Why a Book Narrated by a 13 Year-Old Had Me in Shambles

IMG_8079Oliver Dalrymple has the undesirable nickname of “Boo” in his Illinois middle school. The nickname originates because of his pale completion and hair that’s always staticky. At age thirteen, he’s more focused on the periodic table and scientific facts than hanging out with other people his age. In the first few pages of Neil Smith’s debut novel, Boo, a tragic event happens and Boo finds himself literally knocking on heaven’s door. Unaware of the facts and details about what’s landed him on heavens doorstep, he sceptically enters to find that his version of heaven contains young boys and girls who all appear to be the same age as him,  thirteen year olds. He quickly learns that although everyone looks the same age as him, some residents have been been in heaven for much longer, although their appearances don’t change. He also learns that each and every one of the people living in heaven is from America.

As someone who functions  on fact and logic, Boo/Oliver can’t seem to wrap his head around the logistics of this newfound world he’s entered. How did this happen? Why can’t he find his Mom and Dad and how can he convey to them that he’s alright? Why don’t people physically age? None of it makes sense. Then something crazy happens. He finds out that he’s not the only one from his middle school that lost his life that day. His classmate Johnny was also killed and he’s got a vendetta in place. Sure, Boo is distraught and gets upset knowing that he’s no longer able to talk to his Mother and Father, but Johnny has a completely different agenda. He’s determined and focused on who would take their lives. He wants answers and he wants them now. Of course, Boo and Johnny are an unlikely pair, as the two were not what you’d call pals in their middle school. More like acquaintances, but because of the unlikely circumstances the two find themselves in, they pair up to solve the mystery of their deaths.

When I first started reading Boo, I kept getting the same feelings I felt when I read Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. Reading a book about children or teenagers entering heaven isn’t easy. That being said, besides the fact that both books are set in heaven, the similarities end there. This book takes a completely different path that isn’t always an easy path, but man oh man, is it imaginative. Neil Smith has written a book unlike any other I’ve read before. For instance, the first sentence in the book is,

Do you ever wonder, dear Mother and Father, what kind of toothpaste angels use in heaven.

I’m always mystified at an authors ability to think outside the box like Smith has done in this novel and I can say with full certainty that I’ve never thought of what kind of toothpaste angels use in heaven. The amount of detail and quirky elements weaved into Boo‘s plot had me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading the book, I really couldn’t put it down. From the beautiful and expressive cover to the bond formed between two unlikely boys, Boo was a novel written with a lot of energy and bewildering imagination that I think will have everyone talking. Fair warning, you will cry, so ensure you have tissues nearby when reading. Neil Smith’s debut fiction is on sale now. 

Why I’m No Longer Scared of the Term “Spinster”

I’m thirty-one years old.
I live on my own.
I do not own a cat.
I am not in a relationship.
And up until I read Kate Bolick’s memoir, I have feared that I will become a spinster.

9780385347136Originally, the term spinster, generated in fifteenth century Europe as an honourable way to describe the girls, most of them unmarried, who spun thread for a living. Since then, society has reshaped the term to become a disparaging, offensive term that is now defined by the dictionary as, “A woman still unmarried beyond the usual age of marrying”. Surprisingly, the dictionary does not define the term, “usual age of marrying” and after a quick Google search, it turns out that Cosmopolitan and BuzzFeed weren’t able to provide a definitive answer to that question either. Which led to my interest in Kate Bolick’s new memoir, Spinster: A Life of One’s Own. A book that’s described as, “a revelatory, lyrical, and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single.

Kate Bolick has always been a writer, she’s written articles for The New York Times, The Observer and many other esteemed magazines that I could name that would make your jaw hit the floor. She’s currently a contributing editor for The Atlantic and now an author of her first book which challenges readers to reexamine what it means to be single by putting a microscope on her own relationship history and delving into the lives of pioneer women from the last century whose influences and way of living began to have such an impact on her life that she starts to mirror their philosophy of life. What do I mean when I say that? Well I think it’s important to share a little bit about the timeline of this book for you to get a better understanding.

