Monthly Wrap-up: June

A bit of a slower month of reading for me again as I returned from my trip in late May  and, still jet lagged, immediately started a new job with a sharp learning curve. I love being able to walk to work, but have to admit that the lack of a commute is impacting my reading time. Obviously I need to make the time to read more in the evenings, or need to find books that draw me in so I don’t feel the pull of Netflix!

Tin Man by Sarah Winman  small 5 stars + Review
Runaways, Vol. 1: Find Your Way Home by Rainbow Rowell  small 4 stars + Review
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson  small-2-stars + Review
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly  small 4 half stars + RTC
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann  small 3 half stars + Review

Book of the Month: Sarah Winman’s quietly affecting Tin Man packed such an emotional punch that I actually cried reading it (and I’m not one to cry easily when it comes to books)! I immediately texted Rachel with all of my feelings and I’m still not over it. Highly recommended!

Runner-up: Amberlough also read like a punch to the gut. I was so tense while reading this book that I felt like I needed a massage after I finished. Set in a fantasy world similar to Weimar Republic Berlin, it’s one of those books where you know things are going to get worse due to historical precedent, but it doesn’t make it any easier to read. I loved the political machinations and the cast of compelling and morally ambiguous characters.

Least Favourite: It took me DAYS to read Treasure Island, a book aimed at children that comes in at a slim 187 pages. I’ve read some brilliant classics before, Jane Eyre and Les Miserables come to mind, but Treasure Island is not one of them. I appreciate its contribution to pirate lore, but found this story incredibly dull.

***

Seen on Stage: June marked the end of the 2017/18 season for The National Ballet of Canada. I have to admit that the summer season didn’t thrill me, but since I saw the company perform my two favourite story ballets back-to-back last fall, I really can’t complain too much! I did really enjoy Innocence Lost, a play based on the case of Steven Truscott, a 14-year-old boy who was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a classmate in 1959. Truscott was reprieved and released on parole in 1969. His case has come to be synonymous with miscarriages of justice, and his conviction was overturned in 2007.

Innocence Lost (play) by Soulpepper
Frame by Frame by the National Ballet of Canada
Paz de la Jolla, The Man in Black, and Cacti by The National Ballet of Canada

***
Coming up in July: Rachel and I are planning to FINALLY read some Robin Hobb! Hobb’s books have been on my TBR for a few years now, so I’m really looking forward to diving in. Besides that I’ve been in a bit of a book slump and I’m still behind on my goodreads challenge, so I’m trying to be more of a mood reader than usual and don’t have a lot of specific plans. In terms of theatre I’m once again reviewing some Toronto Fringe Festival productions for My Entertainment World, so I may be a bit scarce for the first few weeks of July as I concentrate my energies on writing mini reviews over there.

Hope everyone experiencing the crazy heat that we are here in Toronto stays cool and hydrated!

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The Netflix Book Tag

I wasn’t tagged for this specifically, but I remember it going around a few months ago and bookmarked it to do when I had more time.

RECENTLY WATCHED: The last book you finished reading

31625039Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, which is a YA contemporary novel featuring a black, biromantic asexual protagonist. I’m not always a big fan of the genre, so I found this a little cutesy for my personal tastes, but I think it’s a hugely important book and I’m so glad that it exists. The romance is very sweet and Alice’s troubles with her parents (who are pushing her into a career that doesn’t interest her), and with feeling like a third wheel are relatable as well.

TOP PICKS: A book that has been recommended to you based on books you have previously read
AssasinsApprentice
A few friends have recommended Robin Hobb’s books to me and one even left her copies with me when she moved to New Zealand! I don’t know why I haven’t gotten to them yet, but I’m planning to dive in next month!

 

RECENTLY ADDED: The last book you bought
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I bought The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff in the gift shop at Housesteads Roman Fort, and read it while on vacation. I don’t often buy books as souvenirs but this was a good purchase!

 

POPULAR ON NETFLIX: Books that everyone knows about (2 you’ve read and 2 you haven’t read or have no interest in reading)

Have Read: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Circe
Haven’t Read Yet: Lincoln in the Bardo, The Poppy War

COMEDIES: A funny book
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I don’t read a lot of comedies, but I really enjoyed Lianne Oelke’s Nice Try, Jane Sinner, about a teenage girl who signs up to be on a community college version of Big Brother in order to afford moving away from home.

 


DRAMAS: A character who is a drama queen/king

112077Francis Crawford of Lymond.

Here’s his entrance in Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings: “Lucent and delicate, Drama entered, mincing like a cat.” In the second book he apologizes to another character for his repeated dramatic entrances. He is the High King of Drama and I love him.


ANIMATED: A book with cartoons on the cover
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I don’t know about cartoons, but the cover for Leah on the Offbeat features a stylized version of Leah Burke.

 


WATCH IT AGAIN: A book or series that you want to re-read


219811The problem with me is that I’m a serial re-reader who loves to revisit my favourite books – especially when I hit a bit of a reading slump. The book I just finished, Amberlough, reminded me in some ways of Sarah Monette’s excellent Doctrine of Labyrinths series, and in other ways of Vale Aida’s Magpie Ballads duology, so those are the books I’m most itching to re-read right now, but I’m trying to work through the urge in order to read some new books!

