On the Night Table with Susanna Kearseley

As a certifiable bibliophile, I’m always curious to see what a person is reading. So I take advantage of any opportunity that I can get to see what an author/blogger/celebrity is reading at any given moment. Well, today, I have Ms. Susanna Kearsely. She’s incredibly busy, I know this. But she’s such a lovely person for indulging my quirks.


I don’t read much fiction while I’m writing. Every writer is different, but for me, I find that if another storyteller’s voice is strong, it sometimes influences mine without my even knowing it, so I usually stick to more visual entertainment like movies or TV while writing.

Between books, though, I do try to make a dent in my ever-growing TBR stack.

These five books are closest to the top. The fact they’re all male-authored mysteries is because the novel I’ll be writing next, The Vanished Days, has a mysterious storyline narrated by a man, so I’m doing research—pleasure reading with a purpose:

Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry, by D.B. Jackson—the first two books in his Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy series set in pre-revolutionary war era Boston, with a conjurer hero named Ethan Kaille.

Cloudland, by Joseph Olshan, a literary thriller based on a true story of unsolved crimes, set in Vermont, and written by the award-winning author of Clara’s Heart.

So Disdained, a World War II thriller by one of my favourite writers, Nevil Shute. I’ve read most of his novels, but I’ve purposely held back a few, like this one, to reward myself with between writing my own books.

and,

The Man From St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett. I read this one years ago, when it first came out, but I’ve mostly forgotten the finer details of the plot, so I’ve cycled it back again onto my reading pile.

Give it a week, though, and I’m sure there’ll be other books piled on top of these. My TBR bookstack grows like a weed. I can’t help myself.


Thank you for sharing, Ms. Kearsely. These books sound intense in their own way. Piqued my curiosity, to say the least. 🙂

Genevieve Graham and Her Love for Canadian History

In high school, I had no interest in history. Now that I’m an adult, there’s a lot I don’t know. Non-fiction usually puts me to sleep, so I turned to historical fiction. My obsession with the genre started with “Outlander”, and I never stopped reading.

I’d never written anything, never dreamed of it, but in 2007 I made my first attempt and my Scottish historical trilogy became a bestseller. In 2008, my family and I moved to Nova Scotia, and it was full of history! My first eye-opening lesson was about the Halifax Explosion, the largest manmade explosion before Hiroshima. Despite my excellent education, I had never heard of it. I needed to know all about the Explosion, and I learn by visualizing. I dropped my fictional characters into the setting and walked beside them, writing as we went.

I have become addicted to the little known or untold stories in Canadian history and am determined to tell more. “Promises to Keep” covered the Acadian Expulsion. “Come From Away” returns to Nova Scotia during WWII, and soon I will get back to work on three more books which are already partially written: the Klondike Gold Rush (and the early Mounties), the British Home Children, and more.

My agent once told me the secret to successful publishing is to “write a really great book.” Well, I want more than that. I want to write a good book and I want to bring history back to life … so no one sleeps through class anymore.

 

Thanks for stopping by, Genevieve. As a Canadian, and as someone who didn’t have the opportunity to study here, I try to glean as much history as I can from the books I read. So reading your books is something that I look forward to with great interest if only to learn about the country that have embraced me and my family so warmly. Thank you for all you do and for taking the time to write this piece. 

@GenGrahamAuthor | Facebook | Website

Buy her books here: Amazon | Chapters Indigo | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

The Timeless Tour Kick Off


Last year, I was fortunate enough to have been a part of The Timeless Tour hosted by Simon & Schuster Canada. I was really excited to see which authors and works I’ll get to discover. I’m happy to see Ms. Genevieve Graham again and super pumped to read her recent work. Ms. Kearsley is, of course, a household Canadian name so to see Bellewhether amongst the list of books is a delight. I’ve already read Songs of Love and War by Ms. Montefiore and have loved it. As well, Ms. Van Alkemade’s Bachelor Girl.

To kick off this tour, we were asked three questions about our interest in Historical Fiction. As you know, I read a whole variety of stuff. But I find myself leaning towards Historical Fiction when I’m in need of something more cerebral, oddly enough.

To understand the past is to determine our future.

Historical fiction enables me to travel back in time and learn about the world I live in. History is not always an enthusiastic subject for me, but it feels different to see it through another person’s story instead of a stone-cold statement of facts. The irony is, I love to read about historical facts told in a fictional account of someone’s story.  So I love learning about it any way I can.

If I could travel back in time, which period would I want to be and why?

Elizabeth Bennett has done her part in making me feel like the Georgian era would be ideal for me. All we have to worry about is dodging our meddling mothers in finding us husbands and we’ll be golden.

