What Am I Watching?

I’m one of those terrible people that like to say “No, I don’t watch a lot of TV,” when in reality, I’m a fiend for Netflix and I can keep up with ten shows at a time (not that I recommend that. Seriously, don’t do that). It’s true that I don’t watch just anything. I haven’t seen a lot of the most popular shows, like Game of Thrones, or Orange is the New Black or Grey’s Anatomy… and the list goes on and on. That being said, there are a few shows I’ve been hooked on for the past little while so I thought I’d give them the attention they deserve.

Inside No. 9

“The Dark Comedy”

Inside No. 9

This is an anthology style dark comedy series that airs on BBC Two. With 4 seasons and 6 20-minute episodes per season, it’s easy to get lost in. I discovered it not too long ago after seeing someone make a comparison between it and Black Mirror, which is one of my all-time favourite TV shows. Here’s the thing: to me, it’s nothing like Black Mirror at all, it’s deliciously unique and exciting in its own way. Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, the creators (pictured above), appear in every episode as different characters, showcasing their chameleon-like acting skills and their incredible versatility. It’s genius!! Genius genius genius. The best part is that if you’re some kind of psycho, you can watch the episodes out of order, as each story is self-contained. I suppose in that way, it’s a bit like Black Mirror, although I always recommend watching BM in order anyway (because then, catching the easter eggs is so much more satisfying). The only thing binding them together (that I know of…) is that each one takes place “inside number 9”, whether it’s a house number or a hotel room, or even a size 9 shoe. Perhaps my favourite part of this show is the suspense. Once you start watching, you figure out that each episode has some kind of (usually sick and macabre) twist at the end. Though this is not always the case–there are a couple of what I like to call “soft” episodes that are equally enjoyable–it’s thrilling to try to anticipate what will come next. It’s definitely a winner in my book, demonstrating masterful writing. Here’s a shortlist of my favourite episodes:

  • S01E02 – “A Quiet Night In” (an AMAZING showcase of acting with almost no dialogue)
  • S02E04 – “Cold Comfort” (filmed entirely through a CCTV camera in a call centre, very dark)
  • S03E01 – “The Devil of Christmas” (director’s commentary on an old b-movie)
  • S03E03 – “The Riddle of the Sphinx” (mind-bending, involves fascinating cryptic crosswords)
  • S03E06 – “Private View” (I love the set in this one, beautifully designed yet still wicked)
  • “Once Removed” (creative backwards chronology storytelling)
  • “To Have and to Hold” (the twist in this one shocked me! That’s all I’ll say)



“The Historical One”

Call the Midwife

I know what you’re thinking. Hear me out on this one. Call the Midwife has been a favourite of mine for YEARS now. Unlike No. 9, this one is a bit of a commitment. Based off of a real woman’s memoirs, CTM has been running since 2012, which, now that I’m thinking about it, is a hell of a long time. There are 8 hour(ish)-long episodes per season and Christmas specials in between. It’s on its seventh season, running on BBC One, and I’d imagine it’s most popular amongst middle-aged British women (please correct me if you’re not a middle-aged British woman and you love this show). I’m not a middle-aged British woman, but there’s something special about watching midwives and nuns of London’s East End deliver babies and get into all sorts of antics throughout the 50s and 60s (Dammit. I sound like a middle-aged British woman). The magic of this show is never lost on me–it gets impossibly emotional at times, lighthearted at others, and honestly, I’m still not tired of watching them deliver babies on Sunday nights. I find that it does a great job of exploring various social issues without coming across as preachy. Plus, it comes with a lot of knowledge I’ll never use about mid-century midwifery and random medical problems. Even though many of my favourite characters have left the show, the new ones never fail to disappoint. Needless to say, I’ll keep watching this show until it dies. I can’t really name my favourite episodes for this one as they aren’t self-contained, so you’ll just have to trust me on this if you like historical dramas.



“The True Story”

American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

Admittedly, I decided to watch this show because I’m a notorious fan of Darren Criss (even though I’m not a Glee fan) and have been for a long time. I saw that it was going to be on FX, which sweetened the deal for me as one of my all-time favourite shows is FX’s Fargo, and I really enjoyed the first season of Legion as well. I think that this show is an obvious choice if you’ve seen the previous “American Crime Story”, “The People v. OJ Simpson”. I’m a horrible researcher because I haven’t seen it, but I’m assuming that if you liked that you’ll love this. It’s true crime, what’s not to love? Week after week, the story of the murder of Gianni Versace is told, sometimes chronologically, and sometimes retroactively. Darren Criss’s performance is breathtaking (and no… I’m not just saying that). One of my friends noted that they won’t be able to look at him in the same way anymore. His portrayal of cold-blooded killer Andrew Cunanan is enough to make even the toughest person sweat. Penelope Cruz as Donatella Versace is surprisingly refreshing. I was worried she would be over-the-top, due to my limited knowledge going in about Versace and the world of fashion in general, but she makes it look easy. It’s a bit slower at times, as it sometimes repeats itself for clarity’s sake, but it’s original and well-executed enough to keep me watching. The show airs on Wednesday nights, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. It keeps me on the edge of my seat, even though I know what’s on the horizon.

Let me know what you’re loving on TV right now, or whether you’ve seen some of these. I’ll see you next time! xox





First Date Book Tag

Traditionally speaking, the nature of a “tag” is that you have to be “tagged” by somebody else to answer some questions, but I decided that I’m going to tag myself and do this for fun.