DOCUMENTARIES: A non-fiction book you’d recommend to everyone
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I read VERY little non-fiction, but I really enjoyed Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, which weaves together the story of serial killer Henry H. Holmes with that of  Chicago’s World Fair of 1893.

 

ACTION AND ADVENTURE: An action-packed book
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Has anything ever kept me on the edge of my seat like the Six of Crows duology? I love the brisk pace of the series, which effectively balances character moments with action scenes, to create books that make you go, ‘maybe just one more chapter…’


NEW RELEASES: A book that just came out or will be coming out soon that you can’t wait to read

39676520By this point John Boyne is on my list of authors that I trust enough to automatically buy or borrow. I’ve read three of his books so far and each one I’ve given 4 stars or above, with The Heart’s Invisible Furies being named my favourite read of 2017. I CAN’T WAIT for his newest novel, A Ladder to the Sky, which comes out this summer. I think Steph, Rachel, and I are planning a buddy read, so stay tuned for that in a few months!

Not tagging anyone in particular, but if you’re interested please consider yourself tagged and ping back to me so I can read your answers!

The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2018

Last year I participated in this book tag, which offers a great chance to look back on your reading for the first half of the year. I’m still a little in shock that it’s been almost an entire year, but here’s a review of my reading in 2018 so far.

Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2018

Just sneaking in under the wire (I read it last weekend), the best book I’ve read so far this year is Tin Man by Sarah Winman. It’s a thoughtful, quiet book about the relationship between two men in England. Told first through the perspective of one character and then through the diary entries of the other, it’s a poignant story that packs an emotional punch.

The runner-up couldn’t be more different. I’ve never read anything like Jeff Vandermeer’s Borne. Told through prose that is by turns lyrical, eerie, and thoughtful, Borne follows a scavenger in a post-apocalyptic city who brings home and cares for a sentient being she names Borne. But as the being grows and changes, questions arise about Borne’s purpose. Serving as a moving exploration into what it means to be human, Borne is the kind of book that stays with you long after you’ve read it.

Besides these two choices though, I haven’t been reading a lot of quality books so far in 2018 and I’m hoping to change that in the second half of the year!

Question 2 – Your favorite sequel of the year

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I’ve only read one or two sequels this year, so by default it’s The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden. I actually found The Girl in the Tower a little disappointing though. I obviously still enjoyed it – I gave the book four stars – but it just didn’t cast the same spell over me as The Bear and the Nightingale, which was one of my favourite reads last year. I’m still eagerly looking forward to finishing the trilogy next year though.

Question 3 – A new release that you haven’t read but really want to

I have The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang on hold at the library! It’s received glowing reviews on goodreads and from my blogging friend Hadeer, and looks right up my alley as an adult fantasy featuring rich worldbuilding and an intriguing heroine. Similarly I’ve heard wonderful things about Kirsty Logan’s The Gloaming, and I’m looking forward to Tessa Gratton’s The Queens of Innis Lear, a retelling of one of my favourite Shakespeare plays.

Question 4 – Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

I’ve read three of John Boyne’s books so far and have really enjoyed them all, so I can’t wait for his latest, A Ladder to the Sky! I’m also really looking forward to Pat Barker’s take on The Iliad in The Silence of the Girls. There are also a bunch of sequels I can’t wait to read: Seth Dickinson’s The Monster Baru Cormorant, which continues the tale of Baru’s climb to infiltrate the system that colonized her island, killed one of her fathers, and rewrote her culture, V.E. Schwab’s Vengeful, the continuation of her story about supervillains, Record of a Spaceborn Few, the latest in Becky Chmbers’ Wayfarers series, and Kirsten White’s Bright We Burn, the final book in her Conqueror’s Saga about a gender-swapped Vlad the Impaler.

Question 5 – Your biggest disappointment


The three reads that, in one way or another, didn’t live up to my expectations were Circe by Madeline Miller, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, and The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill. I loved The Song of Achilles and was really looking forward to seeing Miller’s take on a divisive female character like Circe, but I found the heroine passive and thought the book dragged in the middle. I wanted to love Dear Martin, but it read very much on the young side of YA so this was more a mismatch of book and reader than a reflection on the book itself. I really disliked The Lonely Hearts Hotel. It’s whimsical prose was tonally a complete mismatch for the dark and disturbing subject matter and as a result the book ended up sounding rather flippant about topics like sexual abuse, prostitution, and drug abuse.

Question 6 – Biggest surprise of the year

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Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke. I went in with no idea what to expect and, as a YA contemporary, which isn’t really my genre, didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. The book follows Jane as she attends community college to finish her last few classes of high school after an ‘incident’ caused her to be absent for the last semester. Yearning for independence, but unavailable to afford a place on her own, Jane lies about her age and signs up for a Big Brother-inspired community college show. So long as she stays on the show, she has a place to stay and a shot at the prize! Jane is a fiercely funny, sometimes ruthless heroine that I rooted for and I loved the unique premise of the book.

