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YEAR IN REVIEW: 2021 – FAVOURITE / BEST BOOK PICKS OF THE YEAR

These were my book picks from 2020 if you’re interested, and for ALL of my books reviews going back years, I have them all under this category: What I read.

A lot of the books I read overlap categories, so for instance I will classify historical fiction as HISTORY because it talks or has elements of that time period but in a fictional manner. Anything food related, even memoirs, go under FOOD, but actual memoirs that are not food-related, have their own category.

I read a total of 246 books in 2021, most of it at the start of the year, and tapered off by December as I got into watching series rather than reading:

  • January: 41
  • February: 24
  • March: 24
  • April: 17
  • May: 20
  • June: 11
  • July: 28
  • August: 28
  • September: 23
  • October: 18
  • November: 10
  • December: 2

FAQ about my reading

I get these questions a lot here, and also via Instagram, etc so:

What else have you read?

Here are all the other books I’ve read in the past including mini reviews of each. I also very recently started doing a do a book roundup at the end of every year.

Here they are for the 2 years I did the summaries:

A lot of the books I read, I interspersed into the things I bought or watched. I finally started separating it out in 2019.

How do I read so quickly?

I don’t know either. I’ve been reading books for as long as I can remember. I feel like my sibling is the one who patiently taught me how to read one book, and from there, it exploded.

So, lots of practice? I have been reading for so long that words come easily to my brain, it’s like I see a picture of the word rather than reading the word individually. So “disastrous” would be a word that you read “dis-sas-trous”, but in my head it’s disastrous“, just one word, meaning imprinted. Makes sentences go a lot quicker.

Save for my parents, my entire immediate family is a family of voracious readers.

We read while eating, we read while walking, we read in bed… I guess I just followed what my older siblings did as they always had their nose in their books, and a few going at the same time (you know, the disrespectful way we read through half a book than leave it half open facing the table, spines cracked, no bookmark?).

I used to read 30+ books from the library a week – all young adult, easy stuff. I can read 2-3 books of young adult fiction in a current work day to give you an example, and as a child I had way more time than I do now, so I burned through books like a firestorm.

Our partners remark that they’ve never seen a family read so much, and I guess it’s true.

Where do I get my books?

A lot of you have asked and I generally don’t buy books unless they’re secondhand and in ebook format, for many reasons – price, environmental, space, and even then, I don’t buy books. I borrow them.

I read them on my Kobo ereader (also secondhand), and check out books from the library from Overdrive. If the book isn’t there, I generally don’t read it, UNLESS.. it is a book I REALLY REALLY want to read, then I MAY consider buying it if I cannot wait for it or find it. So far, I have only done this for Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Libraries are a gift, and we pay for them in our taxes yearly even if you don’t personally use them, so thanks.

How do I know what to read?

I don’t. I see recommendations and make notes, or put it on my Wishlist / On hold. I sometimes go into bookstores and browse, then decide if it is worth getting from the library. Or in secondhand stores, I pick up or buy books only if they’re photography / style-related where pictures and colour are a MUST (the one drawback to an e-reader).

I purchased only two physical books in 2020 that I couldn’t / didn’t want to buy in e-book format: Distinction (it was cheaper secondhand than the e-book), & Scoff (not available in ebook format at all).

Don’t you prefer physical books?

Who doesn’t!?

Aside from the cost, the space they take up, how heavy they are (we have a small bookshelf, most of it is Little Bun), I find them heavy to hold and hard to read in rooms unless there is bright daylight or very strong lamp light (I suffer from aura migraines and I’ve noticed dim light or lack of light triggers it when I am reading). I really like that the ebook illuminates the book.

I’d rather carry my entire library around with me in an ebook reader, plus be able to read with a backlight on.

I am currently considering a library option however only because we plan on buying a larger home in the future and I could allow a small library in my closet, perhaps.

Likely, it will only be filled with photography and style books however. Those are the only books I really want in physical copy and ebooks won’t suffice.

Where do I find the time to read?

I just make time for it. I have no other answer…

I’ve noticed if I am not watching TV shows, or aimlessly browsing on Instagram, I seem to have plenty of time to read if I am able to foist Little Bun off on my partner and/or keep him occupied otherwise.

I can go through a lot of books in a short amount of time if I am both interested, reasonably well-rested (or in a good mental state, not in limbo or stressed out) and the book itself is engrossing.

I read while brushing my teeth as you need to brush a full minute to two minutes (I have the reader on a stand), and I read while eating or drinking tea, I read while Little Bun plays or reads…. I read every time there is a spare moment.

WIthout further ado:

CAREER

Wife Drought

BEST. BOOK. OF. THE. YEAR. Okay, at least one of them. If anyone wants to ever say a peep about how it’s a woman’s problem to deal with why they don’t make enough money or get ahead, I will redirect them to reading this book. Until they do, we cannot have an intelligent discussion.

Chronicles of a Fashion Buyer

This is not a fashion book. This is a BUSINESS BOOK and how to run a business, a startup, etc. It is… mind blowingly interesting.

I have to admit, by Chapter 2 I was thinking if this was worth reading. Honestly, I was getting a little.. perturbed (?) with her way of chronicling things, but I am glad I stuck it out because her savvy business know-how and negotiation skills are top notch. Serious. I am in awe of this woman, and her tactics, her knowledge.. I’d hire her in a heartbeat if I had any skill at all in fashion and/or retailing.

I want to re-read it at a later date, but everything she has said about small businesses and entrepreneurs is SPOT ON. I myself, am sighing when I think of a small business (or six) I had offered to help in the past. One ended up selling it because she just didn’t have the head for it.