This is a fairly old tag but I like to disregard the rules and so I’m going to do it anyway. I found the questions on LilyCReads youtube channel (Her videos are hilarious and some of the only “BookTube” videos I watch. Go check her out). Without further ado, here are the questions:

  • The Awkward First Date – a book where something felt off. It wasn’t a bad book but lacked that spark for you.

For this I’m going with I am Nine by Diane Major. This book was really weird. Like the question says, it wasn’t bad, in fact, it was only 280 pages, and in general it was quite entertaining. However, I’m not sure whether the author self-published, or maybe it was because I read an e-book copy, but the book was filled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. At first, I thought it was an attempt to illustrate the voice of the young protagonist, but there weren’t enough mistakes to distinguish that it was on purpose. Anyway, weird book.

  • The Cheap First Date – book that turned out less than you expected.

I chose Matched by Ally Condie for this one because I read it a while ago and I cannot remember a single thing that happened in the book. A lot of my friends had told me how much they loved the book and the series, and so I gave it a shot but it turned out to be a lot less exciting than I’d thought it would be. I think I was in grade eight at the time and it was still a relatively new book, and I remember being interested in the premise, but I was pretty disappointed. I don’t even know if I finished it if I’m honest. I can’t even remember what the protagonist’s name is.

  • Well-Prepared First Date – book that turned out better than expected.

After thinking about this one for a bit I chose The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I read this one in grade 10 and I didn’t have huge expectations, but I ended up loving it. I thought maybe it would be cheesy or preachy but I, and my book talk group, really enjoyed talking about it. I guess my answer to this question could be a few school reading list books, like To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a book that I absolutely adore, but that I thought I would hate because I had to read it for school. I guess you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Speaking of which…

  • Hot but Dumb – pretty book, but not so hot on the inside.

For this, I am going with The Palace of Curiosities by Rosie Garland. I’ll be honest, I definitely mostly chose this book for its cover, but I didn’t end up loving the novel itself. I actually have a review for it on this blog which you can check out here. It was a good example of poetry overshadowing plot. The story was pretty dry in my opinion, and I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I did finish it, though, I didn’t give up, which must count for something.

  • Blind Date – a book you picked up not knowing anything about it.

I went way back in my Goodreads to find Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender. This was a book that I borrowed from a friend of mine, and she didn’t really tell me anything about it, just that it was pretty scary. Needless to say, I ended up knocking it back in a couple nights, because even though it wasn’t the most complex novel, it was gripping. I wouldn’t have picked up this book had my friend not given it to me, because at the time, this wasn’t the style or genre that I was used to reading. I think it’s the first book in a series, but I never read the other ones. Maybe I should put more blind faith in my friends and let them pick another book for me.

  • Speed Dating – a book you read super fast.

This one is tricky because there are a lot of books that I’ve read super fast. Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (review – my first! – here) is a given, and probably doesn’t count, because it’s only 160 pages long. So, for this question, I’m going to go with A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (review here). I smashed this book in a weekend on a camping trip. I really couldn’t put it down, and I don’t know why I haven’t gotten around to continuing the series because it’s rare that I love a fantasy novel. I think I’m worried that reading a continuation would ruin the perfect ideas I have about A Darker Shade of Magic. Everything I’ve read by Victoria Schwab has really delivered so far so I may give it a shot in the future. Maybe. But I’m lazy so take that with a grain of salt.

  • The Rebound – a book you read too soon after a book hangover and it kind of ruined the book for you.

I don’t have an answer for this one, simply because I tend to take pretty long breaks between books. Instead, I’ll just talk about the only two real “book hangovers” I’ve ever experienced. The first was after I read another book that a friend had lent to me; Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Ahh yes, good old Lauren Oliver. I remember actually throwing the book after I was finished with it (which, now that I think about it, is kind of a horrible thing to do to someone’s property). Something about the ending just shook me to my very core, I guess, to warrant a response like that. I didn’t really like the rest of the books in the series, though, and I haven’t read anything by Lauren Oliver since, so, take that. The second “book hangover” was after I read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, one of my all-time favourite novels. I didn’t throw this one because I had too much respect for it, instead, I just cried for a while and then watched the movie 6 times in a row.

  • Overly Enthusiastic Date – a book that felt like it was trying too hard.

Without a doubt, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. So many people worship this book but I couldn’t. Remember what I said about being pleasantly surprised by school reading-list books? Well, even after multiple people told me how much they hated The Alchemist, I still tried to give it a chance. I was very unpleasantly unsurprised. The only thing I genuinely liked about it was the ending, which, ironically, was the part that most of my friends hated the most. I found myself skimming through parts of it and being generally annoyed by its content, although sometimes there would be a part that made me think. Overall, I thought it read more like a self-help book, and it didn’t help that my teacher was obsessed with it and treated it as gospel. Sorry Paulo Coelho, but if I hear anyone say “Personal Legend” ever again, I might throw up.

  • The Perfect First Date – a book that did everything right for you.

This one has got to be Room by Emma Donoghue (review here). This book didn’t give me a book hangover, it was more like a book-heavenly-awakening. You can read my review if you want to hear me talk about how much I loved this novel. Everything from the expert character design, the research that went into it, the emotion, the stakes, etc. I could go on, but I’ve already done it once so I won’t do it again. Room. Read it!

