A Robot in the Garden [Book Review]

Book Reviews

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I read the loveliest book from Penguin Random House this past weekend. A Robot in the Garden is a coming-of-age story about finding love in the unlikeliest of place. It’s about self-love and self-worth, about grieving and forgiveness. It’s about taking chances and doing what is right, regardless of the risks involved.

For floundering 34-year-old Ben Chambers the answer is obvious: find out where it came from and take it there to be fixed, even if it means risking his marriage in the process. Determined to achieve something for once in his life, Ben embarks on a journey that takes him and the endearing robot, Tang, to the far side of the globe…and back again. Together they will discover that friendship can rise up under the strangest circumstances, and that Artificial Intelligence can teach a man what it is to be human. 

WHY I LOVED A ROBOT IN THE GARDEN 

  • There is so much beauty in it, from the cover to the characters to the words
  • It’s been a while since I picked up a book and got the warm-and-fuzzies with every page I turned (I haven’t cried this much over a book since The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry)
  • I could tell that Deborah Install LOVED writing this book, you could feel her passion for the written word and the basic human condition in every single sentence
  • It made me feel good about life
  • It is essentially about finding love and creating your own happiness, and I love love.

Here was a robot who didn’t understand the concept of ‘why’, who struggled with the idea of motivations…But of all the complex human emotions he could have settled on, he seemed to understand love. (page 168 of the ARC)

Look out for A Robot in the Garden in June! 

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo 

Lost & Found [Book Review]

Book Reviews

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Penguin Random House sent me a copy of Lost & Found by Brooke Davis to review and just as I assumed, I could not put it down. With unforgettable characters and unwavering wit, Lost & Found had me feeling all the same wonderful sensations as The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and A Man Called Ove. Filled with love, death, and about a million relatable quotes, Millie Bird (a seven-year-old in search of her mother after she left her in a department store), Agatha Pantha (an eighty-two-year-old obsessed with aging, her strict schedule, and staying indoors at all times), and Karl the Typist (a romantic eighty-seven-year-old trying desperately to prove himself a useful man) take the reader on the adventure of a lifetime.

It seems strange to want to find yourself. Wouldn’t you want to find someone else? Aren’t you the one thing you can be sure of? (139)

Lost & Found is essentially about losing yourself in order to find yourself — a concept that all three main characters have trouble with. It’s about being open to change, to living, and to dying. It’s about seeing what life and death are like through the eyes of a child, as well as, through the eyes of a man and woman who have seemingly seen it all. It’s about lasts, it’s about firsts, and it is a blissfully beautiful read.

Maybe when you let out your last breath, you let out everything, your memories and thoughts and things you wished you’d said and the things you wish you didn’t say and the pictures in your of head of hot coffee stream and the last look on your dad’s face and the feeling of mud between your fingers and the wind when you run down a hill and the color of everything, ever. (150)

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust [Book Review]

Book Reviews
Photo from the goodreads website

Photo from the Goodreads website

I finished book seven of the Flavia de Luce series last week and let me tell you that I’m still reeling with excitement. In book seven we follow Flavia from England to Canada (Toronto to be specific), where she has been banished. She is now a student of  Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy — where her mother once attended as well. A de Luce novel wouldn’t be a de Luce novel without a few disappearances, a bit of chemistry, and a corpse. On her first evening at the academy, a series of events leads to a burned corpse crashing out of the chimney in Flavia’s bedroom. In true form, Flavia nips a piece of evidence off the corpse and begins an investigation going back two years in the history of the academy. Whose body was shoved up the chimney and why were they murdered in the first place?

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust is just as wonderfully written as the last six novels. It’s filled with history, mystery, and undeniable suspense. I love how this novel is about more than death, it’s about growing up, making choices and living with the consequences. It’s about adventure and sadness, redemption and love. Alan Bradley has an incredible talent, where he spreads your mind all over the place and brings it right back to the beginning, which is actually the end. Although as the mystery unfolds, the plot gets more complicated, all questions are neatly answered by the very last page.

What could I do? What could I say? The whole world has suddenly, and without warning, revealed itself to be far larger a place than ever I could have dreamed of. I was standing at the edge of a very great abyss whose further lip was so far beyond imagination that only faith could bridge the gap. It was, I suppose, the bridge connecting childhood with whatever vast unknown might lie beyond. (pg 160)

 

Although Flavia is essentially the same girl, you can tell that her character has grown immensely. Having to be away from any of her comforts has forced her to fend for herself in an entirely different way. The only thing I disliked about this novel was that Buckshaw was nowhere in sight, we barely heard from dear old Dogger and Daphne and Ophelia were nowhere in sight. I missed all of the wonderful characters that Flavia left back in England.