MONEY

Uneasy Street

This book hit home. It talks about affluent families (with way more money than ours, in the tens of millions in some cases), and how they feel like they are raising their children and living. They were exactly living the way I thought WE were living – acting like middle class, trying to teach kids proper values. A true look into the “rich” but not the “ultra rich” — celebrities/hundreds of millions folks/old family names. It was very interesting and thought provoking for me in particular as it pointed out a lot of how I have felt about our ‘wealth’, in that we don’t really have any. I also like how she touched on the female/male roles with money and household spending. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Class: A guide through the American Status System

Like the book Distinction by Bourdieu, but easier to read than that. It tries to codify what it is like to be in each American “class”, middle, and so forth. An interesting read, though between the two I read on class this month, I’d recommend Uneasy Street first.

The Sum of Small Things: A theory of the aspirational class

A FANTASTIC book. Run, don’t walk to read this. I felt myself in these pages quite strongly, and I am realizing all of my actions, what I believe in, what I do – I am part of this exact class and it’s a revelation in a sense.

The cult of the luxury brand

I had low expectations for this book and it blew me away with the history of each major Asian country and how they have come up through the ranks of luxury awareness and buying. I very much appreciated the whole history, background, interesting insights, how their stores work in general, anecdotes. It was truly a book (for me) worth re-reading again because I am sure I did not absorb everything. It is very well done if you are interested in luxury retailing, particularly in Asia and their thoughts/backgrounds into why they’re into it.

Bobos in Paradise

An interesting view into how Bobos (a member of a social class of well-to-do professionals who espouse bohemian values and lead bourgeois lives) have blended into middle and upper classes to the point where they are no longer distinguished by the way they look or act. An interesting read into “wealth” and rather, what I would call “stealth wealth”, that we are all slowly embracing. It made me realize that I could certainly be a bobo in many of the aspects listed there. Good food for thought.

The Divide

If you haven’t been under a rock and have been paying even an ounce of attention to what has conspired in the past few years, being unearthed for all to read and see, this book will not shock you. It will sadden you, it will confirm what you already know, but it won’t make you gasp and say: ARE YOU SERIOUS!?

You simply have to read it. If you even care an ounce about justice and understanding why it isn’t so black and white as some (obstinate) people might paint it.

Mindful Millionaire

If you are someone who struggles with the mindset surrounding wealth and money, this is the book for you to overcome that. If you are looking for technical help like how to figure out what to invest in, and why, this book will not do that.

This book is more about treating your mental roadblocks to getting rich, like imposter syndrome and so on, and how you may feel like you don’t deserve to be rich, or once you are rich enough you have issues spending that money.

FASHION & STYLE

Dress your best life

I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK.

The title is misleading because this book, if you have ever wanted to learn about fashion, spending and why it is important for women, women of colour, as social status markers and so on, this book is for you. The first half is fashion psychology and very interesting, but the second half is where I started to really sit up because she nailed all these things that we are now finally addressing and struggling with such as:

Karen also goes into talking about how your childhood memories affect the way you see yourself, and the way you dress now, and I ABSOLUTELY dress for the group I am in. If I go to the park, I dress a certain way, to work, another way, going home, another… and so on. I have different personas of myself – here are all my different style personas and style overview.

The Little Black Book of Style

An excellent, well-written, basic, common-sense style book. As always, Garcia is clear, forthright and plain in what she thinks is style. I liked it a lot, but it wasn’t anything new for someone like me who has read almost every fashion/style book under the sun.

For those who are new or looking to explore their style – this is a great starter book.

Front Row

I am fascinated by Anna Wintour not because of the purported “bitchy”-ness of the editor, but how prescient and sharp she is to be able to cut through the noise and see what can be done to make things as perfect as possible. I watched her briefly in action in a documentary and admired her greatly. This book goes into her background and maybe why she’s seen as so icy.

MYSTERY

SEBASTIEN ST-CYR MYSTERY BOOKS

All 17 of them are more or less excellent. I did not enjoy or like ALL of the plots, some of them were duds for me, but this is a good mystery series.

Where the Crawdads Sing

This is fictional and yet also a mystery, so I am putting it here. I absolutely loved this book, highlighting the life of poverty, discrimination, and stereotypes that do not apply. You cannot say a child is not smart when you have not given them the same opportunities as the others – a stable family, warm home, food in their stomachs and general help – compared to a child that has so much going for them (Little Bun comes to mind), who appears smarter, but only because their start in life was so much better. It is truly a great read.

The Shadow of the Wind (Book 1)

Caution: There is quite a lot of violence in this, and violence against women.

I had extremely low expectations of this book. I am PLEASED to announce this book is not that at all. Even translated from Catalan to English, the words are magical on the page and hasn’t lost any of its magic. It’s a bit of mystery meets thriller meets drama. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t able to follow all of the names and the subplot storylines (I mean I would have had to sit down and map them out bit by bit), in the mystery, but he very neatly summarized what happened at the end of the book which is the HOLY GRAIL of writing for me, as now everything is clear in my head and as it should be.

The Angel’s Game

The Prisoner of Heaven

The Labyrinth of the Spirits

I FINALLY finished the saga of The Cemetary by Zafon and it did not disappoint. The last book ties it all together even though his timeline is not quite kosher and I still have outstanding questions. It all makes so much more sense now, even if I am unsure about a few bits here and there. EXCELLENT READING. I am just enjoying the mystery, story and words.

Goodnight, Nobody

A mystery novel, discovering not only what happened to the murdered victim, but to herself.

Miss Moriarty, I Presume?

The whole Charlotte Holmes series here, is very well written and beautiful.

 

Study in Charlotte (Book 1)

I am a sucker for anything remotely Sherlock Holmes adjacent. Twists on the plot from TV series, to books that show another perspective – I am all for this.

P.S. I really enjoyed  The Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas as well.