  • Humiliating First Date – a book you’re embarrassed to admit you liked.

Yeah, there’s really only one book I could talk about, and I know a lot of people aren’t embarrassed that they like this series. It’s The Selection by Kiera Cass. This is the book that I read right after I threw Delirium at my wall, and I was pretty much hooked by it, and yes, I am kind of embarrassed to admit that. I’ve read the first three books in the series and I have no intention of reading the other ones, but I did enjoy the three I did read. I think I’m embarrassed because this is a “guilty pleasure” kind of book; it’s like admitting to your friends that you watched three seasons of America’s Next Top Model in one weekend. It’s not exactly a classic in the making, but it’s just so much fun.

That’s it for the First Date book tag. Hope you enjoyed reading my answers. Click here for the link to Lily’s First Date tag video on youtube. I don’t know if I’m supposed to tag anyone or not, so I tag anyone reading this who thinks it might be fun.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading.

No Man’s Land

   When I come to, the sky is caught somewhere between night and day. Silence surrounds me, and fragmented memories jangle around my brain like loose change. I see the landmine, the explosion. A white-hot pain brings me back to the present, and my cry echoes out across the empty battlefield. I look down and brace myself for the worst–the sight nearly makes me sick. There’s a gruesome mess where my leg should be.

   Dusk settles in, staining the sky red like my blood stains the earth. There isn’t a recognizable town or landmark anywhere, only mud and shadows. I strain my eyes to make out the shapes. Good God. Not shadows. Bodies.

   With the sky purpling like a bruise, I feel my heartbeat getting slower. There’s blood everywhere; my stained skin is a reminder of what’s happened. My mind slowly unravels. I stand on the precipice of life and what comes after, picturing my mother’s face when the soldiers knock on her door, or the wedding ring my wife will forget to put on after a while. Night begins its slow descent, and I think, just for a moment, that I see one of the bodies stirring in the distance.

Another story I wrote for my writing class. We had a limit of 200 words, so I was a bit out of my comfort zone in that respect. With the next semester of school rolling in soon, I’m excited to stray from the fairly serious stories I’ve been writing, so expect changes and fun things ahead. Thanks for reading.

The Break – Katherena Vermette


“The dead don’t hang on, the living do. The dead don’t have anything to hang on to. Our bodies become nothing, and we just float around the people who love us. We go back to nothing. That is all we ever were or should ever be.” – Katherena Vermette, The Break

Happy new year! Over the holidays, I finished The Break – it was one that I’d started months ago but I’d never completed. My dad was actually the one who recommended it to me–he loved the story and thought I might too. So, without further ado, here’s my review of Katherena Vermette’s debut novel, The Break.

This story is one of family ties, bonds, and unrest. It begins with a shocking catalyst that sets the novel up for tragedy right from the get-go–a violent attack that happens in the middle of winter out on “the Break”, a stretch of empty land in Northern Manitoba. From there, readers get glimpses into the lives of those directly and indirectly affected–from the victim herself to her mother, her aunts, her friend, grandmother, the police officer on the case, and even her attacker. The novel is exploratory and deals with the heavy emotional baggage that comes with experiencing an assault. Specifically, Vermette dives into the lives of intergenerational Métis women from Manitoba who are juggling being mothers, partners, good daughters, and sisters. The men in the novel are also masterfully illustrated. Vermette skillfully weaves sorrow with nostalgia and light-heartedness, making for a beautiful story that hits hard in its message. Unlike a traditional “crime” novel, The Break does not focus so much on finding evidence and cold facts; it takes time with characters, their inner and outer changes, and their relationships with each other.

The Break felt like a journey to me. Not only was I along for the ride with these characters, but it was also like I was watching Katherena Vermette feel out her first novel. The charm of it was unmistakable, with a few typos here and there, a family tree drawn at the front of the book so you could keep track of who’s who. It’s difficult to share all of my thoughts without spoiling the novel, so I won’t, but there are many things that stood out to me that are safe for spilling.

The chapters are structured in a way that I’ve been known to hate–each one is told from a different character’s perspective. Sometimes I did have trouble remembering who was related to whom, who was older and who was younger, etc. That being said, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the book, because I was warned that I might lose track (and the family tree definitely came in handy). By the time I’d finished reading, I realized that the formatting of the chapters was almost necessary to understand all of the sides of the story. Putting aside the logistics, Vermette’s writing was very comfortable. It felt conversational, or like I was really running through the jumbled-up thoughts in somebody’s head. At times in the middle–as many novels do–it droned on and lost momentum, but I still tore through the ending and finished it with tears in my eyes. Sometimes it was expertly nuanced, and Vermette left things unsaid, but, other times it was a little too on-the-nose for me. There’s a really interesting subversion of expectations which I can’t mention without spoiling the novel… but let’s just say, there was a certain character that fascinated me, angered me, and broke my heart all at once.