I plan on snooping the Internet for clues that there will be a book eight. There has to be! It just wouldn’t feel right to go another year or two without having an adventure with my favourite sleuth. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust will be on sale January 6th, 2015, which gives you just enough time to read the first six books 😉

– Vanessa

Disclosure: I requested a copy of As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

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!

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– Vanessa

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

Women in Clothes [BOOK REVIEW]

Book Reviews, Fashion & Beauty

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Women in Clothes is a collection of surveys about garments of clothing and how they shape our lives. It’s an intriguing 500+ page conversation that you’d have with your girlfriends, reflecting on all aspects of clothing, garments, and beauty. I loved the photos of real women’s clothing collections from the false eyelashes and dress sets, to grey sweaters and raincoats– proving that all women have a type of garment they covet more than anything. I enjoyed reading the various features and found that I had something in common with the way that each woman dresses.

I know the kind of dresser I want to be — a sophisticated, classy, vintage goddess with so much sass it turns heads. When I picture myself working and living in Toronto, that’s what I see. In reality I live so far north of the city it’s a mission to get down there, and the closest I’ve come to vintage is wearing the clothes my best friend gives away. She’s got great taste but our bodies are so different that her clothes never look right on me, I feel strange when I wear them, like I’m pretending to be someone else. Funds, patience, and the mindset that I don’t have to look great if I’m just running errands has dictated my style for years, but I am willing to change. I’m willing to take a good hard look at who I am and let my clothing express that. Even the best dressed women put on their pants one leg at a time.

There is no exact science to the way I dress but I do have a few rules for myself:

  • NEVER wear a tight top with wearing leggings or tights, make sure the top is loose and covers your crotch
  • if your pants are baggy wear a tighter shirt and vice versa
  • tuck in your shirts when wearing high-waisted pants
  • heels and a blazer make every outfit better
  • jewelry is your friend — your mom has a boatload for you to borrow

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Women in Clothes has so many layers of information, stories, and photos. I found the project called Ring Cycle truly interesting — fifteen women who work in a newspaper office photocopy their hands and talk about their rings. I enjoyed learning where and how these women came to own their rings — it made me look at the only ring I wear a little differently. My boyfriend bought it for me for Valentine’s day about four years ago, it’s technically a promise ring with a blue diamond (representing honesty, fidelity, and love) hidden on the inside of the band. He doesn’t call it a promise ring though, it’s a just because I love you so much ring. I wear it on the middle finger of my left hand because I felt it would be bad luck to wear it on my wedding finger. It’s white gold, simple and beautiful. I never take it off (except to shower and sleep) and I’ll never forget his bashful face or nervously sweaty temples when he handed it to me.

Another one of their projects entitled Mothers As Others was incredibly moving and wonderful to read. The premise was for women to send in a photo of their mother before she had children and write what they saw. While reading, I couldn’t help but wonder what their mothers’ reactions would be to what their daughters thought about them. Do they know how beautiful their daughters think they are? How much they inspired their lives, as well as fashion? I found a few photos of my mom before she had kids, these might have even been taken before she met my dad. She’s probably only eighteen or nineteen but she looks mature for her age. She looks confident and happy in her own skin, she appears strong and fierce, like she knows exactly where she’s supposed to be. She’s beautiful and her smile is endless. She’s got amazing hair (look at those bangs) and knows how to dress for her figure. I love the high-waist skirts and pants, the belts, and the collared shirts she wears. My mom still has a great sense for fashion (she helps me pick outfits all the time), a timeless style, and sometimes I see glimpses of the confidence she embodied all those years ago.

The best part about Women in Clothes is not the great writing or even the interesting surveys, it’s being able to place each survey or project into the confines of your own life. I learned so much about myself, my style, and the person I want to share with the world by reading this book. Although this book has a lot to do with clothes, how we wear them, and how we feel in them, mostly it shows the reader that they are not alone. There are so many women out there that think like you, that have the same insecurities and questions about clothing as you, just open the book to page one and you’ll find that out.

 “Taste is a wink, not a thud.”

Talk soon,
Vanessa
* Quote from page 22 of Women in Clothes
*Thanks to Penguin Random House for this book
*Thoughts are my own