It’s Literally a Book Club

books on books on books
books on books on books!

Hello readers,

Last Friday, I met with my lovely book club for the very first time to chat about Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train. We had a great discussion about how the story unfolded, which characters we liked and couldn’t stand, and even shared some (often outlandish) alternate endings and plot line theories. It was good times! At some point in the evening, we also took a moment to give our book club an official title. We got pretty creative, I won’t lie. Right now, we’re rolling with “It’s Literally a Book Club”. So much love for my friends.

If you and your book club are currently reading The Girl On The Train or plan to read it in the next few months, Penguin Books USA has an excellent discussion guide. You can follow the guide to the letter or use it as a jumping-off point. We had so many opinions and thoughts to share that we didn’t really use the guide but I found the questions helpful for keeping the discussion on track.

Here are our thoughts:

  1. Hawkins’ main character Rachel is an unreliable narrator – she has memory issues, alcohol dependency issues, peeping-tom issues, self-esteem issues…the list goes on. For some of us, this created confusion – the timeline jumps around a lot and there are big chunks of time missing from Rachel’s narration, leaving us wondering what the heck she is doing during those blank afternoons. For the rest of us, we found that Rachel’s unreliability was a clever writing tactic. Hawkins didn’t have to explain everything and pieces to the puzzle were deliberately missing – our job as readers was to fill in those holes with assumptions and theories. This dynamic made for an interesting read and kept a lot of us guessing throughout the entire book.
  2. Some of us saw the ending coming from a mile away (mainly, me). I don’t know why, but I thought that this was a pretty predictable whodunit and even though Hawkins throws a few red herrings at us to keep us in the dark about what really happened, I rarely strayed from my hypothesis about ‘misogyny man’ (you’ll know who I mean). However, a few of us had entirely different expectations about this book’s outcome…
  3. RIFF OFF: Multiple Personality Disorder Theory. Miranda and Whitney totally thought that all three female narrators – Rachel, Anna, and Megan – were, in fact, one person. Brilliant! This theory by far led our discussion because it had the rest of us reeling. It was a plot line none of the rest of us considered! Honestly, by the end of the night, we all thought that a multiple personality disorder twist would have made for a better story – sorry, Paula!
  4. While Rachel’s unreliability as a narrator is effective, one thing that a few of us found upsetting was her alcoholism and how the disease was portrayed in the book. However, we all realized that while something may be upsetting, that doesn’t mean it isn’t real or true or important to examine. Alcoholism, to many people, is sad, destructive, pathetic, weak…and those aren’t qualities we typically like to associate with our protagonists. We like heroes and Rachel doesn’t seem like much of one. In fact, sometimes we suspect her to be the story’s villain. Rachel does begin to pull through and find purpose though. The minute she starts seeing a shrink (albeit for ulterior motives), you start getting the sense that this woman will get better – and I think that she does.
  5. Another thing we noticed: fat shaming. I’m not sure if it’s a UK-cultural thing but the way Hawkins describes Rachel and puts her down really turned a few of us off. This could have been another tactic used by Hawkins to illustrate how defeated Rachel is, but the association of a certain weight with failure and weakness was straight up rude. We didn’t like it. Another interesting thing: a few of us couldn’t imagine Rachel (Kaeri and I still can’t picture her face!) and this made her hard to identify with.
  6. HOLY MOM ISSUES BATMAN. The underlying tension throughout the book is motherhood and how it defines women. Rachel’s life fell apart because she couldn’t be a mom, Megan’s life fell apart when she became a mom and then had crazy shit happen to her (I’m not exaggerating!), and Anna’s life got better after the birth of her daughter (she found fulfilment). It’s fascinating how Hawkins developed her characters around motherhood in such diverse ways.

The character we liked the most: Megan
The scene that shocked us the most: toss up between the Rachel-Scott fling or Megan’s baby backstory
What we wanted more of: more Rachel + Anna teamwork

At the end of the night, we sat in our little circle and raised our hands in a vote to rate this book. We settled on giving this book 3/5 stars. It certainly was a page-turner (you will want to find out what happens!). Next up, we’ll be reading Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, another thrilling whodunit mystery. I can’t wait to dive into this one. In all, we had a great time reading and then discussing The Girl On The Train.

One comment I heard a few times during the evening had me positively glowing: a few of my girlfriends confessed to not reading very much any more and were so glad to have a reason to read again. They all expressed how much this experience made them realize how much they enjoyed and missed reading – follow their lead: start a new book and (re)discover your love of reading this weekend!

Happy reading,
Katrina


PS: If you are a fan of Game of Thrones and watched the premier of season 5 last weekend, check out this fantastic analysis: http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/game-of-thrones-season-5-episode-1-recap-the-wars-to-come/

Face Off: Narnia versus Book of Negroes

Hello readers,

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter long weekend – mine was filled with Netflix (Treasure Planet with the cousins!) and chocolate (birthday) cake. It was fantastic.

While we look forward to the premier of season five of Game of Thrones this Sunday (read my last blog post if you’re out of the loop), here’s a quickie post on a few book-related things to keep you going…


This year's full roster for HCC March Madness.
This year’s full roster for HCC March Madness.

#HCCMarchMadness, Harper Collins Canada’s spin on the college basketball tournament, is finally coming to a close this week, with two heavy-hitters in the top spots duking it out for the win (duking it out…Duke…get it? Clever, right?). The top choices are: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, or The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, both favourites of mine. I know I’ll be happy with either one as winner – which one will you choose? Today is the last day to vote – the winner will be announced tomorrow. Exciting. Get your votes in, as you have a chance to win all 64 books in that were this year’s tournament.