I found the most pleasure in reading the chapters of smaller characters, like Kookom Flora–the mother and grandmother to most of the characters, Zegwan–a young girl who finds herself in the middle of the attack, and Tommy–a Métis police officer who I found myself really rooting for, unexpectedly. As I mentioned before, the book has its happier moments, but most of the time the characters are wallowing in regret, or sadness, or both. Fortunately, it’s never tiresome in a “here we go again” sort of way. It’s gut-wrenching, it’s real, it’s raw, and it makes you stop and think. However, it’s heartbreaking to know that the novel is only a small glimpse into reality. The book could never go into all of the real-life struggles that many Indigenous Canadians face, but it is an illuminating snapshot. I was partially drawn to this novel after having done a lot of research on Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in the past. The heartache of the people in this novel runs deep, and I believe that Vermette captured this wild Canadian spirit in her writing that connected with me. I’m pleased to see that it has won as many awards as it has, because the novel is truly well written. Even if you aren’t Canadian, I encourage you to give the book a try if it interests you. After reading many reviews, I’ve noticed that even people who didn’t love it still recognized and connected with the message. I hope to see more from Vermette in the future, but for now, some of her simplest lines will stay with me. Because after all is said and done, there is so much beauty in simplicity, and so much pain too.

The cycle of poverty, homelessness, alcoholism and drug abuse, violence, and gang activity is thoroughly explored in The Break. It deals with detailed depictions of rape, assault, and grief. It is an intense book that is held together by the unchanging love that the main characters have for one another. Putting it down left me feeling sad yet hopeful, as Vermette’s words were chosen with such care.

Thanks for stopping by, and as always, happy reading (and happy 2018!).

NaNoWriMo 2017 – A Memoir

Oh boy. Here we go.

Yeah. My first ever NaNoWriMo was one thing and one thing only: a trainwreck. Okay, fine, maybe that’s unfair. One woman’s trainwreck is someone else’s triumph I guess. If you aren’t familiar, NaNoWriMo (or just NaNo, as it’s known in the “community”) stands for National Novel Writing Month. The essential objective is to write a 50000-word novel in the 30 days of November, and if you want to stay just on track, that means writing about 1667 words a day.

I failed miserably, in that respect. Just after the halfway point of the month, my novel was sitting at around 20700 words and I had completely lost touch with it. At that point, I thought to myself that this thing might have been easier to write from just one character’s perspective and if I’d actually had a super specific step-by-step plan (which I didn’t think I needed). Of course, I didn’t want to restart at the time because there was still half of the month to go and still a stupidly optimistic little part of me that thought I would be able to write 50000 words. By the way, off the record, 50000 is not a lot in novel world. However–and that is a big however– that is not at ALL to say that short novels don’t have the potential to be good. One of my all-time favourite books is The Giver by Lois Lowry, and its word count is 43617 words. The Great Gatsby, Fight Club, Fahrenheit 451, The Invisible Man, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy–all of these novels come up to just around 50000 as well. So there’s some evidence that quantity does not equal quality (and I’m a strong believer of that). But I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that these authors didn’t craft their novels in one month.

The point of NaNoWriMo, as far as I’m concerned, is to create a skeleton. Something that has the potential to be built upon and changed A LOT. In my opinion, you can’t come straight out of NaNo with an unedited 50000-word manuscript and start sending it to agents- that’s just not realistic. My novel was definitely an experiment. I started with an idea that had been fermenting in my brain for 2 years and made the mistake of thinking that I knew enough about my characters and their goals. Truth time: I didn’t! Not even a bit. There is nothing, nothing that could have prepared me to write this novel besides sitting down and blocking out a concrete action plan–which I didn’t do. That was mistake number one.

Mistake number two was going into it blind. I signed up for NaNo back in September and so I did try to participate in what they call “Preptober” where you plan for writing in the month of October–some people use this time to make cutesy little planners full of stickers and motivational quotes and far too much scrapbooking tape, others use the time to bake a bunch of unhealthy snacks to binge on during November, and some people- like me- pretend they’re getting work done when in reality they’re just making playlists and writing out the characters’ names in thirteen different colours. The underlying problem that I didn’t account for was that school was going to run me ragged, and I wouldn’t have enough time to sit down and write every day. In the midst of filling out university applications and being buried up to my nose in unwritten essays, the very last thing on my mind was figuring out my mess of a novel, it just didn’t appeal to me. And maybe that’s a sign that my idea needs to be tossed out the window, but that’s easier said than done when you’ve been spending time with characters for two years. Yeah yeah, excuses excuses. I know. You don’t have to tell me twice.

The third mistake I made was telling people that I was trying to write a novel. Now, this is twofold: Firstly, I had people holding me accountable for my writing, and secondly, I had people holding me accountable for my writing. Some of it was amazing- my friends encouraged me and pretended to care while I ranted to them about word counts and wanting to abandon my goals. But sometimes, the dreaded comment would pop up.

“How’s your novel coming?”

Ugh. I’m shuddering even typing it out. I guess I hated that comment because it made me realize just how behind I was- in fact, my novel was coming along badly and I didn’t want to admit to that. It unleashed some kind of beast in me. I know they meant no harm by it, just making small talk, taking interest in my life, but I guess I put too much pressure on myself to “finish” a novel that had hardly any direction to it. In that sense, I’m glad I didn’t waste 50000 words on it because if I didn’t even know what my novel was about, how would readers know? To me, it’s evident when a writer lacks a centralization and purpose.