Of course, I read books two, three and four:

The Last of August (Book 2)

The Case for Jamie (Book 3)

A Question of Holmes (Book 4)

…and they were ALL GOOD. Gripping mysteries, excellent writing, the storyline is both interesting and not clichéd at all. Love love love.

The Widows of Malabar Hill (Perveen Mistry mystery)

I have found a new mystery writer who transports me to another time and world (India 1920s). I loved it. Every page, every turn, the mystery is just fantastic. I appreciate the cultural aspects of the book – the dichotomy between being a young professional feminist woman during the age of patriarchy at its highest is truly intriguing, though I wouldn’t say it has fared much better in modern times, but I digress. I also learned more about Muslims, the uber conservative kinds, and I enjoyed the cultural bits peppered through the book, teaching me new things about how their world works. I liked the ending as well, and I am eager to read all of her other books.

Rei Shimura Mystery Series by Sujata Massey: 11 Books

Sujata (same mystery writer as the Perveen Mistry novels) is one of the best mystery writers, and her Rei Shimura series is very well done.

Mexican Gothic

I did not expect this story at all but I loved it. I mean, I loved it in the way that I couldn’t put the book down after the first few chapters, and I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY, though I had a pretty good feeling of how it was happening with the hints they were dropping, yet the second half of the book completely blindsided me. I did not expect the mystery to end this way, and the ending was FANTASTIC. Exactly what I expected. Would I really recommend it? Yes even though I found it very odd and strange, it was alluring it its oddness. It didn’t disappoint.

The Pearl Thief

I did not think I would like this book as much as I did. I wouldn’t scream: OH MY YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK, but it was a decent enough mystery with interesting historical tidbits, and a good view on the discrimination against the Scottish Gypsy and Border Romanichal Travellers.

The Hunting Party

I got goosebumps reading this book. It’s a great thriller, engrossing, well written, set in a remote place in the middle of nowhere with lots of snow (my fear…). I did NOT SEE THE ENDING COMING.

TRAVEL

Pardon my French

He’s spot on. That’s all I can say. His observations of French culture and people are spot on. A nice romp through France through the eyes of a foreigner and a lot of the anecdotes in there are hilarious.

HISTORY

SALT: A WORLD HISTORY

A general world history, focused around the salt trade.

Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River

5000 years of history, written in such a compelling manner, interwoven with anecdotes (heartbreaking) and told in such a brilliant manner. Truly an excellent book to read on the history of India, Pakistan, it’s like a travel back in time and history.

The WEIRDest People in the World

AN EXCELLENT book about Western countries and how they broke away from the pack. It’s truly a detailed look at the trajectory of these countries. I will caution you to read this all with a grain of salt because while a lot of it can be attributed to what he is saying, it doesn’t mean it was be-all and end-all.

The Queen’s Fortune

I’d read this book first before reading her second one just below (Sisi). To have otherwise-to-me, truly boring history come to life, historical fiction is an EXCELLENT way to learn about history and to be engrossed in a great book. Very vivid, descriptive, and a wonderful look into the past of one woman – Sisi – the Princess Diana of her time and how she came to be.

The Accidental Empress

Another historical fiction writer!! I love reading these, and her work is quite good. I will read her others and come to a firmer conclusion of her skills, but this book was very well done, masterful, realistic and heartwarming/human rather than being so dry as historical memoirs tend to be. I learn a lot more about history from these kinds of story-telling books than reading actual history books. Food for thought for teaching children about history..

Sisi: Empress on her own

She really was the Princess Diana of her time. I loved the book (it’s the second in the series), talking about how she ruled, what she did, the politics… very well done and engrossing. Also, very sad in some parts.

The Rose Code

Quinn is masterful in her historical fiction, she truly is. This one is on codebreaking during WWII. It’s fantastic. She NEVER DISAPPOINTS ME. That is all. I don’t think I am going to give anything away with “codebreaking” as a theme, considering the title is “The Rose Code”….

MEMOIRS

The Measure of my Powers

A very good book to read. Food + Money + Finances.

This book triggered me in some ways, especially the financial part. It made me so angry on her behalf and it’s a real example of what I’d consider financial abuse because she didn’t feel free enough to spend the way she wanted, and he was so focused on HIS money and HER money … I mean, my finances are separate from my partner, but never in a million years would we treat each other like this. I can see why people think that having separate finances makes you act like this, so they can’t see it as a positive thing the way I do.

In other ways, she triggered me for food pangs for France. I loved her food descriptions, I miss croissants like crazy…

I’d love a sequel about her time in cooking school.

Autopsy of a Boring Wife

I did not to expect to like this book AT ALL. It’s about a woman going through a divorce and my goodness I couldn’t put it down. It was funny, so well-written and absolutely a surprise. I LOVED IT.

Paddle your own Canoe

It is so refreshing to read a memoir that makes me laugh, but also talks about very difficult topics like racism, homosexuality and the like, WITH PURE AND SUCCINCT HONESTY. He is an actor who plays a typical white American male, and to read his words coming off the page telling it bluntly how it was in the past and what he believes in (just be a good person), resonates quite deeply with me.

I found myself nodding along saying: YES TO THIS.. when he pointed out very clear things that I talk about all the time like how religions can condemn homosexuality to the point of even insisting on death to two people who have, as he puts it “different plumbing and love differently”.

Highly recommended. Lots of swearing and laughs.

Braiding Sweetgrass

One of the best books I have read all year. If you never pick up any of the other books in my recommendations, please read this one.

It is a lesson in history, plants, the environment, life, and is profoundly life-changing, with the writing being so incredibly easy (and full of clearly explained science) to boot.

I cannot recommend it enough. By page one, hearing about the pecan anecdote, I was hooked.

