Tag Archives: Non Fiction

Field Notes — Sara Jewell

20 Dec

field

 

Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Released: September 30th, 2016
Genre: Memoir, essays
Source: ARC from publisher

 

“When my husband told me he didn’t want to be married any longer, I didn’t call a lawyer, talk to my minister, or even tell my best friend. My first thought—and only plan—was go to Pugwash.”
So begins Sara Jewell’s tender and heartfelt collection of essays. After a childhood of idyllic summers on Canada’s east coast, Sara knew the only place she could begin to rebuild her life—to find her heart and home—was amid the salty air and red dirt roads of Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.

Part humorous observation and part honest self-reflection, Sara deftly explores the people, creatures, landscapes, and experiences that make her life in rural Nova Scotia so different from the big-city one she’d grown accustomed to.

They say you can never go back. But they are wrong.

From Goodreads

Delightful. That’s the word that kept popping into my head as I read Field Notes: A City Girl’s Search for Heart and Home in Rural Nova Scotia. 

As a former suburban chick who bought a 100 year old farmhouse and 37 acres of land with her hubby seven years ago, there’s a lot that I could identify with in Jewell’s essays. From her obsession with chickens (I have them also) to her desire for more farm animals (I also gave in to a desire for pet goats) I was nodding my head quite a bit while reading.

I am not a social person, so I really enjoyed reading about how Sara found herself welcomed into the community and all the connections she made. She really embraced the country life and I think that’s awesome. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that Christina Martin, one of my favourite singers and an acquaintance of mine, is a neighbour of Jewell’s. Even reading a book about the Maritimes can result in that game of “I know them too!”

Jewell’s writing style is lush and descriptive and draws you right into the scene. She’s writes deep without being flowery and sometimes her essays take you to unexpected but beautiful places.

Honest and interesting, anyone who enjoys memoirs will love this book.

Gratitude — Oliver Sacks

9 Feb

gratitudePublisher: Knopf Canada
Released: November 24th 2015
Genre: non-fiction, essays, memoir
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

 

 

A deeply moving testimony and celebration of how to embrace life.

In January 2015, Oliver Sacks was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer, and he shared this news in a New York Times essay that inspired readers all over the world: “I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude…. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

Gratitude consists of four essays that originally appeared in The New York Times, accompanied by a foreword that describes the occasion of each chapter. The foreword is written by Billy Hayes, Oliver Sacks’s partner, and Kate Edgar, his long time collaborator.

From Goodreads.

This was a slim volume with so much depth and weight to it. It’s only sixty-four pages, but when I finished I felt like I was a better person for reading it.

Non-fiction memoir pieces always feel like an intimate read, but Gratitude had the added layer that it was written about Sacks dying and I read it after he was dead. That’s a bit of a loaded gun for a book, no matter the length. But the essays never felt like they were over the top or self-indulgence. They were simply a telling by a man who knew that pretty soon there would be no more tales for him, real or not.

Sacks approaches his illness and the fact that it has lessened his time on earth with such honesty that sometimes it made my breath catch. Death isn’t an easy subject for most of us, regardless of our age or health. But Sacks tackles it head on, and in such a way that I didn’t feel sorry for him. These essays definitely weren’t a pity-party.

The theme of gratitude that runs through all four essays wasn’t done in a way that hit me over the head. Gratitude was written about as a way you can chose to live your life, and that’s what Sacks did.

Despite the topic and the themes in Gratitude, this was a quiet read. As I’ve already said, nothing was over the top or grandiose about the writing style or the way that the themes were approached. And because of this, I know it’s a book that will stay with me for a long, long time.

 

The Bitch in Your Head — Jacqueline Hornor Plumez

30 Oct

thebitchPublisher: Taylor Trade
Released: May 1st, 2015
Genre: Non-fiction, self-help
Source: Review copy from Netgalley

 

Do you ever find yourself thinking, how could you be so stupid, you look fat, or you’re a horrible mother? Are you afraid people will find out you’ve fooled them into thinking you’re competent? If you’re guilty of expressing these types of discouraging messages, then you have a bitch in your head. This self-critical behavior can wreak havoc with your life—it can keep you from getting the love you want, the raise you deserve, or even a good night’s sleep.