My next mistake was that I’d never tried such long writing projects before. I’m used to writing short stories, scripts, that sort of thing–not books. And maybe that’s where I went wrong. I approached it the way I assumed novelists approach writing their books. Regimented, strict, I wrote by chapter which put restrictions on me, and I didn’t write it in a way that makes me excited to write. This novel idea is so close to my heart, but as the days go by I’m really wondering whether I should lay it to rest… I mean, at least for a little bit. Maybe I’ll dig it up later. I searched “books that took years to write” for a little motivation and a Bustle article came up entitled “7 Novels That Took Their Authors Years To Write (To Make You Feel Better About Not Finishing NaNoWriMo” and I don’t know about you, but to me, that feels like a sign. A sign to do what, I’m not sure. Not sure at all.

Because I have nothing to lose, I’ll insert the little blurb I wrote about my novel that’s featured on my NaNo page:

“It’s the middle of winter in Toronto. The year is 1979.

When 16-year-old Ashenee Walker’s aunt Sylvia goes missing- she realizes that she doesn’t know her aunt all that well at all. Out on her own, Ashenee has to find the one woman in the world that means something to her.

Along the way, she meets Wes- a boy who is trying to find out who killed his older brother- and Reid, an addict who is trying to get back on his feet and give back to the world. Somehow, in any way they can, the three will try to hold their patchwork friendship together and find what they are looking for before the stitches come undone.”

If anything, I’m glad I participated this year because it taught me what I have to do. I learned that I need a lot more prep time in order to get this story to take off, and I think I’m going to give it another shot. I guess after all is said and done, my trainwreck turned out to be my triumph.

I really want to know what you think about NaNoWriMo. If you’ve tried it, let me know if you love the format or hate it with all your guts. If you never have, would you? The thing I liked about it was that it finally got me to start and keep at it for a little while, and it made me realize how I should go about a big project like this next time. I love the idea of it, and I think that it works for some people–but does it promote quantity over quality?? I think it does.

Thanks for sticking around, and as always, happy reading. xoxo

PS. I wrote more in this post than I did on a daily basis in November, so if that makes you feel better about your writing projects… I’m glad I could help.

They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

Here’s a little story I wrote for my writing class, inspired by an image of an old man. I hope you’re having a wonderful week, and I hope you enjoy the story. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think! Happy reading 🙂

The disappearance of Angelika Leos is what brought me to a small Greek island five years ago. The way she had vanished without a trace had sent a chill down my spine. Admittedly, the paycheque also sweetened the deal. It’s not every day that you get assigned to a missing person case. I rented a motorboat, and though I didn’t quite know what I was looking for yet, I knew where I was headed – Angelika’s hometown. The sea was calm that day, but the sun beat relentlessly down and left me with a sunburn the size of Pangea across my shoulders. Only an hour into my trip, the engine made a noise like a clogged drain and sputtered to a halt. Just like that, I was trapped in the middle of the Mediterranean, near an island that I couldn’t pronounce, with a touch of heat stroke and a fatigue so great all I could think about was taking a nap.
I woke up to the sight of an old man standing over me. The shock nearly made me tip the boat. He was possibly the oldest man I had ever seen: lips puckered around a rancid smelling cigar, and wiry eyebrows covering a pair of swampy green eyes. I felt inexplicably jealous that he had managed to get such a rich tan, while I looked not unlike a cooked lobster. He nodded wordlessly and extended a calloused, hairy hand, which I took after a moment’s hesitation. In an instant, he tied my plastic boat to his and we sped away, skipping over the waves like a pebble.
The old man’s house was perched atop a hill, looking dainty as a bird’s nest and just as fragile. I noticed how nimble he was, as he tied up the boat and hauled the rental onto the shore. He looked up and said in broken English; “I fix… later.” I tried to tell him that he didn’t have to, that I would call for a water taxi, but he had already started up the hill, and so I followed.
The inside of his home had the feeling of an empty tavern – warm and inviting, yet strangely sad. The decor consisted mostly of fishing paraphernalia, and in the corner, an old dog that I’d mistaken for a brown rug snoozed away. I got the impression that the dog was his only friend. “I make tea,” he shouted from the kitchen. “You like peppermint?” No, as a matter of fact, I thought peppermint tea was repulsive. “Peppermint’s fine!” I lied, unable to will myself to argue with an old man. Alone in the living room, the warm tavern feeling had shifted. Something was off, though what it was, I didn’t know. I listened to the clanking of cookware, making sure that he was still occupied while I sifted through papers with the name “Nico L.” printed on them, which I guessed was the name of my rescuer. He shuffled back into the room before I had a chance to find anything substantial. My heart beat fast, and I was worried it might shut down like my boat’s engine had. I nodded thanks as I took the mug in my hands. We sat for a while, sipping our lukewarm tea, bound by a rope of silence. I watched him carefully. He looked constantly on the verge of crying as if he was replaying a sad memory in his mind. I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. He was nearing the end of his life, and his solitude was causing him grief. I looked at my lap, not quite knowing what to say. It was then that I saw, lying on the floor, those unmistakable green eyes looking back at me, contained in the prison of a photograph: Angelika Leos. My whole body stiffened. He noticed me staring. “Ah. You look for Angelika,” he croaked. I took a moment to breathe. Steady, heart, steady. “You… know her?” I stared at his creased brown face, which was twisting into a horrible grimace. “Nico,” I whispered. “What happened to her?” He got up and hobbled over to the window, looking down at the sea. “You are lucky,” he began, “that your boat did not sink.” he looked down. “I told my daughter before she left. They don’t make those boats like they used to.” Nico turned to face me then, and his stony expression had turned soft. The tears that I thought would fall never did. He wore the stoic look of a soldier, of a father, of a man that was done crying. “She never listened.”

