Review// Magic by Mike Russell

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Author: Mike Russell
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: March 5, 2020
Book Length: 268 pages 
Publisher: StrangeBooks
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Does magic exist? Charlie Watson thinks it does and he wants to tell you all about it. Before he was famous, Charlie Watson decided to write a book to share with the world everything he knew about magic. This is that book. You will discover why Charlie always wears a top hat, why his house is full of rabbits, how magic wands are made, how the universe began, and much, much more. Plus, for the first time, Charlie tells of the strange events that led him from England to the Arctic, to perform the extraordinary feat that made him famous, and he finally reveals whether that extraordinary feat was magic or whether it was just a trick.

My Review:

First off, I would like to thank the author for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

I’ve read almost all of Mike Russell’s books, and I have to say that this one is my favourite one. The beginning where the inception of magicians was described was one of the best parts, it was very clever and set the tone for the rest of the book. Something about this kind of reminded me of something you’d see in a Tim Burton movie – at least, that’s the way I pictured things in my head! Charlie was silly and sweet, and I fell in love with him and his quest for magic. I remember going to magic shows as a kid and being amazed at all they could do right in front of our eyes – reading this book gave me that feeling again.

I especially liked the message of the story, I thought it was really heart warming and sweet: everything is magic, even the most mundane, and if you go about your life believing in magic, you will always find it. 😊

-Catherine

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Review// In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

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Author: Rebecca Serle
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: March 10, 2020
Book Length: 272 pages 
Publisher: Atria Books
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

My Review:

This book took me through a rollercoaster of emotions – happiness, shock, sadness, annoyance… it was all in here. I should probably preface this by saying that this isn’t a love story, as I had initially thought. And you know what, I’m really glad it wasn’t, because the ‘lovey’ parts were probably my least favourite about it. This book is about friendship; it’s about how life is fragile and complicated, and about how as much as you meticulously plan for the future, it can, and will, surprise you.

I’ll start off with my favourite thing: that the book centred around a female friendship. If you have a friendship like Dannie’s and Bella’s in your life, consider yourself lucky. I liked that they were almost completely opposite and complimented each other in ways that the other needed. I’ve recently found that this is a trope that I adore, and an underrated one at that. I’d love to read more books surrounding female friendships like this. At one point, their dialogue actually made me tear up; it was really heartwarming.

The setting of this book is in New York, and I loved all the references to the city. However, there was a point where it felt like too much. It set the scene really well, but I think it would have been just as effective in a smaller dosage – it almost felt forced after a while, like it was being shoved down my throat. The whole scene that took place in Dannie’s premonition also annoyed the heck out of me. I know that people cope with grief in different ways, but I found it highly far fetched that Dannie would do that. Also, Aaron in general… *facepalm*. He was being painted as such a good guy the entire time, but I don’t think that’s true based on everything that happened all the way back to the beach conversation. I also wish they had built up Dr. Shaw’s character a bit, because by the time things were revealed as far as he’s concerned, I truly felt no emotion for the situation. I was like cool… but who really is this guy? I had no attachment to him and I wish I did.

But anyway, I flew through the book, I really couldn’t put it down. This ended up not being what I expected, but more so in a good way. Had the story revolved around anything but Dannie’s and Bella’s friendship, I don’t think I would have liked it as much, due to the nature of how the ending unfolded. I’m glad I didn’t feel invested in the love portion of the story, or else I surely would have been disappointed.

-Catherine

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Review// The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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Author: Kristin Hannah
Series: Standalone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Book Length: 440 pages 
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Review: 4/5
Goodreads Synopsis:
France, 1939.

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

My Review:
So beautiful and yet so heartbreaking, this book taught me a lot about WWII and all the horrors that people faced upon the Nazi invasion in France that I didn’t know before.

I loved the portrayal of the two sisters – Vianne and Isabelle – and how they were so completely different from one another; Vianne being more uptight and rule abiding, and Isabelle being more rebellious. Before the war, the two seemed to constantly butt heads and resent the other. However, amid the war that was tearing everything and everyone apart, Vianne and Isabelle were brought closer together which I thought was extremely heartwarming.

The book kept switching back and forth between WWII and 1995, where an unnamed elderly female was going back to France from America to speak about the war at a passeurs’ reunion. There were very few chapters set in 1995, but I was really looking forward to them because I was eager to know who the female was and figure out how the events of the war played out for all of the characters. When I did find out how things ended, it was definitely – as you could have guessed – a tearjerker.

This book really does live up to its hype. If you are looking for a captivating, emotionally-engaging read in the genre, I would highly recommend picking this one up.

-Catherine

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Review// City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Series: Standalone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Book Length: 470 pages 
Publisher: Riverhead
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves-and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time, she muses. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is. Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

My Review:

“Once I like a person, I only like them always”

Well, once I like a book, I only like it always – and that will definitely be true for this one. The most fun I’ve had reading a book in a very long time.

City of Girls transported me to 1940s New York City; I feel like I really did experience the sights, the sounds, the neighborhoods, the theatre, and most of all: the characters. This book was great because of the characters, and not just one or two, literally all of the ~10 major ones served a purpose in the story of Vivian Morris’ life; no one felt like a filler and I enjoyed reading the parts that included every single one, which is rare for me. In addition, Vivian was by far one of the most engaging and fascinating narrators I have ever encountered. Every part of her story had me on the edge of my seat and I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next.

This is my favourite historical fiction to date and I could not recommend it enough.

-Catherine

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My Experience at the Harry Potter-Themed Bar in Toronto!⚡️

Hi random burst of creative energy to write a blog post that’s not a book review for the first time in almost a year – how are ya? 💁🏻‍♀️

So it’s been a while since I’ve written something like this but I’ve been feeling very inspired to take my blogging back by the reins this year, so here goes!

In a previous post back in 2018, I wrote about 5 Literary Themed Restaurants Around the World – in that post, one of the places I wrote about was The Lockhart in Toronto, Canada which is a Harry Potter-themed bar. In it, I vowed, and I quote: “You better believe I am going here after I finish the series and I will have a blog post up about it when I do.” I did finish the series, but I didn’t go to the bar immediately after (I should have). However, I’ve done it now (twice!) and I am very excited to share my experience.

The Lockhart is a quaint little cocktail bar a little bit outside of the downtown core. They have mostly regularly-named food and drink, but some themed names as well, like the Better Beer – a play on Butter Beer which I still want to try in Harry Potter World – or Dementor’s Kiss which are two drink names that caught my eye. I opted for the Better Beer, which is tequila-based and it was delicious! They do a very good job of masking the taste of alcohol in this drink, but it’s definitely strong enough to feel the effect of. Below is a photo of what it looks like – I seem to have misplaced the photo I took at the time, but this is one from their website:

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Pitcher of Better Beer

Along with drink options, they also of course have food. I got chicken and waffles – the portion was huge and the chicken was very flavourful and crispy, which I liked:

Although I went there to eat and drink, I especially appreciated how they decorated the place. They have a neon sign by the bar that says ‘all was well’ which are the last words in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; and also a wall of framed photos of Dobby (my favourite 🥰).

I love that I got to experience this place after reading all of the books; I adore it and am already eager to go back again. The staff is very friendly, the food and drink are great, and I love the aesthetic.

Now, I’m on the hunt for more literary-themed places to visit and I can’t wait for what will be next… ✨

-Catherine

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