Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

BLOG‘There is magic everywhere, if you look carefully.’

Mexico City, 1988: Fifteen year old Meche is an awkward, unpopular girl in school who loves music and math.  She spends most of her time with her two best friends Sebastian and Daniela.  Life is not ideal for the three friends with each of them dealing with different struggles, from family problems to unfulfilled desires. They learn they can use music to cast spells and set out to better their circumstances, attempting to use magic to turn things around in their favour.

Mexico City, 2009: Meche is a successful computer programmer in Oslo, Norway. She has returned to Mexico City after twenty years away to attend her estranged father’s funeral, and is faced with the past and everything she had long left behind, including her two friends.

Signal to Noise is a wonderfully charming and engaging debut novel from author Silvia Moreno-Garcia.  It alternates between 1988 and 2009 and does so seamlessly. Both time periods are equally compelling and complement each other very well, moving the narrative forward.  It is a story about friendship, hope, love, the magic of music, and dreams of youth.  The challenges and disappointments of adulthood and recapturing what has been lost.  It is a touching story that will make you smile and tear up in the best way.  Moreno-Garcia presents a beautifully written novel with memorable characters that is captivating from beginning to end.

Playlist for “Signal to Noise” created by the author.

Favourite quote: “They folded and kept their dreams in the same drawer, spun fantasies side by side, lived in the easy harmony of youth which did not know the need for tall walls and sturdy defenses.”

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

BLOGThere are no longer any predetermined life paths.  Each of us is on our own.”

Modern Romance examines the benefits and challenges of dating in today’s technology centric world.  Along with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg, Aziz Ansari designed a research project consisting of interviews and focus groups from different cultures including the United States, France, Qatar, Tokyo and Buenos Aires.  He sets out to answer the question: with so many options and avenues to meet people, why is everyone so frustrated? Aziz Ansari provides historical comparisons, a thorough exploration of online dating, the benefits and drawbacks of technology, and examples of how it all differs across cultures.

Modern Romance offers a comprehensive study of the evolution of dating and the role of technology, both positive and negative.  Ansari takes an academic approach to the subject, and the book has a textbook style combined with Ansari’s trademark humour.  That in itself makes it very unique.  The topic is well researched and presented in a clear and organized way that is easy to read.  The book offers a lot of facts, statistics and research results along with valuable takeaways that may give the reader a better outlook on their approach to dating.  It is an educational and worthy read for anyone navigating the world of modern romance.

Favourite quote:We want something that’s very passionate, or boiling, from the get-go.  In the past, people weren’t looking for something boiling; they just needed some water.  Once they found it and committed to a life together, they did their best to heat things up.  Now, if things aren’t boiling, committing to marriage seems premature.”

LIFE STUFF| Live Your Story

We are not quite novels.  We are not quite short stories.  In the end, we are collected works.” 

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When I was a little girl I lived in books, stories and fairytales, which took me on endless adventures and carried within them a promise.  Not a singular promise but hundreds of little promises cradled together to form a great hope.  The kind that made you look to the future with wide-eyed optimism and anticipation.  Even through times when the world showed itself to be cold and cruel, I took comfort in the beautiful possibilities of life and an unwavering picture of a future filled with adventure and wonderful people.  It’s the beauty of stories. Continue reading “LIFE STUFF| Live Your Story”

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

BLOG“You have to be where you are to get where you need to go.”

In her memoir Yes Please, Amy Poehler shares stories from childhood, her career in comedy, along with stories and advice on different subjects such as divorce and self-confidence.  The book is a collection of essays with inserts from friends and family.  Amy uses her experiences to inspire and share what she has learned.  It reads like a love letter to all the important and special people in her life.

I was pleasantly surprised with Amy’s openness and sincerity about her experiences, and that she uses this book to address issues we all deal with at some point in our lives, such as insecurity and fear.  Her level of honesty is quite touching. Thank you, Amy Poehler.  The first part of Yes Please is engaging and enjoyable, however it does slow down in the middle and towards the end.  I feel it could have been edited down a bit as at a certain point it does seem to become laboured with too many different things thrown together.  I love the overall message of Yes Please, and it is definitely a worthy read for Amy Poehler fans along with anyone looking for a little bit of advice and inspiration.