The Passenger – Lisa Lutz


“You can never see anything clearly when you’re running.” – Lisa Lutz, The Passenger

Hey, look! I read another thriller book! How surprised are you? It’s becoming a bit of a trend these days. Not too sure why; I promise I’m not planning a murder. Anyway, I’ve just finished The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. Here are my thoughts.

Tanya Dubois had nothing to do with her husband’s death. Or at least, that’s what she claims when we first meet her- our unreliable narrator. About as quickly as you could fall down the stairs… Tanya makes a run for it, and clearly, it isn’t her first time doing so. Tanya forms an unlikely bond with a woman named Blue and drinks ten times her body weight in whiskey, but still manages to stay on the run. Throughout the book we’re introduced to our protagonist multiple times- under different names and identities- but is it possible for her to hide from her questionable past? Something happened ten years ago, and it’s coming to the surface once again.

The premise of the novel is not that revolutionary, it’s something we’ve all seen before. That being said, it was executed fairly well. The pacing was consistent and I never fell into a rut where I couldn’t pick up the book again. You can have a lot of fun with an unreliable narrator, and this novel, in particular, had one that captured my interest. Tanya (as we’ll call her for now… although she does go by many other names) manages to keep her past a secret until the very end. I did pick up on clues and hints along the way, and by the time I had about a third left I had a general idea of what was going to happen. I was still intrigued and didn’t find the story to be overly predictable. 

The small cast of supporting characters- like Blue, for instance, added a great dynamic to the story. I really enjoyed reading about the relationships that Tanya formed, especially since she would often have to let them go to stay under the radar. The parts I liked the most, though, involved Tanya on her own, alone with her thoughts in various strange situations. Lisa Lutz is quick-witted and clever- even the title, The Passenger, seems to have no correlation at first, but it becomes clear eventually why it was chosen. She manages to inject some dark humour into her writing, which allows you to immerse yourself in Tanya’s world. I especially enjoyed that because I saw my own sense of humour and style of speech in this novel. Each section or chapter also ends with an email from Tanya’s past, and slowly, we can piece together the real reason why she is running, which I thought was a nice touch. There were several occasions where I didn’t want to stop reading because the moments of true suspense were very well written, but to be honest, they were few and far between.

Now I’ll move onto the other side of the coin. I found this novel to be repetitive. Every time Tanya takes on a new identity, she undergoes the same process of altering her appearance and figuring out how best to conduct herself under the new name. I mentioned this next thing already, but Tanya drinks like a fish, and that’s pretty much the only character trait she keeps during the whole story. Another thing that bothered me was (and this really isn’t that much of a spoiler- it happens in the first couple pages) the fact that Tanya’s husband Frank just fell down the stairs and died. I mean… it was a little too tidy and convenient (maybe even unrealistic? Or too realistic?) for my taste, and it kind of bugged me throughout the story. The whole attitude in this book surrounding death and murder is a bit sterile– or textbook, I should say.

The ending is what got to me the most. To me, a strong ending can make or break a novel, and in this case, I was slightly underwhelmed. Yes, we do get to find out what happened in Tanya’s past, and yes, we do get a classic wrapping-up of the events, but I felt disappointed.Maybe because the characters that deserved justice didn’t receive it, maybe because I sympathized with Tanya. Another thing: the “twist” with one of the characters didn’t surprise me at all. In any case, I liked the symmetry of the ending (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read it).

To conclude, I will say that this story was one that managed to keep my attention and interest, but I wouldn’t say that I was fully involved in it. As I mentioned, some events and conflicts felt unrealistic to me and pulled me right out of the story, but the clever ideas and humour brought me in again. It had a nice flow and pace to it and didn’t take too long to read. Apparently, Lisa Lutz’s other novel series (The Spellman series) is a lot more popular, but fortunately (or unfortunately…) I’ve never heard of or read those books, so you’re getting my honest first impression of her writing. And I have to say, I did have a good time with this book.

Happy reading! x

Paying Lobster


“God bless him,” said Georgia, as she stood at the foot of the ramshackle grave marked with the name ‘Renner H. Cromwell’. Beneath it was the date of his death, as well as a short sentimental inscription: ‘A man of honour.’ Georgia and her partner Carolin huddled closely together while the early winter wind whipped around the cemetery. Beneath her heavy scarf, Carolin’s face twisted. “Who paid for the lettering? Aren’t you supposed to pay by the letter?” She stuffed her hands further into her coat pockets and exhaled a cloud of frozen breath. “This son of a bitch’s name alone could put his family in debt.” She bent down as if to observe the handicraft of the headstone up close. Georgia clenched her teeth and glared at her partner. “He was a good man. Really,” she said. Carolin chuckled. “You know, if you have to say that, it usually means he wasn’t very good at all.”

Back on the main road, the pair walked with their heads down towards the centre of town. “I feel like I should have brought flowers,” Georgia said through her scarf. “He was an important man. Do you get cursed if you don’t bring flowers to the grave of an important man?” At first, she laughed at herself for thinking this, but then she felt a chill run up her spine and she fell silent once more. If she wouldn’t be cursed for forgetting flowers, then she sure as hell would be cursed for what she had already done to his grave.

