Peachy Books' graphic for September in Review showing the following books as being read this month: What is the Stanley Cup? by Gail Herman, Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, Come Closer by Sara Gran, The Twits by Roald Dahl, At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, and My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Blog Roll, Monthly Reading Recall

A Dark, Spooky, and Sombre Month

Peachy Books’ September in Review

Happy October! September has proven to be exceptionally emotional. We celebrated our wedding anniversary and my birthday, and my son made me a carrot cake, so there were some great times.

Image of a carrot cake with shredded carrot and chopped walnuts on top.

But with yesterday being the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation here in Canada, the month is passing with me feeling sombre and contemplative. 

We remember Canada’s monstrous treatment of the Indigenous peoples, the horrors of the government’s Catholic Residential School system, and that Every Child Matters, today and every day. 🧡

With getting my son back into his school routine, making special celebratory meals, and doing some fall organising, things have been a little hectic around here. I was hoping to make a bigger dent in my suffocating TBR pile, but, no dice. Maybe next month.

Most of the titles that I did read were super dark and required reflection and processing. I’ve been reading selections from the Booker International Longlist for 2021, over the last couple of months, so you can expect to see a post detailing my thoughts on those affecting stories sooner than later.

It took me an entire week to push my way through the disturbing imagery, manipulation, and slow lead-up to the depressing conclusions of My Dark Vanessa.

Vanessa is a grown woman lost in the darkness of her memories of a teenage life coopted by her sexually abusive high school English teacher. Years after he abused her, when another victim speaks out publicly, she has no choice but to face what happened to her and what role she might have played in her destruction.

What a kooky story this was! Mr. and Mrs. Twit are a highly unlikeable pair who spend their days playing disgusting pranks on each other when not holding animals captive in their backyard.

With their yard essentially a prison for the family of monkeys they keep locked up in a cage, and the endless amount of birds they trap each week to make a special bird pie, they are enemy number one to these innocent creatures.

How will the mistreated exact their revenge on the wicked duo?

To listen to my dramatic reading of Chapters 1 – 6, click here.

The cover for At Night All Blood is Black is very striking. I love the optical effect and what the hand means to the story, which I will refrain from revealing for spoiler’s sake.

This psychological novella is as much about the horrors of war as it is about the fragility of a mind trapped in helpless combat.

David Diop had me riveted from the outset as we follow a Sengalese man turned soldier, fighting for the French army on the front lines of World War I.

I’ve been attempting to step outside of my comfort zone and read a few scary stories this fall. Well, I did it! I picked up Come Closer by Sara Gran and didn’t need to stop before the end.

The big question for me at the end of this quick story is, am I truly the bitch I’ve always thought myself to be, or have I simply been possessed?

I’d rate this spooky tale a bit better than average, as it swirls together the evils of possession with the lunacy of insanity.

You know you are fully immersed in a story when you find yourself holding your breath. Minor Detail presents us with a horrific crime committed against a captive woman in 1948 in the Negev desert, as Israeli soldiers worked to dispossess the Palestinian population and claim Israeli independence.

In the second part of the book, we are in the passenger seat as a woman from across boundary lines in Ramallah attempts to find out what happened to that woman in the Negev 25 years before.

In life, she struggles to maintain within the boundaries imposed upon her. This is evidenced by her mission, driving in restricted areas with a rental car and a coworker’s ID, obsessed with finding out the truth.

We are hockey fans in this house – I know, big shocker, a family of Canadian hockey fans – GO LEAFS GO!

In What Is the Stanley Cup? Gail Herman takes us down a historic path to the game’s and its treasured trophy’s beginnings. Packed with fascinating information and accompanying sketches, this little book is sure to wow any hockey fan, rookie or veteran.

Have you read any of these? What was your top read for September?