Question 7 – Favourite new to you or debut author

Probably Sarah Winman. Based solely on Tin Man, I’d love to read more of her works. My mom read one of her other books, When God Was A Rabbit, several years ago and marked it as one of her favourites, so I should probably start there!

Question 8 – Your new fictional crush

Pass.

Question 9 – New favourite character

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Jane Eyre from Charlotte Bronte’s novel of the same name. I FINALLY got around to reading Jane Eyre for the first time and it was everything I hoped it would be. It sucked me in and I loved Jane with all of her spirit, intelligence, and passion. Special mention to a few other fierce females I’ve loved this year though: Evelyn Hugo is often unlikable, but I couldn’t help admiring her ruthless pragmatism, ambition, and ability to go after what she wanted most in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and, as I was mentioning, I adored Jane Sinner, a flawed, funny, competitive high school student competing on a community college reality program like Big Brother in Nice Try, Jane Sinner.

Question 10 – A book that made you cry

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Once again, my answer is Sarah Winman’s Tin Man!  It’s a slim volume that you can read in a matter of hours, but I found it incredibly moving and there were definitely some waterworks by the end!

Question 11 – A comic book that made you happy

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I’m so glad this questions exists this year because I was so delighted by the first arc of Rainbow Rowell’s continuation of my favourite Marvel comics series, Runaways! Rowell captured the essence of each of the Runaways characters and brought them back together in a way that felt organic and not forced. I can’t wait to see where she takes them next and how the relationships between these characters have changed in the year or more that they were apart.

Question 12 – Your favourite book to movie adaptation that you’ve seen this year


The adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda to Love, Simon. I actually saw the movie first, but they’re different enough (while still capturing the essence of the characters) that I don’t think it would have mattered, I fell in love with both the fluffy but compelling novel and this movie, which had one of the most engaged audiences I’ve ever seen!

Question 13 – Favourite book post you’ve done this year

I was really pleased with how this week’s Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Awaken My Wanderlust post shaped up, and I enjoyed the First Impressions post I did early this year where I read the first 50 pages of five books and wrote about my initial thoughts and whether or not I planned to continue reading them. As far as reviews go, I can’t lie I’m pretty proud of my comparing the ridiculous sounding summary for Borne, a book that actually works extremely well, to what the pitch for SpongeBob SquarePants must have sounded like.

Question 14 – The most beautiful book you have bought/received this year

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I buy very few books (I’m a heavy library user), but I did purchase the beautiful paperback edition of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, one of the best books I read last year.

Question 15 – What are some books you need to read by the end of the year

All of the upcoming releases I mentioned, and I’m trying to read some more classics, so hopefully East of Eden by John Steinbeck and Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin.

Tagging anyone who wants to do this!

What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Awaken My Wanderlust

When I saw that this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was Books That Awaken the Travel Bug In Me it seemed meant to be; Just three weeks ago I got back from a largely book-inspired vacation to the UK! So I’ve chosen to talk a little about books that have already inspired me to travel, and about books that might inspire me to travel to a specific destination in the future.

Want to join in the fun? Head on over to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

Bookish Places I’ve Been

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
(Paris, France)

Les Misérables will always hold a special place in my heart for being the site of my very first bookish vacation! Although I’d only read a heavily abridged version of the novel at the time and was more familiar with the musical, my trip to Paris was heavily influenced by Les Misérables. I loved strolling through the Jardin du Luxembourg, where Marius first spotted Cosette, standing on the Pont-au-Change bridge over the Seine, where Inspector Javert makes a fateful decision, and exploring the sewers Jean Valjean carried a wounded Marius through on the Paris Sewer Tour.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
(The Harry Potter Studio Tour in London, England)
(The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida)

Like most 90s kids, I grew up on Harry Potter. Initially my mom read the books aloud to me and my younger brother, and as the series continued my mom and I read separately and discussed our thoughts along the way. Perhaps it’s no surprise that I ended up visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with my parents. We loved the thrilling and immersive rides, sipped our butter beers, and enjoyed looking in the many shops. I still haven’t made it to Platform 9-and-3/4s (it was under construction the last time I was at King’s Cross), but nearly five years ago I took the Harry Potter Studio Tour and loved seeing the props, costumes, and sets used in the movies!

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
(York Minster in York, England)

Ever since I picked up Susanna Clarke’s magical novel about the resurgence of English magic during the Regency period, visiting the city of York has been on my bucket list. Fans of the book (or the recent BBC miniseries) will recall a scene where the reclusive Mr. Norrell proves his magical abilities by making all of the statues within York Minster speak. I couldn’t wait to visit York Minster myself and imagine the noise and wonder of such a scene! York Minster is beautiful enough to merit a visit anyway, but it definitely made it special that it plays such a small but pivotal role in one of my favourite books!

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
(Edinburgh, Scotland)
(Hexham Abbey in Hexham, England)

Anyone who knows me is sick to death of hearing me talk about the Lymond Chronicles! Nothing has quite captured my imagination like Dorothy Dunnett’s series about a genius polyglot 16th century Scottish nobleman/spy. A climactic scene in the first book, The Game of Kings, sees Francis Crawford of Lymond pursuing an opponent into Hexham Abbey, so naturally I had to visit Hexham! Much of the rest of the book is set in Scotland, so I also tracked down the location on the Royal Mile where Lymond is, for a time imprisoned. The Tollbooth, as the prison was called, no longer exists, but its former entrance is marked with a stone heart near St. Giles Cathedral.

