It's Messy - on Boys, Boobs and Badass Women

As a follower of Amanda de Cadenet on some social media; Instagram specifically, I was aware of this collection of essays she had written. Watching her IG stories and seeing nervous excitement and a sweet vulnerability as the book was released and giving readings in New York City gave additional glimpses into who she is. 

This book isn't 'polished' per say, it's raw and intimate; spoken in her strong voice.  Ms de Cadenet has a presence and although not a 'star' in the conventional sense she has lived an fascinating wild life, and that's why I was intrigued to both follow her and read this collection.  She draws on her past experiences and although some stories are outrageous and much different than my own upbringing, any girl or woman can most likely relate to something in this book.  She touches upon some of the difficulties many girls suffer growing up and entering adulthood and it is thought provoking. Admittedly I was instantly empathetic as some of her experiences have been mine as well.  It seems as though de Cadenet has lived more of a life by the time she was a wife and mother at the young age of 19 than most people do by the time they are mid 40s, the age she is now.  However, as the title implies, she doesn't present these things in an idealized manner. Rather, she uses them to discuss the importance of finding ones self as a woman instead of being what a patriarchal society may expect. There are her thoughts about sex, body image; and the cultural influences that shape unrealistic expectations for women. This book makes you tear up and laugh out loud from one essay to the next. I loved the sheer authenticity as well as the advice she gives almost as much to herself as to her readers. Reflecting on my own rise to womanhood while reading her essays, there have been some tricky situations and tough spots along the way. I will say that if you are sensitive to the past, there may be some triggers within these pages.

Overall, Amanda de Cadenet is clever and provocative and this book was an easy read, much akin to chatting with a girlfriend over wine.  

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Into the Water - review

I must admit that I was quite excited to actually read this novel. Attemp after attempt throughout the summer to read something (anything!) of substance,  I managed to only read a few light books, some magazines and the odd bit of poetry. Even with the long days we have in Edmonton (often 17-19 hours of sunlight a day) my littles kept me so very busy. And each evening I fell into bed with complete exhaustion. My daydreams of lounging in the backyard, reading novel after novel and leisurely sipping lemonade while my little darlings played quietly together (?!?) went quickly to the wayside after daily demands of going to the spray park, another popsicle, help with the bubble machine, identifying each and every insect met and breaking up sisterly spats every 10 minutes. Luckily my parents offered me and my hubs a weeks vacation from the girls and it was pretty blissful. 

After a few false starts, I finally got to indulge in Paula Hawkins' sophomore novel, Into the Water and was fairly impressed.  

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I will admit that when going into this book, I had high hopes that Hawkins' would follow up her debut novel, The Girl on the Train with another fast paced psychological mind eff. And you know what, I was satisfied with the story overall. I will be excited for her third offering, should there be one. Paula Hawkins can write a page turner.

This book is interesting. It's interesting because despite loathing each character that's introduced, I kept wanting more. To be in Beckford sleuthing amongst its residents, to stand on the cliffs of the drowning pool and know of it's secrets and did Nel in fact, jump or fall to her death. I think it says something of the strength of Hawkins storytelling if a reader can literally not stand the subjects of the story yet continues to read about them. 

There are some challenges here and I can understand why some others gave the book a pass when first starting out. In a word it's confusing. There are an astounding amount of narrators in Into the Water, 11 in fact. I kept getting lost in who was who to whom, specifically Patrick/Sean/Helen until I finally made a note to keep myself on track. With each character having a rather short introduction, it reminded me of meeting people at a business function where you might be networking and trying your best to remember 'Tony' from GHW Accounting firm and 'Ben' from Custom House marketing. You know recalling them later is going to come in handy but when the card passing is fast and furious you often tend to lose the details and mix things up. When I finally managed to know each character and their meaning to the novel, the build up started happening. 