Coming Soon to Peachy Books…

Peachy Books' August in Review graphic showing the titles read this month, in backwards order of how they were read: Who Was Mister Rogers? by Diane Bailey, George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl, Summer Brother by Jaap Robben, The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket, The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Blog Roll, Monthly Reading Recall

Peachy Books’ August in Review

August has been a rough month. With the kiddos heading off to school next Thursday, or in our case, booting up for another round of virtual learning, I was feeling the pressure of our summer vacation’s end and took a blog-free timeout for a week to focus my attention on my son. I’m not sure what the blogging etiquette is for this sort of thing, so I left the explanation of my absence to this monthly review post for ease and brevity.

Because of this impromptu break, I ended up reading four books with my son and only two on my own. No matter, though, at least I totaled at six to completion, in keeping with the pattern of the last three months.

The two of us enjoyed The Secret Garden immensely. We were lucky enough to find a book at the library that contained recipes for the food mentioned within, so watch for a review in The Gallery over the coming weeks for this fun cookbook, and see some photos of our delicious makes. 

Who Was Mister Rogers by Diane Bailey

My boy picked a great one this time: Who Was Mister Rogers? He was only my favourite children’s entertainer of all time – that’s who he was and that’s who he shall remain. 

Addressing sensitive issues with children, validating their feelings, and encouraging them to love themselves for who they are whilst taking the time to love their neighbour; was there ever a more beautiful or necessary message than that? 

I’m excited to do a full review on this Who HQ title along with a companion post on some of his more momentous episodes, so stay tuned. 😉

George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

George has had enough of his wicked grandmother’s surly and selfish nature, so when she regales herself by frightening him with tales of eating bugs and practicing Wizardry, he thinks it’s time he had a little fun of his own.

Roald Dahl has tapped into every child’s wish to mix up a witch’s brew in this wild and wacky tale. As he seeks revenge on his nasty grandmother by concocting a medicine that is sure to either set her straight or send her flying to the moon, either option is all right by George.

My son requested that I make a Read-a-Loud of this book, as he found the grandmother very entertaining. Watch for that on Storytime Sunday later this week.

To listen to the dramatic reading of Chapters 1 & 2, click here.

Summer Brother by Jaap Robben

Summer Brother was the first to arrive of the long-listed 2021 International Booker Prize titles that I had put on hold at the library in the spring. 

This Dutch offering by Jaap Robben was sad, pathetic, enraging, and touching. The heavy scenes playing out were made lighter by the naivety of the thirteen-year-old narrator, but the main takeaway for me here is how terrible at parenting people can be, no matter where they reside. 

This story makes you uncomfortable, disgusted, and dreadfully sorrow-filled for the many innocents taken out along the way. 

The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket

The Baudelaire children lose their parents in a fatal fire and, sadly, must bounce between various family guardians until their bequeathed estate is awarded to Violet, the eldest, on her 18th birthday. With such a hefty sum of money tied to them, the children have a target on their back as their distant relative, Count Olaf, attempts to gain access to them and their fortune. 

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a fun collection, no doubt, but at times it lingers as repetitive and formulaic. The key is to take sufficient lapses between each volume, so I figured out, as a four-month break from the predictable antics of Count Olaf proved enough to make this fourth volume exciting for us again. 

This time the Baudelaire children must live out their orphaned days at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, where they are forced into manual labour and near starvation. There are some sour types they must contend with, but at least no Count Olaf. But is he ever really far away?  

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Wow, a lot is going on here, given it mainly took place in one block of brownstones! Doctor Fox is a shut-in, unable to fight her fears and leave the safety of her four walls. With a glass of Merlot in one hand and a Nikon focusing in the other, this depressed and lonely woman passes her time by spying on the surrounding families on her wealthy street.  

Admittedly, I found the storytelling a little sluggish here and there, but that might have more to do with my ignorance of the Silver Screen references invoked throughout. Otherwise, this was a clever tale that explored the psychology of damaged people, which I LOVE in a story; see my review of In The Woods by Tana French here. Even though I was sure I had it figured out more than once, I was duped and unawares upon the unveiling. 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Having only a vague recollection of its contents, I was pleasantly surprised by how much my 8-year-old son loved this book!

