podcast.  You guys, I loved them.  Twenty minutes was the perfect amount of time to get some fitness into my day, work up a sweat but not take away from the limited amount of time that I get to spend with my family after a long day at work.  Plus, Marko loves to join me!

I loved the free podcasts so much that I took advantage of Yoga Download's Earth Day sale and signed up for a one-year membership.  The cost of the membership is the same price that I used to pay for one month at my old yoga studio.  While I appreciate the fact that it is a unique experience to practice amongst others, I'm not ready to give up time with my family in exchange for yoga right now.  I love that I get home, change my clothes and am on the mat ready to go.  The classes vary from 15 minutes to over an hour, and I can choose from so many styles and instructors.  (I swear, this is not a paid ad in any way -- I just really love this site!)

I have also fallen head over heels for my new favourite instructor, Pradeep.  At the beginning of his classes, he says the most beautiful words, almost prayer-like, and his words reminded me of the spiritual feeling of peace that practicing brings to my heart.  Although yoga is about fitness, it's also about spiritual well-being and feeling centred and grounded in the world.  Whenever we'd return to downward-facing dog, Pradeep says, "Welcome Home."  Two simple words, but they meant so much to me.  Hanging upside down, shoulder muscles burning, I heard those words, "Welcome Home" and thought to myself, Yes yes YES.  Welcome home indeed.


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Top 10 Books With Purple on the Cover

Top Ten Tuesday is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl!  This week's topic is books with a particular colour on the cover.  I picked purple because it's my favourite colour, but this topic was really hard!  I ended up with three of Sarah Dessen's books, but she's just got good cover taste!  Two of these are books that I haven't read yet, but I own and I got a little flexible with pinky-purples.


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Two Steps Forward - Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist

I read, and absolutely ADORED, The Best of Adam Sharp last year.  When I saw a new Graeme Simsion book pop up on Edelweiss, I immediately requested and then noticed that it was co-authored with his wife.  I was immediately intrigued and waited patiently to see if I'd be approved.

About a month before the publication date noted on Edelweiss, I was in Coles and saw a copy of the book for sale!  I immediately grabbed it and I think this is the first time I've ever seen a book released in Canada before it was released in the States.  As the American publication date grew closer, I didn't think I'd be approved for an egalley, but then one week ago I got an email from Edelweiss to let me know I'd been approved!

With only five days left until the publication date, I knew that I had to dive right in and get this book read.  I'm glad that I had to read it in a condensed window of time because, although this book was good, it wasn't riveting.  I wasn't glued to the pages, eager to find out what happens next, like I have been with some of Graeme's other books.

Two Steps Forward is the story of two characters who embark on the Camino de Santiago.  Both have gone through rough life-changing moments, and the Camino is a soul-searching journey.  Like the Camino that the characters are walking, Two Steps Forward a slower paced book, full of lots of moments of wisdom and speculation.  I loved the dual narration especially because it flips between Martin (who I assume was written by Graeme) and Zoe (who I assume was written by Anne).  What I loved the most was finding out that the authors have walked the Camino twice before!  I love the idea of walking this pilgrimage in search of what the soul seeks, and that element of the story really shone through.  The slower pace of the story made it easy to set aside because I wasn't glued to the story, so I was glad that I had to push myself through the book in order to finish it in time.  I almost felt like one of the characters, setting myself a page count goal per day, just as the characters were committing to walking a certain number of kilometres per day.

If you've read any of Graeme's other books, this one is very different.  It's closer to Adam Sharpe in its writing style, but also not because of the co-writing with his wife.  While I didn't love Two Steps Forward as much as I adored The Best of Adam Sharp, Graeme is definitely still on my list of favourite writers and I absolutely cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.

Note: I received an egalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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9 Days and 9 Nights - Katie Cotugno

Oh Katie, you've done it again.  Her stories and her characters are second to none and I can scarcely put her books down.  9 Days & 9 Nights picks up a year after 99 Days.  Molly has finished her first year of college, and is in Europe on holiday with her boyfriend Ian, when she bumps into Gabe, her ex-boyfriend, and his girlfriend, Sadie.  What ensues is both awkward and tender, as Molly struggles to come to terms with some of the events from the first book, but also things that have transpired since the conclusion of 99 Days.

I'm going to reiterate some of what I wrote in my review for 99 Days: There's something about the way that she writes her characters; they just hit you in your gut, grab hold of your heart and refuse to let go, even long after you've savoured the last page of the story.  This holds true for every one of Katie's books that I've read thus far and is by far one of her greatest strengths as a novelist.  Molly's character grows a lot during this instalment, and I was rooting for her and applauding each step that she took.  Paired with the heavier moments in the story, there were also moments of comic relief -- the perfect combination of sweet and serious.

My only struggle with this book is that I could barely remember what happened in 99 Days, and I wish I'd thought to re-read it before I jumped into 9 Days & 9 Nights.  I'll definitely be picking up a finished copy of this book, and doing a reread of the duology in the not-too-distant future.

If you enjoyed 99 Days then you'll definitely love this next chapter of Molly's adventures.  

Note: An egalley was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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