The Happiest Man on Earth

You hear and read about the atrocities of the Holocaust but it is a completely different ballgame to read them firsthand, in simple, unembellished words from a survivor. I am in awe that he even survived all this time, with everything he went through and was subjected to. The pages are painful to read, but extremely required for us all to gain a bigger perspective as to how much worse it could be. It also makes you angry at the Covid, Mask & Vaccine mandate comparisons being made today to what they suffered through and survived during the Holocaust. It is unspeakably gross and disgusting to do so, and not at all similar by a long, long, LONG shot. People who say this, should be encouraged to read this book.

Call Sign Chaos

This is not a book I’d typically read but I loved it. It’s clear, well-written, no-nonsense… and while there are things I can criticize or raise an eyebrow at that I read in there, it gave me a deeper understanding of the American military.

Between Two Kingdoms

Chronic, lifelong illness and the battle between the Kingdom of the Healthy and Kingdom of the Chronically Sick. It’s raw, powerful and painful to read.

Quit like a woman

I am not a drinker (I am a non-drinker!), and while I tried drinking at age 19 a little, I didn’t see the point in it. It made me feel tired, and I didn’t get why everyone was shouting at each other, red-eyed and bleary-faced in bars. The whole scene turned me off, perhaps because I chose to stay sober for a lot of it.

She talks about why it’s so much pressure in our society to drink (I feel it allllllll the time), and the judgement you get when you are non-drinker even if you aren’t an alcoholic, or you simply don’t like it (like me). It’s like people think when you don’t drink, you’re judging them for imbibing. I am not, I just personally do not like it, but having to go into WHY and EXPLAIN myself is exhausting. I simply cannot make the choice to not drink, it’s unacceptable in our society.

Oh and she calls it poison. It’s basically ethanol (rocket fuel), that we’ve packaged and marketed as healthy when it isn’t. Good to know, I’ll stay young-looking & healthy for longer. LOL

Mafia Prince

WOW. This is truly a gripping thriller. I will admit I got dizzy with all the names of who killed what and when (also, they’re all pretty much nicknamed Nicky… LOL!)… but it was a very good look into what the mob was like and how hard it was to be in that life / to want to get out once you started.

The description of being in prison has a lot of similarity to how I felt being in lockdown (voluntary lockdown), as only having your home to hang out in, with no one to really talk to or discuss things with, is mentally draining.

Frying Plantain

I LOVED this book. It was nothing like what I expected at all, and yet it gripped me to the end. It’s about a girl growing up in Toronto (I recognized all the places in the book!) with her mother as a young teenage single mother. It was a raw, refreshing look into such a different lifestyle.

These three books, are listed in order and all about the travellers:

Jessie’s Journey

Tales from a Tent

Tears for a Tinker

I liked reading all of them. It’s a rough life being a traveller but her real love for being one, rather than submitting to a life of a scaldie (a home dweller) is quite interesting as a perspective. I also learned more about their history, their ways, life, etc.

Crying in H Mart

A poignant memoir about growing up bi-racial, and all the different things observed in Korean culture. I really enjoyed it. She also became famous in the end (I had no idea who she was), and I had to look her up afterwards. Quite a good read even if you do not know her nor her music.

GENERAL FICTION

Mulan: Before the Sword

Here’s a favourite author of mine – her classical Chinese fairytales with a twist are such wonderful reads. Yes, they’re juvenile fiction, but just so well done, with interesting moral dilemmas, ideas and Chinese philosophy woven in.

Forever, Interrupted

This book shocked me after the first chapter. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s about losing your husband. So … please read with caution if you are triggered. I haven’t lost mine, but I certainly felt it in the pages, her pain, and her shock. It’s quite a good read on how to heal, and move on. Very well done.

The Heiress

I one thousand percent did not expect I would like this book. It started off so darn slow that I was about to just give up around Chapter Two. I am glad I held on because WOW.. the whole book is a stunning revelation in equality, and the heroine ends up being one of the best characters in the whole book. I loved it.

Party of Two

I very much enjoy her work. I will have to give her Wedding Party series another read because I clearly read it out of sequence (BOOK TWO NOT BOOK ONE!), and it soured me on her initially, but I gave her another shot with this one, and I am pleased. It’s a great read, full of nuances about being a woman of colour, and well written.

Oddly enough this is the FIFTH book in the Wedding Series but it read like a stand-a-lone though it does give the ending away of the previous books.

You can’t fall in love with your ex

This book is absolutely not what I expected in a good way, and a complete page turner. Ranald has a real knack for words and interesting, deep characters and great plots that aren’t conventional. I couldn’t put it down. It is an excellent book and I shall now proceed to DEVOUR every possible novel she has written.

A groom with a view

What I love best about Randald’s writings is that it is all with interesting plot twists AND ABSOLUTELY NOT what you expected which is so refreshing. I love the endings.

It would be wrong to steal my sister’s boyfriend

Another excellent book by Ranald, yet another set of interesting, different in-depth characters where things aren’t so wildly unrealistic all the time. I mean it’s chicklit after all, some of it is unrealistic (ALWAYS) but it seems relatable.

Just saying

Another winner. I LOVE HER BOOKS! I’d absolutely re-read them in the future as well which is saying a lot.

The Paris Key

I LOVED THE BOOK SO MUCH… but I need a bloody sequel. I squealed in frustration at the end of the book so loudly that my partner started and I told him I needed answers to a few endings/questions, but he told me maybe the book was meant to be open-ended so you can choose your own adventure. I glared at him because I enjoy tying up loose ends, which sparked a discussion into what “loose ends” meant in English.

Long story short, GREAT book, slightly dissatisfying ending because I need a sequel please.