Relished by countless children across the world for over a century, this legendary classic is timeless in its characters, their struggles, and its overlying messages. That said, some scenes provide teachable moments about racism and the effects of colonialism, which make reading this aloud with a child ideal.

Well, almost ideal. I struggled to read the Yorkshire dialect sprinkled throughout in a sensical way for the first few paragraphs. In exasperation, I stopped trying so hard and instead read it with an accent, albeit a poor one, and it went much smoother, haha. I fared better in getting the words out, and they went by faster.

Have you read any of these titles? What was your favourite read from August?

Coming Soon To Peachy Books!

Peachy Books July in Review: The Drowning Kind Jennifer McMahon, Aliens on a Rampage Clete Barrett Smith, This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, showing the covers for each book on two shelves
Blog Roll, book reviews, Monthly Reading Recall

Peachy Books’ July in Review

I’m noticing that six books a month is the best I can manage given my busy schedule, so I suppose I’ll finally accept this and stop making excuses for a slow reading month, as I did with the last two Month in Review posts. Gone are the days when I could spend endless hours reading books while my son toiled away at his computer for virtual school, and I could be flexible with my time. Instead we get to enjoy bike rides, gardening, and trips to the lake, so all is well that ends well.

I’m pleased to report there were a couple of thought-provoking reads this month. I also read my first horror fiction since my Stephen King days back in my youth, and enjoyed it far more than I’d anticipated. I’ll be working on detailed reviews for Klara and the Sun and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, so watch for them in the coming weeks, along with my thoughts on some other fabulous books.

Stephen King was one of my go-to authors in my youth. It was thrilling to spook my teenage self with stories like Christine, Carrie, Cujo, and Pet Sematary. I had an obsession with Anne Rice for a few years while enamoured with The Witching Hour and the Mayfair Witches, when all of a sudden, that was it; creepy tales were banished from my reading list in favour of the classics, contemporary and literary fiction.

Intending to expand my horizons and see what modern horror fiction looked like, I decided to dive into this morbid tale, and I am glad I did. Thankfully I wasn’t traumatised but instead shuddered through an appropriate level of hair-raising and devilish delight as McMahon twisted together the frightful past of the cursed Bradenburg Springs with its modern-day horrors.

The Drowning Kind doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, so be forewarned that this story shines a blinding light on mental health, infertility, and self-harm.

What a hoot! Aliens on Vacation was the hilarious first book in the Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast series (review for it here), and this gem was the second. I dare say it was better than the first, which, given how rarely I’ve experienced this phenomenon when reading or watching films, is quite the honour for the second novel in a series to obtain.

David is super excited to be back at his grandma’s B & B for another summer, but when things don’t start off on the right foot between him and the new crabby off-world employee Scratchull, he begins to feel differently. With the help of David’s new ravenous alien-pet Snarffle, there may be hope for the summer, and humanity at large.

This is Where it Ends is the miss of the month for me. I struggled to take in the first 50 pages with its slew of characters, changing viewpoints, and info-dumping. In hindsight, I should have quit while I was ahead, but I restarted and felt confident enough to keep going the second time and saw it through to the end.  

Although the theme of a school shooting is an intense one, I was bored when reading this. I had no attachment to the characters who felt fake and forced, as did their connections to each other. I read that this author is part of an initiative for inclusive YA publishing, and quite frankly, was left feeling that this goal ended up taking over the story to the point where all else was lost. Tokenism is not the road to inclusivity.

I’m still feeling a bit hazy weeks after reading Ishiguro’s latest. I’m not sure that I fully grasped all that he was trying to convey. Artificial intelligence is the way of the future, and I have mixed feelings regarding this technology and how it will interact with the easily swayed masses. I was hopeful that I would come out the other side of this novel with a clearer picture of what AI can and might do for society, but, alas, I am just as befuddled as when I went in.