The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett
(St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland)


I love Edinburgh. It’s a beautiful historical city, that I would love regardless of literary connections, but I must admit that I also love it because it’s the setting of many scenes from Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. The altar at St. Giles Cathedral is the scene of a truly epic swordfight at the climax of the third book of the series, The Disorderly Knights, so naturally I had to visit (and take many, many photos)!

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff and The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte
(Hadrian’s Wall/Roman British sites)


Okay, I’m cheating a little bit here since I hadn’t actually read The Eagle of the Ninth in advance, only seen the movie, but I bought a copy on my trip and started reading it at Housesteads Roman Fort in Northumberland. Roman Britain is one of my favourite periods in history, and Hadrian’s Wall figures both into The Eagle of the Ninth and a favourite series of mine while I was in university, Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles. If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend Housesteads Roman Fort, which has a picturesque location on a hill, and offers some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Britain and the rare chance to stand on a section of Hadrian’s Wall!

Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
(221B Baker Street, London)


Admittedly I’m more familiar with the consulting detective from film and television adaptations, but I’ve read a few of the original mysteries and really enjoyed them. Naturally I stopped in at 221B Baker Street on a previous trip to London and posed in the famous dearstalker. I definitely have to make an effort to read more Sherlock in the future!


Bookish Places Wishlist

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
(Haworth/West Yorkshire moors)

The one place I didn’t make it to on this book-inspired vacation was the moorland that inspired the Bronte sisters. I read Wuthering Heights as an undergraduate and can’t say that it appealed to me since Heathcliff and Cathy were both such horrible people, but I had better luck with another Bronte sister. I recently read Jane Eyre for the first time and I would love to one day walk some of the landscapes that inspired Charlotte Bronte, although I know they must have changed a great deal. There’s just something about the idea of walking through the desolate moors, the wind swirling a coat or perhaps a scarf behind me that appeals!

King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett
(The Orkney Islands)

I’m still in the process of reading Dorothy Dunnett’s dense historical standalone about the real MacBeth (I paused it in January and haven’t returned – oops!) but I’ve already added the Orkney Islands to my places I’d love to go list! Prehistoric stone village Skara Brae is a must-see at somepoint and I’m sure I’ll add book -related destinations on the islands as I continue reading.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
(Prince Edward Island, Canada)

Like most Canadian girls, I grew up reading about spirited red-headed orphan “Anne -with-an-E” who comes to stay with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert at Green Gables. I haven’t traveled much domestically at all and would love to visit Prince Edward Island one day!

What are some of the bookish places on your wishlist?

Spring Wrap-up

As you’ve no doubt noticed, I’ve been a little scarce for the last few months. The combination of dealing with the shock of being let-go from my job this winter, applying and interviewing for new positions, and then planning for a (much-needed and already partially paid for) vacation have kept me busy.

I’m happy to announce that while May was not a good month for reading, it was a pretty great month for me personally! Despite all my anxiety, I had a lovely vacation, visiting Edinburgh, some of the north of England (including part of Hadrian’s Wall, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, and beautiful York Minster), and London, where I took in several shows. It was a trip that combined bookish sites with history and picturesque settings and I loved every minute of it!


I’ve also started down a new and very different path of librarianship, working as a public librarian! I’ve mostly worked in corporate libraries in a research role and was ready for a change. Although I have a lot to learn, and this is a temporary contract, I’m really enjoying it so far and hope that this is something I can pursue long-term.

Without further ado, onto the books!

From March through May I read just ten books, so I’ve grouped them here in a seasonal wrap-up post. I’ve written reviews for the most recently read books and will try to backtrack and write at least mini-reviews for my other reads over the next month.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli  small 5 stars
Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke  small 4 stars
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman  small 4 stars
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill  small-2-stars
Circe by Madeline Miller  small 3 half stars
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte  small 5 stars
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid  small 4 half stars + RTC
The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff  small 3 half stars + Review
Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli  small 4 stars + Review
Confessions by Kinae Minato  small 4 stars + Review


Book of the Season:
It has to be Jane Eyre. This is a rare classic that I never encountered through my English undergraduate degree but one that has been on my TBR for probably a decade. Every year I’d think ‘oh yeah, I should probably read that…’ Well I finally did and wow! I loved the gothic atmosphere of the book, the arrogance of the mysterious Mr. Rochester but also how charismatic he is, and, of course, I adored Jane. She goes down on my list of favourite heroines of all time and her story through childhood abuse and tragedy to independence on her own terms and knowing her own heart still resonates today.

Runner-up: Even having seen the movie first, I found Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda to be an absolute delight that I read in one sitting and re-read a few weeks later before I had to return it to the library. I loved the characters, the group dynamics, and the sweet love story at the center of it all. Fluff isn’t usually my thing, but this melted my cold, (fictional) tragedy loving heart! I also really loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I think this was a case of maybe not reading it at the right time – I took it with me on vacation, but it meant that the reading experience was broken up and that it was a little overshadowed by all of the wonderful historic sights I was seeing.