Under the warm light of a street side café, the two shed their layers of clothing and sat at a table by the window. “It’ll be in the news before long. They’re gonna know,” Carolin said, her hands wrapped around a mug full of freshly poured coffee. Georgia waved away the waiter’s attempts to pour a mug for her as well. Carolin sighed; “They’re exhuming the grave on Saturday and they’ll know that we were hanging around.” Georgia stared out the window and tapped her fingers on the table. In a sudden moment of clarity, she shook her head. “No. No, they aren’t gonna know,” she said. Carolin looked at her friend in a way that said, ‘I appreciate the optimism, but at the same time I really don’t.’ Georgia didn’t even notice. Her mind was already spinning at a mile a minute with ideas. “Hear me out! We do something public, but not too showy. We pay homage to him somehow, get the dirt off our shoulders. Easy as that.” The waiter came around a second time with a new pot of coffee, to which an exhausted Carolin raised her mug for a refill. “That’s a fine idea, but where are we gonna get one this time of year?” She asked, after burning her tongue on the coffee. Georgia furrowed her brow at her partner. “It doesn’t have to be something huge, just… like I said, just to pay homage to him, make it seem like we respected him-” she rambled, before being cut off by Carolin. “Yeah, I heard you the first time, but where are we gonna get one this time of year?” Georgia had already pulled out her phone and started writing down notes. “Carolin. What do you mean one?” They gawked at each other in mutual confusion. Georgia blinked. “A lobster,” Carolin said simply. Georgia stared, dumbfounded, at her. “You said pay homage. Lobster. I’m taking online French courses,” Carolin confessed. When it finally clicked, Georgia laughed and put her head in her hands. “God dammit, Carolin, you better not end up in prison. They would chew you up.”

They paid the cheque and donned their winter clothes once again, everything the same as it was before, except for the word homard that had been hastily written in black pen on Carolin’s hand as a reminder. The fear was only now beginning to set in. It would only be a matter of time before someone realized that the grave of public figure Renner H. Cromwell was empty. They were going to have to come up with a plan, and fast. Preferably not lobster-related.

*via Daily Prompt: Homage


*This story was written on 08/27/17 – the day the prompt was released.

Outline – Rachel Cusk

Rachel Cusk

“People are least aware of others when demonstrating their own power over them.” – Rachel Cusk, Outline

Outline is the first novel by Rachel Cusk that I have read. It is a fairly short contemporary fiction book, but despite its length, it took me way too long to finish it – and here’s why.

The story centers around a woman named Faye, who, when we meet her, is travelling from London to Athens to teach a writing course. On the way there, she strikes up a conversation with a Greek man who has plenty of stories to tell. Throughout the rest of the novel, we get to sit in on Faye’s conversations with the various people she meets in Athens. We gain some insight into her own personal life and see her detailed perspective on the world.

As you can tell, I don’t have much to say about this book. In fact, I’ve never had this little to say about a book. I checked it out of my school library for the summer because the cover page boasted a “Scotiabank Giller Prize Shortlist” sticker and a promise that it was an example of masterful writing. To say the least, I fell for it. I really wanted to read a great Canadian book, or hey, not even great- to be honest, I would have settled for good. Unfortunately, I was bored out of my mind reading this diary-turned-novel. It read like a student’s attempt at a philosophy paper. The only reason why I finished it was because I had some long train rides and nothing to do. And maybe also because I was excited to write a bad review for once on this blog… who am I kidding.

The “main character” is not really much of a main character at all. We learn only a few details of her life- which has the potential to be interesting, but unfortunately left me feeling utterly detached from Faye and her problems. The story went absolutely nowhere. I kept reading, expecting a climax or something, but all I got was another chapter with another drawn-out melancholic conversation between Faye and one of her Greek cohorts. The funny thing is, I found myself most interested in the part of the book where Faye’s students were sharing stories that they’d written for class. The rest of the book was rambling and lacked a grounded plotline. This led to me forgetting the names of supporting characters, and daydreaming while reading.

Admittedly, there are a few lines and ideas that struck a chord with me. The book’s largest overarching theme is womanhood (what it means to be a woman, the responsibilities of women in the modern world, etc.), and with that theme comes a few intriguing ideas, but hardly any of them are expanded upon. The book is stagnant, almost as if it doesn’t know what it is. I would have stopped reading after the first few pages, but it was the only book I could fit in my carry-on bag, so… here we are!

When I finally finished the book, a couple things stuck with me. The first was that I found myself laughing at the title. The book kind of feels like an outline. And if that is what Rachel Cusk was trying to achieve, more power to her. That’s actually pretty genius. I just wish she could have gone about it in a way that was a bit more exciting. The second thing I picked up on was that Faye was probably a reflection of the author- at least on some level- so it felt more like a memoir than a fictional tale. That being said, if I had gone into it expecting a memoir, maybe I would have enjoyed it more.

So many people rave about this story, and I hoped I would have been able to as well. At first, I enjoyed the sort of exploratory style of the story, but it got old fast. I’m starting to think I’m just not the type for philosophy. If that makes me small-minded, so be it. Maybe I’m not asking the right questions, or maybe I’m not giving this book enough of a chance. However, for every wonderful review, there is a scathing one, and that’s what I love about literature. I for one really enjoyed reading other peoples’ reviews- both the ones who loved it and the ones who hated it. I probably won’t be reading any more Rachel Cusk, not because I have some personal vendetta against her, I just have a lot I’d rather be reading (but as the saying goes, never say never). On the bright side, if you have any trouble falling asleep, this novel might do the trick for you.