Klara is an AF (artificial friend) commissioned to keep 14-year-old Josie company as she struggles with her health and tries to maintain her education via a tutor on her oblong (something similar to a tablet, if I’m guessing.) This thought-provoking novel is presented through Klara’s naïve first-person narrative while she attempts to navigate life amongst the humans in this apparent dystopian society. I have my fingers crossed that I will be able to hash out more of a coherent understanding once I start dissecting my notes and working on a full review, so stay tuned.

Read the full review here.

Listen to the full review here.

This tragic tale of unrequited love, denial, and self-loathing is heartbreaking. Paradoxically, I despise David whilst harbouring a sadness in my heart for the man he never truly allows himself to be.

My head is foggy amidst the desolate exploitation that permeates this story and its characters as I recognise the societal fear, opposition, and hatred that pushes it to the fore.

I have so many thoughts still swirling that this review will likely become more detailed with time. For now, I will continue to process this heartbreaking and ugly tale while I wallow in the gloomy yet masterful prose of James Baldwin.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is the second book in the Chronicles of Narnia series as far as the storyline but is the first published and most beloved of the seven fantasy tales. There has been much contention in literary circles over the years regarding which order is most appropriate to read them in, but we just made it simple and went in keeping with the plot. 

This internationally renowned children’s classic is a magical tale of adventure that unfolds in the wintry fantasy land of Narnia, where the children learn lessons about life and themselves. Reading this is a reader’s rite of passage, so I hear, but although I will admit to enjoying this book, some parts set off my creep metre. I’ll save these thoughts for my detailed review. 😉

The Chronicles of Narnia is a series that I have enjoyed reading aloud to my son, thanks to all the animated voices I can use for the talking animals and bold characters. To hear my dramatic reading of Chapter 11 of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Aslan is Nearer, click here.

Have you read any of these titles? What was your favourite read from July?

Coming Soon To Peachy Books!

Peachy Books June in Review: In The Woods by Tana French, Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book - 11th Edition, Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski, The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell
Blog Roll, Contemporary Fiction, Monthly Reading Recall

Peachy Books’ June in Review

June was slower in the reading department than I would have liked, but I’m all right with that, given the time I’ve spent on this blog. I still managed a cookbook and five fictional books, with two of them reviewed and posted. If you haven’t, be sure to check those out below, and stay tuned for reviews of the middle-grade hits: The Good Thieves and Aliens on Vacation, which are on deck!

In The Woods by Tana French

The first volume in the highly popular Dublin Murder Squad Series, In The Woods, is a thrill-ride in psychology and the complexity of relationships… and there’s a murder to be solved too.

Tana French lulls you with prose whilst burying you deeper into the myriad of plotlines that she weaves together like a fine tapestry. If you’re not one of the more than a million people who have already read it, don’t miss this gripping tale that may even shed some light on the people in your life who have often left you feeling perplexed.

Read the full review and see the Celtic bookmark I was inspired to make here.

Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith

While his busy parents tend to their ever-consuming careers, David, aka Scrub, is shipped off to The Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast for the summer. It is at this wild and wacky place that he’ll get to know his estranged Grandmother, a few of her unique guests, and a special friend named Amy.

What an enjoyable middle-grade story this was, with my son. The well-drawn characters were odd and expressive, which led to some funny voices for the reading. I especially enjoyed Scrub’s hippie Grandma with the rose-coloured glasses.

Check out the excerpt that I read for Storytime Saturday here.

And the full review here.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Get out your tissues, you’re going to need them!

Ultimately, this is contemplative tale of a cantankerous man trying to come to terms with living (and dying) after suffering the most considerable loss of his life.