Least Favourite: Admittedly I didn’t do my usual book research before picking up The Lonely Hearts Hotel. This was something I happened to see at the library that I had heard good buzz about. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this at all. The subject matter, which deals with childhood sexual abuse and abuse, drug addiction, prostitution, and abusive relationships, is DARK, but the author strikes a whimsical tone throughout and the mismatch in style and subject matter makes the book sound flippant and dismissive. Also there are quite a lot of clowns.

***

Seen on Stage: Toronto usually has a lot to offer in terms of theatre during the winter and early spring – perhaps producers figure that once summer roles around we’ll all be at the cottage or enjoying the warm weather and won’t want to see a show. This year I found the pickings a little slim, but enjoyed most of what I did see, especially the Toronto premiere of Fun Home with a stellar all-Canadian cast, and the National Ballet of Canada’s Made in Canada mixed program. This included The Dreamers Ever Leave You, a moving work inspired by the stark natural beauty of the arctic landscapes painted by Lawren Harris, The Four Seasons, and Emergence, an unsettling and innovative piece about the hive mind.


TORONTO

Bunny (play) at Tarragon Theatre
Made in Canada by the National Ballet of Canada
The Sleeping Beauty by the National Ballet of Canada
Les Miserables (play) by Theatre Smith-Gilmour – Reviewed for My Entertainment World
Picnic in the Cemetery (Canadian Stage) – Reviewed for My Entertainment World
Fun Home by Musical Stage Company
Bernstein’s Candide at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

The London part of my vacation was almost entirely theatre-based, so I’m thrilled to say that I loved every single show I saw. Unfortunately the stars didn’t quite align for me and I twice missed seeing an actor, David Thaxton (out ill for the week) who had been part of the impetus for my trip, in Les Miserables, but the London cast heading into its final week is generally very strong, with standout performances from Killian Donnelly (Valjean) and Carley Stenson (Fantine). I adored Northern Ballet’s interpretation of Jane Eyre, which effectively conveyed Jane’s spirit and independence, as well as her passion for Mr. Rochester through the medium of dance. Although I definitely have issues with the plot, it’s hard not to be blown away by the sheer stage magic and brilliant performances in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. My favourite though, was witnessing the closing performance of The Ferryman, a brilliant and devastating play about The Troubles.

LONDON
Les Miserables (x2)
Jane Eyre by Northern Ballet
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II (play)
The Ferryman (play)

***

Coming up in June: In a desperate attempt to catch-up on my goodreads challenge I’ve been reading some YA, mysteries, and other shorter fiction. So far I’m in a bit of a slump this year and very few of the books I’ve read to date are ones that I’ll remember fondly enough to put on my Best of list at the end of the year, so I’m going to keep it loose and read some recs from friends I trust utterly in the hopes of finding a few new favourites!

What are your summer reading plans?

The Feminist Book Tag

I’ve taken a step back from blogging for the last few weeks while I tried to come to terms with an upheaval in my personal life. A few weeks ago I was laid-off from my job, along with most of my department. The loss of stability, both financially and professionally, has definitely thrown me, particularly because the job loss was sudden and unexpected. I’m going to ease my way back into blogging, but may still be a little scarce as I’m having trouble focusing enough to read fiction lately.

Fortunately, Rachel of pace, amore, libri tagged me for this fun feminist-themed book tag, and what better way to ease back into blogging than with a book tag?!

1- Your favorite female author

112077Even people I’ve only talked to once or twice before could probably tell you the answer to this one. Frequent readers of this blog are probably thinking ‘when will she shut up about this Dorothy Dunnett woman?!’ and the answer is not anytime soon! I’m a devotee of her sixteenth-century set historical epic The Lymond Chronicles, which span a decade in the life of misunderstood Scottish nobleman Francis Crawford of Lymond. To be honest I haven’t read much of her other work (I’m slowly working my way through standalone King Hereafter about the historical Macbeth, and have read the first two House of Niccolo books), and I’m less enthralled by these works so far, but in five-and-a-half years I’ve read The Lymond Chronicles three times and am now embarking on a fourth. That’s certainly enough to make Dorothy Dunnett my favourite female author.

2- Your favorite heroine

cityofbladesMy favourite heroine is actually a bit of a spoiler for The Lymond Chronicles, so I’ll go with another of my favourites, Shara Komayd from City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. Clever but practical, Shara is a tea-drinking, glasses-wearing, middle-aged, woman of colour spy. I. Love. Her. She’s vivid, incredibly intelligent, and visibly torn between her duties as an operative and her passion for history. The second novel in the series, City of Blades, features an equally unique and fabulous heroine in General Turyin Mulaghesh. Short-tempered, and often swearing, she’s a cynical, older disabled woman of colour and makes for an entirely different protagonist. If you picked up these books without noting the author’s name, you would never ever guess that they were written by a white man.

