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Top 5: Books for Book Club

Top 5: Books for Book Club

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Hello all. Here we go with another top 5 list! May I say I really enjoy researching and writing these! This list I have chosen to do a book club approach as I have recently started a book club at my work. I love discussing the books we read each month with my co workers. However each month a new person chooses a book to read and sometimes they have problems choosing this book. They want to choose one that opens up the conversation and is a really great read. I have researched the following books and actually have read all of them. I can see how they are great books for great conversations. I have included questions that may help you open the conversation up in your book clubs are just questions to keep in mind while reading the book yourself. I hope you enjoy!!!

  1. Educated by Tara Westover
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I really enjoyed reading this memoir by Tara Westover. Tara recounts her life growing up in a strict mormon household that also is a doomsday prepper family. She especially highlights that they do not go to school and they are so off the grid they do not have birth certificates. The reader watches as she constantly struggles to follow her parents teaching but also to try and live a normal life and learn. Her father’s beliefs are so ingrained into Tara that even in adulthood she has a hard time coping with regular day activities of a ‘normal’ person.

Questions/discussion topics

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  • how your childhood experiences follow through with you to adulthood and how these affect the man/woman you are becoming.
  • How would you feel if you broke away from your family to have the life you wanted
  • How would you think it feels to not even know what the Holocaust was
  • How would you feel if your parents did not believe you when you told them your own brother was abusing you?

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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To Kill A Mockingbird has to be one of my absolute fav books and it is definitely one that I would take with me to a desert island. The shear innocence of Scout is heartbreaking and invigorating at the same time. It truly is a classic masterpiece outlining the rampant racism and privilege on the old South in the 30’s. Also new for its time outlines what it is like to be a single dad as it was not as common as it is now. Scout’s dad Atticus is a lawyer wh0o defends a local ‘black’ man accused of raping a local white girl. Scout depicts her upbringing and is an awe-inspiring coming of young age tale.

Questions/ Discussion Topics

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  • What parts of this novel did you really like? Which parts did you not find interesting?
  • How do Jem and Scout’s view of Boo Radley change throughout the novel?
  • How do you think Atticus managed the role of being a single parent? Compare what it would be like for a single dad in the 30/s and present day.
  • How did the trial change the town? Did it change the town?

3. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

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For me the Life of Pi ranks up there with To Kill a Mockingbird. It follows Pi and his family while they immigrate to Canada (go red and white!!!). They ship capsizes and the story then follows Pi trying to survive when all is lost. He is stranded or 227 days and to his account he is stranded with a bunch of animals from their family’s zoo.

Questions/Discussion Topics

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  • Are the animals real or are they metaphors of real people in Pi’s life that his brain concocked to deal with the trauma?
  • What if any are the religious cross over into the storytelling?
  • How do the people in your life reflect any of the animals and their characteristics?
  • How is the concept of Richard Parker echo that of overcoming one’s fears?

4. Still Alice by Lisa Genova

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Still Alice was a very different read. I do not think that there are too many books out there shining a light on what a person with Alzhimer’s experiences- first hand. Alice is a cognitive psychologist at Harvard and she recognizes that she is exhibiting signs of Alzhimer’s disease. The story expressing her journey of from the signs to diagnosis to progression of this relenting disease. It also lets the reader see how her family cope with the news and how this changes their lives and relationships.

Questions/ Discussion Topics

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  • How would you feel/react if you did not recognize the place you where in?
  • What do you feel or think it would feel like to recognize what is happening to you, knowing you were getting the devastating disease and the horrible outcome?
  • How do you feel about the family’s reactions? How would you react if someone in your life received this diagnosis?
  • What do we gain from seeing this story through Alice’s eyes? Does her job play into this view?

5. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

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I loved loved loved this book! I have read this one soo long ago but instantly thought of it as a great book club book! The setting is a circus. The story is told by Jacob who is 93 and lives in a nursing home. Jacob recounts the years he lived in the circus as he watches a circus set up camp beside his home. He becomes a vet to the circus and becomes romantically attached to the star Marlena who has an equestrian show. She had a jealous husband August who is the animal trainer. He also forms an attachment to an elephant Rosie. It gives the readers all sorts of feels!

Questions/ Discussion Topic

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  • Is this story an adventure, love, or survival story and why
  • Does this book change your point of view of the circus, especially in the recent light of the Ringling Brother’s shut down.
  • Who where your favourite characters, animals included
  • Where you surprised at the ending? Why? How would you have liked the book to end?

For all of those out there in book clubs or thinking of starting one (I will have a blog post at a later time regarding how to start a book club) I hoped these books and questions have helped. Even if you are not a member of a book club you can always keep these questions floating around your mind and answer them while you read the book. It may help to bring a deeper understanding of view of the book you are reading. Some of these questions are standard so they can be applied to any book not just the 5 I have mentioned. As always feel free to leave comments below. If you are in a book club what are some exciting book that sparked a great discussion with your members?

Happy Reading!!

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book blogger, book review, Books, books, Fiction, inspiration, Literature

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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So there was a lot of hype around this book in 2017. I was a bit late to read this as it is now 2019 lol. Better late than never I guess. I found this book a bit slow at times but all in all I really liked the story. This book is a trilogy called the Winternight trilogy. It incorporates mythical folk tales into reality. The tale follows Vasya a wild child who’s stepmother and local priest want to rid their town of her ‘devilish’ ways all the while the winter King a frost demon has his eyes on her. It has a lot of terms I did not understand. Arden was smart and added a glossary of terms to help the reader discover the magical Russian folklore background.

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The story opens with Vasya’s nanny Dunya telling the tale of the winter king who brings death. The tale is told to children to scare them into behaving….. Or is it. Maria, Vasy’s mother was the daughter of the Grand Prince of Moscow. Pyotr Vasya’s father is a lord on the outskirts of the forest a long way from Moscow. Maria died in childbirth leaving Vasya motherless and free to roam wherever as she grows up.

Vasya spends all of her time in the forest talking to the folklore forest nymphs and fairies. These creatures are said to protect the houses of the people who worships them and leave food out for them. The Domovoi is the oven creature who helps protect the house. She comes across a weird tree one day and meets the elicude Frost King who saves her life.

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Her father who is worried that she is growing up wild decides it is time to remarry. He travels to Moscow to find a wife who ends up being the Grand Prince’s daughter. Anna also see these mythical creatures just like Vasya can. They set out on the long track home. Sasha, Vasya’s brother meets a priest in the city and asks to stay but Pyotr says no.

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Once back in their village Anna does not fit into the hard labours life. The only time she feels safe from seeing the ‘demons’ is in the church. The sightings have gotten worse since coming to the forest so Anna becomes estranged from the villagers and her new family. She seeks solace with the new priest Konstantin that has come to look over the village. The priest sees Vasya as unclean or evil as she spends so much time in the woods. He thinks he hears ‘God’ talking to him one night. This voice tells him that the villagers have lost their way and he needs to instill fear and doubt. The voice says their worship of the chyerti is wrong and to discipline this villagers in the way of God. Spoiler alert here the voice is really the brother of the Frost King. He is an evil one eyed bear that wants to take over the earth in darkness.

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Here the book picks up and the story unravels faster. I found the first part of the book a bit slower but necessary to set up the last part. Pyotr tried to wed Vasya to Kyril – a very brute and ‘manly’ villager. He is cruel to his horses. Vasya knows this because she can read the horses as she was taught by one of the cheryti. He finds Vasya’s behaviours hard to deal with and calls off the wedding. As the reader I would have hated to see Arden marry Vasya off and chain her up in a house.

