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What I read: The Start of Winter 2020 Edition


Includes the books below:

Mistress of Rome

Magnificent. Book one, with many more to go. I am excited with what will happen in the later sequels. I have a real fondness in my heart for each character, and this book was so engrossing, I basically started it around the afternoon and then didn’t stop until I finished it, reading as much as I could, even while being with Little Bun.

The Queen of the Night

This book is very long, but it is fantastic. It’s written like an opera, so be prepared for it to be long, (very well written), and drawn out. It’s a wonderful book because it really weaves all the pieces and loose ends together if you take the time to read it and process each page. Also, love the historical tidbits.

The Flatshare

I had zero expectations for this one, but my whole thing is I tap on whatever book that is next in my UNREAD list in my e-reader, and I give the first chapter a shot, no matter what it is or how it may look or sound as book. WOW. Was I ever pleasantly surprised!? I couldn’t put it down. I now want to read every book by her. I am having a great book month it seems, discovering new authors.

This one was complex, interesting, showed the perspective and different feelings of both of the main characters (unusual in a chicklit book), and it’s an INTERESTING plot. I must say I was turned off by the idea of a ‘flatshare’ (they explain it to you within the first chapter), but I sort of warmed to the idea of it (not the actual deed itself), throughout the book as the novel progressed.

The Unhoneymooners

WOW. I think I have found a new chicklit author to love. Her writing is deep, her characters interesting, with a nice twist away from the typical “Caucasian Girl” story that seems to permeate all chicklit writers. I guess you write about what you know, but this one has a distinctive flair with Spanish. Anyway, love the book. I found myself pleasantly enjoying the words, the interesting plot, albeit being a bit dramatic and predictable. I also think she could have stood to make the characters a bit deeper in terms of character, in their interactions with each other but you can’t win them all, it’s a good read that I didn’t hate.

Recipe for Persuasion

I did not like her first book because … I just didn’t like it. It seemed sort of trite with the way the characters ended up together, but Dev totally redeemed herself with this sequel in the series. WOW. I love the deep characters she painted, I got to know the other ones from the first book a bit more, and I really like the aspect of the mother-daughter relationship that always gets overlooked in many books in an attempt to chase down the sexy boy-girl relationship. Love this book. Love the twists of interracial relationships as well, which I think also gets overlooked in a lot of chicklit.

The Island of Sea Women

What. A. Book. It’s fiction but based on real life events and history of what happened in Korea. It’s HEARTBREAKING and yet so good to read, I kept turning every page. Some pages made me turn green however, so caution, as it talks about what it was like for the Koreans under Japanese rule, and the aftermath even after the Americans “freed” them – swapping out one dictatorship for another, really.

Chaos Monkeys

The book started off a little slow and technical for me, but as I started reading it, I started liking it a lot more. It is enlightening to learn how tech companies and startups work, along with interesting albeit sometimes crude anecdotes of what they did. As always, the footnotes are the most interesting bits of the book.


While waiting for my other crime thriller books in queue from Louise Penny come through (I hate starting in the middle of a series, I want to start with Book One), I discovered Belinda Bauer. Her work is… WOW. From page one, I was hooked. Beautiful, clean writing that doesn’t add unnecessary details and this book brought the entire story to a neat conclusion at the end, which I very much appreciate, when all of the strange twists and turns make sense. I immediately put her other books on hold, as I love her writing.

The Shut Eye

DO NOT READ THIS ONE. I loved her first book so much, and I still very much enjoy her writing but this book infuriated me. INFURIATED ME.

The whole plot of it made me so angry because it plays on stereotypes of “Other” races (ie. not white) being ostracized in society, not speaking English well, and then.. I don’t want to give the plot away, but the ending made me EXTREMELY ANGRY. It left no answer for what happened to one of the characters, the thought process, gave zero empathy or insight into them, and .. I am disgusted by this book. I truly am. It’s got such a xenophobic slant to it, that it has turned me off eagerly wanting to read her other works. I love her writing still, but this was a POORLY CHOSEN PLOT. I will be Googling her plots beforehand.