3- A novel with a feminist message

11925514Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Focusing on female friendship during WWII, Code Name Verity is divided into two parts. The first half is written from the perspective of Julie, a Scottish spy who is captured and detained as a prisoner of war in German occupied France, while the second part is told from her best friend Maddie’s point-of-view. Both young women are fighting for the Allied forces, and both excel in roles that were traditionally male (as a spy and a pilot, respectively). They’re incredible characters and the relationship at the center of the book isn’t romantic or sexual, but this overpowering platonic love between two women.

4- A novel with a girl on the cover


5- A novel featuring a group of girls

31423183Penance by Kanae Minato features Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko, who were tricked into separating from their friend Emily by a mysterious stranger. Hours later, Emily was found murdered. The novel is told from the perspectives of the surviving girls fifteen years after the murder and deals with how they have each been shaped and hindered by what occurred. Each of the characters are clearly differentiated from one another and exhibit believable and unique responses to the trauma they have undergone. Although I found that some of the unrealistic plot twists took me out of the story, I still recommend this quick read for its engaging female characters and exploration of themes of guilt and responsibility.

6- A novel with a LGBTQIAP+ female character

29414576Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee is one of the first novels I’ve found to prominently feature an asexual character. The protagonist of this YA contemporary novel deals with the sudden popularity of “Unhappy Families”, a webseries adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina that she and her best friend Jack have created, while also navigating what it means to be asexual. Asexual representation in fiction is so rare that it was an absolute delight to find Tash’s sexuality handled so well in Tash Hearts Tolstoy. She’s a hardworking, creative protagonist who experiences crushes and romantic feelings for others, just not sexual attraction, and it’s so powerful to see asexuality portrayed with such care.

7- A novel with different feminine POV

19161852The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. The Fifth Season gives us three very different perspectives; Damaya, a frightened child, Syenite, an ambitious young woman, and Essun, a middle-aged grieving mother. All are women-of-colour surviving in a world in which inhabitants endure occasional “fifth seasons”. These periods of catastrophic climate change mean that people who have the power to control and create earthquakes are feared and used, brainwashed from a young age to obey for their own good. The world-building is exquisite in its complexity, the characters (both major and minor) diverse in race, sexuality, and experiences, and the prose is gorgeous. Even if you don’t read fantasy, you should read this book.

8- A book where a girl saves the world

29749085Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo. My only experience with Wonder Woman going into this book was the recent feminist movie, which I enjoyed but didn’t LOVE. I don’t think I would have given this a second glance were it not for the author. I’m so glad that I picked up Wonder Woman: Warbringer though because Leigh Bardugo created such wonderful female characters, bringing a teenage, unproven Diana Prince to life, alongside original characters like Alia, a shy teenager with a brilliant scientific mind, and her confident, overweight, gay, brown best friend Nim. Their race against both the clock and external forces to save the world maintained my interest throughout and I felt thoroughly empowered by the book.

9- A book where you prefer the female sidekick to the male MC

j6n48zI was one of those kids who loved to read and enjoyed the learning part of school, although not always the teaching methods or the social aspects, so of course I spent the Harry Potter books relating more to studious, passionate Hermione Granger than to Harry Potter himself. I’m also a big fan of Luna Lovegood, who is compassionate and unafraid of marching to the beat of her own drum. Harry’s a likable enough character and he makes a great protagonist for the series, but I’d rather hang out with Hermione and Luna is given the chance!

10- A book written by a male author and featuring a female character

barucormorantAside from Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy, the other fantasy book you’d never believe was written by a man is Seth Dickinson’s brilliant and devastating The Traitor Baru Cormorant. Baru is a fascinating protagonist. After the Empire of Masks invades her childhood island home, they rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. Baru vows to tear down the empire from the inside. Swallowing down her hate, she applies her considerable abilities to rising within the ranks. Ruthless and calculating, Baru is a complicated, fierce, morally ambiguous protagonist set on attaining her goal at all costs.

I won’t tag anyone in particular, but if you feel like doing this tag please pingback so I can read your answers!

 

Get To Know Me Tag

I’m still trying to catch up on reviews from last month and this month, but it means tags have been failing by the wayside, so I’m trying to inject a little more fun stuff into the blog recently to counter the constant reviews. I wasn’t tagged in this one, but Rachel of pace, amore, libri did it recently and it looked like a lot of fun.

Favourite colour and do you have a book in that colour?
Blue and green, and everything in between!


Describe yourself in three book characters.


To be honest I always get stuck on this question! Eliza Mirk from Eliza & Her Monsters – shy, creative, and anxious. Kirsten Raymonde from Station Eleven – a firm believer in the importance of art and that “survival is insufficient”, nostalgic for the world that was. Irene from The Invisible Library series – not nearly as cool as badass as her, but an intelligent librarian whose strength is the written or spoken word.

Hyped books yay or nay? If yay, what was the most hyped book you ever read? If nay, what was the most hyped book you decided not to read?
It really depends on the book. Sometimes there’s a really good reason for the hype and the book is every bit as good as you were lead to believe. I recent read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and thought it 100% lived up to the hype. I’ve also read some hyped books that I really hated, like Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, or decided not to read a hyped series because I don’t think it’s something that would appeal to me personally, like Sarah J. Maas’ books.

Recommend one book per season. Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter.