Dinner for Two

There’s never been a great representation of grace and charm than the late Princess Diana. She’s not a perfect person, sure. But her life was the epitome of goodness and kindness towards the less fortunate, the sick children, and those in need. She would’ve had a lot of stories and experiences to tell, so if I could have a sit down with any historical figures, I would give a limb to have that time with her.

Thanks for reading!

[734]: Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Monsters in human form. Courage from desperation.


Orphan Monster Spy
by Matt Killeen

This book will have you engrossed from the get go. From the time you realize that Ursula is more than your average teen, she’s already outwitted Nazi soldiers and have found herself working as a spy for the British government. All these at a tender age of 15. And considering her life hasn’t been the easiest and was only going to get worse, Sarah/Ursula is indeed a remarkable young woman.

I supposed a true mark of a legendary spy in the making is one’s ability to quickly overcome emotions to avoid certain death or just even to survive. Ursula passed every single test that came her way. She used her freshman acting abilities to get away from a strange man soon after witnessing her mother’s murder. She then followed her instinct to saved the same man from the soldiers by playing as his daughter.

Captain Floyd easily saw exactly how intelligent, multi-talented, and useful she could be to their cause. And he didn’t hesitate to take advantage of her. Ursula was only too willing to be used as life has left her an orphan without a choice or a future. And that’s how she found herself in a nightmare disguised as a boarding school. It is a boarding school that knows no kindness, just cruelty; gives no education, just Aryan ideology.

But nothing could diminish Ursula’s courage and strenght. Not the tortorous hands of teachers and students alike; not a music teacher whose admiration left her cold. Not even a fellow student’s father who used his own daughter to lure girls like Ursula to drug them and rape them. And not especially when she found out that Captain Floyd knew beforehand just what kind of monsters she had to deal with on her first mission.

This book was difficult to read most of the time. But oh, it’s so good. I couldn’t stop reading. My stomach churned at every turn. But I was glued to the pages because I was wholly vested in what happens to Ursula. I was happy for her when she met Captain Floyd. I thought she was saved. But like Ursula, I was duped. This novel is indeed about monsters. The obvious ones whose cruel intentions are visible, and the ones whose inhumanity is hidden in the facade of kindness.

At Home: Achieving the Boho Style

I’m one of those people who’s not a fan of going stagnant when it comes to the decor of my house. So every Spring, my home goes through a transformation of sorts. I tend to drive my family crazy with the whirlwind of cleaning and rearranging to achieve the kind of look I want. This year, I opted for the style of the moment: Bohemian Chic. At first, I was a little hesitant to make the change because everything was about minimalism in my house last year. And to achieve the boho chic decor, you must shed your inhibition towards contrasting colours and textures; filling your rooms with house plants, and woven knick-knacks on every available surface of your house.

CONTRAST

Both my couches are now littered with pillows featuring a variety of colours and vintage-looking prints of varying patterns. Anything that offers a contrast to the overall appearance of a room got me one step closer to joining the Bohemian movement. Persian rugs are also a must. Unfortunately, they cost a lot of money. But if you try your luck at IKEA, they have some great ones that are inexpensive. Of course, having vintage rugs are optimal. But I can barely afford a runner so I’m saving up for when I can get a big rectangular one that can over a wide area in my living room.

PATTERNS, TEXTURES, & FRINGES

On my thrifting weekends, my eyes are always peeled to textiles and blankets. They may look like eyesores now but when they’re properly mixed with the overall aesthetic of your house, it works.

So yes, my house is an ever-changing landscape. I’m never satisfied with how it looks. Who knows what I would be into in the summer? What about you? Do you get bitten by the decorating bug quite often? What’s your style like? Come back next time for more about this Bohemian chic style. But for a few ideas about it, here are a few Instagram accounts that I follow:

@sub_folk_collective

@thisthriftedabode

@labohemehouseofthewishingtrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[733]: Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

A thrilling, amazing and bittersweet conclusion to a favourite series.


Obsidio
by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

It’s always tough to write a review for a book in a series that had easily became one of your favourites. Most of the time, your thoughts are jumbled, out of sequence and holding very little sense but to you alone. That’s probably why I did not even bother writing reviews for Illuminae and Gemina – both of which blew my mind.

Obsidio, much like its predecessors, used one an avant-garde method of story-telling. Utilizing hand written notes, witnesses accounts, and chat threads, the series was a delight to the senses. At times, it certainly felt like my eyes couldn’t keep up with my brain; struggling to follow the storyline written on the pages but already seeing in my mind’s eye what’s happening with our beloved characters. Still, I soaked it all in. Often even going back and forth as the story is being narrated on audio.

There were so many things I looked forward in this ending. Least of all is the demise of the evil BeiTech empire. Mostly, I looked forward to seeing how our teens have been faring while they try to find purchase in the galaxy. And I mean that literally, as their ship was barely limping to the next jump station or some such. Meanwhile, back in Kerenza, there are still pockets of survivors barely eking out a so-called life. Slaved by BeiTech invaders, starved and worked to the bone, there are rebels who are only too willing to forfeit their lives. Heartbreaking stories abound. I have cried a tear or two for the people of Kerenza.