Who do you think will win??
Who do you think will win?? Get your votes in today!

The next best thing: the Buzzfeed Books newsletter. I’m always looking for a good book and I like getting recommendations from a variety of sources – you never know what’s out there until you look! All you have to do is sign your email up to receive the weekly e-newsletter (it comes out on Wednesdays) and read away. My favourite part of the BuzzFeed Books site: the curated quizzes, natch (all you could ever be asked about Harry Potter!).

A few of the fun posts on BuzzFeed Books.
A few of the fun posts on BuzzFeed Books. Totally worth checking out. Be warned: you’ll waste a lot of time doing quizzes!

Tomorrow night, I’m getting together with my book club for our inaugural meeting – we’ll be chatting about The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins and I can’t wait to hear what my friends thought of the book. I’ll be sharing some of our thoughts and reflections on the blog next week – if you read the book, leave your comments here for discussion!

Happy reading,
Katrina

Bright lights and the big city….of Lockport

Hello readers,

Today we’re taking a break from books (I know, how dare we cheat on books?!) to talk about Lockport. Lockport, you ask? Yes, friends, the cute little hamlet of Lockport, located 25 km north of Winnipeg.

I visited a shop in town that is oh-so-cute, so I wanted to share some photos and a story with you!


 

Huda Haddad, owner of Eveline Street Clothing boutique, is in a rush to make it to the airport. She’s celebrating her one-year wedding anniversary in Banff and her flight leaves in an hour.

 

“I’m just leaving but come in and play. Try on anything you want. Try on these shoes,” she says, pointing to a bright green and purple pair. “You’ll love them. Most of these are custom. I have the best selection of Fluevogs in Manitoba.”

Fluevog Shoes
Fluevog Shoes

 

With that, she hands the store keys off to long-time customer-turned-employee Jaime Bouw and hits the road.

 

“That’s Huda,” says Bouw, 55, laughing. “She’s a whirlwind.”

 

Bouw is working her first shift alone at the store. Her regular gig is teaching girls about self-esteem and body positivity at a school in St. Andrews. She also teaches classes at Growing Years, a family resource centre in Selkirk. This weekend, she’s helping out at the boutique while Haddad is away.

cute clothes!
cute clothes!

 

Bouw gives us full run of the store, letting us try on dresses and rearrange shoe displays for photographs. When I hold up a coral sundress and ask its size, Bouw tells me that it’s one-size-fits-all.

 

Haddad says that Eveline Street is all about loving who you are. Size doesn’t matter here.

 

“I really feel strongly that women need to love their bodies,” Bouw says. “You come in here and everything fits you.”

 

“Huda’s so capable of making you feel like the most beautiful person in the world, no matter what you’re wearing,” she says. “I think that’s what women are looking for.”

 

Haddad’s 21-year-old business has been built on creating relationships with the women that visit her store.

 

“This is a different kind of shopping experience,” Bouw explains. “It’s not just about making money – she delivers so much more.”

 

cozy!
cozy!

Open seven days a week from noon to 5 p.m., and located 25 kilometers north of Winnipeg, Haddad’s store is a stone’s throw from Lockport’s legendary locks. You can find the rustic shop beside Lockport Grocery – General Store and Liquor Vendor on Highway 44. For more information about Lockport, visit http://www.lockportmanitoba.ca. You can also visit Haddad’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/EvelineStreetClothing.

When you visit Eveline Street Clothing, you are guaranteed to gain a few friends and a boost in self-confidence. You may leave Lockport with a lighter wallet, but you will also leave with a lighter heart.

Cute, right?

Next week on the blog, we’ll get back to books! I’m almost finished reading The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins, and people, it’s crazy. More on that in the coming weeks!

Happy reading,
Katrina

 


 

New season, new ideas!

Hello readers,

The countdown is on! This Sunday, we “spring forward” for Daylight Savings Time, which means we’re “adding” an hour of daylight – and this tells me that summer is on its way. I can’t wait! Not that I’m not enjoying myself at school, but here at the college we’re heading into crunch time with magazine projects, proposals, and trade fair planning, so I’m looking forward to a long break from homework. I’m also looking forward to not having to spend an extra five minutes bundling up before leaving the house – I’m already dreaming of flip flops and ‘pool-hair-don’t-care’ days.

Nobody cares about hair in the summer - it's all about having fun!
Nobody cares about hair in the summer – it’s all about having fun!

In light of this glorious change in season, I have decided to try out something new: I’m taking my booklovering and nerdiness to a whole new level and I am starting my very own book club. Chea!

I’m starting small – just a few girl friends, a good book, and a box of wine at the end of March. But I’m really excited to try it out. I think that getting into the practice of reading with intention and discussing novels in detail is a good idea – plus, it gives me a wonderful excuse to see my closest friends. We’re starting with the novel The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, which just topped Maclean’s fiction list last week. Pick up a copy yourself and follow along this month – I’ll post some of my favourite comments from our very first book club discussion and you can weigh in, too.

I'm really excited for this Book Club thing!
I’m really excited for this Book Club thing!

In other news, Disney has just released the who will be starring as the Beast in the upcoming live-action revamp of Beauty and the Beast. Co-starring opposite Emma Watson (who will be playing Belle) is Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame. You can read the full story here. Now, I’ve never watched an episode of Downton Abbey but it’s on my Netflix to-do list so I’m sure I’ll have a chance to watch Stevens in action before Beauty and the Beast comes out in theatres. I can’t wait to see who they cast as Gaston!

What’s on your shelf this month? Let me know if you have any book club recommendations!

Happy reading,
Katrina