Sunday, May 31, 2015

Month in Review

4 books.  That’s all I read in May.  4 books.  Wow.

Admittedly, I didn’t have a lot of time to be reading, but even when I did, I just didn’t feel like it.  For some reason, the books I picked up weren’t speaking to me.  The Knockoff ended up changing things, but I’m still not feeling things when it comes to the books I’m selecting.  I really hope things will pick up in June.  

Here are the books I read in May with their GoodReads ratings:

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza *****
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham *****
Shifting Stats by Patricia Paddey *****
Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney ***

Challenges

The Classics Club (1)

What I’m Looking Forward to in June


Reading more.  Actually, I’m very excited that Kevin Kwan’s China Rich Girlfriend is coming out this month.  This month I’m really going to focus on just reading what I feel like, rather than what I have or getting my hands on new releases, so I can get back into a good reading groove.

Month in Review: Non-Bookish Things

May was a different sort of month for me. I started my new job which means I’ve been reading less and watching less television.  I miss not reading as much, but missing the television is okay with me.  I know that once school is out I’ll be doing a lot more binge watching though.

Watching

Television

Of course, I’m still watching my Toronto Blue Jays. Something about us Toronto sports fans, we enjoy the pain.

My television show watching was all over the place. I’ve really only watched bits and pieces of television shows rather than my usual watching one season of a show at a time.

I’m still working through season 2 of Broadchurch, almost at the end.  I started watching Episodes and really like it but am only a few episodes in.  My husband and I FINALLY started watching season 4 of The Walking Dead, but again we only made it a few episodes in.  

I did watch the entire series of Scrotal Recall on Netflix.  If you can get past the terrible title, it’s actually a really cute show.  I watched all six episodes in a row one day when I wasn’t feeling well. 

And A League of Their Own started up again.  This is my favourite panel show from England, hosted by James Cordon and with Jack Whitehall, Freddie Flintoff, and Jamie Redknapp.  It is absolutely hilarious and in series 9 they are getting some of my favourite people on it. 

Movies

The entire family went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron in the theatres. It was the first time the 4 of us all went together and now that the littlest one is okay sitting through a 2 hour movie, we will be doing this more often.  Which makes me happy because for a while there, it was my husband and daughter seeing all the movies I wanted to see!

I also saw Pitch Perfect 2.  I somehow managed to convince my husband that it would be a good movie to watch on our wedding anniversary. Not sure how I managed that, probably won’t be able to duplicate the results ever again.  But I really enjoyed it.

Listening


Nothing new.  My usual podcasts when I’m out walking and a reggae playlist when in the car.   

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"The Knockoff" by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

Forty-two-year-old Imogen Tate has returned to her job as editor in chief of Glossy magazine to find that her twenty-something former assistant Eve Morton has taken over.  Eve is fresh out of Harvard Business School and had decided that the high-fashion magazine, best known for its 768-page September issue, would be better off as an app.

But she isn’t stopping there.  Eve has fired all of the “grey hairs,” the older and experienced staff members, and replaced them with a heavy rotation of lookalike twenty year olds who text, tweet, and instagram throughout meetings.  Organic foods and nap rooms are always available not because it is a supportive place to work but because employees are rarely allowed to go home.  And then there are the co-ordinated dances to BeyoncĂ©'s music.

Imogen, a part of the old guard of fashion journalism, refuses to let Eve take over the magazine but it quickly becomes apparent that if she is going to hold on to her power, she needs to get up to speed with technology as fast as she can.  And that won’t be an easy feat for a woman who once got her iPhone stuck in Japanese for two days.

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza is a fun, hilarious, and stylish novel about the world of fashion magazines and the people who run it.  Comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada will no doubt abound but this book holds its own as a behind the scenes look at a world obsessed with fashion and technology.  