A Man Called Ove reminds us that regardless of assumption, one can never really know what people are going through when we encounter them in our daily existence, and how kindness, connection, and a sense of purpose can go a long way.

To read the complete review and see the bookmark I was moved to make, click here.

To listen to the audio review instead, click here.

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook – 11th Edition

This read was a blast from the past, and is the quintessential cook book of my childhood. Although I don’t turn to it very often, it is a great selection for bake sale items, and classic North American fare, that will always occupy a spot on my cookbook shelf.

Find photos of the recipe trials I performed for 3 of the dishes my son picked out, in The Cookery, here.

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

A semi-autobiographical novel by one of the great polarising artists of the last century, Ham on Rye gives us the scary, sorrowful, and sudsy retelling of a hard-knock life.

This one brought up many emotions for me, as I empathised with Henry Chinaski and his abusive and isolating beginnings. Reading this book just before Father’s Day had a profound effect on my review.

Don’t miss the full review: written and audio

Coming Soon to Peachy Books…

May in Review Image depicting books read by Peachy Books for the Month of May: Landslide by Susan Conley, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Can You Hear Me Now by Celina Caesar Chavannes, The One by John Marrs and The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Blog Roll, Monthly Reading Recall

Peachy Books’ May in Review

Here are my reads for the month of May. Some heartfelt selections, with detailed reviews to follow for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, The One, and The Library, so watch for those soon! Don’t miss my very first review on the Peachy Books blog: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

Landslide by Susan Conley

Landslide, is a slow-dripping tale of a life that has been percolating for decades. Conley shares with us a wife and mother’s journey to self and acceptance, amongst the males in her life: her fisherman husband, and the two ‘wolves’ they have for sons. The sparse writing style seemed poetic at times and lackluster at others.

I didn’t agree with the hype over this one, so I’m going to skip the detailed review, as it didn’t grab me enough to write one. But, interestingly, it was named after my favourite song – you know the one, by Stevie Nicks – so that curried some favour.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

An exquisite piece of fiction that marries the real, historical Pack Horse Librarian Project, and the genetic anomaly that fated the ‘blue people’ of the Kentucky Hills.

The content, although disturbing at times, never felt gratuitous, and was a necessary part of understanding the bigotry and misogyny of the times. Watch for a detailed review of this emotional novel in the coming weeks.

Full review for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek here.

Audio Read-a-Loud of the full review here.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

My favourite book this month was definitely this inspirational novel that sees our protagonist (anti-hero to some), Eleanor, suffering from a history of trauma and loneliness, only to find her true-self when a new friend opens up a world of possibilities.

If you have already read this very popular book, please visit my review (with some spoilers), where I dive into Eleanor’s struggle, and how I connected with her plight.

Find my Read-a-Loud for the full review here.

Can You Hear Me Now? by Celina Caesar-Chavannes

This biography outlines the life of a Canadian entrepreneur and one-time Liberal MP for the Town of Whitby, in Ontario, Celina Caesar-Chavannes.

A forthright accounting of her days working for the current Liberal Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, where she pulls no punches in laying out the unsavoury moments during her role as a ‘token’ black female member-of-parliament, for the ‘feminist’ PM. Unflinching, brave, and admirable, Celina is not afraid to share her vulnerability and speak her truth.

The One by John Marrs

A creative and thrilling novel, told from 6 different viewpoints, The One offers us a world where DNA match-making is the way to meet your soulmate. This quick read explores the unintended consequences of such technologies, and how they affect the matched couples.

Watch for a detailed review on Peachy Books during the coming weeks!

Listen to the audio review here.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library Book is at once a nostalgic homage to libraries, whilst focusing on the details of the devastating 1986 fire that destroyed over a million books and burned down part of the Los Angeles Public Library in downtown LA.

This was another of the titles that I found to be overrated, but I still decided to write a review for it, so watch for it next month!

Full review for The Library Book here.

Full audio review for The Library Book here.

Coming Soon on Peachy Books…