On a side-note, the book itself is surprisingly heavy.  Be warned:  your arm strength will be tested.

Favourite quote: “I didn’t know if I had the talent or drive, I just had a tiny little voice whispering inside of me.  That same voice would tell me I would meet Carol Burnett someday, I would find love, I would be okay.  We all have a tiny whispery voice inside of us, but the bad ones are usually at a lower register and come through a little clearer.”

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

BLOG“This book will take you two days to read.  Did you even see the cover?  It’s mostly pink.  If you’re reading this book every night for months, something is not right.”

With her signature humour and delivery, Mindy Kaling takes us through her childhood experiences, her career evolution, all the way to the fashionable, fabulous and famous person she is today.  She includes stories about childhood bullying and friendship, her love of comedy, the highs and lows of starting out in NY, as well as her time working on The Office.  Throughout the book she also provides various lists (Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities) and random observations/thoughts (In Defense of Chest Hair).

Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? is funny and highly enjoyable.  It’s been said many times but it’s true, Mindy is simply the best friend you want to have.  All her stories/observations are told in a conversational way and with such humour that it feels like she’s speaking directly to you.  I feel a lot of what she talks about and the points she makes is very relatable.  It’s also one of those rare times I want to listen to the audio version as well because it’s likely hilarious.  If you’re looking for a fun, light and entertaining read that will make you laugh, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a great option.

P.S.  It did take two days to read.

Favourite quote: “This section is about my attempts to get day jobs.  At first I called this chapter “Mama’s Gots to Pay da Bills,” but I thought that title made it sound like maybe I had been a stripper or had a brood of illegitimate children.”

Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen

BLOG“Begin where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.”

Rachel Brathen is a yoga teacher and motivational speaker who shares daily messages of inspiration through social media.  In Yoga Girl she takes us through her rebellious teen years, her struggles, how she came to embrace meditation and yoga, and how she was able to make a positive change in her life.  Throughout each chapter are healthy recipes, step by step yoga sequences as well as beautiful photos.

Yoga Girl is an inspirational and uplifting book.  Rachel not only shares her personal story but provides encouragement for others to move past their own struggles.  The main points being to be kind to yourself, find balance in life, trust your journey, and to not let fear hold you back.  The book is engaging, relatable and a really nice read.  The recipes, yoga postures and photos are a great addition and add to the overall message.  The structure of the book was a little awkward in spots where the “loving insights” section was inserted in the middle of the story section, which interrupted the flow of the book.  However, it does not take away from the content in any way.  Yoga Girl is inspirational and visually beautiful.

Favourite quote:  “The thing about life is, you get what you need.  Not what you want.  And everything happens at the right time.”

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

BLOG“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

Marie Kondo is a Japanese cleaning consultant who has developed a system for decluttering and organizing, which she has used to change the homes and lives of her many clients. The KonMari method tackles the task of decluttering by category. Rather than focusing on one room at a time or tidying little by little, you do it by category (clothes, books, etc.) and all at once. Marie Kondo believes that clutter masks the true source of disorganization and disorder, and by facing your stuff all at once you can let go of what has kept you in a state of clutter.
She also provides a list of the order in which to tackle each category, the easiest being clothing to start and eventually finishing up with sentimental items, which are usually the most difficult to discard. Ultimately you are choosing what you want to keep, not what you want to discard. The goal is to create the lifestyle you want by surrounding yourself with things that “spark joy.”

This book is smart, easy to read and as you would expect, well organized. I find the general task of decluttering to be quite overwhelming. Even with best intentions I was never able to get rid of things in a way that truly organized my space. The KonMari method of going through your items by category, compartmentalized and simplified the process for me. The really valuable part of this book is that it has the reader think about the kind of lifestyle they wish to create, and what the physical space needs to be in order to achieve that. It also provides advice for times when we are not sure wether to keep an item or not. The explanations given as to why we have a hard time letting go sometimes and why it is okay to do so are very helpful. Overall, I found the KonMari method to be effective and the book itself to be a good and enjoyable read.

Favourite quote: “Every object has a different role to play. Not all clothes come to you to be worn threadbare. It is the same with people. Not every person you meet in life will become a close friend or lover. Some you will find hard to get along with or impossible to like. But these people, too, teach you the precious lesson of who you do like, so that you will appreciate those special people even more.”