In general I am also seeing I find her plots hard to stomach as well as a mother. I can’t help but picture Little Bun in a lot them as they deal with little kids (but she does an excellent job getting into their brains).

The Facts of Life and Death

A much better plot. No little children in harm’s way this time, and a very interesting introspective into the mind of a small child. The ending is pretty satisfying. I highly recommend this one. I also really connected with one of the main characters, the little girl; having had bullies growing up as well, and feeling ostracized.

The Beautiful Dead

Not Bauer’s best work. It’s okay, still a page-turner, thrilling, but kind of … weird. Though heartwarming in a way as well, as it goes into the main character’s relationship with her father. I would have enjoyed more butt-kicking stories from the minor character (a small woman) nearer to the end of the book however; she sounds very interesting.

When the sea turned silver

Ever since I read her first book, I have been hooked on her Chinese fairytales. This book is the sequel to that, so I’d read the first one beforehand Where the mountain meets the moon, but it isn’t necessary for the storyline.

Honestly, this is meant for a younger crowd, pre-teen perhaps, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating just what a good writer she is, and how beautifully she has woven the words into a story that ALSO ties up very neatly at the end, with no question left unanswered. It also has a lot of good Aesop fable-like situations, and I will add this to Little Bun’s pre-teen reading list.

The Road to Character

I love books like this – anecdotes and memoirs on various people who aren’t necessarily already well known, and talking about their lives, how they have done what they did, why, and their innermost feelings/thoughts with actual notes. He covers people I have heard about like Frances Perkins, but never knew about the role they played in history and why they did what they did.


Another fantastic book. My friend recommended it to me last year and I only got around to reading it. Now I want to finish the sequel – Us Against You. Please note, this book centers around rape (but with a rather satisfying ending, I must say), and if that will trigger you, please avoid the book.

I find these books very difficult to read because I empathize so much with the characters, that it can almost feel like it is happening to me, or at least, I imagine the situation with people I my life as characters and what they’d say. Still, I read them because it is good to be continually reminded that you are not immune from any of this, and vigilance in making sure I raise a son who will never act like this, it tantamount.

The complexity of the writing, the characters, major and minor, what they are feeling, are all so raw and honest, that I can see it happening (and I AM CERTAIN IT DOES) in such situations. It reminds me very strongly about the case of Brock Turner, star Stanford swimmer who raped Chanel Miller, who was unconscious at the back by a dumpster. Witnesses who came to help her, called the scene beyond horrific. The reaction of his father to say “he shouldn’t be punished for 20 minutes of action” made the bile rise in my throat.

He served only 90 days in jail but under Megan’s Law in Ohio, he is a registered sex offender for life.

Another good book on a similar situation of rape, is written by one of my favourite authors Emily Giffin – All we ever wanted which has a stronger perspective of how the mother feels and what she is experiencing / going through.

Us Against You

The sequel to Beartown. Just after I wrote about it above, I went to go see if it was available and it was okay to borrow it!!! I immediately did it, and started reading ASAP.

It DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. It is a fantastic book, the characters growing deeper and more pronounced, with incredibly sensitivity, emotion and insight, particularly into what it means for a lot of boys and men, to be “male”… which I think is a topic we have not discussed nearly as much today, about how toxic masculinity is really doing everyone harm, including the young boys themselves as they mature into men, not just towards women.


I know a lot about RRSPs. A lot of what Gordon Pape says in here, I already knew, but it’s a good reminder/refresher/primer if you are starting out. This is NOT a book however, if you aren’t in the right mindset to read it. It isn’t dry, in fact, it is a little bit funny and witty in some areas, but … the topic itself, is dry. It can be hard to jazz up RRSPs, frankly, and he does a decent job of making it clear and simple.

I disagree with very little in this book, the only part that I am side-eying, is where he suggests to a couple to draw down on their NON registered accounts first, just so their registered accounts can grow tax-free for longer.