So the 3rd part of the book is the battle between Vasya and the Bear devil. We see that the people of the village grow to hate and blame Vasya for all the people dying. Really it is their lack of believe and offerings to the Cheryti that allow the Devil to come into their homes. Finally the frost king saves Vasya from the Bear and brings her to his frost home. An aside- why are there a lot of frost kings and beings in fantasy novels. We see the frost ‘white walkers’ in the Game of Thrones books.

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In the end Vasya fights the bear Devil, known as Medved. We other cheryti originally follow Medved but Vasya was able to persuade them to follow her as she has been nice to them. Konstantin brings Anna to the forest as bait because Medved needs a ‘seer’ to be killed to free him. In the end Vasya’s father dies offering his life to save his daughter. At the end she leaves the village, be able to drive Konstantin off first. The villagers still think she is a witch and Vasya does not want to make trouble for her brother who is now taking over the village. The last scene was very interesting as she goes back to the frost Kings home and he lets her in.

All in all I really enjoyed this book. I have never read anything like it so it was nice to read out of my comfort zone. What did you think of this book? Like or dislike? Feel free to leave a comment below> I would love to hear your thoughts.

Happy Reading Everyone!!

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Book Review: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

Book Review: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

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Pop up Thursday post!!

This historical movie centers around Nazi occupied Poland. I love love love myself a historical fiction novel, This one is a love story that follows the main character throughout the past to the present. If your into tear jerks this one ‘s for you!! It gives great insight to how the war tore families apart and the long lasting sacrifices the generation had to make. Kelly Rimmer has also wrote The Secret Daughter, Me Without You and Before I Let you go. This is the first novel I have read by this author but from the titles of her other books it seems like she writes soul touching story.

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This story follows Alicia in present day. Her babcia is sick in the hospital. She has a daughter Pascale and a son Eddie, who has autism. Considering how forefront the Autism awareness is right now I think it was a great addition to a modern day family. The novel outlines the struggles of just going to the grocery store and then the hospital with an Autistic family member.

There are 2 timelines in the story. The second is a flash back to 1938 where a couple Alina and Tomasz are in Poland. Ah young love! Tomasz is going off to med school and he romantically promises Alina he will always love her, no matter the time or distance.

Flash forward to the present where babcia is trying to tell Alicia something after her stroke. She utilizes the ipad communication system Eddie uses and tells Alicia to find Tomasz, but her grandfather died 12 months earlier. So off Alicia goes to Poland because it is the dying wish of her babcia.

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Sept 1939 a bomb hits Alina’s home town and thus enters the first glimpses of the war. The Nazis then start invading towns, killing their leaders. In this case Tomasz’s father thus instilling fear into the town’s people. We find out that Alina’s mother was a rebel. She was preserving extra food and hiding it from the Nazis for her family to survive. Alinia has not seen Tomasz for so long. She goes to town and tries to find word of him. He comes to her window that night and she learns that he has been hiding in the woods. A Jewish family helped him escape and he is helping them hide in a local’s house. This could get them all killed.

Any WW2 novel brings to light the hardships and sacrifices people who lived through the war went through. I could not even imagine not seeing my husband for years on end. Always wondering if he was alive or dead. I don’t know what would be worse, wondering what has happened to him or knowing where he was which was being in constant danger and starvation.

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The reader learns that Alina lives close to Birkenau, she sees the pillars of smoke not knowing the reason behind them. The Nazis end up taking her parents and Alina and Tomasz try and escape. They strike a deal with Henry, an American photographer smuggling people out of Poland. The Jewish family Tomasz is hiding gets found out and the Nazis kill the wife and baby daughter, leaving Saul the husband alive.

In order to get Alina out of Poland she needs new papers and a new name, hence the name Hanna- we find out that babcia is Alina and Tomasz is her lost love. But who at this point is Alicia’s father

Jump back to present day. Alicia find Tomasz’s sister still alive. She tells Alicia of the true Tomasz, who did not leave in the truck with Saul and Hanna/Alina but stayed behind and gave himself up in order for Alina to get away. He was shot in town square- start the water works. At this point I was bauling. Alicia then realize the man she thought was Tomasz her father was Saul.

