Book Review: Craftfulness: Mend Yourself by Making Things

* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Craftfulness

Authors: Rosmary Davidson and Arzu Tahsin

Publisher: Appetite by Random House

Publication Date: January 29, 2019

ISBN: 9780525610427

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Integrating mindfulness, neuroscience, positive psychology, and creativity research, Craftfulness offers a thought-provoking and surprising reconsideration of craft, and how making things with our hands can connect us to our deepest selves and improve our well-being and overall happiness.

In the age of hygge, ikigai, and tidying up, a new book emerges on finding a sense of peace, self, and happiness. Craftfulness is Davidson and Tahsin’s take on how to find a state of flow and calm through the art of creation. From bookbinding to knitting, woodworking to writing, storytelling, to papercraft, this book is an empirical exploration of how crafting keeps us busy and puts our bodies to use.

In the digital age when many workers hold sedentary desk jobs, movement and activity have become less common. Deep and quiet thought also seems challenging when the immediate reward of social media and digital games help turn the brain off, yet do not offer any sort of mental rest. Rates of anxiety and depression have skyrocketed and many people struggle to find a meaningful outlet through which to express themselves. Craftfulness tackles these topics head on and interviews those who have found meaning, peace, and creativity through craft.

The authors seek to help readers find the perfect fit for them. The book ends with a section that blends directions on various crafts alongside stories of those who have found a meaning and happiness in life that they’d previously struggled to find. By connecting the reader directly with the personal experiences of others, Davidson and Tahsin’s Craftfulness hopes to make a difference for others.

Happy reading!

Review: A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: A Match Made in Mehendi

Author: Nandini Bajpai

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: September 10, 2019

ISBN: 9780316522588

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.” But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course. But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

I absolutely loved A Match Made in Mehendi. In the style of When Dimple Met Rishi, this novel tells a story of love, friendship, and high school years, infused with deep cultural tradition and modern technology. Simi is a fantastic character. Artistic, thoughtful, and clever, she and her friend Noah are seeking to make the most of their high school year. They want to make it unforgettable, so with Simi’s brother, they take the tradition of matchmaking that has run in their family for generations and combine it with Navdeep’s tech savvy skills to create an app that ignites the interest of their high school peers.

This story has the perfect bit of sweetness and high school drama, without being too much. Simi and Noah are fun-loving and honest characters. Their friendship is truly the essence of what high school is about. The romances in this book feel authentic and not over the top. This book is about friendship, family, and staying true to one’s identity above all else. It’s a unique and up-beat tale and is the perfect YA read to kick off this fall. Publishing in Canada in early September of this year, I’d say it’s one of this year’s contemporary YA must reads. It was a complete joy to read.

Book Review: Immunity by Erin Bowman

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Immunity

Author: Erin Bowman

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication Date: July 2, 2019 (TODAY!)

ISBN: 9780062574176

Synopsis from Goodreads:
They thought their nightmare was over, but Thea, Coen, and Nova’s rescue was only the beginning. After being imprisoned on a ship they thought was their ticket to safety, it’s clear that the threat they left behind isn’t as distant as they’d hoped—and this time the entire galaxy is at risk. Now that threat is about to be unleashed as an act of political warfare. To prevent an interstellar catastrophe, the survivors must harness the evil they faced on the planet Achlys and learn to wield the only weapon they have left: themselves.

Disclaimer: Spoilies below! If you haven’t read Contagion, I highly recommend that you don’t read any further.

This second book in the Contagion duology definitely caught my attention. If you remember, I wasn’t a huge fan of book on, Contagion, however I enjoyed book two so much more. I can’t write too much because I don’t want to give away tidbits from book one for those who haven’t read it yet. Book two takes an idea of an isolated deadly virus and exposes it to the universe. What was a singular planetary issue in the beginning has further developed into an issue that threatens the safety of the more populous areas of the galaxy. Thea, Coen, and Nova’s story line continues to develop and we see their bonds of friendship strengthen further now that the key to the galaxy’s safety lies in their hands.