The Red Address Book

This book is absolutely not what I expected, and not what I would have chosen (it’s quite sad in a way), but I absolutely recommend it. It’s essentially a memoir of a dying woman, and WELL WORTH THE READ. I was almost in tears near the end (good tears), and a bit stricken at the ending (as well as it finally ending…)

Daisy Jones & The Six

Are you into rock and roll? Bands? Reading salacious “tales” of the past and what it was like in the brains of rising rock stars? Then this book is for you.

The writing is phenomenal. I was just blown away by how GOOD it was, and I came in with a dreaded expectation of it bombing by chapter one because books that win awards and make it to bestseller lists, tend to tank with me. It all read SO REAL to me that I started googling: “Daisy Jones songs” or “The Six Songs” because I thought it was a real band and I wanted to hear them sing.

I have never felt such a connection to a book to the point where I want the (fake, mocked up) “Band” tee of what it would have looked like, based on the book’s description.

Heartless

THIS WAS SUCH A GOOD BOOK, wow, I really enjoyed this book, the twist on the characters in the 52 card deck was very interesting and fun to read, imagining these cards as characters. It follows the Queen of Hearts, as a young girl named Catherine. The whole Alice in Wonderland theme becomes twisted around with this perspective. It’s … beyond what I could have imagined it to be. I want to read all of Meyer’s books now.

The Queen’s Weapons

Another author that never disappoints me is Bishop. This is Book 11 in her Black Jewels novels and it is incredible. I couldn’t put it down. Ate it up like a stuffed cookie.

The Midnight Library

HIGHLY recommend this book. I read his other book – The Humans – and liked it because it really made you think about what it was to be human, but it had more of an alien-esque sci-fi twist to it, whereas this one is about imagining your Other Lives. A really good, deep dive into considering all the Paths Taken / Not Taken in your life.

The Sleeping Dictionary

It is fictional history, but real all the same in the sense that what she is talking about, is what happened in India at the time. It follows the life of a little girl, through all of the lives of women living in India and what they had to do to survive. Definitely made me cry at the end.

The Boy’s Club

Another excellent book if you want to get  a feel for what it’s like to work in these typically male-dominated industries; this one is in law, but it could have been investment banking. I did not particularly like the ending but it was satisfying and opened up the path in my head to think there could be more, while motivating me at the same time.

Mrs. Everything

Weiner has this magnificent way of weaving you into the lives of her characters. I felt the ups and downs of both sisters, the mother, and their struggles through life. It was well written, poignant and made me think about my own childhood, teenage years, and beyond. I really appreciate the way she makes you examine your own life in the way she examines the lives of her characters in detail, really getting into their heads.

No woman is a man

I am going to recommend this book with two grains of salt.

First grain: This book is fiction, but it mirrors real life in an extremely conservative, traditional, whatever you want to label it, kind of family.

PLEASE DO NOT THINK THAT ALL MUSLIM FAMILIES ARE LIKE THIS, and use this as a “AH HAH I KNEW IT” way to further push any kind of xenophobia. Please, please please.

I know this firsthand from having close Muslim friends but also, I have had a friend come from a very traditional, conservative CATHOLIC family in the Middle East, and she had eerily, almost exactly the same experiences, minus domestic violence (though she mentioned to me it was accepted as “part of life”).

She was CATHOLIC and she experienced what was written in this book. So do not tell me this is a Muslim/religious thing because it isn’t. She barely left the house, and had to fight with her father to advocate for her and her sisters to go to at least finish high school IN CANADA OF ALL PLACES because he told her: “No girl should be this smart, what’s the point? Such a waste.” …. UGHHHHHHHHH .. because as a budding feminist, I can tell you I got triggered hearing that as a teenager.

Second grain: This book is triggering to some.

It was to me in some parts. I almost burst out crying in some parts. My whole heart broke and ached reading it. There is domestic violence, and then, a raw look at it from both sides (neither of which, excuses any of it in my opinion).

That said, I highly recommend this book, but it does come with 2 grains of disclaimer salt. I think it’s one of the most gripping, strongest books I have read all year. I hope Rum translates it into Arabic and lets everyone read it because I feel like it would validate a lot of what SOME of them are feeling.

I also strongly related to this book because a lot of it was what I was told growing up – a girl is a burden, a boy is free. You women know what I am talking about. I did a whole post on this: A girl is a burden but a boy is freedom.

Who’s that Girl?

I REALLY LOVED THIS BOOK. Wow. I had very low hopes from the start, but midway through the plot picked up and was far more interesting than I initially expected. I found (another) new writer I love, clearly. I like the plot twists.

All fall down

Weiner is an excellent writer. Her words draw you in, and finding out that Greer Hendricks is her editor, makes it all the more clear why her books are so compelling (I love her work as well). This book is about addiction and it is FANTASTIC. If this will trigger you, please don’t read it. But if it will help you recognize that addiction comes in all forms, not just people who LOOK like they’re addicts, but people who seem to have it all together, are functioning addicts or alcoholics, who can hide it easily in plain sight (more or less), this book is a huge wakeup call. I think in recent years especially, the whole Wine Mom Culture is becoming quite prevalent and toxic, and I am seeing people casually drop names of medication like Oxycontin, Xanax and so on, as if they’re candies. It makes me wonder how many of them are functioning addicts.

To be clear – I don’t think this has really been a new phenomenon either, so let’s not blame millennials… it has started even as far back as the 50s, that I can recall, with all of these bored, intelligent women forced into a traditional stay-at-home wife role, taking drugs to numb the pain and to stop trying to question what it is they’re doing at home when they feel like they were meant for so much more. Short read: What really made 1950s housewives so miserable.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

A great young adult fiction, kind of in the style of Boxcar children, if you have ever grown up with the series. They are just such great young characters with REAL feelings, not fake ones (the Boxcar kids were always way too nice to each other I think).

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden

Another good book in the series. I want to read them all. This is such a sweet, heartwarming story. I will not lie, I cried at the end. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and going on Little Bun’s future reading list.

