The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

BLOG“It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for very much longer.”

Nix is a sixteen-year-old girl who time-travels with her father aboard a pirate ship named The Temptation.  Using old maps they are able to travel to anyplace and anywhere in time, however, they can only visit a specific time and place once.  Nix’s father only has one destination in mind, one that has eluded him for years and has turned into an obsession.  He is on an ongoing search for an old map that will take him to 1868 Honolulu, a time when Nix’s mother was still alive, before Nix was born.  But what would that mean for Nix, going to a time before she was born?  When a map is discovered that could successfully take them to Honolulu in 1868, Nix is conflicted about whether she should help to obtain it and soon finds herself in a life-changing adventure.

There is something very captivating about this book, whether it be the concept, the characters, the title, or the lovely cover.  Most likely it is all of these things coming together that really drew me towards reading the story, which as it turned out I really enjoyed.  Nix works well as the heroine of the novel and I liked experiencing the book though her perspective.  Particularly interesting is her complicated relationship with her father, and the fun relationship/interactions she has with her best friend/love interest Kashmir.  There are backstories that are given to most of the characters, however I do wish there was a little more character development as I didn’t fully connect to them, and found myself not really invested in the story as much as I would have liked.  Having said that, I did end up enjoying it overall, especially the historical aspects and the weaving of myths and legends throughout.

*ARC provided by NetGalley.  Publication date: March 3, 2016.

Love in Lowercase by Francesc Miralles

IMG_0792“…what we are isn’t important.  What we do with what we are is important.  Hours are worthless unless you know what to do with them.”

Charming and sweet, Love in Lowercase tells the story of Samuel de Juan, a professor in Barcelona who leads a solitary and uneventful life that is based on routine.  This changes when a feline friend appears at his door, and makes Samuel’s apartment his home.  The appearance of his new companion sets off a chain of events, which brings new people into Samuel’s life and alters his solitary existence.

Love in Lowercase is a fun read, and at 224 pages it is one that can be enjoyed over a few hours.  It is about the small moments in life that serve as a catalyst for change.  The theme is endearing and explored very well, as we follow the events of Samuel’s life and his wacky little journey.  What makes this book so delightful are the references to real-life stories and authors.  It is split up into short chapters and sections, which makes it very fast and easy to read.  I did find the main romance to be somewhat underdeveloped and odd, however this part doesn’t overwhelm the book as the main focus is Samuel himself and his life as a whole.  Love in Lowercase is a fun and sweet little book that is an easy and enjoyable read.

I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

BLOG“How lucky they were to find each other in this big, mad world.”

I’ll See You in Paris is a charming novel that takes the reader back and forth in time, travelling from the English countryside to the streets of Paris.  Young Annie has many questions regarding her family history, one that her mother Laurel has never fully spoken about and prefers to leave in the past.  When Annie discovers a mysterious book about the infamous Duchess of Marlborough, she becomes fascinated with the story, which as it turns out is closely tied to her own history.  The book takes turns giving us Annie’s perspective and her discoveries, and going back in time to the story of the Duchess herself (who went by Mrs. Spencer) during the period when a young writer was writing her biography.  This biography being the book that would find its way into Annie’s possession.  We meet the writer Win, and a young woman named Pru who was the caretaker/assistant to the elderly Mrs. Spencer.  As their story and experiences with the Duchess unfolds, many of Annie’s questions are answered as well.

A captivating story that kept me engaged from start to finish, I’ll See You in Paris is a beautifully written novel that is full of endearing characters.  Inspired by the real life Duchess of Marlborough, author Michelle Gable crafted an intriguing and intricate story that is sweet, funny, and heartwarming.  The narrative switches from different time periods and perspectives, and it does so effortlessly.  It unfolds as somewhat of a mystery, and while I thought I knew what was coming and how the story would progress, that turned out to not be the case.  It kept me guessing and I simply couldn’t put it down.  The heart of the story for me were the characters of Win and Pru whose dialogue and interactions were so incredibly amusing.  I also really enjoyed the historical aspect of the novel and learning about the character that was the Duchess of Marlborough.  I’ll See You in Paris is a charming and well-crafted novel whose characters will stay with you well after the story has reached its conclusion.

ARC provided by NetGalley for review.  Publication date: February 9, 2016.

“We all have our time machines, don’t we.  Those that take us back are memories… and those that carry us forward, are dreams.” – H.G. Wells

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

IMG_0621“So it looked like it was happening.  She was at the beginning of something new.  Here we go again.”

The Hypnotist’s Love Story is an intriguing, character driven read.  It follows hypnotherapist Ellen O’Farrell who enters into a relationship with widower and single father Patrick.  Ellen’s past relationships have been in no way ideal, so when things seem to click with Patrick, it is very exciting.  But things are far from simple, as Patrick has a secret that greatly affects his life and their relationship.  That is, Patrick has a stalker.  His ex-girlfriend Saskia has been unable to move on after their break-up three years earlier, and has become fixated on Patrick’s life.  A life she was once very much a part of.  When Patrick reveals this to Ellen she is not scared or worried, but curious.  And as it turns out, Saskia is not a total stranger to Ellen.

The story takes turns providing Ellen’s and Saskia’s perspectives as Ellen’s relationship with Patrick grows and progresses.  Ellen is going through regular challenges that come with building a relationship, with the added stress of Saskia showing up wherever they go.  She finds this unsettling of course, but there is also a desire to understand Saskia and her motivations.  There is depth to both of these characters, with Ellen’s voice being compelling and Saskia’s truly heartbreaking, allowing us to understand and empathize with them.  More than anything, The Hypnotist’s Love Story explores the complexity of human emotions and examines the challenges of relationships in a real way.  As a fan of character driven stories I really appreciated the book as a whole.  It is intriguing, beautifully written, and highly enjoyable.  This is the first book I’ve read by Liane Moriarty and I look forward to exploring more of her work.

“I couldn’t act like a normal person again when she now knows me as a crazy person, because that would imply I have a choice. That I can choose to be crazy or normal. And if I have a choice, then that would imply that I’m not really crazy at all, and I should just stop it and get on with my life.”

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

IMG_0579“There is no standard normal.  Normal is subjective.  There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet.”

In Reasons to Stay Alive, author Matt Haig recounts his experience with depression and anxiety.  It is part memoir and part self-help book, which very effectively describes what it is like to live with depression and anxiety while at the same time being informative and comforting.

Matt Haig is the author of one of my favourite books, The Humans.  When I learned that the first Canadian edition of Reasons to Stay Alive was being released, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.  I found it to be one of the best books regarding mental health that I have come across.  It shares very personal experiences, emotions, and struggles that are described and presented in a relatable way.

“When you are depressed you feel alone, and that no one is going through quite what you are going through.  You are so scared of appearing in any way mad you internalise everything, and you are so scared that people will alienate you further you clam up and don’t speak about it, which is a shame, as speaking about it helps.”

The author breaks everything down into a simple and easy to read format, using lists along with short and concise chapters.  Reasons to Stay Alive is brave, honest, and hopeful.  I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone, whether you struggle with depression/anxiety or have a loved one who is.

“Talk.  Listen.  Encourage talking.  Encourage listening.  Keep adding to the conversation.  Stay on the lookout for those wanting to join in the conversation.  Keep reiterating, again and again, that depression is not something you ‘admit to’, it is not something you have to blush about, it is a human experience.”