In the end, there really isn’t much to say, is there? The authors gave us closure. These books may look daunting. I went through so much while reading these books, but oh, the labour of love was so worth it.  I bought the audio and the hardcover copies of the series. I wanted the audio for the number of narrators and ingenious way they were read. And I wanted the hardcover for the ingenious way they were presented.

Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 210


The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody | American Heart by Laura Moriarty | The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty | The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce | Meet Cute by Various Authors | The Cruel Prince by Holly Black | How To Stop Time by Matt Haig | theMystery.doc by Matthew McIntosh


I surprised myself this week by going to the bookstore, picking up a bunch of books, then putting them all back on the shelves because I wanted to buy a $50, 1660-page behemoth of a book. Yeah. I’m talking about theMystery.doc, of course. You know I’m a huge fan of mixed-media type of novels, so as soon as I saw the lone, plastic-wrapped copy, I had to get it. #bookhoarderproblems

Such a sad, sad weekend for Canada and the hockey world as we learned about the tragic accident that took 15 lives of junior hockey players. My husband and I were at the Winnipeg Jets hockey game on Saturday night and experienced the moving tribute our Jets team and the Chicago Blackhawks gave for the entire community of Humboldt. A group of young men chasing their dreams only to end so soon. Really heartbreaking. The response from the entire world has been so wonderful, though. <3 Faith in humanity, restored for sure.


I received another copy of I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman in the mail courtesy of Penguin Random House. I’m going to read it soon then will hopefully run a giveaway for the extra copy. I’m a little worried as it hasn’t been receiving the best reviews, but still. I’m looking foward to reading this.

As per usual, I’m all over the place. I have no idea how to take control of my TBR – especially my for-review books. I need to find a way to handle it as I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed again. Last week, I was able to make some headway with the books that I’ve started. I think I just need to train my brain to stick to one book at a time instead of randomly starting a new one. I know some of you probably solves this issue by having a bullet journal but just the thought of taking some more of my precious time to organize and write makes me want to jump off a bridge. Gah.

Anywho, I’m flying by the seat of my pants. I literally have no idea how my week is going to go as I’m starting a new fitness routine. Blog posts are yet to be drafted (apart from this) and books remain half read. But don’t worry.

I’m fine.

JUST FINE.

Really, really fine.

 

[732]: American War by Omar El Akkad

 A bleak reimagining of American Civil War set to the tune of modern terrorism.


American War
by Omar El Akkad

American War features one of those characters that will make you choose sides; or at the very least, will make you examine, with some introspection, if you would arrive at the same choices Sarat Chestnut had. The author established one goal in his book from the get-go. He aims to highlight the difficult, and often, deadly life of those displaced by war and strife. There are countries in the world that have only ever known this type of everyday struggle all their lives. And that is what was in my mind long after I finished this book. The inconceivable reality of not having a home and living with fear day in and day out. Literally fleeing from sure death.

The novel tells the story of an America divided by Civil War once more. The year is 2075. Climate change has obliterated practically all coastal states. Florida was but a  distant memory, and the Federal seat of the government now resides in Ohio. Due to environmental catastrophe, fossil fuel was outlawed. Bringing forth the beginning of the end of the United States we once knew. Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia secede to become the Free Southern State; and South Carolina, which spearheaded the rebellion, is now walled – quarantined due to a disease that the federal government unleashed in an effort to stomp the revolt. I can barely comprehend outlawing the use of fuel could be the beginning of the demise of America. Afterall, they are faced with even more disparaging problems that push either side in their corners. But I digress. This is not my story to tell. I’m only along for the ride.

The story begins as we meet our narrator. A scholar who has a second-hand knowledge of the war from a series of journals left in his capable hands. We would know that he is an old man, dying of cancer and was using the opportunity to confess his ‘sins’, as it were. Here, we meet the Chestnuts, we find the head of the family on his way to the North to find a better life for them but finds his demise when he was killed in a terrorist blast. With the war advancing, the mother had no choice but to pack up what’s left of her family and flee to a refugee city where they would live most of their lives. As was in the first Civil War, the Blues are from the North and the Reds, from the South. A testament, if you will, to the growing divisiveness of the political climate in the States.

Sarat’s story unfolds while she was at the refugee camp. Bolstered by the consecutive tragedies that happened in her life, and coerced, rather easily by the powers that be, Sarat became a tool for the rebellion. The war was Sarat’s vengeful playground. Here, you’ll see an account of how insurgents are created. Their motivations, triumphs and downfall. As well, torture, in explicit detail. So if you’ve a weak stomach for that line of reading, you might find yourself skipping those parts – which is exactly what I did.