The book starts with a young Kate Bolick who’s dating on and off with a man she refers to as “W”, she’s working four jobs and she’s just been told that her Mother is about to die. As she sits by her bedside, she starts to wonder about her future, about her life and what her Mother would do if she could have done things differently. After her Mother passes, Kate vows to take some of her Mother’s spirit in stride and focus on building a pretty outstanding resume. After some hesitation, she packs up everything (including W) and moves to NYC. New York is the town in which Kate begins to discover the woman she wants to be with the help of some pretty inspirational ladies. She picks up some work by Maeve Brennan, an Irish writer who received huge accolades in the United States, specifically New York and her life was forever changed. Maeve was a contributor for The New Yorker known as “The Long-Winded Lady”. It’s through reading some of her work (novellas, articles and essays), that Kate begins to mirror specific qualities about Maeve. She doesn’t do this consciously, she naturally starts to emulate Maeve’s confidence and self reliance. She then begins to find strength in how to articulate her new way of thinking about single-hood when she starts reading Neith Boyce’s work. Surprisingly, when you Google Neith, you get very little information, but a more specific search with a term I learned in Kate’s book, known as “Bachelor Girl” produced an article that Kate herself wrote about Neith in the New York Observer titled, “She Was All That: This Single Chick Broke the Mold“. She shares that as early as 1898, Neith had no ceilings,

I was born a bachelor, but of course several years elapsed … before my predestination to this career became obvious. Up to that time people acknowledged threatening indications by calling me queer, while elderly persons who wished to be disagreeable said that I was independent. [Their] prediction … has so far been justified. I did not marry. The alternative of course was a profession.

I’m only giving you a quick glance at two of the women that started to help formulate new ideas about the definition of the word “spinster”. She of course gives much more details in her book and continues her understanding by adapting policies from Charlotte Perkins Gilman (author of one of my favourite books, The Yellow Wallpaper), poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and novelist Edith Wharten.

Every one’s path is a different path, everyone has to find their own icons and their own inspiration, but the ideas and principles that Kate Bolick examines in her memoir, Spinster, make a very solid case about why everyone should reevaluate the message we’re sending when we label someone a spinster. What if it didn’t mean loneliness, cats and tv dinners? What if it meant time, what if it meant exploration and most importantly, what if it meant happiness?

For the first time in a long time, Kate Bolick’s memoir helped me to focus on the pleasures of what it means to be single. When I meet someone who’s the right fit, it’ll be great, I’m sure of it. But for right now, I think I’ll go sing Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs, make hot chocolate for one and watch Gilmore Girls for the 700th time.

Green Gables Readalong: Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery


Once you’ve finished a book, you close the spine, take out your bookmark and find it a comfy, never to be touched again, spot on your bookshelf. Well at least that’s how the scenario plays out in my case. Sure, I glance at the book as I reorganize my shelf and I do that dreaded game of “should I keep it” game when I’m doing some spring cleaning, but on average, the likelihood of me picking up that book again is very slim. That’s why I’m loving doing this Green Gables Readalong. I’ve had eight mass market L.M. Montgomery books on my shelves since I was twelve years old and now for the first time in years, I’ve revisited them. I’m dusting off their pages and rediscovering old dog eared pages and highlighted passages. It’s part of the charm of doing a readalong with a collection you already know and love.9781770498624

When I picked up my copy of the third book in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley Collection, I discovered how much I appeared to have loved Anne of the Island. There were notes in the margin and a lot of circles throughout the book. As I reread this beautiful novel, I rediscovered my love of Anne’s adventures to Nova Scotia and how her path to self discovery takes place in the place I often refer to as home. In the opening pages of Anne of the Island, we read about Anne boarding a ferry to Nova Scotia en route to Redmond College, based on the still standing, Dalhousie University and the “quaint old town” of Kingsport, which is otherwise known as Halifax. Of course, a new town brings new adventures and new characters. Including my favourite, Philippa Gordon, a love struck young woman with a flighty personality and a carefree attitude. Her lack of direction and structure amuses Anne until she and Priscilla Grant decide to purchase a home to live in for their duration at Redmond College. I adored the pages when Anne and Priscilla have to sit down with the ever amusing Phil and explain that they won’t put up with her nonsense in their home.

In true L.M. Montgomery form, we don’t just read about a few months in Anne’s life, we span her whole four years at Redmond in which she travels home to Avonlea to check on dear Marilla and of course Davy and Dora. She also travels home to bury her cherished friend Ruby Gillis who dies of tuberculosis. When you bury a friend so young and so unexpectedly, it’s sure to shake you up and Anne’s world is a little bit bleaker. She finds solace in her schooling and her dear friends, including Gilbert Blythe. But Gilbert’s had enough of being just friends and finally declares his love for Anne, admitting he fell in love with her the day he pulled her red pigtail. Anne, unfortunately reveals that she just doesn’t feel the same way and strikes up a relationship with a fellow student named Roy Gardner.