The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue


These books never fail to make me cry … honestly. I feel so moved by the characters.

The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found

Another good one. Darn it!!

Imposter Syndrome

I have loved her books since I read Family Trust, and this one is even better. I love the mystery and the ending. I will not give it away, but it is VERY well done and gripping.

Who do you love?

Another great book by Weiner. This one is about growing up, childhood love, the paths taken and not taken, and a wonderful story weaving in two lives with all of their ups and downs. It’s not 100% sappy, happy chicklit and I love that about her writing – she is far more real and honest in her stories than many others where everything ALWAYS works out (which I also enjoy to some extent as we all need a bit of escapism).

The Alchemist

Everyone told me I should read this book. They said it would change my life. I read it, and I guess I see a lot of parallels with Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), and I am not into abstract thoughts or imagery where I have to figure out what the hawk REALLY meant. Sometimes a story is just a story. I read it like a story and it was interesting as-is, and my main takeaway from this book is: Just try.

Sorry not Sorry

An excellent read as always by Sophie Ranald, my new chicklit author.

The truth about Gemma Grey

Another good book about Gemma Grey. Very relatable and interesting.

It’s not you it’s him

WOW. I love this book more than her other ones. Actually, that’s not true, I love them all but this one was very empowering.

No we can’t be friends

Loved this book. As usual. Her writing is fun, interesting, with realistic-esque plots that are truly interesting.

Malibu Rising

This was an excellent book. Reid has such a masterful way with words, weaving stories of each character into each other where you are feeling both bad and good about them. HIGHLY recommended, though please note, this has a lot of stories about children with absent parents, so if you are triggered, please read with care.

Children of Blood and Bone

Another good young adult series about the supernatural. LOVED IT. Can’t wait to read the sequel. It reminds me a lot of this series – The Gilded Ones. Very dark, full of mystery, magic, intrigue, pain… excellent reads.

The Gilded Ones

Wow. I had very low expectations (again, another book winner), for this book particularly that it’s considered “Young Adult Fantasy”, but by the first chapter I WAS HOOKED. It basically describes the patriarchy but in a fantasy setting and had some reminiscent pieces of my other favourite dark fantasy writer – Anne Bishop, so I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Had a lot of adult content – sexism, rape, abuse – which surprised me for a “youth” book but they are at that age, if I am assuming “youth” is 13 or older.

Excellent read. Gripping to the end, I really wanted to know how it turned out.

 

The Phantom Tollbooth

I have heard so much about this book that I had to read it, it’s meant for pre-teens, but the wit in this book is astounding. I loved reading it peppered with so many cleverly done idioms, a bit like Alice in Wonderland but with the English Language as the theme.

Original Sin

Golddiggers

Daddy’s Girls

All three books from Tasmina Perry – some of her best work because they are all just such great escapism books that have rich people, travel, and complex, interesting characters.

The Room on the Roof

What a fabulous book. There is no real “plot” per se with an ending that would satisfy 100%. I’d liken it a lot to the meandering thoughts of The Little Prince (yes that same one). It was well written, interesting, beautiful writing. It is a lot to do with happiness, I am sure there is some philosophical stuff buried in there, but I haven’t tried to study it too deeply with metaphors.

A Court of Silver Flames

I need more of her books on this series. I devoured the 4th book in the series, it was everything I hoped it would be and more. It had been so long since I read the other ones, that it took me a few chapters before I remembered who everyone was, what happened and so on. I don’t recall her earlier books being so sexual, but this one it seemed pretty heavy on the erotica, just as a side note. Whatever the case, the story was GREAT. I loved it, with all the subplots, characters, nuances.. it was excellent. I would however, recommend re-reading the first 3 if possible, before diving into this one because I may need to re-read it again as I was lost for the first part of the book. Her writings remind me a lot of Anne Bishop’s work, another author I will loyally read ANYTHING by. It does not matter what worlds Bishop creates, they are all good and not a single one is boring, or has ever made me think: OH GOD JUST GET TO THE END OF IT ALREADY.

GENERAL NON-FICTION

Untrue

I’ve always liked Martin’s books, especially Primates of Park Avenue which is an excellent book on rich families, their children and class/social/status warfare. This one was no different – it’s about women, the idea of infidelity and exploring why society thinks that women are the gentler sex that is not as sexual as men. There’s more than just that, there’s also exploration in why society sexualizes black women to the point of assuming they’re always out for sex (or working as sex workers), among infidelity and the idea of polyamorous relationships being the natural ‘order’ of things.

The Husband Hunters

American girls going off to England to pick up titles by marrying impoverished British aristocracy. That about sums up the book, and the ruthless hunt by mothers on behalf of their daughters to secure a title and standing with their money, is quite a fascinating read.

Nothing good can come of this

A book about sobriety and nothing at all like what I expected. I absolutely loved it, even though I haven’t had any direct or indirect experiences with alcoholism as far as I am aware of.

I will say though, I related to it in her sobriety periods because I don’t drink but just because I don’t want to. There’s no religious, food, medical or any reason preventing me from drinking however everyone assumes the default is = YOU MUST DRINK (see: Mommy Wine Culture), and if you do not, you must have some serious reason not to (e.g. alcoholism, you’re religious, etc). Why can’t someone simply not drink because they do not enjoy the taste of alcohol (who does), doesn’t want to be cultured in that taste (e.g. wine tastings), and has absolutely zero interest in developing an affinity for drinking?

Her books clearly outlines all the things people say that are rude (to me) when they continually pressure me to have “just one drink” or “I can’t believe you don’t drink” because it makes them all feel that something is wrong with THEM so they project their drinking habits onto me to make ME feel like something is wrong with me when nothing is wrong at all. I am not an outcast (I mean, well, depends on who you ask LOL), and I am still fun, interesting, witty etc without having to imbibe.