This is the book that shook me out of a terrible reading slump.  I devoured it in just a couple of days and was sad when it ended.  I wanted to stay in this world forever!  It isn’t just the fashion world that is being taken over by technology, we are all experiencing it.  And anyone who has ever found themselves overwhelmed by the newest social media apps or obsessed with the latest viral videos will enjoy this book very much.

As someone who recently returned to the workforce after a long absence, I could totally understand how Imogen feels.  It’s a different place that is always evolving thanks to technological innovation.  And it really does seem that the new people entering the workforce are getting younger and younger by the day.  But wow, what a force Imogen had to deal with when it came to Eve.

This is such a delicious novel.  The characters are exactly what they should be - Imogen, her assistant, and her friends are all delightful and endearing while Eve is the perfect witch to hate.  There were a few parts of the story that weren’t fully seen through but other than that the book moves at a fast pace with no lulls in the action.  This is the perfect book to crack open on a lazy, sunny day.  


You don’t have to work in the fashion world, or even love fashion, to relate to and enjoy this book.  In any area, it can be hard to keep up with the changing dynamics of technology.  But The Knockoff shows you that with a little bit of help from your friends and a lot of determination, you can come out on top in a very fashionable manner.  

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Monday, May 25, 2015

"Hello From the Gillespies" by Monica McInerney

For thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has faithfully sent out her Christmas letter to friends and family around the year.  Titled “Hello from the Gillespies,” it has always been full of good news from their beautiful homestead in the Australian Outback.

But this year, Angela can’t bring herself to write the usual cheerful letter because there’s been very little cheer to speak of.  Her husband is having difficulty keeping things together on the farm.  Her thirty-two-year-old twin daughters have come back home after suffering embarrassing career meltdowns.  Her third daughter is deep in debt having failed at yet another job.  And her ten-year-old-son spends all of his time talking to his imaginary friend.  

And so Angela decides to write a letter full of the truth, not holding back anything.  Of course, it’s purely a cathartic exercise, she doesn’t actually plan to send it out.  But it does get sent and it results in fracturing the family. But when Angela is in an accident and suffers from amnesia, the family must put their hurt aside and pull together to bring Angela back to them.

Hello From the Gillespies, by Monica McInerney, is a moving novel about the highs and lows of families and relationships.  This is her tenth novel, the first I have read, and is a beautiful family novel set in a stunning place.

I loved the premise of this novel.  We’ve all seen those Christmas letters, the ones that seem too good to be true, the ones that are full of good news but not the bad.  Or we’ve sat down to write one and wondered just how much should be shared.  What if someone writes one full of the truth, every difficult bit of it? 

I really liked the Gillespie family.  Angela was an absolutely endearing character, faithful and caring but going through a most difficult time.  The relationship between Angela and her husband Nick felt very real.  Though I have not been married for as long as they have, I know that marriage goes through its ups and downs and the rift in their relationship seemed very truthful.  I enjoyed the stories of all of the children, though I felt like the daughters were much younger than they were supposed to be based on their behaviour.  

While I loved the plot, it is the development of the plot that keeps this book from being an absolute smash for me.  The book is a thick one, it comes in at 606 pages.  And there were a few points, especially in the first half that I felt could have been omitted as they didn't need to be as drawn out as they were.  If this had happened, I probably would have sailed through the book but instead I found myself reading a bit, putting it down for quite a while, then coming back to it only to read a little bit more.  But that was the first half.  I breezed through the second half in two days because I couldn’t put the book down.  

To me, one of the biggest stars of the book was the setting.  Taking place in the Australian Outback, the Gillespie family home is set on a land that is rich in beauty and history.  As a city-dweller my whole life, I was drawn into the descriptions of a life lived in your own place, surrounded by nature rather than people.  I only know the Outback through pictures, but the descriptions in this book were so vivid, I felt like I was there.


Overall this was an enjoyable novel about the difficulties of marriage, the ups and downs of family life, and the love that holds it all together.  This book definitely makes me want to seek out McInerney’s other work.  If like me you find the first part of the book slow-going, stick with it.  You will be moved and touched by this lovely story.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.