Mid-March Update!

Happy Spring, readers!

Hi, readers! It’s been a while! I kind of started off March taking an unintentional break from social media - and it was so nice! I think I have truly found a good balance with my social media/phone use. It’s just not a necessity for me, it’s an added bonus that is fun! Now reading… that IS a necessity ;)

I’m so glad Spring is finally here! Here in Ottawa, it has been consistently sunny with warm weather, and it has truly made me feel like a new person. I’m just so ready for these next few months!!!

As for my reading life, this month has been quite a few audiobooks. I work from home, and thankfully, I am able to do my job while I listen to podcasts/audiobooks. I find it makes my day go by faster, makes me feel more energized sitting behind a desk, and.. I get to basically read all day?!

Here’s what I've read so far this month. Let me know if you’ve read any of these, and what your thoughts are below!

Share Your Stuff, I’ll Go First by Laura Tremaine

I listened to this one on Scribd (click here to try Scribd free for 30 days!) and it was a fun, short audiobook! Laura Tremaine hosts a podcast called, “10 Things To Tell You” where she talks about life, friendships, personal triumphs, difficulties, books, and so much more!! She started off by writing a blog, then her podcast, and now she published a book.

This book is all about empowerment - to have a better relationship with those around you, and a better relationship with yourself. It’s all about speaking your truth, living your truth, and not feeling bad about it. I am notorious, for “feeling bad” when I say no to someone. And I’m truly working so hard to be better at that. I recently heard a quote from Elizabeth Olson, who said the biggest thing she learned from her big twin sisters, Mary Kate and Ashley, is that, “no is a full sentence.” Read that again.

No is a full sentence. That quote, as soon as a I heard it, took me completely aback. I ended up self reflecting on my behaviours, anxieties, and personal hoops that I’ve been trying to get through. I often follow up my “no’s” with an excuse, or try to explain myself. Why? No is simple enough. It’s a full sentence. I don’t need to ALWAYS explain myself. This really resonated with me, and is something that really relates to this book.

Although it was a short book, I did find it a bit repetitive at some points, but all in all, I think it has a great message for so many people out there. I think it’s a great, short audiobook if you’re looking to improve your relationship with yourself.

24/6 by Tiffany Shlain

Another audiobook read for me, and one I truly enjoyed. I’ve seen around social media that some people partake in a “tech shabbat” - where starting Friday night, all sorts of technology are not to be used until Saturday evening. It allows people to be more present with themselves, their families, the outdoors, and even focus on hobbies they love. I absolutely love this idea.

This book talks about how Tiffany Shlain started doing her tech shabbat years ago, and it’s now a sort of tradition within her family - something that they look forward to every single week. And really, a tech shabbat can look different for everyone! For me, I love the idea of putting my phone away when I finish work on Friday, and not look at it until Sunday. It’s hard to do… and not something that can happen over night, but with the nicer weather approaching, this is something I will incorporate into my own “self care” needs every weekend.

I highly recommend this book if you, like me, are trying to find better boundaries between reality and the internet.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

WOW. That’s the first thing I want to say about this book! This book has been recommended to me by so many people, and I finally read it for my real life bookclub, and I can’t wait to discuss it with them!

Let me first preface this by saying, that this book is not for everyone. It deals with some very dark material that may be triggering for new mothers, grieving mothers, or just mothers in general. Please keep this in mind if you decide to read it. It also deals with mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, abuse, miscarriages, and death.

SO THIS BOOK!!!! Okay, so. This book is about Blythe Connor, who is pregnant with her first child - a baby girl. Blythe is excited, and is hoping to have the perfect, most loving relationship with her daughter… something that she didn’t have with her mother, and her mother didn’t have with her grandmother.

When Violet is born, Blythe becomes a bit concerned that she doesn’t feel all of the love and affection that typically comes from a mother to their new baby. She’s confused, and doesn’t understand what’s going on. While this is happening, the story takes us back to Blythe’s childhood, and her mother’s story as well. The relationship that Blythe had with her mother was incredibly toxic, and Blythe unfortunately was abused mentally, emotionally, and physically by her mother.

As Violet starts to get older, Blythe starts to think that there is something wrong with Violet… she doesn’t behave like other kids too, and Blythe starts to become alarmed. Her husband thinks she’s “crazy”, and doesn’t believe anything she says.

Blythe then figures maybe having another baby will take these feelings away.. and so, Sam was born. A son. And Blythe finally felt that undying affection and love for her baby.. something that she never had, and never will for Violet.

But then their entire life changes in an instant.

That’s all I can really say without spoiling the book - but this was such a refreshing and unique plot for a domestic thriller. We often see the positive side of motherhood - filled with love, and soft colours, sunshine, giggles, and snuggles.. but this book showcases the darker side of motherhood. Not every mother out there feels 100% confident, or feels that undying love and affection for their baby when it’s born. Is that wrong? Is that mean? I don’t have the answer to that, because this topic can be so complicated, and i’m not a mother - but that is exactly why I loved this book. I think it is a great book club choice because there is just SO MUCH to unpack about it’s themes and characters.

I’m always cautious around books that end up with a lot of hype on bookstagram - because sometimes it’s disappointing. I think with this book, don’t go into it expecting a super dark, twisty, edge of your seat type of thriller. It’s really more of a domestic drama that deals with some heavy themes on motherhood and the meaning of family - nature vs. nurture.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

This was another audiobook for me on Scribd, and I really enjoyed this book. I think it’s a story that a lot of people need to read.

This book follows Elena and Mauro from Colombia, who meet when they are teenagers. They end up travelling to Houston to send Elena’s mom money and risk staying in America with their tourist visas. They start to build a family, move around within America, and keep ignoring their visa expirations.. until they reach undocumented status. They now need to be 100% careful in everything they do, in case they are forced to leave the country. Unfortunately, Mauro gets deported, and Elena is left with three small children to care for, in a country that is so unfamiliar, and at times, unkind to her.