But just when Anne thinks she has everything figured out, things take a turn once again and point her down a path she never thought she’d travel. Anne of the Island can easily be called my favourite book of the series this far; filled with charm, growth and love, we meet a striking young woman with a good head on her shoulders mixed with a familiar sense of the quirky Anne we’ve all grown to love. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Anne of Windy Poplars in which Anne Shirley has left Redmond College and Green Gables behind to begin a new chapter of her life in the “dreaming town” of Summerside.

Did YOU enjoy Anne of the Island as much as I did? Which is your favourite book in the series? Share with me below in the comments and remember to join the online conversations by using the hashtag #GreenGablesReadalong on all your social media channels.

5 Easy Tricks & Tips on how YOU Can Start a Book Club



The definition of a book club, or as some like to call it a “book group” is,
a group of people who meet regularly to discuss books that all the members have read.
I’m fortunate, because I have a built in group of friends that read similar books to what I read, but that isn’t the case for everyone. Joining or creating a book club can feel like an overwhelming task, daunting even, but I’m here to help. I’ve created five easy tips and tricks that can help you navigate and create a book club that are all listed below.


 1. How to Add New Members to Your Book Club – In order to ensure you create a conversation that is rich with detail and thoughtful discussion, you’re going to need members that come in all different forms. Expand your book club by using this handy thing called the internet. Put a call out on Twitter for new members by using both the hashtag #bookclub and your city in a hashtag (example, #Toronto). You could also use Facebook to post a message about your desire to add members to your book club, just be sure to make a note that people are welcome to share the post so you get a wider reach than just your family and friends.
If the internet isn’t your thing, make use of your local library, local newspapers or your workplace. Make flyers. Put your email on it and wait for all the emails to roll in. There are always people looking to expand their friend circle and book clubs are a great way to meet new people and get the opportunity to discuss a great piece of literature. Win-win.


2. Meet Once a Month (and Make Sure You Meet on a Weekday) – People lead busy lives, but it’s important to make time for yourself… it’s also important to make time for great books. You can get a lot of reading done in a month, even if it’s just promising yourself that you’ll read 40 pages before you head to bed. That’s why your book club should make a plan to meet monthly. If you allow for too  much time to read a book, it almost guarantees people will forget about it and then half the members will show up not having read the book, or in some cases, not reading it at all. So make a plan with your members to meet on a monthly basis and ensure that your meet up date is on a weekday, because weekends are just way too busy. Who wants to reschedule three or four times because a member is away that weekend… not me. Pick a Tuesday or Wednesday date that works for all of you and stick to it!


3. Choose What Books You’re Going to Read – The reason you’ve joined a book club is so you can talk about books. Sometimes this discussion can take the form of a heated debate and sometimes it can be two hours of a love fest about the book. Whatever way the conversation goes, you want to make sure you choose a variety of books. Who wants to just read the same genre over and over again. NOT ME. So it’s important to give each member a chance to choose a book. Not only will this help to expand your mind, but it will also help expand your bookshelf. Choose the order of who’s choosing a book and stick to it. Each member will then be responsible for “hosting” and kicking off the conversation when you meet. If the host wants to get really creative with it, they can have a themed idea in relation to the books plot. You’d be surprised how fun it is to dress up like the characters of a book!


4. How to Create a Great Discussion – It’s important that when you get to your monthly book club you have some sort of direction, otherwise, you’ll just end up drinking a lot of wine and catching up with your friends. One great way to guarantee that they’ll be a lot of discussion is having each member of the book club come prepared with a few questions that popped up for them in their reading. This way everyone will have an opportunity to speak and a direction is set in place.
Another helpful tip is search for discussion questions for the book prior to the meeting. You’d be surprised how accessible reading group guides are for book clubs. Many times they live on the publishers website, but sometimes with a quick google search, you’ll automatically have 10-12 thought provoking questions that will help to create a lively and fun conversation.


5. Have Fun! – The reason you started or joined a book club is so that you can meet new people, have a thought-provoking conversation about books and get to have a nice night out each month. There are a lot of perks to having a group of you come together to catch up, you get to consume some delicious treats, drink some much deserved beverages and have a fabulous night out. But it’s important to remember that when you enter a room, not everyone is going to have the same opinion as you and that’s okay. Sometimes someone might say something about the books theme or a character that makes you shake your head in disbelief. This does not mean you should attack them or make them justify their statement in an aggressive manner. You have a right to disagree, but approach it in a meaningful and respectful tone that creates an educated debate, rather than a brawl. Always remember, that you’re there to have fun and to learn something new. So walk in ready to have a lively discussion and maybe one too many glasses of wine.


