Wake The Stone Man [Book Review]

Book Reviews


In April I received a copy of the Beacon Award for Social Justice Literature (2014) winner, Wake The Stone Man, from Fernwood Publishing. At first I didn’t know what to make of it, there was so much going on! But once I was ready to take it all in I became completely enveloped in the story.

Molly and Nakina meet in Fort Mckay, a small Northern town, with a mythical stone man who “watches” over the inhabitants. Nakina is Ojibwe, which translates to having a difficult time fitting in and keeping safe. She is beautiful, womanly, and strong. Molly, on the other hand, is rail thin and quietly curious. I really got into the story when I realized how similar I am to Molly. We like to read, watch, and then create — for her it’s art, for me it’s words.

Wake The Stone Man depicts a friendship that many readers can relate to; filled with fear, guilt, love, happiness, and regret. Their losses both individually and together fuel the novel and give the storyline its gumption. It is written from Molly’s point of view with honesty and integrity. Carol McDougall has written a novel ending with an epic reminder that life can indeed go wrong, but sticking around is sometimes the best thing you can do.

She reminds the reader that circumstances have a way of going full-circle and that it is important to continue to search for answers. McDougall reminds her readers that they have the strength and courage to change their own lives, and the world.

“…I decided goodnuff wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted more. I wanted out. I kept thinking about that girl I’d seen trying to escape over the fence of the residential school. I figured she wanted out too.” (11)

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo


Set in a small northern town, under the mythical shadow of the Sleeping Giant, Wake the Stone Man follows the complicated friendship of two girls coming of age in the 1960s. Molly meets Nakina, who is Ojibwe and a survivor of the residential school system, in high school, and they form a strong friendship. As the bond between them grows, Molly, who is not native, finds herself a silent witness to the racism and abuse her friend must face each day.

In this time of political awakening, Molly turns to her camera to try to make sense of the intolerance she sees in the world around her. Her photos become a way to freeze time and observe the complex human politics of her hometown. Her search for understanding uncovers some hard truths about Nakina’s past and leaves Molly with a growing sense of guilt over her own silence.

When personal tragedy tears them apart, Molly must travel a long hard road in search of forgiveness and friendship.

Little White Lies [Book Review]

Book Reviews

9780385670784Every time I go through a reading lull, I pick up a YA novel. They’re quick and easy distractions from everyday life and tend to be intense page-turners. Little White Lies by Katie Dale is everything a YA novel should be. It has suspense and romance equal to The Hunger Games, Wild Girls, and even We Were Liars. It’s fun, stunningly intense, and an overall enjoyable read. I read the last 250 pages in one afternoon, flipping furiously because I HAD TO KNOW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT.

When Lou meets Christian she knows that he’s hiding something, but for some reason she can’t build up the gull to call him out on it. In spite of her own lies and deceit she falls in love with this hair-dyed, blue-eyed mystery man. Not realizing how dangerous his secrets are, Lou finds herself in compromising situations. As the lies (from both Lou and Christian) pile on, Lou finds it difficult to keep up. Her tangled web of lies forces her to make a tough decision between her family, the man she loves, and the truth.

“I don’t want to be me anymore. I’m out of my depth and now I don’t know what to think, what to believe, what to feel. I don’t know what the truth is, what I want the truth to be…” (page 234)

What I love about Little White Lies is that although it is pure entertainment, it has meaning. It is a well thought out story and it plays on the idea that everything is connected. It understands that fate exists even if it needs a helping-hand. It delves into the heart of wearing masks, keeping secrets, and doing the right thing no matter the cost. It questions the meaning of a lie and begs to ask if telling a white lie is okay. It pulls apart the very fabric of truth and reminds the reader that just because lying is easier, that doesn’t mean it will make things better.

Little White Lies gets five stars from me and would recommend it to any YA lover or anyone who needs a great book to get them back into their reading groove!


– Vanessa

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of Little White Lies from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Not That Kind of Girl [Book Review/Thank You]

Book Reviews


I’ve been excited to read Not That Kind of Girl since my interning days at Random House Canada when the book was first announced. I’ve watched Girls on HBO and love it but my admiration for Lena Dunham has more so to do with her words and her kick-ass attitude than her acting. Not That Kind of Girl feels like you’re reading a script from Girls, except it’s a tad more poetic and 100% real. Lena holds nothing back, sharing insights and stories about love, sex, her body, friendship, work, and family life. She writes with honesty, conviction, and passion. In sharing everything she’s “learned’ you can’t help but learn something about yourself or about the person you want to be.

Lena’s book doesn’t need to be reviewed. No matter what I say fans  will still flock to bookshops and purchase their own copy. In the big scheme of publicity, my review will not boost her sales or gain her fans, so instead of writing a review I’d rather write a thank you.