Though I have rated this book four stars, I feel it failed on a few aspects. The novel is set in the future but hardly conveys the passage of time. Besides the changes to the American landscape and political climate, this dystopian world is a definite take-off from your usual reads. I sympathized with Sarat’s plight deeply. I understood her whys and hows. I felt for her even more when she was incarcerated and tortured in the hands of her jailers. But she did not break. She was a fiercely determined creature whos very own person was shaped by a war that’s seemingly endless.

Read Recently: Knitting in the City Edition

Penny Reid easily became an auto-buy author for me as soon as read her serial, Elements of Chemistry. I loved the story so much that I reach for it time and time again when I’m in need of a good romance. But I soon found other books of hers that are phenomenally good. Knitting in the City is one of those series that I’ve grown to love. The characters are well-rounded; the dialogues are off the charts witty, and the romances are simply heart-fatteningly good. Bonus: every single one of the books are hilarious! 

So while I was on an extended leave from the blog, and while I suffered from the worst case of reading slump, Penny Reid was my saviour. I’ve read the majority of the books in this series. But during my time off, I discovered these other books that I did not know existed.

Neanderthal Marries Human
by Penny Reid


I’m such a huge fan of this series. I can’t believe I ever stopped following the books. I love Janie & Quinn. They’re a match made in heaven. Janie’s practicality and intelligence play evenly with Quinn’s stoicism and wit. This follows the trials and tribulations of their engagement and subsequent marriage. Hilarity and hijinx ensue.

 

 

Ninja at First Sight
by Penny Reid


Ack. Greg & Fiona’s beginnings. My heart. <3 If you’ve been following this series, you’d know that Fiona is an ex-CIA operative who now manages their home without her husband Greg. And it’s because of his job. I fell in love with the way they kind of tried to stay away from each other to no avail. Greg is hilariously British. He’s sarcastic and witty. Fiona is serious and intelligent. I love these two!

 

Marriage of Inconvenience
by Penny Reid


Rounding up this series is book #7 to Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series. I do believe this is the last book, and it’s the story of Dan the Security Man and Kate, the heiress in hiding. I also love this story even though at times, I wanted to kill a few people. Lol. Regardless, Dan and Kate made it worth my while. I love the epilogue. I love seeing their respective kids grow up. I do hope we’ll read their stories in the future.

 

Scenes from the Hallway
by Penny Reid


This is a series of stories featuring Kate and Dan the Security Man. I love seeing their beginnings and the reason for why they were apart for most of the Knitting story line. This is a preamble to book #7, so to speak. It’s a lovely story between Kate and Dan – their palpable attraction even through their time apart. They truly struggled and it’s all because of a miscommunication between them. Oh horrors of horrors.

 

Other Books in this Series

Have you read any books from Penny Reid? Which is your favourite?

[731]: Artemis by Andy Weir

Flat story-telling makes Artemis a laborious read.


Artemis by Andy Weir

The author’s follow-up work leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve managed to get through The Martian rather painfully, to begin with. The fault lies in expecting something different. Since Weir found success in his first novel, I supposed he wasn’t going to veer away from a tried formula. Bombarded with space jargon and the main character’s love for potatoes, The Martian was just as arduous a read as the hefty Sci-fi wonder, Seveneves. Not for its sheer volume but for the dryness of the story.

Years into the future, mankind was finally able to colonize the moon. With their own government, and albeit, lackadaisical laws, Artemis was a settlement that primarily runs on tourism and industrial society. It’s a popular tourist destination for the extremely wealthy. And because it needs to run with the utmost efficacy, its residents are heavily involved in making sure the city’s lifeline keeps on ticking. Artemis itself was built where Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the moon. Its structure consists of 5-spherical connected domes with hallways instead of streets. It has resorts, casinos, bars, and hotels.

Our heroine, Jazz, is a resourceful young woman who smuggles goods to supplement her income on Artemis. You need it, she gets it for you. She’s hardly a model of morality but a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. Where she lacks scruples, she makes up for her ambition and intelligence. If you’ve read The Martian and have rooted for the stranded astronaut, Jazz would have you feeling the opposite. She’s selfish, exploitative, and crass. She was far from perfect, to be sure. But at the end of the day, all these traits will be the very thing that will save her and the city. She’s one of those characters with whom you need a good amount of patience. She makes no apologies for all her personality flaws and disreputable traits.

Weir’s fondness for Science still shines through in this novel. However, it was a hard sell to make it seem more “mainstream”. And non-Scifi readers would struggle as much as I did. From the dry narrative to the anti-heroine, heroine, this book was a laborious undertaking. I question why I requested this book in the first place. The truth of the matter is, it was sparkly and shiny at the time. I also wanted to see if Weir would make a fan out of me. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to keep trying.