This story brings with it a developed storyline for both Thea and Coen, as well as for Nova. We get to know each of the characters much more in depth and to understand their inner motivations and desires. This book puts the brakes on a bit from the hectic pace of the first novel, delving a little deeper into the characters’ psyches, allowing the readers to connect more with the story. These characters continue to grow (which you all know I LOVE) as individuals and as a team, working together to find a solution, even if it means they face intense and life-threatening sacrifices.

Overall, this series really did end up impressing me. Bowman’s writing is engaging and helps make for a quick read. It’s got elements of horror and thriller while still connecting on a human level. I ripped through book two and I’d say if you’re looking for a series for the summer, give this one a try.

Happy reading!

Book Review: This Book Is Not Yet Rated by Peter Bognanni

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: This Book Is Not Yet Rater

Author: Peter Bognanni

Publisher: Dial Books

Publication Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 9780735228078

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The Green Street Cinema has always been a sanctuary for Ethan. Maybe it’s because movies help him make sense of real life, or maybe it’s because the cinema is the one place he can go to still feel close to his dad, a film professor who died three years ago. Either way, it’s a place worth fighting for, especially when developers threaten to tear it down to build a luxury condos.

This Book Is Not Yet Rated is a story about friendship, passion, and dedication. Ethan and his father shared a love of film, a love that drove both of their passions in life. Ethans father was a professor of film and at a young age, Ethan found himself actively involved in a small, local theatre that played obscure films to local film buffs. When Ethan’s father passes away, and Ethan’s best friend moves away, Ethan is left with little but his drive to keep his father’s first love, The Green Street Cinema, up and running. When Ethan’s friend Raina moves back to town, their reconnection rekindles in Ethan a drive to fight for what he loves.

A very sweet coming-of-age story, Boganni’s book is full of innocent and likeable characters in a small town who are discovering who they are and what it is they want to do with their lives. There is a whole cast of characters in this book, but very few of these characters are well developed. We get to know Ethan very well, especially his struggle with loss, family, and friendship. We come to understand Raina through Ethan’s eyes, but don’t get to understand her well from her own point of view. This is really Ethan’s story as he moves towards adulthood and just tries to figure out everything in his life.

I wished we could have gotten to know the peripheral characters a bit better. Ethan surrounds himself with the quirkiest, most lovable sort of cast. His friends are unique and ultimately love film and theatrics. They’ve found a family in one another, but without knowing them a bit more, the story is disconnected from them.

Overall this was a very sweet story and a very quick read. I hope you enjoy!

Book Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Normal People

Author: Sally Rooney

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Publication Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 9780735276475

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Connell Waldron is one of the most popular boys in his small-town high school. The one thing he doesn’t have is money. Marianne Sheridan is plain-looking, odd, and stubborn, and while her family is well-off, she has no friends to speak of. There is, however, a deep and undeniable connection between the two teenagers, one that develops into a secret relationship. Everything changes when both Connell and Marianne are accepted to Trinity College. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle each other, falling in and out of romance but never straying far from where they started. And as Marianne experiments with an increasingly dangerous string of boyfriends, Connell must decide how far he is willing to go to save his oldest friend.

Normal People is not a happy story, but it’s an honest and raw story about human emotion, struggle, and flaws. Marianne comes from wealth, but her life is far darker and she battles demons that keep her isolated from her peers. Connell is poor, but his looks and charisma keep him firmly situated in the popular crowd. Their high school years are full of a secret and passionate affair that shape their relationship for the rest of their lives. Both are afraid of intimacy and are deeply affected by their internal struggles so they keep one another just far enough to keep romance from blooming. There are too many factors at play and their relationship only grows more complicated as the years pass.

Rooney is an incredibly talented writer. While neither one of her characters is particularly likeable, her story is enticing and relatable. There is no real plot, but the story follows these characters as they interact with others and display their deepest secrets for the reader. This story is almost voyeuristic in it’s rawness. The reader is party to Marianne and Connell’s darkest moments of difficult. Things don’t always work out for the better. This story is real, and that’s not always pleasant. It’s not a book with a happy ending.