The story opens up with the death of Nel Abbott in a part of the town Beckford's river called the Drowning Pool. A place where women, troublesome women, have drowned or drowned themselves for the past century and longer. There are some that believe that the death was a suicide and others who clearly don't believe that theory. Nel herself was someone who swam in the river's waters each day and was near done writing a history of it's murky and horrific past.  As each narrator speculates the why and the how of it all, you begin to piece together Nel's history in the town and her relationships. You begin to understand Lena and the role she plays along with understanding some of the previous deaths in the Drowning Pool. Without giving away too much, it was hard to anticipate the ending, but I was left satisfied. 

Little Libraries - #YEG

A few months ago as I was driving to Zwick's pretzels for a mid afternoon snack (more about that later) and I spied a little library tucked down a road in Westmount. I had heard about these little mailbox-like book collections popping up in other cities (where there tends to be less snow) and was happily surprised to see one here in Edmonton. Throughout the summer it can be challenging to keep kids entertained without either going to the dreaded splash park (too many kids) or the everyday bribe of ice cream to have them play nicely together, so I kept a list of little (free!) things to do/visit and this was one of them. 

 

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This old, repurposed newspaper box was full of interesting books. Mostly those popular book club selections from the past 10 years with some eclectic novels thrown in. The setting around the box on someone's utterly charming property was quite sweet; they provided a little bench and garden on a tree lined road. The girls had much fun opening the door and looking through it, giving advice on what to take and lamenting that there weren't many books for little kids. As a pretty voracious reader myself, I had a few books in the car that had already been read and in my ever ending search for de-clutter and minimalism, I quickly gathered them up and put them in box to pass along while taking 1 novel for myself (Whirl Away, Russel Wangersky). 

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I'm planning on making a few trips with them in the autumn to other Little Libraries throughout Edmonton as little adventures and to leave books that they have outgrown. On our upcoming travels to other cities, I've made a note to myself to seek out these little libraries as something fun to do. If you know of any we should pop by anywhere, leave a comment below!

And of course, we stopped by Zwicks for a bag of salt and butter pretzel bites.

 

Here is a list of Little Libraries around Edmonton that I have found:

  • 125 Street, just south of 107 Ave on the east side of street
  • Robertson-Wesley United Church, 123 Street
  • Constable Ezio Faraone park, by the wood stairs
  • DECL, 10042 103 Ave
  • Snap Gallery on Jasper Ave
  • Grant Notley Park, close to the gazebo
  • Oliver Park, just slightly south of the playground

The Witches of New York - review

Ami McKay's third novel, The Witches of New York continues the tradition of her last two books of being female driven, folklore focused and taking place in an era gone by.    

The narrative pace of this story I found to be a bit slow to start with my full attention only being gained with the introduction of Beatrice Dunn. Beatrice is a young woman intrigued by an advertisement looking for a shop helper who should not be 'averse to magic'. She makes her journey into New York City and to 'Tea & Sympathy', the tea shop owned by Eleanor St Clair and Adelaide Thom, who specialize in not only tea, but the reading of leaves, potions and spells for their society clientele. 

The clever tale of these three women and their gifts, interwoven storylines and strong characters is enchanting.  Throughout the novel, it was all about the details. McKay intertwines the storyline with selections from Eleanor's grimoire (essentially a book of magic), lunar phases, excerpts from a book regarding a Salem witch, and newspaper 'clippings' which lend an evocative description of both nineteenth century New York and witchy things in general. There is an intriguing darkness throughout the plot paired with love and innocence.  Captivating supporting characters make this story whole, but leave you with unanswered questions and wanting more. Perdu, a raven who may not really be a bird; a pair of dream fairies and a few other humans that might lend more history to the characters of Adelaide and Eleanor.  The ending it self answers some questions, but leaves you wanting further resolution.

 As with all of her stories, there is a theme of independence, suffrage, and mysticism matched by strong females. While this was not my favourite of McKay's, it isn't one to pass by either. Although The Witches of New York may not yet be a prequel (but certainly could be) or a sequel (Adelaide/Moth is featured in The Virgin Cure) it is a compelling read.