Spring.
 1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion by Morgan Llewellyn. Although it spans a period from 1912 to 1916, the primary event is the Easter Rebellion of 1916, which makes this an excellent spring choice.

Summer. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. It’s a little lighter than I usually like my fantasy, but an absolutely delightful historical fantasy populated by charming PoC main characters bucking the system in Regency England.

Fall. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. The Scorpio Races practically demands to be read during the fall. It’s an incredibly atmospheric story, set on a gloomy Irish-inspired rural island during the month of November, and a sense of foreboding hangs over the island. I can’t imagine a more perfect fall read.

Winter. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. This is another book that creates such a vivid atmosphere, in this cause a frigid medieval Russian winter, that it’s difficult to picture reading The Bear and the Nightingale during a heat wave. From the first page its lyrical prose, sensory writing, and richly developed characters captured my attention and made me want to curl up under a blanket with a cup of tea.

Name one book that wrecked you emotionally.
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Never have I been more wrecked than I was by Dorothy Dunnett’s Pawn in Frankincense. The Lymond Chronicles offer their share of emotional turmoil for the reader throughout, but it’s the climax and aftermath in this fourth volume of the six-book series that had me sobbing. Afterwards I felt numb, to the point where I felt like I couldn’t clean the house or just carry on. Rarely have I had a book hangover like this one!

Name one book you would recommend with tea and cookies.
JonathanStrange
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke. Combing a dry sense of humour, a great deal of research (it has footnotes!) and a touch of magic, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a dense but rewarding Regency-set read about the resurgence of English magic during the Napoleonic Wars. Perfect for tea and a biscuit!


What is your guilty pleasure book?

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I don’t really have one. In the past I was a little embarrassed about showing my love for the Captive Prince series by C.S. Pacat on goodreads because I had aunts and co-workers on there and it’s a little more risque than my usual reads since I’m not a romance genre person, but it’s a well-written series that I enjoy and squee over and will re-read.


Favourite dessert and a book that reminds you of that.

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My favourite dessert is a Canadian concoction known as a nanaimo bar, which consists of a wafer crumb-based bottom layer (sometimes with coconut), with a middle layer of custard flavoured butter icing, topped with a solid chocolate layer. I’ll say Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery because it’s Canadian, sweet, and reminds me of my childhood, just like a nanaimo bar!

Are you a procrastinator? What book have you been procrastinating reading?
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I am a big procrastinator. If there is no deadline, I will probably not do the thing. When it comes to books, I have been meaning to read Jane Eyre for quite literally more than a decade. I fully intend to get to it next month though! Hadeer and I are going to tackle it together, which should help our resolve!
Not tagging anyone in particular, but please feel free to do this and pingback to me!

Not Good Enough Tag

I wasn’t officially tagged, but Steph of Lost Purple Quill recently did this tag and where the book blogging squad goes, I follow (also it looked like a lot of fun)!

HOW IT WORKS:

  1. You write down the names of 30 fictional characters on pieces of paper.
  2. You pick two names at a time and answer each of the 15 questions. For each question one of the two characters will be the one you believe fits best and the other is “not good enough”.

YOU ONLY HAVE ONE MORE SPOT ON YOUR SPELLING BEE TEAM, WHO WOULD YOU PICK TO COMPLETE YOUR TEAM?

Vasya (The Bear & The Nightingale) VS. Gert Yorkes (Runaways)

Gert! Despite being only fifteen(ish?) she’s super bright and bookish, plus Vasya is from medieval Russia so I think a lot of contemporary English words would completely escape her.

BOTH CHARACTERS WANT TO KILL YOU, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU KILL FIRST SO YOU HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF SURVIVING?

Shara (The Divine Cities) VS. Damen (Captive Prince)

Oh man, I am going down! Damen poses more of a threat in hand-to-hand combat with his skills and size, but I hate the idea of giving Shara, an intelligent spy, more time to plan! I’d try and take out Damen first, but I don’t think I stand a chance here.

YOU’RE ON THE BACHELOR/BACHELORETTE AN YOU’RE DOWN TO THESE TWO CHARACTERS, WHICH ONE ARE YOU GOING TO GIVE YOUR ROSE TOO?

Ingray Aughskold (Provenance) VS. Iyone Safin (The Magpie Ballads)

I feel like Ingray would be the safer choice since she’s a little more transparent, but I have a pretty big girl crush on Iyone. She’s manipulative and ambitious, but so damn intelligent, and I’d like to hang out with her friend group (Savonn and Hiraen) and get into trouble with them, plus canonically she does get wooed by her girlfriend with a rose, SO I’m going with Iyone.

YOU’VE BEEN CHOSEN FOR THE HUNGER GAMES, WHO WOULD MOST LIKELY VOLUNTEER IN YOUR PLACE?

Eliza (Eliza and Her Monsters) VS. Sansa Stark (ASoIaF)

This is so cruel, I just want them both to be happy! Eliza’s anxiety would definitely prevent her from volunteering or standing much of a chance though. I think Sansa would step up, and she’s survived this long in Westeros, I’m pretty sure she stands a shot in The Hunger Games!

YOU’RE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND. WHICH CHARACTER WOULD YOU SACRIFICE TO ENGAGE IN CANNIBALISM?

