Michelle Obama – Becoming

Michelle Obama took to the stage in Toronto and shared a powerful message to 15000 (mostly) women!  It was an amazing evening, listening to Michelle speak about her book, Becoming, with my daughter, mom, IMG_1159sister in laws and friends!  Her message to the audience was to tell your story, teach others, be open, have fun and practice failure.  She got screams of “run for president” and huge applause.  If you have not read Becoming, I suggest you pick it up and learn how hardwork and a good education have led her to a position of influence an to become the First Lady of the United States, the first black First Lady who encouraged children, had a garden at the White House and spread her message with grace and humility.

She shared how she had started out with little (financially), living in the apartment above her great aunt’s home but she had much love and family that helped guide her.  She shared that with “a lot of hard work and a good education anyone can succeed”!  Succeed she has, making an impact on the world with her role as first lady and with her most successful memoir in “herstory”.  I look forward to seeing what the Obama’s accomplish with their Higher Ground Netflix project which will enhance their power to tell stories.

She spoke of being open to change, instead of using the news to tell their story during the campaign races, she reached out to the people through late night shows, having fun with David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon.  She reached out with Ellen, with Sesame Street and took the approach of “making people laugh and then teaching them something”.  She trusted her young staff to help her reach out through social media saying that “if the goal is to reach people, you have to be flexible”.  (My favourite was her carpool Karaoke when as first lady she spent time with Jame Cordon).

She impressed on the audience that “no one gets where they are, as a success, on their own” and encouraged the audience to find people to trust, build a base of support, be out IMG_1161their and ask for help while building a community.  This message was specific to young people getting ready for college but applies to all.  She shared the importance of being curious, open to explore and to learn and to listen. She laughed to the teens saying that they “know nothing” but need to go out, make mistakes and learn for themselves.

She opened up about seeking marriage counselling and that “no one else can make you happy”, that you need to seek this happiness yourself.  She encouraged girls to reach their goals and not wait for any man!  She noted that life is long, that “we all have to make trade offs but that it is never to late to be a better leader, never to late to be a better friend and never to late to self reflect”.

She talked failure, how it is important to get used to fear, and know that “the feeling of failure ends, you recover from it” and that everyone else is failing all around you so likely not even paying attention to your missteps.  She noted that “I failed a lot but just kept moving through the failure” and that it is important to practice failing and get back up.  She shared how she had learned about the importance of not procrastinating when she failed the bar exam, having to tell the partners at the firm that she had failed which at the time had been very difficult.

Her powerful messages were packed into a great evening and will have a lasting impact on the audience!  It was a wonderful evening, leaving the audience many thoughts to ponder and her message will inspire others to make a difference!

“The path to anywhere is filled with bumps and bruises and lessons learned… hit them and don’t give up!”

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Canada Reads – Finale

Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 10.49.12 PMWhat an amazing day!!  What could be better than spending a great day with fellow book lovers including my daughter and friends at Canada Reads?  After a bit of panic with a delay on the highway, we made it to the GO station and into Toronto to met up with our CanadianContent Goodreads group friends from as far away as Bermuda (yes, I did say Bermuda) and Kingston (Ontario)!

The finale was amazing with two fantastic books squaring off against each other: Homes and By Chance Alone (I am sorry but I am behind in my book reviews so will be adding blog posts about the books soon).  Chuck Comeau was his at his strongest today, highlighting the importance of a young person’s story about his refugee experience.  He took his role so seriously and seemed much more comfortable debating today yet saddened by the loss of Homes.  Like my daughter kept saying, how can you argue against the Holocaust?  It is so important to understand the past to ensure it is never repeated and Ziya Tong led By Chance to victory in a very polished and prepared debate!  Check out day four here.

In the end, the readers won with 5 great books (okay, really 4 as I still struggled with The Woo Woo but some people did somehow find it humorous… I am still not sure what was funny but do agree that mental health is a very important topic).  The authors also won with the brisk sale of their books (not to mentioned the booksellers)  and the audience won with an invigorating opportunity to be in the audience (or listen from their cars, or watch later on the CBC stream).

It was an amazing day!!  Our group is very thankful to both Tara and Chloe at CBC for their help in arranging group tickets and to the CBC Books for a great event!  We celebrated with lunch before we parted ways but are already looking forward to Canada Reads 2020!!!

 

 

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Canada Reads – Day 3

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Canada Reads is down to the final two.  Both books are non-fiction and both tell harrowing tales, one of the horror of the Holocaust and the other the plight of a young refugee whose family had fled Iraq to the safety of Syria only to be plunged into more danger.

Both stories are told by remarkable individuals who have show great resilience and strength.  Both stories need to be shared.  Readers need to understand, reflect and make the world a better place.

Sadly, Brother was voted off today.  It was a story that also needs to be told.  I loved the beautiful prose and appreciate understanding the challenges of immigrant families (particularly this single mom who struggled to support her family, working diligently yet not able to be home when her boys may have needed her) in Toronto.

