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

That Time I Met David Nicholls [Event Recap]

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Toronto Adventures

Once in a while HarperCollins Canada hosts an intimate gathering with their Facebook fans, one of their authors, and a spectacular interviewee. This event celebrated David Nicholls, author of One Day and Us (which just came out). From what the Facebook invite said, guests would get to listen in on an interview between the epic Laurie Grassi and David Nicholls, then get their book signed. My love for Us demanded that I attend.

On Sunday afternoon I headed down to the HarperCollins offices and was greeted with smiling faces, hot coffee, and yummy snacks. The interview got underway rather quickly, David Nicholls lit up the room with his warm English accent and humble disposition. With cues from Laurie Grassi, he spoke about wanting to write a novel about what happens next, what happens after the dating and the courting. Us is what happens after the I do’s.

He spoke about the theme of changing over time, about journeys and the way they effect you. He discussed the characters in the novel having reasons behind their actions — this is what the other readers and I found so loveable about them. Douglas, however maddening, always acts with reason. In response to Douglas’ annoying traits, Laurie Grassi brought up one of my favourite lines in the book: The fact was I loved my wife to a degree that I found impossible to express, and so rarely did (page 27 of the ARC). David Nicholls purposely chose Douglas’ point of view to tell the story because he has trouble expressing himself. That is what makes him so vulnerable and sometimes rather stupid.

Although I loved hearing about the inspiration behind the book, what I enjoyed most was the discussion on various writing tools. He spoke about how important structure was to writing Us, the short chapters and interweaving Connie and Douglas’ meeting with their trip around Europe 25 years into their marriage, had a purpose. The structure not only made it easier to write the book, but also made the reader want to just read one more chapter, one more chapter.

When asked about what makes him want to keep writing, he shifted in his chair, fixed his glasses and said, “I just really love it. When I was acting, what I really loved about it were the words on the page. It’s a great privilege to do it for a living. I just love it, plus I have a contract with my publisher…”

There’s something quite fascinating about listening to the author of a novel that you love discuss their own work. What struck me about David was how funny he is and how quirky his comments could be. He’s clearly very passionate about his work, and answered all questions with vigor and excitement. He was honestly humbled by the amount of people who turned up for the event and took his time signing books and chatting with each fan. While he signed my copy I asked him if he had any advice for an aspiring novelist. He paused for a moment, thought deeply, and replied:

If you’re going to write, you have to read, that’s where ideas come from. Then you need to show people your work, believe in yourself enough to show your family and friends. Oh and stay away from the Internet, it’s quite distracting.

Thank you HarperCollins for hosting such a lovely event, I’ve never met an author in such an intimate and charming setting. Count me in for the next one!

– Vanessa

 

US by David Nicholls [Book Review]

Book Reviews

9780062365583

When I asked Kaiti from HarperCollins Canada for a jaw-dropping emotional smorgasbord of a book, she sent over a copy of Us by David Nicholls. She warned me of the sadness and tenderness that this novel encompasses but I don’t think it prepared me enough for the outcome.

Douglas Peterson is the narrator of the story. He reminded me of genetics professor Don Tillman from The Rosie Project; quirky, brilliant, a little weird, and loveable beyond all measure. Us follows his journey nay, mission to keep his family together. After nearly twenty-five years of a happy marriage, Connie (his wife), turns to him one night in bed and says that she thinks she wants to leave him when their son goes off to university. Douglas does not see this coming and vows that on their last family trip across Europe he will mend his relationship with his wife and create a better relationship with his son Albie. He’s a thinker, a fighter, and in spite of his shortcomings, he loves his wife more than anything.

The fact was I loved my wife to a degree that I found impossible to express, and so rarely did.
(Page 27 of the ARC)

What you endure while reading this novel is nothing short of breathtaking. Douglas’s walks down memory lane, his awkward moments with his wife and son while in Europe, and his regrettable mistakes make him the most loveable character I’ve ever encountered. He is very much himself and David Nicholls has a wonderful way of bringing his voice to life. I found myself writing all over my copy of this book. I love all kinds of love, I love family and relationships, and I love hope and change. So every single time I found a line I wanted to remember, I circled it, highlighted it, and read it aloud to my mom.

Still, as the decade drew to a close things were clearly happening, albeit elsewhere and to other people, and I quietly wondered if a change was due in my life, too, and how I might bring that about. 
(page 10 of the arc)

The fact of the matter is that life is full of changes, ones that you have control over and ones that you don’t. David Nicholls has a brilliant way of examining these changes and portraying them with brutal and loving honesty. I think anyone who has ever been in a relationship can gain something from reading Us. Even those who haven’t will undoubtedly learn something about themselves and the way that this crazy world works.

‘Why would you want to have the same experience as everyone else? Why join the herd?’
(Page 71 of the ARC)

Vanessa xo