The trip to Poland for Alicia was more than finding out about her heritage. It was also to find herself again. Alicia was so dedicated to her family and maintaining a normal schedule for Eddie she lost who she was. She did not believe that her husband would ever be able to follow Eddie’s strict routine. It turns out that yes Wade (husband) did struggle and realise what Alcia did for Eddie but Wade also pushed Eddie out of his boundaries and Eddie learned to do new things.

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By the end of the book I probably went through a whole box of tissues. When Alicia went back and told her babcia what she found I lost it. Haha What a great novel about family ties and sacrifices. Have any of you read this book or any others by this author? I love it when you all leave comments about your thoughts and feelings so please feel free to leave a comment below!

Happy Reading!!!!

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Top 5: Best Playlist to Listen to While Reading

Top 5: Best Playlist to Listen to While Reading

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So this may not be a popular blog post but hey why not right? I love listening to music while I read. Yes, I know that the majority of readers cannot listen to anything while reading. I guess I am in the select few who can and enjoy a good playlist. Now not all playlist are reading conducive. It has taken me quite a while to come up with these top 5 playlists. A lot of trial and error when into this post. While these playlist are enjoyable for my reading experience these may not be enjoyable for all. So disclaimer, not everyone may like them. I do hope for those of you who enjoy listening to music to at least try these out.

  1. Lord of the Ring Playlist
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I have found that all the Lord of the Rings’ soundtracks are great for casual reading and even studying. There are no songs with words or repetitive choruses so it is not distracting for me. The instrumental aspect is very relaxing and soothing background noise. I have found the full soundtrack on youtube (link below) as well as Spotify. There are over 13 hours of music so no need to worry about changing playlist when you are just getting into your read. The instrumentation is sensational and immense! It also has a celtic vibe if your into that.

2. Easy Classical playlist on spotify

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This playlist can be found on spotify- which i like using as you can save your favourites thus not having to search for your favs every time. There are quite a lot of numbers orchestrated by the London Symphony Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma cellist, Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra just to name a few famous ones. It has all your typical classical music by Bach, Beethoven and Vivaldi. Sometimes just listening to the instrumental pieces are tranquilizing. There are pieces everyone can recognize as well as pieces I have not heard.

3. Movie soundtracks

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One of my favourite reading playlists comes from movie soundtracks. My absolute fav is on Spotify (as you can see i use this app a lot). It is called “ The fantastic world of movie soundtracks”POTC. Once again there are no lyrics or very minimal occurrences so these are not distracting to the reader. This playlist features soundtracks from some of the most famous movies. Forrest Gump, Gladiator, Avator, Inception,. Braveheart, Da Vinci Code, Titanic, Harry Potter, and the Last Samurai are just a few.

4. Halo Soundtrack

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So for not being a big gamer I do like the soundtracks to all the halo games. They have a space/ galaxy/electronic feel about them making it quite laid back. These once again can be found on Spotify and youtube (link below). It is all instrumental.

5. Reading soundtrack

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This playlist found on Spotify- by the way Spotify has not sponsored this post- is mixed instrumental. It has composers like Hans Zimmer and features some more movie soundtracks. These however are more modern day movies like Mocking Jay, Christopher Robin movie and the new live action Cinderella. Once again this seems to be all instrumental.

I hope this post has given those of you out there who do enjoy listening to music while reading some options you have never heard of. If any of you have favourite playlists of your own I would love to hear about them!! Please feel free to leave comments below. Also if you are the person who does not like listening to music while reading I would love to hear why not.

Happy Reading !!!

book review, books, Fiction, Literature

Book Review: No Exit by Taylor Adams

Book Review: No Exit by Taylor Adams

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This book was popping up all over Bookstagram so I thought I would take a crack at reading it. This is only Taylor’s third novel and wow what a great thriller author. There are so many twists and surprises that this was a fast great read!! Taylor started off being a short film writer and transitions into books. Thank god he did because 2019 would not be a great reading year without this jem!