The Canada Reads t-shirts are here and our group is very excited to be part of the studio audience tomorrow!!  Tune in at 11!!

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Canada Reads – Day 2

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Day 2 was full of great discussion and I was sad to see Suzanne be voted off.  Although it was difficult to like the actions and decisions of Suzanne, it was a book that did move me to consider the lack of choice for women at a time when the expectation was to be a wife and mother.  The book was a beautifully written collection of vignettes spanning the lifetime of experiences of Suzanne.  Not only did I like the story, but the book nerd in me appreciated the quality, linen like, thick pages printed by Coach Books (much like Fifteen Dogs).

The next two days will be exciting.  The remaining books seem quite evenly matched although the defenders of By Chance Alone and Brother seem to have stronger debating skills and a greater comfort level in the high tension atmosphere of a live audience situation.

Bring on Day 3 and I am looking forward to being part of the audience on Day 4 when the winner will be chosen!

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Canada Reads: Day 1

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Canada Reads is the most exciting “book holiday” of my year!!  I love the focus on CanLit, the competition, the strategy and the game show antics.  I have enjoyed reading the books (well, most of them) and am so excited to be attending the finale on Thursday which some equally enthusiastic book friends.

Today, I am thrilled with the result.  Of all the books, I had the most difficulty finishing The Woo Woo.  I could not see the “black humour” that others have commented on.  If her life was truly so bad, why did teachers not see the abuse and the neglect and follow their duty to report?  How could no-one identify and help to rescue this little girl?  Did they not notice that she infrequently bathed, had her feet burned and was verbally and psychologically abused?

I appreciate the importance of reducing the stigma of mental health challenges but this book does not resonate and I am pleased with the results of today’s voting.

Looking forward to day 2…

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January Book Review Blitz

3.  Eat Move Think:  The Path to a Healthier, Stronger

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 8.40.36 AMJanuary was a month of thinking about resolutions and Eat Move Think was the book to inspire a few changes.  The book was a little light on research but it was an easy read to inspire readers to make healthy living goals for 2019.

I liked that it had references from Canadian sources and sparks thought which may lead readers to more research.  For me, this book helped me to set goals to some new 30 day challenges like not eating snacks after dinner, ensuring that I get in my 10 sets of stairs daily (easy to track with a fitbit) and get to bed earlier working towards at least 7 hours of sleep.


4.  The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules (Catharina Ingleman-Sundberg) 

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 9.10.07 AMFor February Book Club, the plan was to finish the books from pas book club Christmas exchanges.  I had been especially delinquent and had a copy of The Doomsday Book, The Little Old Lady and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.  My goal had been to finish all 3 for our discussion but I did not quite make it in time!

This was a light, amusing read about a group of pensioners, frustrated by the lack of amenities and control of their own lives in their retirement home.  They began testing the boundaries and breaking rules which led to a life of crime!

Readers need to set aside their need for realism and just enjoy the antics of these seniors rather than judging the actual possibility of the success of these crimes.


5.  A Well-Behaved Woman:  A Novel of the Vanderbilts 

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 9.11.47 AMAfter loving Z, the novel written about Zelda Fitzgerald and the opulent life of parties and excess, I was happy to listen to A Well-Behaved Woman during my January commutes.  Based on the extremely wealthy Vanderbilt family, it was interesting to read about the lifestyle and challenges of being a woman at this time.

This thought-provoking, creative fiction was woven with actual history and told the story of women in the late 1800s.  It was a time where women did not always marry for love but had to consider their husbands with a focus on money and security.  Women could not vote and had limited ability to make independent decisions.

The Vanderbilt family lived a life of excess and it was interesting to read this book and think of the impact these family members had on their future generations.  As I listened to this tale, I reflected on what I had learned listening to The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper.


6.  Good Night Mind: Turn off Your Noisy Thoughts and get a Good Night’s Sleep

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As someone who periodically has sleep challenges, i was interested in learning some new tips for quieting my mind. Although there were helpful tips, there was nothing new but lots of common sense suggestions.

 

 

 


7.  Small Fry (Lisa Brennan-Jobs)

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 9.26.53 AMAs I type on my MacBook Air, communicate on my iPhone and take notes at meeting with my Apple pencil and iPad, it is easy to see the genius and vision of Steve Jobs.  I had already learned about his eccentricities and selfishness in his biography but it was really quite sad to read of his daughter’s experience in her biography, Small Fry.

His daughter and ex lived in relative poverty during Lisa’s early years, her parentage was denied and there was no support despite his ample income.  When he did spend time with Lisa, his behaviours were often mercurial. He was mean, even mentally abusive at times yet loving and over the top at other times.  He lived in a mansion where he had not even been in some of the rooms.  The home was crumbling around him.  He attempted to get his family to eat his extreme vegan diet, stopped paying Lisa’s tuition and demanded she choose one parent over the other.

I am thankful for his vision which allows me to carry a “computer” (iPhone) in my pocket but it is hard to reconcile the technological brilliance with the selfish, petulant man described in Small Fry!