Dr. Plumez began to notice a pattern with her patients being too hard on themselves. She found that gentler approaches didn’t work, but when she told them they were being a bitch—to themselves!—they finally recognized their self-defeating attitude and how much it was weighing them down.With this book, Dr. Plumez can help you banish the bitch. It identifies the different types of “bitches”—work, marriage, parenting, and so on—and provides effective tools and techniques to combat the forms of self-destruction described. Once you begin to encourage rather than criticize, you will find that your career, social life, and relationships almost magically improve.

Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez is an award-winning psychologist. She is the author of Successful Adoption, Divorcing a Corporation, and Mother Power. She has appeared on The Today Show and Good Morning America, and her articles have appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal and The New York Times Magazine. She lives in Larchmont, New York.

From Goodreads.

I used to make fun of books like these. Self-help? Personal improvement? It was all hokey to me. A waste of time. But this year I decided to give some of it a try. There are still things out there that don’t mesh with me, but I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I started reading some self-improvement books they could — gasp!— actually help me. Negative self-talk has been an ongoing issue for me, so this book seemed right up my alley. And am I ever happy I gave it a go.

I really enjoyed this book and the information that I got from it has been invaluable. Like I said, I’ve always had an issue with negative self-talk and I know that you’re supposed to stop it and replace it with positive self-talk. But I never had a solid idea how to do this.

But calling all that negative self-talk the bitch in my head unleashed something for me. It gave a persona to what I was doing to myself in my head. And it’s helped me to tame it.

I really enjoyed the conversational tone of the book and the fact that it was broken down into different bitches that live in our head. They layout makes it a great reference book to go back to and just review certain parts.

Now when I think something that leans towards the negative, I ask myself if it’s the truth or the bitch in my head.

I’d definitely recommend this for anyone who struggles with negative self-talk.

Starting To Frame — Roger Gordon

1 Apr

startingtoframe

Publisher: Dogsbody Book
Released: November 14th, 2014
Genre: Memoir
Source: Paperback review copy from author

 

 

 

Marital infidelity, mental illness, and divorce. Some of the most taboo topics you could think of during the 50s and 60s, and Roger Gordon was forced to grow up among all of them.

It’s the late 1940s. You’re a child living in working-class Sheffield. The war has ended. Times are hard. But you’re happy. Your family takes joy in listening to radio programs together, taking trips to the seashore, going to football games and the local cinema (“Picture House”), and, of course, eating fish and chips wrapped in newspapers. You love spending time with your grandparents, which is easy to do because they live in the same house as your parents, your younger brother, and yourself. Your family is a close-knit one. There’s much pleasure to be found in the simple things.

As you grow older, though, your happy childhood turns into a tumultuous one. Your parents argue violently, and your mother often displays erratic behaviour. Even as a child, you sense that her punishments are mean-spirited and unfair.

Your parents’ marriage eventually ends in a bitter divorce, and you and your brother are thrown in the middle of their battle, being forced to take sides. Your mother soon acquires a new live-in boyfriend, and friends, family, and neighbours talk about your mother’s romantic affairs behind your back. You are made to feel like a freeloader, and you’re forced to move out during the time that you are studying at university..

During the years that follow, you must come to terms with not only the mental illness afflicting both of your parents, but your own bouts of depression that you suffer yourself.

Starting to Frame is the story of Roger Gordon’s life. It is a story about the futility of family feuding, the innate human desire to be accepted and loved, and the need to give more attention to mental illness. Above all, Starting to Frame carries with it an important message about reconciliation and how it is never too late to forgive.

From Goodreads

 

I am very picky about my memoirs and quite often have found myself abandoning them partway through. This was so not the case with Starting Frame. In fact it was quite the opposite! Once I started reading I had a hard time putting it down. I was drawn in from the first page and really felt like I was living the memories. The descriptions of places and people were so vivid that it really put me in each and every moment.

This wasn’t alway an easy book to read, and I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult parts of it must have been to write. When I say it wasn’t always easy to read, I’m referring to some of the material (not the writing!). The book deals with mental illness, an important but often difficult subject matter.