This book is about immigration, yes, but it’s also about racism, family, and love. You know when there are some characters you think about weeks later? Well, I will be thinking about Elena and her family for a long time. It’s a story that is just too real in our times - many, many families through North America face this exact crisis every day. They just want a better life for themselves and their children.. why did this continent every get to the point where that doesn’t matter? It’s heartbreaking, and this short novel does a great job showcasing that.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

My second Jenny Colgan book this year, and it did not disappoint!! I hit a bit of a reading slump at this point, and really wanted something light and fun, and that provided a great escape.

This book was perfect for that! This book is about Nina, a literary matchmaker. She was a librarian, constantly recommending books to everyone, but then suddenly, lost her job. Nina is a quiet, keep her head down kind of person, but then she got the idea that this was finally her chance to do something big. Something different.

After talking to her roommate (who is constantly upset with her because Nina has too many books…..), she had the idea of getting a large van, and selling books from it! But, the only van for sale, was in a nearby little town in Scotland. So, she decides to go, and from there, things changed!

This book was so sweet. I am a sucker for a quiet, bookish protagonist, who lives in a cute town in the U.K, and makes a big life change. It was fun, refreshing, laid back, and full of little literary mentions. I did find the ending a bit too abrupt.. but overall it was a cute read and truly got me out of my slump!

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Readers, this book is very close to my heart.

This is a middle grade book, that deserves so much praise and love. I listened to this one on audiobook, and I really think it made me more nostalgic for my family.. hearing the narrator pronounce specific Arabic words.

This book is about a little girl, Jude, (her Arabic name is Judah, but when she moved to America from Syria, changed her name to fit in.. just like me! My actual name is Ebtesam but I go by Sam, and sometimes, it makes me sad to think of how ashamed I used to be of my name).

Jude and her family were living in Syria, when protests and uprisings began to happen. It started to become unsafe, so her parents decided to move in with family they had in America. Once they were settled in America, Jude starts to grapple with her identity and hears, for the first time, the term “Middle Eastern”. She is overwhelmed with emotion, excitement and curiosity, about her new school, new friends, new city. The part that really made me tear up was how excited she got when she found out that her school held plays. She couldn’t believe it!! It just goes to show how different worlds can be.

As we approach an almost decade long war in Syria, I think this is an important book to read. Although it’s middle grade, I think it’s an important story for all age groups. People always associate Arabs with war. Thinking that, that is all we encompass.. but Arabs are so much more than that. We have so much history, and culture - our language is beautiful, our people are beautiful, our land is beautiful - and that is something war can never take away.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I’ve had this book for a while, (thank you to St. Martin’s Press for my copy!), and just never got around to it for some reason, even though I love Kristin Hannah. But, this past Thursday, I went on Instagram Live with my friend Allison from The ABC Market, and she talked about how she started this one and was loving it. So, I decided to finally pick it up so I could discuss with her.. and ended up finishing it late last night! It was SO good, SO heartbreaking, and just.. wow. Kristin Hannah has a true gift.

I would say that this book is a slow burn, almost character driven historical fiction story set during the Dust Bowl. I’ve heard about the Dust Bowl, and Black Sunday which happened on April 14, 1935 - but I didn’t realize the extent of the damage from these dust storms, or how long it lasted. So many people, starved, or died from inhaling too much dust practices.. it was truly a depressing, and sad time in history.

This book follows Elsa Martinelli, who was always seen as an outcast in her family. She went through a very bad fever when she was young, and ever since then, her parents insist on keeping her inside to keep her “healthy”. They call her names, make fun of her looks, and when she reaches 25 and isn’t married yet, they think that all hope is lost for their daughter.

She is a reader, and takes inspiration from the stories she reads she take charge of her own life, and find her happiness. She does in a way.. but then the Great Depression hits, and the Dust Bowl era begins, and now, it’s all about survival for her.

This book made me want to hug Elsa - invite her over for tea, tell her that everything will be okay, and help with whatever she needs. She’s a fictional character, yes. But she also just felt so real. I think Hannah did such a great job writing this story - it kept me completely pulled in because I needed to know how this story would end.

As I said it is heartbreaking, but I think it serves as a great reminder, during this time in history, while we face a pandemic. That the human spirit will alway prevail, and in the end.. love remains.

That’s my reading update for this month! As you can see, I read some incredible stories, that I will think about for a long time. I’m so glad that I have stumbled upon so many great stories so far this year - because it just reminds me why I love to read. Not only does it evoke empathy, but it gives me a chance to self reflect on my own life, on who I am, and also provide a much needed escape.

I also wanted to say thank you for subscribing to my newsletter, and following me on Instagram. Not only does your support mean a lot, but it actually brings tears to my eyes to see this community of readers come together and focus on books.

There are over 100 people in the Read with Sam bookclub, and that makes me, SO EXCITED!! Thank you for joining, and I seriously can’t wait to talk about the March book with you. The March book pick is Far From the Tree by Robin Benway! The bookclub is primarily on the free Bookclubz app! You can download it on your phone, or use their desktop browser - click here to join! Or click here to join on Goodreads! There will be a Zoom discussion on the 31st, but i’ll also post discussion questions in both places for those unable to make the meeting.

So, have you read any of these books yet? Are they on your list? How’s your reading life so far this month?

Articles that made me think this month:

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 Longlist

Women’s Prize for Fiction Judges Recommend Books

Booktok Sells Books

The Evolution of the Book Review

How the Pandemic Changed the Way We Read

If you enjoy my newsletters, I’d be so grateful if you passed it along to a friend. Let’s get bookish together!

Until next time, yours bookishly,