The Best Books I Read In 2014

Book Reviews, Just for Fun

Books make excellent hostess gifts, gifts for coworkers, and even gifts for a boss. The question remains: how do you choose which book to gift to someone else? I’m big on word-of-mouth, if someone I know says that they loved a certain book, I’m probably going to buy it. So, in the spirit of helping others, I went through my reviews from 2014 and picked out eight of my absolute favourites. With various genres and storylines I’m sure they’ll be perfect for anyone on your list! Click the titles below the photos to read my reviews!

Us — The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry — The Bear — The Queen of Tearling — Not That Kind of Girl — The Opposite of Loneliness — Thrive — Wild 

“Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!”
― Neil Gaiman

– Vanessa

Lena Dunham in Conversation [Event Recap]

Book Reviews, Bursting the Bubble, Toronto Adventures


IMG_0742Yesterday was the perfect Fall day, 16 degrees with beaming sunshine and a cool breeze. It was also a perfect day in general because it was finally the day of a book event I booked tickets for over a month ago. This wasn’t just any book event — LENA DUNHAM IN CONVERSATION at the Appel Salon.

I headed to the city with the same ferocious anxiety and excitement I always get when heading to events, but this time it doubled (I haven’t felt like this since I met Jowita Bydlowska). I was actually going to meet Lena Dunham. I would be able to tell her how much her book meant to me, how my writing has changed since reading it, and how much I admire her… if I could get the words out of course.

After hours of waiting (okay it was only two and my mom and I got a glass of wine so it wasn’t so bad), Lena finally arrived. With newly dyed green hair, a gray bedazzled blazer, sparkly flats, and an infectious smile, Lena took the stage and read a chapter from Not That Kind of Girl. There’s nothing more exciting than hearing words that you love spoken by the author of the book. When she finished reading, she sat down for a chat with Johanna Schneller.

IMG_0752Lena is extremely smart, confident, and funny. With poise and conviction she talked about anxiety as a mental disorder, Girls, love, her relationship with the late Nora Ephron, body image, and her reason for writing. She said that she uses writing to connect with people and feel normal, to get to know herself. When it came to discussing personal essays written by women she said that in our culture there’s something threatening about women telling their stories without remorse, and she hopes to help change that. When asked about why she leaves her writing and her book so open-ended she was humble enough to admit that she’s still growing and changing, all she wants to do was share the little bit of knowledge that she has right now.

When sitting in a room of over 500 people it’s hard to imagine that you’ll connect with a person on a stage sitting eight feet away from you. But I did. Lena spoke to all of us like we were her girlfriends, like we were sitting down in our pyjamas, eating pizza and chips, talking about the most important issues facing our culture, and not being ashamed for any of it. I felt connected to the women and men around me, some of which were probably writers too. Lena opened our minds and our hearts, leaving us in awe and in stitches.

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When the time came to get my book signed by Lena, I was shaking. Everything I practiced saying to her flew out of my head and probably landed into someone else’s. It turns out that I yapped and hand-talked for almost a minute, but Lena was sweet and compassionate. She’s either a really great actress or she was genuinely touched by how much her book meant to me (I truly believe it was the latter).

Although I “learned” a lot from Lena last night, one thing that my mind keeps repeating is:

“It’s not nice to talk shit about yourself all of the time.”

 

Vanessa Xo

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

Book Reviews

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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.

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AND I DECIDED THEN THAT I WILL NEVER BE JEALOUS. I WILL NEVER BE VENGEFUL. I WON’T BE THREATENED BY THE OLD, OR BY THE NEW. I’LL OPEN WIDE LIKE A DAISY EVERY MORNING. I WILL MAKE MY WORK. (201)

 

Vanessa Xo

Joyful Traditions [Chapters Indigo Media Preview]

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Products and Brands, Toronto Adventures

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It was Christmas in July as me and my date walked into the Chapters Indigo head office last night. The white room was decked out in beautifully decorated Christmas trees, a giant sleigh, books galore, and some delicious holiday treats. According to one of the Chapters associates, the inspiration behind this holiday’s preview was Joyful Traditions. The room was split up between cozy Christmas cabin theme (fur, red, black, grey, camel, ivory, and charcoal colours) and Christmas in the city (icy winter pastels, white, gold, silver, and bronze).

I loved the cozy cottage look and was ready to take a nap in the sleigh filled with pillows. They’ve got some fantastic throw pillows coming up this Holiday, I’m thinking of purchasing one for my cousin and best friend. I paused a little longer than deemed normal at their fabulous desk section filled with beautiful journals, witty mugs, and chic pens. I also loved all of their travel items — beautiful passport holders, a cute case with tweezers and manicure essentials, a jewellery roll, and even sleeping masks.

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Along with all of these goodies there were tonnes of books to take a look at. There are so many great books being published this holiday season. I am most looking forward to Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham but I also can’t wait to grab a copy of The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion. I received an ARC of A Sudden Light by Garth Stein yesterday which was one of the books on their shelf too.

What I love about Chapters, apart from the books of course, is the range of products that they carry and the simplistic elegance of everything they sell. They have everything from mugs to great vegan totes, DIY drink kits, scarves, wallets, gourmet sweets, and even some pretty sweet tech gadgets! You can find everything you need and want in one place.

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Thank you to Indigo for inviting me to such a great event! I’ve never been to one of your media previews and I am happy to say that you’ve got me itching to do some major shopping when these products launch!

Love Always and Forever,

Vanessa Xo