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2. Remember Us (Lindsay Blake/Layne James)

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 2.30.22 PMDid I tell you that my friend Layne has written a book?  How amazing is that??  She is a busy mom, photographer and has recently went back to school to finish a masters program… yet somehow, she has found time to write and publish a book!!!

Remember us is a story full of challenging family dynamics.  Feelings and frustrations escalate  when Reese and her brother Ben return home to care for their father who has been diagnosed with cancer.  As they struggle to care for him, their estranged mother arrives and turns their lives upside down as she attempts to rekindle relationships and make amends after being absent for thirteen years.

The characters are quirky and readers have to wonder how much of these antics are pulled from real life situations?  This story follows Reese who struggles to answer questions such as whether to forgive her mom?  Which love interest to choose?  How to move forward with her life?

If it is not enough that the characters come together in their family home, they take off on a road trip in a rust volkswagen bus.  I don’t want to share any spoilers so I will end this review sharing that there was a bit of a shocker towards the end which leaves readers pondering.

Support a local author!!  Ask for Remember Us at the library, or buy a copy from Coles or Chapters.  Layne lives locally and is excited to join book clubs for discussion and I am looking forward to my May book club where we can get our books signed and ask questions about the writing experience, specifically the challenges in writing a book with a friend.

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1. Bear Town (Fredrik Backman)

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 8.57.05 AMMy apologies to the readers who follow this blog.  Although I had good intentions to stay on track in 2019, the busy days have taken over so I have some catching up to do!

I started 2019 with Bear Town.   If you have not read it, please do pick it up and you will not be disappointed. Friends kept asking me if I had read Bear Town and sharing just how great it was and yet I procrastinated. Finally, I picked up a copying, hoping that the book was not too steeped in hockey and knowing how much I had enjoyed the the audio version of Backman’s book, A Man Called Ove during my commutes in 2015.

To be honest, for the first third of the book, I kept wondering what all the hype was about.  I slogged through the hockey details, got to know all the sport-obsessed characters and learned about the politics of a town that was hoping for renewal if it was chosen as the location of a new hockey school.  If I hadn’t heard so many recommendations, I might have put it down at this point but I continued on…

Similar to a hockey game, the book started slow and then the punches started.  The drama continued and I became so engrossed that despite the late hours, I could not put the book down!  I won’t share any spoilers, but the whole town became involved in turmoil, lives were impacted and individuals, families and the community had to reconsider their actions, the sport and the collective mindsets in this town.  Living in a hockey town filled with families hoping that their children will be the next Wayne Gretzky, perhaps this is the book for those parents who are reliving their own missed opportunities instead of simply supporting their kids in the fun of the game.  (Check out this article detailing over 30 parents who were and were involved in a “brawl” at a game played by eleven and twelve year olds in Simcoe this winter!)

Frederik Backman is a Swedish author yet it was great to see a small Canadian connection in this book.  His beautiful prose draws the readers in and I would also recommend the short stories in The Deal of a Lifetime which I had enjoyed this past December.

What did you think?  Have you read Bear Town?  Did you love it?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts and also to finding out what happens next in Bear Town as the sequel, Us Against You is on my ever-growing TBR pile!

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2018 Review – update

For those of you that read my posts by email please note that the wonderful books that I have recommended seem to be mixed with those that I would suggest avoiding so please read the post here.

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2018: A Year of Books Review

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It seems that 2018 has flown by!  It was an year of less reading, many exiting author events and a hectic pace as I successfully ran for school board trustee (hence less reading).

Did I meet all my reading goals?  Not quite, but I am still pleased to have read 90 books in 2018.  Of this reading, 51 books were written by Canadian authors (57% of my overall reading).  A third of my reading was non-fiction and I listened to 14 books  which kept me engaged as I commuted.

My friend, Kim, had a goal of meeting 50 authors in 2018 as a way of celebrating her 50th birthday.  Although I am not quite at this milestone, it was a fun challenge and I had fun meeting 55 authors.

I had a great time at the Canada Reads finale with friends from my in person and online book clubs (and am looking forward to the 2019 long-list announcement on January 10th).

 

Another fantastic event was the FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity) where I got to meet Kim Thuy (author of Ru, VI, Man), Shannon Bala (The Boat People) and Tanya Talaga (Seven Fallen Feathers).

Over the year, my author highlights included:

  • Lisa Genova
  • David Chariandy
  • Thomas King
  • Paula McLain
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Kate Morton

as well as my husband’s favourite authors:

  • Daniel Silva (the biggest event I have ever attended with 1000 people appreciating this spy thriller author in a Toronto synogogue)
  • Ian Rankin

If you are looking for recommendations to read in 2019, I would suggest:

 

You can’t win them all so here are a few books that I would suggest passing on:

 

Overall, 2018 was a great year of reading, book events, book club meetings, online discussion and books in general.  Here’s to more great books and events in 2019!!!

What were your book highlights and lowlights of 2018?  Please comment below!

 

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