Where have all the good books gone? 

Book Reviews

You may have noticed that book reviews on My Pen, My Voice are virtually non-existant right now. I assure you that this doesn’t mean I won’t write them anymore, nor does it mean that I haven’t been reading. Like all readers, I go through reading lulls from time to time. I either eat a book up or nurse it over a two to three week span. Sometimes I’ll even carry around a book for months and read random passages, short fragments, and chapters whenever the mood strikes me.

That’s the best thing about books though; regardless of how, why, or when, they’re always there for you to open them up. Recently I devoured Room, had my mind blown by Big Magic, laughed through Why Not Me, and nurtured M Train. Each book offered up a different experience that I enjoyed equally, so why haven’t I reviewed them? It’s mostly due to time constraints. The last month or so has been insane and book reviews deserve thought and dedication.

Although each of these books deserve a separate, all I can offer right now is this: read them. Whether it be slowly, quickly, or in fragments; they won’t disappoint.




Book and Blog Tour(ish)

Book Reviews, Lifestyle/Personal

IMG_1793Many of you know that I published my first book in February of 2011. My Pen, My Voice is not only my diary but also the inspiration behind this blog — behind the reason for sharing my writing online. I’ve decided that I haven’t quite finished with My Pen, My Voice, as such I’ve sent copies out to various bloggers in hopes to get some honest reviews of it. Positive or negative I will post links to the reviews right here, via Twitter, and Facebook. Below you will find the dates and blogs that my book will be reviewed on (as more bloggers sign on, I’ll add them too).

I’m a little nervous about all this since some of these reviewers have never met me and therefore have no reason to give me a positive review. They have promised to tell me their honest opinion and although I advocate honesty and I promised to share ALL reviews, including the negative.

The fun will begin on July 22nd and continue every Monday after until the end of August (hopefully). If you’ve read my book, feel free to share your thoughts and insights on these blogs or right here in the comments.

July 22nd – Review on I Believe in Story by Maria Vicente

July 29th – Review on Books Etc. by Kaley Stewart

August 5th – Review on Ham and Eggs by Karlee May

August 19th – Review on Words of Mystery by LLN

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

"I'm with you. Right now. That's all. No more and no less."

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Is it a coincidence that I haven’t stepped foot in a hospital in years and just as I’m getting to the core of The End of Your Life Book Club I find myself in a hospital waiting room? My boyfriend got his gallbladder removed on Friday and after being in the hospital for so many hours, waiting and worried, Will Schwalbe’s story really got to me.

A man sharing his story about his mother’s journey through her pancreatic cancer treatment is more incredible than I imagined. After Mary Anne is diagnosed with cancer, she and her son start their very own book club for two. They read the same books and discuss them at her chemo treatments. I still think about Mary Anne and Will as ‘characters’, as if what I’ve just read didn’t actually happen to someone. Mary Anne’s life and accomplishments are so extraordinary that as I updated my Good reads progress on this memoir, I had to remind myself that it is a very real story.

I learned a tremendous amount from Mary Anne Schwalbe and I feverishly underlined my favourite quotes (most of which were said by her). I learned about time, making time, being thankful, and enjoying every moment. I learned about kindness and the power it has to change someone’s life. I also learned about books.

“Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying,” (page 7).

This memoir fuelled my love for books. It reminded me that books are there to be devoured, to help you talk to people, to be shared. Books are there to hold you and to heal you. I made a list of books that Will and his mother included in their book club that I want to read. Each book they read taught them something and made their lives a little more rich.

This memoir is about books but it is so much more than that. It’s a page-turner that teaches you many things. It takes you on this incredibly sad and wonderful journey and makes you want to be the best person you can be. I am so glad that I chose this memoir as one of my books to review for Random House Canada. As a girl who rarely picks up non-fiction, I can honestly say that it opened my eyes, my heart, and my mind to this genre, to person I am, and to the woman I hope to become.

Love Always
Vanessa Xo
Synopsis (from the Random House of Canada Limited website)
“What are you reading?”
That’s the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less.
This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.
Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other—and rediscover their lives—through their favorite books. When they read, they aren’t a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will’s love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page.

“It’s Torono, they don’t pronounce the t” – Argo

Just for Fun, Toronto Adventures

Yesterday I experienced Tiff for the first time. Of course it’s nearing the end of the festival so there were no stars in sight but it was an awesome day nonetheless.


We (the bf, Chicago friends, and myself) watched Argo and End of Watch – as you can see in the picture above. Argo was amazing! My heart raced throughout the entire film and in spite of the serious content it made me laugh a lot, I loved the lines that had to do with Toronto or Canada. The best part about the film is that it’s based on real events – a classified mission that was declassified mere years ago. End of Watch was completely different but just as funny and entertaining, although I did have a tough time enjoying the camera shots in the beginning of the film.



End of Watch will be in theatres soon and I recommend that you check out BOTH films! I also recommend checking out a few films at Tiff next year. Watching a film at the beautiful Elgin theatre, surrounded by movie lovers is an unreal experience. The audience claps, they cheer, and they scream “RRRRrrrrrr” when the movie piracy commercial comes on. It feels like your apart of something, it feels like you’re all there for the same reason. It’s nice to be apart of the film community, even just for a night or two.

Films are a great way to tell stories, although not as much is left up to the imagination, it’s still a great way to SHOW a story, to connect with people, to take them away from their world for a few hours and teach them something new.

Long live good films, good books, good music, and all of the wonderful people who create them. 

Love Always
Vanessa Xo