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Setting the scene: Christmas time in the Rockies. Main character Darby is driving in one hell of a blizzard to visit her mother in the hospital. Darby’s mother is dying of pancreatic cancer. Darby feels guilty as the last conversation her and her mother had did not go well. As the blizzard worsens and her car is skidding in snow she loses a windshield wiper. Darby is forced to stop at a rest stop and this begins the worst night of her life.

At the rest stop she encounters 4 people, a man Ashley, a man Lars and man Ed and his possible wife Sandi -later learn they are cousins. All of them are stuck at this rest stop with an emergency broadcast saying it could possible be 10 hours until snowplows reach them. Darby tries to get a signal to reach her sister at their mother’s hospital bed. Landscape is all trees and a huge cliff. By page 21 Darby sees a cage in a van in the parking lot with a little girl in it. From here on the book is just one tension filled disaster after another!!!

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From her Darby has a decision to make get involved and try and help this girl with no possible backup from the police or be silent and not do anything. If we were in her position, what would be do? Would we try and be a hero with the possibility the kidnapper could kill us or would we not do anything and save our own life. I’m not saying any choice is the correct choice. This would be an extremely hard position to be in. Of course it wouldn’t be an enjoyable book without Darby choosing to save the girl.

She now has to try and figure out which of these 4 strangers has the possibility to be a kidnapper. So to get a better idea, even though she suspects the creepy guy named Lars, she goes back to the van. She breaks in with a shoelace and interacts with the girl. The girls name is Jay and she is in Lars van. Ashley returns to the rest stop needing to get help so she tells Ashley. They concoct a plan to knock out Lars but Ashley doesn’t follow through. When Darby goes back to check on Jay bam she finds out there are 2 kidnappers and guess what, the other is Ashley.

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This starts the book’s cat and mouse game between Darby and Ashley. He is the real brains behind the operation and his brother Lars just follows orders. At this point Darby has a decision to make. Continue to fight for the girl or wait for the plows to hopefully open the roads and report it to the police. Self reflecting the reader may ask his/herself what they would do in Darby’s situation. Would you play the hero and possibly get killed or would you play it safe letting the girl go to her doom.

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It would not be a suspenseful thrilling book if Darby played it safe so off she goes to play the hero. She breaks into the van once again and tries to save Jay but the brothers are onto her following her to the van. She ends up giving Jay her swiss army knife in hopes to cut the ties on her cage. The plot unfolds and we see the shady history of Ashley and Lars childhood with his weird uncle.

Jay told Darby before she gave the knife to her that the brothers chose this rest stop for a reason, it’s not by accident. Ashley demands that Darby find Jay who has now escaped because she will freeze and die in the blizzard, losing the money they would get from the kidnapping. Darby escapes and goes back to the restroom to find Jay there and bam another twist, Sandi was in on the kidnapping the whole time. It turns out she was Jay’s bus driver and helped the brothers plan the ransom gig. Twist after gut wrenching twist.

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In the powerful climax Ashley has shot Ed, pinned Darby in a door all to find the keys to his van so they can get away. Jay and Darby gang up killing Lars. The cops finally show up just as Darby is about to shoot Ashley and shoot her thinking she is the killer, ba ba baaaa!. However justice is served and Jay ends up shooting Ashley in the face. Now here is where our heroine really comes through. Before the passes out in the snow she writes the address of the creepy uncle Ashley is taking Jay to. It turns out that the uncle sells this girls in his basement to sick truckers. Not only did she stop the 2 crazy brothers but she also stopped a sex/ murder ring thus saving girls in the future!!!!

So for those of you who have read No Exit what were your thoughts and feels throughout the book. I for one loved his debut novel and can not wait to read more from Adams. As always feel free to leave any comments below!!

Happy reading!!!