At the root of this story is truly that there is no such thing as normal. These two characters teach the reader that to the outside world, everything can seem a particular way, but at home and in those private spaces or with those closest people–when we are at our most vulnerable moments–every person has tribulations that direct their life in one way or another. These struggles make each and everyone person not particularly normal, and perhaps we’re all “normal” in that regard. Our shared triumphs and failures create a commonality in life, but each person lives their own unique life in their own particular way. Marianne and Connell demonstrate to the reader that those who love us will stick by us no matter our struggles. Sometimes it’s impossible to put our insecurities aside to let those who love us most in. Normal People

Book Review: Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss

Author: Rajeev Balasubramanyam

Publisher: Chatto & Windus

Publication Date: January 10, 2019

ISBN: 9781784742546

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the moments after the bicycle accident, Professor Chandra doesn’t see his life flash before his eyes, but his life’s work. He’s just narrowly missed out on the Nobel Prize (again) and even though he knows he should get straight back to his pie charts, his doctor has other ideas. All this work. All this success. All this stress. It’s killing him. He needs to take a break, start enjoying himself. In short, says his doctor (who is from California), Professor Chandra should just follow his bliss. He doesn’t know it yet, but Professor Chandra is about to embark on the trip of a lifetime.

What a beautiful novel this was. This is a novel about family, self-realization, and love. Professor Chandra seemingly has everything is life, but far too quickly, everything he loved is taken away. His wife leaves him forbel prize other man. His children keep their distance, if they speak to him at all. His goal of winning the Nobel prize is dashed again and again. Everything Chandra has understood about the world is called into question. Chandra finds himself hitting bottom and directed towards an ashram-esque therapeutic retreat where he learns to confront his demons. For the first time in his life, he allows himself to remember his own troubled relationship with his father and to take an introspective moment to assess his relationship with his own children.

This book was so sweet and so comforting. Chandra is a character that you can’t help but root for. He’s arrogant, dense, and completely oblivious, but above all, he loves his children. His words and actions are driven by his desire to see his children in a better place, but he’s blinded by his own hubris and denial. In order to grow and to reconnect with his family, Chandra must first confront his own suppressed emotions and memories to acknowledge what it is in his past that’s made him who he is in the present.

While light-hearted, this story tackles an deep tale of self-discovery. With a dash of humour, Balasubramanyam tackles tough family situations by following Chandra’s inner monologue through periods of both stagnation and growth. This is a story of crisis, but also of resolution. The writing is captivating and entertaining. I enjoyed this book immensely.

Book Review: A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

Author: Alicia Elliott

Publisher: DoubleDay Canada

Publication Date: March 26, 2109

ISBN: 9780385692380

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about the treatment of Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight and understanding to the ongoing legacy of colonialism. What are the links between depression, colonialism and loss of language–both figurative and literal? How does white privilege operate in different contexts? How do we navigate the painful contours of mental illness in loved ones without turning them into their sickness? How does colonialism operate on the level of literary criticism?

Elliott’s A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is a poignant collection of essays discussing her experiences with womanhood, race, culture, sexual assault, mental illness, Indigeneity, and so much more. Elliott ruminates on her experience growing up in poverty with an Indigenous father and a white Catholic mother. Her essays provide insight into her own autobiographical experiences while exploring the treatment of Indigenous peoples in North America. Having spent time in both Canada and the US, Elliott speaks widely of systemic oppression and racism.

Elliott’s voice is one of strength and understanding. Her perspectives are honed and her prose is beautifully conveyed. Her essays are raw and honest as she speaks of the traumas and experiences of her past, as well as her journey in the present. She shares her stories of a woman and a mother, coming to understand her upbringing in new ways as she learns more about the world around her. Her experiences with mental illness and shame are so vivid and visceral, creating an open platform for readers to engage and understand, perhaps sharing their own stories along the way. I enjoyed her captivating voice so thoroughly.

I missed a chance to see Elliott speak and I regret it because I would have loved to listen to her explore her essays in even greater depth. Perhaps I’ll get the chance soon. I can’t recommend this book enough.