Savonn Silvertongue (The Magpie Ballads) VS. Laurent (Captive Prince)

Oh My God, they’re so similar though! I feel like I’d probably be the sacrifice since I couldn’t take either one of them (and then they’d probably get together). Savonn is built more in the Lymond mold of self-sacrifice though, so I could see him giving up his life, and Laurent is more likely to find a way off the island.

YOU’RE THE NEXT DC/MARVEL SUPERHERO (WITH YOUR OWN TV SHOW OF COURSE), WHO IS YOUR SIDEKICK?

Lada (And I Darken/Now I Rise) VS. Lila Bard (Shades of Magic)

I’m 100% sure I’m the tag-along sidekick in both scenarios! Neither woman takes instruction well or is likely to play second fiddle to anyone, but they might let me tag along… if I prove to be useful. Lila is slightly less likely to kill me. Slightly. I’d be her sidekick.

YOU’RE A MANAGER OF AN AVOCADO ADMIRING COMPANY, WHO WOULD YOU FIRE FOR LACK OF COMMUNICATION SKILLS?

Philippa Somerville (Lymond Chronicles) VS. Miles Vorkosigan (The Vorkosigan Saga)

I feel like Miles would just constantly get himself into trouble. I mean, he’d get himself out of it again too, probably by talking, but Philippa would be a more consistent employee, so I’d fire Miles.

YOU’VE JUST FINISHED A BOOK IN WHICH YOUR FAVOURITE CHARACTER DIES, WHICH CHARACTER IS MOST LIKELY TO COMFORT YOU?

Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows) VS. Eowyn (Lord of the Rings)

WELL, obviously it’s not going to be Kaz, so Eowyn it is!!

UGH, IT’S HIGH SCHOOL. WHO WOULD MOST LIKELY BE PART OF THE POPULAR CLIQUE?

Inej Ghafa (Six of Crows) VS. Mildmay (Doctrine of Labyrinths)

Neither is really popular kid material, but Mildmay, with his scar, glower, and lack of self-confidence is most likely to be the outsider here. Inej could be a popular kid if she wanted to, maybe if Nina was by her side, but mostly people are probably a little intimidated by her.

THE DAY HAS ARRIVED; YOU’RE FINALLY A YEAR OLDER! WHO WOULD HAVE THE NERVE TO FORGET YOUR BIRTHDAY?

Turyin Mulaghesh (Divine Cities) VS. Breq (Imperial Radch)

Breq has probably remembered but she won’t let on or acknowledge my birthday except in some roundabout way that makes it look like she doesn’t actually care, while secretly being a softie. Turyin forgets and swears a lot about it, but she has a damn good excuse for forgetting.

YOU’VE JUST FOUND AN UPCOMING BOOKTUBE STAR? WHO WOULD MOST LIKELY BE?

Francis Crawford (Lymond Chronicles) VS. Kell (Shades of Magic)

It’s totally Francis. His obscure references and throwaway quotes in other languages mean that you only ever understand a quarter of what he’s saying, but he’s so handsome and charismatic, and what you do understand of his reviews is so engaging that you’re addicted anyway. Kell’s more of an oddity. I think people would watch him more in hopes that he’d perform a magic trick than for his reviews or thoughts on books.

SLEEPOVER TIME! UNFORTUNATELY YOU CAN ONLY INVITE ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?

Alec Campion (Swordspoint) VS. Jonathan Strange (Jonathan Strange & Norrell)

Alec would definitely be more fun, but then again it’s also entirely likely that he starts some kind of a fight and causes mayhem. Strange is far too distracted for a slumber party though. He would spend the entire time somehow engaged in magic and books and not paying any attention at all, so Alec it is! At least Alec’s sharp tongue would amuse.

BAM, YOU’RE PREGNANT. WHO’S THE FATHER/MOTHER?

Ronan Lynch (The Raven Cycle) VS. Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter)

I mean… biologically neither of these scenarios would ever happen. I’d like to co-parent with Luna though. She’d be a little spacey, but kind and creative and I think we’d get on. I’ll leave Ronan to Adam and Opal and his farm.

YOU’VE JUST WRITTEN A SUPER IMPORTANT TEXT. WHO WOULD ‘SEE’ IT, BUT NOT REPLY?

Cyril Avery (The Heart’s Invisible Furies) VS. Jean Valjean (Les Miserables)

I feel like running away is kind of Cyril’s M.O., so I could definitely see him doing this. If Valjean doesn’t respond it’s more likely to be because he doesn’t know what to say or he’s unfamiliar with texting.

YOU’VE JUST WOKEN UP AND IT’S TIME FOR BREAKFAST. YOUR MUM’S BEEN REPLACED BY WHO?!

Maia (The Goblin Emperor) VS. Adam Parrish (The Raven Cycle)

Oooh, I think Adam would be a more practical and effective parent but Maia is such a cinnamon roll that he would always have my best intentions at heart. I have to go with Adam though.

This was a tremendously fun tag! I wasn’t tagged by anyone, so I won’t tag anyone in return, but if you feel like doing this, definitely pingback here because I’d love to read your answers!