The worst for me was being in France and having ALL OF HIS FRIENDS question my non-drinking habits. Christ.

Trust me I’m lying

One of the most well-written, interesting books I have read so far. He accurately nails how hard it is to control information in this day and age, and how journalists are basically going off half-formed rumours for clicks. It didn’t necessarily teach me anything new, but it really revealed how deep this goes and how little you can trust what is being said in this day and age. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Leftover in China

If you ever wanted an in-depth look into the struggle of being a young Chinese woman, this book is it. The deep look into how men treat women there, the ageism, the sexism, the pure…. shock I had when I read this book, has not yet gone away. I highly recommend it.

Date-O-nomics

This books explains so much for my single friends. The reason why people in some cities can’t find love is that the male:female ratio is completely off, and it doesn’t just look at male:female ratio, it also looks at dating pools of college-educated male:females and blue-collar male:female ratios. The book doesn’t say that college-educated women ONLY want college-educated men, on the contrary they just want someone who makes decent money at a steady job, college-educated or not, which I have also heard / seen in my friends.

An excellent read. To sum it up – when there are too many of one gender in one city, the other gender realizes the market is ‘hot’ and won’t want to choose, or becomes pickier like “Oh she’s 2” too short, I will find someone else just like her”… because they can

  • Best areas for women: Silicon Valley, Bay Area, Seattle, Aspen
  • Best areas for men: New York, Los Angeles

Essentially, you need to now assess each city you live in for the male:female ratio in the dating pools you are looking at. It even talks about how there’s a female shortage in Mormons which makes male Mormons less likely to want to marry, same with a specific branch of Orthodox Jews. Fascinating stuff.

Tiny Beautiful Things

This is not what I expected at all, and it is FANTASTIC. It’s basically a collection of advice column advice. It’s much better than you think, and each question & response, really hit me deep in my heart in terms of understanding and empathy, from talking about divorce, love, to coming out to your parents’ disapproval. WORTH A READ, 100%!!!!!!

The Biggest Bluff

How to become a top poker player – it is mental, following a strategy and being careful, and more than simply just knowing cards. You can hone the instinct but it is tough to override your human instinct for what is rational / detached in the moment. It reminded me a lot of investing. Everyone knows to throw money into index funds, but then we (myself included), put little bits of money here and there to think we could hit something big (essentially gambling), when at the end of the day, the index funds always win over day trading.

Someday is not a day in the week

This is pretty motivating. I mean, I usually avoid self-help books because I don’t really get much out of them, to be honest, but this book made me think for sure, evaluating my life, what it is I want, what I am living for and doing. I wouldn’t call them “hacks”, but more just questions to find what it is that you really want out of life. I found the exercise to be quite helpful.

FOOD

Apron Strings

An excellent cultural look and memoir of modern Italy, China, the differences in food, travel, culture.. it’s quite an interesting look into the history of cultures and another view into them. It’s very food-focused with recipes, but I found the cultural insights far more interesting than the rest of it. Really recommended.

The Apprentice: Jacques Pépin

I. LOVE. Jacques Pépin. He is such an icon, but also so incredibly kind from what I can see on TV appearances; I heard his voice reading the book out to me, recounting his memoirs. They’re pretty incredible, and well worth a read. He’s had one heck of a life, and has lived it to the fullest. Even if you’re not into cooking or cook’s biographies, just a look into what it’s like growing up in France, then working in the kitchens back then is very interesting.

All or nothing

This is a book as much about addiction and parenting as it is about cooking. It’s really incredible he didn’t die at an early age with all that he did to his body, going to extremes with drugs. In the end, all he needed was an outlet for his energy and attention which thankfully he found in the end in cooking. He’s an Iron Chef Winner and a James Beard nominee which means HE CAN COOK like no other. A gripping read.

Serious Eater

I had no idea the ups and downs of Serious Eats, but his luck mirrors mine in a way. I have great luck in certain things, but I do not have fantastic luck in others. I have to learn to let go and stop trying to think I can hit it big (my timing is always off on Bitcoin, stocks, whatever.) Enough about me, this book is about a man who is passionate, kind and serious about food, and how he got it off the ground (sort of), and found his way.

I could however, see right away that the whole thing didn’t ever work out because he wanted to be so loosey-goosey and punk rock with his management and tracking, and it’s why he was perpetually broke, but that’s another analysis for another day.

The Food and Wine of France

I love reading about the history of food, the people who make these wonderful items, why, what drives them, how, and this book resolves a lot of that for me. It’s more wine-focused, but there were some good bits in there like about the andouillette sausages for instance.

The Man Who Ate Too much

This is a biography on James Beard, one of the most iconic figures in food. If you’ve ever heard of the James Beard awards, you have heard of how everyone covets to win it – either in food writing, making food in certain regions, being the best chef, etc. It’s because of Beard. His life however, seemed quite sad. It never seemed like he found happiness, or anyone who accepted him until the end, but he was a little awkward as a child so without therapy it made him quite unhappy and unsure of himself.

Swindled

An eye-opening book on the history of our food being adulterated (and why) for years, the battles people have had over the years with fighting adulteration and modern-day problems of pesticides, organic, and the fight for “real” food versus “fake” food with a very blurred line in between each. Some of it is likely harmless (small amounts of pesticide), but it could also kill if we let swindlers get away with it (baby formula causing infant deaths – this particular one made me cry along with the one of children dying from poisonous candy).

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper

This book is NOTHING like what I expected. Forget the title, yes it talks a lot about food as a central component, but the in-depth, objective third-party view of being immersed into the Chinese culture and entire country, is invaluable information. I learned so much about China from history to its people, all the good and the bad, and now I have completely mixed feelings about everything. I would say it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read on food, but also on China if you want something interesting, fun and not at all dry to read.