Recommend Book Club Picks
If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie – He’s been called the author to watch and with good reason. Michael’s Christie has written a heartfelt and beautiful depiction of a young boy named Will who’s spent the majority of his life living inside. His Mother, Diane, is a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door. Then one day, Will, protecting himself with only a helmet, ventures out the front door. What happens after his first steps beyond his front door forever change his world.
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels – The Winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Sean Michaels creates an elaborate semi-fictional story of the man that invented the theremin, Lev Termen. The thread throughout the novel is the love and admiration he has for Clara Reisenberg, a young violin turned theremin player he meets in New York City in the 1930s. Often referring to her directly in the writing, we hop around in the text from his childhood in Leningrad to New York and then back to the scientific camps in the Soviet Union. Not only was this novel smart and well researched, it was like unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It had EVERYTHING. History, music, romance, suspense, war and more.
The Birth House by Ami McKay – This story is a story of growth and independence, but also about women coming together to make decisions about their bodies and their families in a time when their opinions didn’t hold a lot of statue. The bond that is formed between Dora and the “out of towners” is heartfelt and sincere, especially after they form “The Occasional Knitters Society”. It’s an unforgetable tale of a town that struggles with the pull between old and new medicine and what ultimately ends up happening will leave you left with bated breath.
Unless by Carol Shields – This is a story about Reta Winter and her daughter Norah, who drops out of school and makes a permanent home out of the corner of Bathurst and Bloor wearing a sign around her neck that reads the word, “GOODNESS”. Left to decipher why her daughter would do such a thing, Reta is forced to examine her life, her writing (she is an author) and the world as a whole. Carol Shields is a talent like none other and should be read by everyone.
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill – Since it’s publication in 2007, this book has become an international bestseller and now a CBC six-part mini series. The book is about an eleven-year-old girl named Aminata who was abducted from her village in Africa and enslaved in South Carolina. This is a story that is not easy to read, but was very much a reality not too long ago. A fantastic, heartbreaking novel that is sure to create lots of discussion.

Green Gables Readalong: Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery


Okay, okay, I know it’s March 3rd and this post is three days overdue, but I’m hoping you’ll all be super kind and forgive me. I’m going to be really honest with all of you and share that I hit a major reading slump. Nothing could pull me out of it and I had no desire to pick up a book, including Anne of Avonlea. That’s probably not the best thing to have happen when you’re the one hosting the readalong! I started to have “that” chat with myself last week, the one that I’m hoping we’ve all had at one point in your lifetime, that goes a little something like this,

February 24: “You have to read the book Reeder”

February 25: “Man, you’re really cutting it down to the wire, but don’t worry, you’ve got three days. It won’t take you three days to read a book.”

February 26: “Read the book!!!”9781770498617

February 27: “R-E-A-D T-H-E B-O-O-K”

February 28: “You’ve failed – now you have to explain yourself”

March 1: Finally read the book and then…  “Explain yourself, but make it charming”

So here I am folks, waving my white flag and being charming… is it working? Here’s hoping. In Anne of Avonlea, Anne is all grown up at the whooping age of sixteen years old. She’s a schoolteacher, a watcher of the two new characters in the Green Gables home, known as Davy and Dora and still dabbling with her old world of having a wondrous mind and the responsibilities of an adult.

As I’ve mentioned, there are a lot of new characters added to this book; Davy & Dora, Mr. Harrison and Miss Lavendar. Unlike the first novel, Anne is spending less time worrying about her physical appearance and more time working for the town of Avonlea. She wants to see their town succeed and she’s determined to make sure the residents of their town are kind, warm hearted and giving people. When they’re not, she’s determined to tell them so. But taking care of everyone else starts to become too much for young Anne and mishaps start to occur, as they do in the world of Anne Shirley.

Time speeds quickly in the town of Avonlea and each chapter seems to jump a few months. As a reader, you’re expected to keep up, but I can’t ever remember reading a book where so much happens, in such a quick and lively pace. Am I the only one that experienced this or am I off my rocker? At the end, the Gilbert Blythe storyline picked up a bit, but I’m ready for these two to take it to another level. At this point in time, his doting affection and “only have eyes for her” is a bit tiresome. Do something about it already, gheesh.

I would categorize Anne of Avonlea as my favourite book in the series, but it’s an important one, because it’s the book that readers start to regard her as a woman and not a pigtailed red headed child.

What did you think of Anne of Avonlea? Were there any new discoveries? Were there any fond memories? Share with me below in the comments and remember to join the online conversations by using the hashtag #GreenGablesReadalong on all your social media channels.