…I’m kidding.

Thank you for reading my completely negative review! Hope it didn’t put you in a bad mood. I would love to know what you thought of this novel if you’ve read it. Maybe you can change my mind. Happy reading. Xoxo

PS: If you’re a Goodreads fan, feel free to add me as a friend! I update my progress on the books I’m reading there so you can see what’s coming next. I’d love to connect with you! Check me out here.

The Perfect Stranger – Megan Miranda


“All things return with time. But you have to go looking for them. You have to be ready for them. You’ve got to be willing to take the risk over and over again.” – Megan Miranda, The Perfect Stranger

This marks the second Megan Miranda novel that I’ve read. The first was the widely popular All the Missing Girls which you can read my review for here. This second book has a stunning cover page that matches the style of Miranda’s previous novel but The Perfect Stranger is not a sequel to All the Missing Girls. You can read this one without having read the other. Let’s lay this book out on the chopping block.

Leah Stevens is forced to leave her old life behind when she loses her big city job. Having once been a reporter at the top of her career, Leah finds herself wrapped up in a scandal that forever leaves an imprint on her reputation. Enter Emmy Grey, Leah’s saving grace. A girl that she’d connected with long ago reappears in her life, and this time, she’s looking to get out of the city. The pair starts a new life together in a small Pennsylvania town where they hope to leave the past in the past.

When Emmy goes missing, Leah’s new life comes to a standstill. What’s more, it begins to look like Emmy never existed at all. The police are unable to find any information about her past. Leah takes it upon herself to track her roommate down, but the small town starts to show its claws. People she thought she could trust change their stripes, two attacks happen near her home, and every moment without Emmy makes her realize how little she knew her. Leah’s situation is made all the worse because of her scandalous past, and she struggles to find the truth while keeping hers under wraps.

If you have read All the Missing Girls, you may have noticed a few parallels between it and this novel. Big city girl moves to small town, a girl that went missing, etc. It almost felt like Leah and Nic (the protagonist from All the Missing Girls) shared quite a few personality traits. Both are inquisitive beyond belief and both are very self-reflective, in that they pretty much analyze all of their own actions. This novel is written in first-person limited tense, so we’re stuck inside Leah’s head for the duration of the story. This does work, because it allows for suspense to be carried from scene to scene, and we discover secrets as Leah does.  However, as with any first-person novel, being trapped in the mind of one character can kind of grate on your nerves. At least, it did for me. Leah turned into a repetitive, rambling character towards the end. It felt like I was reading Megan Miranda’s thought process because Leah would constantly repeat things that we already knew about just to comment on them. My complaint about the last novel was that there was no real synthesis to the end, no denouement, which was not really something that it needed, it was just something I missed and that I like to see. One complaint I have this time around is that there was far too much denouement. Once the reader knows everything that Leah knows, there are still a few chapters left for Leah to reiterate her points and wrap everything up. I think it would be fair to say that I was dissatisfied with the ending because, in my opinion, the author built up the suspense only to leave me with an ending that I expected.

One more element that I was disappointed with was characterization, specifically within the fairly large cast of supporting characters. Leah is a teacher, and so she has a few colleagues that she interacts with, but nothing goes beyond face value. She goes out for drinks with her colleague Kate Turner, who then proceeds to ask her to go again a few more times, but nothing comes of it. It is mentioned that the principal of the school has a bit of a crush on Leah, but again, this is never brought up again as an interesting story point. There’s a “romance” (if you can call it romantic) for Leah that lacks any real substance, it’s all surface level stuff. What’s more, we don’t really get any background information for any of the characters besides Emmy, Leah, and a woman named Bethany Jarvitz who is involved in an attack. Of course, it isn’t necessary for supporting characters to be illustrated in detail, but there were a few characters that I would have liked to see the motives and thoughts of.

To be honest with you, the ending of this novel did kind of confuse me. It’s not that I didn’t understand what was happening– well, ok, it is like that. The motives of certain characters were so unclear, and it felt like Leah just sort of gave up on everything and rushed to her own conclusion. I did enjoy part of the ending, where Leah heads back into the city. The story takes place in the same three or four locations for the entire time, and so this was a welcome change. For about a page or two, the story picks up again and is more fast-paced, but then it slips back into its comfort zone and remains pretty safe for the remainder of the novel.

Now, I don’t want this to end on a sour note so I’ll go over some of the things that I really did enjoy about this book. I read the novel in stages, and during the first stage, I couldn’t put the book down. I really enjoyed the idea of “a person who never existed” and I was asking a lot of questions, theorizing, etc. The glimpses we get into Leah’s past are intriguing, and I liked seeing her put together the lost elements of Emmy’s life.

To be fair, I did have high expectations for this read as I was quite impressed with Megan Miranda’s previous novel. No, the book did not live up to my expectations and yes, I was left with a lot of questions and loose threads. I would recommend it, on the pretense that you’re looking for something quick, and that you aren’t too interested in complex character development. Megan Miranda does have a talent for writing suspense, and I will probably read anything she puts out in the future.

Thanks for checking out this review! Happy reading.