Thank you for expressing everything that I have ever felt, witnessed, or experienced in a kick-ass, unforgiving way. Thank you understanding the basic human condition, that we are all assholes who are afraid of death. Thank you for making the personal essay cool, valid, relatable, honest, and smart. For publishing the kind of words that fill voids, generate laughter, and banish embarrassment. Reading your book has given me the courage to continue writing personal essays, to share my thoughts with the world, and to challenge myself as a writer. Thank you for showing me that every story is important and that my thoughts are valid.





Vanessa Xo

Nowhere to Run [Book Cover Reveal]

Book Reviews


Jeanne Bannon wears many hats. I know her as an author, friend, awesome person, and writing mentor. I met Jeanne a few years back and have been following her writing success with admiration and excitement. I read her debut novel Invisible (a young adult paranormal romance) in less than a day and have been waiting (impatiently) for her next book. I’m thrilled to reveal the cover for Nowhere to Run, which will be released on October 3rd. I got to read an excerpt of the novel and cannot wait to get my hands on a copy!


What’s a girl to do when she falls in love with the man whose mission it is to bring her down?

With the murder of her only sister, Sara, just a few months past, Lily Valier—a woman of beauty and substance—tops the sheriff’s list of suspects in small town Maine, and for a very good reason. Dear old Dad had willed his fortune to Sara and only Sara, leaving Lily to fend for herself. However, with no murder weapon or witnesses, the evidence against Lily is only circumstantial.

Enter P.I. Aiden O’Rourke, black-haired and blue-eyed, charged with gaining Lily’s trust and learning her secrets, all to finally get the goods on her. Things move fast and feelings run deep, yet when Lily discovers the truth about Aiden, everything begins to come apart.

Aiden’s torn. Despite his feelings for her, Lily is the most logical suspect, with a great big fat motive. Except something’s not quite right. Aiden trusts his instincts and they’re screaming at him to have a look at a former suspect with far more to hide than first appeared. With little left to lose, Lily decides to stand her ground, and staying put has its consequences when the murder weapon finally turns up—and it’s Lily’s gun. What happens to love, when trust is betrayed?

Congratulations on the second novel, Jeanne!
looking forward to the book launch! 
Talk soon,

"For some unknown but surely stupid reason, I felt sure things would be all right."

Book Reviews, Just for Fun

My latest Random House Read is The Child’s Child by Barbara Vine (BARBARA VINE is a pseudonym for Ruth Rendell).


Never in all my life have I been so torn by a character. Let me explain, The Child’s Child is a book within a book, a story within a story. The lives of a brother and sister who lived many years ago (John and Maud) mirroring the lives of a brother and sister of 2011 (Grace and Andrew). Maud, the most talked about character, really stumped me. Maud is a hypocrite and to an ugly extent. Because of this, I didn’t know whether to pity her or hate her – I certainly didn’t love her, as you can see from my goodreads updates below.

photoHowever I did enjoy meeting Grace, Andrew, Hope, and James. I despised Bertie from the moment he was introduced and I felt deeply sorry for John – a wonderfully romantic man who constantly strived to do the right thing. This novel is about betrayal and deception. It’s about having to lie to escape different kinds of persecution. It’s about the pain one must endure when they live a lie and the consequences they face when a lie turns out to do more harm than good.

I learned a lot from this novel and I am thankful that I have never endured the things that some of these characters went through. I am thankful that I read this novel. A fair warning to you all, it is slower than I expected for a mystery BUT it’s completely worth it. The pace of this novel kept the suspense alive, the descriptions were wonderfully haunting, and the characters really made me think. What more could you ask for in a book?


Love Always
Vanessa Xo
Synopsis (from the Random House of Canada Limited website)
When their grandmother dies, Grace and Andrew Easton inherit her sprawling, book-filled London home, Dinmont House. Rather than sell it, the adult siblings move in together, splitting the numerous bedrooms and studies. The arrangement is unusual, but ideal for the affectionate pair — until the day Andrew brings home a new boyfriend. A devilishly handsome novelist, James Derain resembles Cary Grant, but his strident comments about Grace’s doctoral thesis soon puncture the house’s idyllic atmosphere. When he and Andrew witness their friend’s murder outside a London nightclub, James begins to unravel, and what happens next will change the lives of everyone in the house.
Just as turmoil sets in at Dinmont House, Grace escapes into reading a manuscript — a long-lost novel from 1951 called The Child’s Child — never published, owing to its frank depictions of an unwed mother and a homosexual relationship. The book is the story of two siblings born a few years after World War One. This brother and sister, John and Maud, mirror the present-day Andrew and Grace: a homosexual brother and a sister carrying an illegitimate child. Acts of violence and sex will reverberate through their stories.
The Child’s Child is an ingenious novel-within-a-novel about family, betrayal, and disgrace. A master of psychological suspense, Ruth Rendell, writing as Barbara Vine, takes us where violence and social taboos collide. She shows how society’s treatment of those it once considered undesirable has changed — and how sometimes it hasn’t.