Gordon has an easy and engaging writing style that captivates the reader. I really enjoyed the balance between light-hearted and serious, something that is hard to accomplish. The Sheffield dialect was a hoot to read, but thank God there was a glossary at the back!

If you are looking for an extremely well-written memoir, then you NEED to read Starting To Frame. It will definitely be added to my “I must read again” bookshelf.

Rework — Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

8 Jan

reworkPublisher: Crown Business
Released: March 9th, 2010
Genre:Non-fiction, self-help, business
Source: Purchased

 

 

 

Most business books give you the same old advice: Write a business plan, study the competition, seek investors, yadda yadda. If you’re looking for a book like that, put this one back on the shelf.

Rework shows you a better, faster, easier way to succeed in business. Read it and you’ll know why plans are actually harmful, why you don’t need outside investors, and why you’re better off ignoring the competition. The truth is, you need less than you think. You don’t need to be a workaholic. You don’t need to staff up. You don’t need to waste time on paperwork or meetings. You don’t even need an office. Those are all just excuses.

What you really need to do is stop talking and start working. This book shows you the way. You’ll learn how to be more productive, how to get exposure without breaking the bank, and tons more counterintuitive ideas that will inspire and provoke you.

With its straightforward language and easy-is-better approach, Rework is the perfect playbook for anyone who’s ever dreamed of doing it on their own. Hardcore entrepreneurs, small-business owners, people stuck in day jobs they hate, victims of “downsizing,” and artists who don’t want to starve anymore will all find valuable guidance in these pages.

From Goodreads

I liked this book. It was a quick read, which was neat because usually I slog through non-fiction. But I read this over the course of a couple of days during Christmas break.

If you’re looking for a straight forward, step by step how-to on changing your business ways, this isn’t the book for you. Move along. But if you’re looking for a book to get you thinking and excited about your current business or starting a new one, then this is definitely a read you’ll want to pick up.

The chapters are super short and focus on one thing that you can do/change to make your company grow and make your business successful.  It’s the short chapters that made this such a breezy read and made the pacing of the book quick. But I never felt like the authors were rushing through any of the topics.

I loved their enthusiasm for their business methods. It really got me excited and made me realize that some of my “weird” business ideas weren’t weird at all: they just weren’t traditional. Reading the book really helped me to see that I am on the right business track for who I am. Which is super exciting.

If you’re looking for inspiration and some cool counter-intuitive ideas about business, then I recommend this book 100%. However, if you’re looking for a how-to guide, you may want to skip this one.

The Girls’ Ghost Hunting Guide – Stacey Graham

31 May

Publisher: Sourcebooks
Released: April 24th, 2012
Genre: MG non-fiction, how-to
Review copy from publisher

What was that noise? The cat? The wind? 
Little brother stealing a peek at your diary?
Or is it a ghost?

The Girls’ Ghost Hunting Guide will help you identify the creepy crawlers from the spooky spirits, the howling winds fromt he haunting phantoms. And with this guide you can learn from real experts how to investigate and contact your very own ghosts!

Everything a girl needs for a night full of fun, including:

• Spooky urban legends to set the mood
• Must-have stuff for your ghost hunting kit
• Pointers for leading the best-ever ghost hunt
• Tips for writing your own ghost
• With fun quizzes, games, recipes, and more!

So gather your friends if they are brave enough, grab a flashlight, and go investigate!

From Sourcebooks website.

First of all, I have to say I am  in love with the ghostie on the cover. And she actually appears throughout the book. I’ve love to have one. Not, you know, haunting me or anything. But maybe a stuffed one on my desk.

Okay, so the book. What a cool combination of informative, creepy, scary, funny, fun stuff! I loved the tone. I think kids will find it’s like talking to a cool older sibling or cousin. It was very informal while jam-packed full of ghost hunting information.