Some parts I will caution you, will make you gag, so please if you’re weak-stomached (I am not just talking offal as I love to eat tripe and so on, but other things…) and you’re unable to get visual imagery out of your head for ages, proceed with caution.

The way we eat now

This is a BLOODY AMAZING BOOK. It is full of interesting facts, laying out the history of our food, farms, farmers and how our food has gone from delicious and nutritious to a monoculture, lacking in diversity, only thinking of profits. It’s eye opening. Also, it’s the aspirational class and those who are eager to spend more on GOOD food, that are slowly changing these attitudes so that we CAN buy real food again.

Try this at home

This is a cookbook with a few great family anecdotes but I also just really want to buy it because it’s perfect for someone like me – a true amateur home cook (occasional). I don’t cook or bake on any sort of regular basis, but I CAN and maybe could considering how easy he is making these recipes look. I am very close to buying a physical copy.

Make the bread, buy the butter

I am loving this trend of cookbooks being less like cookbooks with recipes and pictures (only), and more anecdotal or helpful. THIS ONE in particular, is a great read because she talks about whether or not you should buy something or make it yourself, the amount of hassle required, as well as her experiences with doing things literally from scratch (including the little animal farm she started in the process).

I found this book hilarious, witty, and though I skipped all the recipes, I read all of the parts in between which I found endearing and useful – very much in line with how I’ve felt about food in general. This is a great recipe / food book for anyone who enjoys making their own food.

Scoff

The only book I finally caved and bought in hardcover because it didn’t come in my library, nor in an e-book format. It’s a very interesting look back at food delineating class in Britain – the history, the recipes, the foodstuffs, the way people lived/ate. Even the way you pour milk into your tea (before or after?) shows your class. It also came with a couple of fun recipes at the end, most of which I will likely never try because they kind of sound disgusting.

The American Plate

Another thoroughly interesting book on how American food has evolved, and what was in style back then, and still is, and what has changed (e.g. oyster sandwiches – not as popular as before!) I really enjoyed reading about their food history.

Sandwich

If you really like history of food, and learning about how food evolved, or was named, or created, this is the book for you regarding sandwiches. Also, what IS a sandwich? The book attempts to describe it, but if you just say “two pieces of bread and something in the middle”, it means a hot dog and a burger are technically also sandwiches… yet we don’t call them that.

Eating on the wild side

Wild foods are what hold the most nutrients, but even supermarket food can be nutritious if you know how to cook and pick the right stuff. Things like iceberg lettuce should be avoided in favour of red leaf lettuce, and cook all your tomatoes to release lycopene. Things like this, are super interesting to me in terms of food science and understanding what packs the most nutritional punch in eating.

The year of eating dangerously

I loved and hated this book. Some of it (as you might imagine) grossed me out, but it was well written, witty, interesting, and with some food history tidbits which I also enjoy.

PARENTING

Dear Mother

These poems made me cry. I teared up reading them because they touched my heart so deeply, and were so well-written. I highly recommend them to everyone, they’re truly gems. I savoured every word.fm

Hold On to your Kids – Why parents need to matter more than peers

Solid book. It makes me feel even better about the way we are raising Little Bun.

Clever Lands

What an excellent book. It talks about the pros and cons in each country, their education system, what they do, their flaws, what we can glean from them as changes to our Western system. Even Canada was featured in there! I had no idea we were to be featured at all. I am thinking now about how I approach learning with Little Bun and I am satisfied with the level of comfort and discomfort I afford him. I do not let him coast but I do not overwork him, I do challenge him to be his best and to not be lazy.

Becoming Brilliant

Same sort of principle as above, but focusing more on the curriculum, which they broke down as 6 C’s:

Collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence

Getting children to hit all 6 in an activity, or as many as possible when learning, is what makes the difference. A very interesting read, and it’s actually the way I try to teach Little Bun but I called it as “having fun with education”, and less the “hey memorize this or else” method. The only things they need to memorize by heart are alphabet, multiplication, and things like that, the building block foundations. Everything else is useless as rote memory.

Confessions of a Domestic Failure

This was just funny to read. It’s fictional, but the whole story about this fictional mother and her life, made me laugh.

2 Comments

  • me

    Lots of good suggestions and reviews! My thoughts on some:
    1. Love Jennifer Weiner – they are the perfect beach reads because they aren’t just fluff – they have a good storyline, deep thoughts but aren’t traumatizing. I think I read 8 last year and they were perfect!
    2. Read four of the Jasmine Guillory books and they were all terrible. I wanted to like them because I wanted to like a black romance author – but the storylines were boring, the sex scenes were boring and the characters were uninteresting. I kind of hated that these books were held up as the next best black author because then I distrusted that those comments were based on writing, and thought they were more about being woke.
    3. I think you would LOVE Elin Hilderbrand books – again perfect beach reads. Easy books set in Nantucket-ish area. The right amount of introspection but the best parts are the lush descriptions of luxury (food, surroundings, nature). I never wanted white duvet covers and fresh flowers and fancy cheeses so much in my life as after reading these books.
    4. I also have to recommend all of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency books – they are my comfort read. Set in Botswana, all about a woman who runs an agency and the interactions in her community as she solves mysteries. But they are also beautifully poignant insights into humanity. I think you’ll like them as the sweetest of morsels…and because there are so many you can just drop in and read some them come back to others later.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      1. Weiner – I agree with you. It’s deeper than fluff. It’s .. non-fiction, fiction on life
      2. Guillory – She took some getting used to! But in the end, I sort of liked her.
      3. Hilderbrand – I already read all of them in 2020 🙂
      4. I have the #1 Ladies Detective Agency on my list

      Thank you!

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