I don’t disagree with the principle of it, depending on at what age you retire, but keep in mind for estate planning purposes, anything that is in a TFSA, cash, or UNREGISTERED (meaning it has already been taxed, and only the dividends or proceeds would then be taxed if sold), would NOT be taxed on a final tax return to the Canada Revenue Agency.

In your RRSP however, unless you transfer it to a spouse, it gets taxed. Read more here on the topic: Estate Planning in Canada – A Rough Guide for Tax Efficiency.

(Also, if I am wrong, please let me know. It’s what I have surmised from reading about estate planning but I am not an expert by any means.)

Wallis in Love

What an interesting woman. This story lays out more of her life, and she’s the sort of woman I admire because she was so strong and had a fierce independent streak, but also shake my head at. She seemed to cause her own unhappiness in a way, by chasing ambition to the point where nothing satisfied her. This book really added a perspective I did not have before, in reading other bios about Wallis.

The Beach Club

This woman is a prolific writer. I read everything but only a few books really stand out to me in the blur of plots. This one was okay. Not recommended, really. I didn’t love the ending. I don’t love most of her endings to be honest. They’re kind of vague and trail off, but this one was not a favourite. I just like reading the story and wondering what happens at the end.

The Island

A good beach read, not amazing, but I love how Hilderbrand really gets into the emotions of these characters. I like that the endings are also not always happy for everyone, and they find themselves in the process, which is gratifying. It’s a fast read.

28 Summers

What an UNSATISFYING ENDING to a book. I was happily following along and then it just.. ENDS. Is there a sequel? Because WTF HAPPENS? It’s her latest book, so I guess a sequel is coming but, still. I hate reading books without an ending I can finish with. I really dislike that, and I normally leave even full TV series seasons open and unwatched until they are FINISHED so I can binge the entire thing and not get angry at waiting.

The Gift of Failure

An excellent book to remind me to let go and to not over-parent Little Bun. Not anything new of course, but basically the book talks (in a very well written, engaging way) about:

  • Letting them make mistakes and fight their own battles
  • Giving them tasks in the household early on and letting them do it
  • Not redoing their work for them or fixing things
  • Praising their EFFORT not their brains

A good book, and it even addresses each age group toddlers to 6 years old, then 6 to 15 and 15 onwards.

Victoria & Abdul

What an INTERESTING story. Sad ending (no secret..) but such an interesting book of the relationship between Queen Victoria and Abdul. A bit sad too, if you think about it. She just wanted to dream and visit India, with no chance of being able to.

Sometimes I wonder if we are freer as unknown, not-billionaires or royalty than those in power or being celebrities.

Dear Edward

I did not expect at all to like this book. It won awards and was featured in shows. This is definitely not what I expected and I was hooked. I also find it very difficult to read about tragedies but this book wasn’t too terrible for that (Okay I did cry at a few pages), and it hooked me to the end. TO THE END.

What I didn’t read

  • Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom: It’s a cookbook.
  • Bachelor Nation: I thought this was a book about single men, it turns out to be a book about the show The Bachelor which my mother is obsessed with but I couldn’t care less about (the whole premise of the show sort of turns my stomach). I didn’t understand that when I read the title. I can’t read this book about a show I don’t care about.


  • Marie

    Thanks! I’ll give it to a 7th grader. They have been reading the Red Scarf Girl in history so this would be a different perspective.

  • Marie

    Thank you for the list and summaries. I just put myself on the wait list for 3 of them at the library. How old do you think someone should be to enjoy reading Where the Mountain Meets the Moon?

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I’d say it would be good for anyone from Grade 2 or older if I can remember back to what I was reading in Grade 2. The stories are very easy to read/understand, and there are no graphic scenes or anything you need to explain. The only thing I’d check is the vocabulary, and to see if it would be understandable at a Grade 2 level without a lot of frustration at looking up words, but only you can assess that for the child reading it. I am reading a few reviews on Amazon that says they are reading it around the 9-15 year old range.

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