The ghost hunting: I watch a lot of ghost hunting shows, and the information was dead on. Ghosts are serious business, but Graham made sure throughout the whole book to keep things light. She still made sure that the reader understood the seriousness of ghost hunting and the responsibility that comes with it, but she did it in a way that it shouldn’t scare the crap out of most kids. And mixed in with the ghost hunting info are urban legends, ghost stories and even a couple of nommy recipes. Graham also includes interviews with female ghost hunters, which I thought was awesome.

The layout of the book was super fun, also. The pages are glossy, there’s lots of colour used and different fonts. For me, this also helped lift some of the scariness of the subject. There are also interactive sections, little quizzes and at the end blank pages that you can use on your first ghost hunting case.

I think this book is going to be a hit among girls, but the topic IS all things ghost, so I think for certain personality types, it could be a bit too scary, even with the light tone. But of course, that’s where mom and dad come in. If you daughter is a bit on the anxious side, you may want to take a peek at The Girls’ Ghost Hunting Guide before handing it over to her.

This was just a cool mix of fun and informative. And if you are interested in reading it, pop by tomorrow for a giveaway. 🙂

Huck – Janet Elder Blog Tour and Giveaway

21 Nov

“Michael was four when his relentless campaign for a dog began. At seven he made a PowerPoint presentation, “My Dog,” with headings like “A Childhood Without a Dog is a Sad Thing.” His parents, Janet and Rich, were steadfast; bringing a dog into their fast-paced New York City lives was utterly impractical.
However, on a trip to Italy, a chance happening leads Janet to reconsider, a decision then hastened by a diagnosis of breast cancer. Janet decides the excitement of a new puppy would be the perfect antidote to the strain on the family of months of arduous treatments for her illness. The prospect of a new puppy would be an affirmation of life, a powerful talisman for them all.
On Thanksgiving weekend, soon after the grueling months of treatments are over, Huck, a sweet, mischievous, red-haired, toy poodle joins the family and wins everyone’s heart.
A few months later the family ventures to baseball’s spring training, leaving Huck with Janet’s sister in Ramsey, New Jersey. Barely twenty-four hours into the trip, Janet receives the dreaded phone call: Huck has slipped through the backyard fence and run away.
Broken-hearted and frantic, the family catches the first plane to New Jersey to begin a search for their lost puppy. It is a race against time, for little Huck is now lost in an area entirely unfamiliar to him, facing the threat of bears and coyotes, swamps and freezing temperatures, rain and fast cars.
Moved by the family’s plight, strangers – from school children to townspeople to the police lieutenant – join the search, one that proves to be an unyielding test of determination and faith.
Touching and warm-hearted, Huck is a spirit-lifting story about resilience, the generosity of strangers, and hope.”

I have a house full of animals. And I do mean a house full. Our large farmhouse is filled with cats, dogs, birds and a spoiled bunny. I couldn’t imagine the panic and heartache I would feel if ANY of them went missing. Hell, I’d probably freak out if one of the barn chickens disappeared. After all they are hand raised and love getting hugs and pets. So naturally from the moment I picked up Huck, my heart was breaking for this family that finally decided to get a puppers for their son, only to have the dog run away a few months later.

I love that while Janet’s cancer was the catalist for getting Huck, it wasn’t the center of the story. In fact, while she does talk about it a bit, it’s more in passing. This is definintely Huck’s book. Huck, and all the wonderful people who helped with the search effort.

While I was touched by all the amazing people who dropped what they were doing to help search for Huck, it saddened me a bit that Janet and her family seemed so surprised by it. I live in a small community and all the help that was offered just seemed natural to me. And it made me very grateful to live somewhere where kindness and helpfulness are just a part of daily living.

This was just a sweet, uplifting read. Once I started, I had a hard time putting it down. I needed to know how it ended. And Janet’s writing never entered that overly dramatic or overly sentimental area, even though what she was writing about was both of these things at times.  I really enjoyed Huck and will be recommending it to all my animal- loving friends.

Giveaway time!

Okay, guys I have three, yes that’s THREE copies of Huck to giveaway. All you have to do is comment and let me know your favorite book, TV or movie dog. Besides Huck (of course) my fave is Paul Anka from the Gilmore Girls. Contest is open to Canada and the US and will close 11:59 EST November 30th. *I’m extending this until Dec 3rd.*