Visiting Book Locations

I have read so many different books that are set in many different spots all over the world. When I am reading these books, I always try to picture what that place looks like today and how it would differ from the descriptions in the book. When I read historical fiction books, I think about how interesting it would be to go to these places and see firsthand where the book is referring to and what events happened there. Below I describe what my top three book locations I want to visit are…

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Location- Kefalonia, Greece
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is set on the island of Kefalonia, Greece. It follows the villagers from World War II through to modern-day Greece. It gives vivid details to the island’s hilly mountains, the small towns within the island, and the beautiful views of the ocean. Each time the author described the island, I had the urge to visit it.

CAPTAIN CORELLI’S MANDOLIN

A Long Petal of the Sea
Location- Catalonia, Spain
A Long Petal of the Sea is set in multiple locations, but the primary home of the books’ characters were in Catalonia, Spain. Although the book doesn’t spend too much time talking about the beautiful landscape, it does offer enough to entice someone to visit this Spanish province. For me, what attracts me, even more, is the history of this spot. Between the authors’ description of Catalonia’s beauty and the historical events that take place there, I realize I would love to one day visit Catalonia, Spain.

A Long Petal of the Sea: A Novel

My Life in France and The Nightingale
Location- French countryside
Both of these books feature more than one setting, but the French countryside stands out the most. The way Julia Child discusses her home in the French countryside would make anyone dream of visiting. In The Nightingale, you see the experiences of a small French town outside of Paris. In both cases, I find myself hoping to one day be able to visit these places and think of these two books while I am there.

My Life in France The Nightingale: A Novel

What are some places you would like to visit from the books you have read?


Oh Crap! Potty Training- Book Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars – Genre: Parenting, Potty Training, – N. of Pages: 294

Why I decided to read this book:

My daughter is turning 2 in 6 days, and I feel its time we take on this next step. However, I know absolutely nothing about potty training, so I decided to research different methods, and this book continuously came up. It is definitely a book that is more suited to my personality, rather than a formal potty training book.

My review of the book:

‘Oh Crap! Potty Training’ is a very, very easy read, which is perfect for this topic. No mom wants to sit for weeks reading an overly detailed and complex book about potty training. Glowacki breaks down each stage of the potty training process and provides helpful tips if things go wrong. Many of the advice and steps she describes make a lot of sense, and I will absolutely follow her method when beginning this next stage of my daughter’s life (hopefully before the end of August). Also, although there are 20 chapters in this book, Glowacki advises all her readers not to read past Chapter 5 until potty training has begun. After Chapter 5, she helps parents overcome any challenges they are having with the potty training method. These chapters are based on common questions she gets from her clients.

My daughter has had issues with constipation and holding in her poop, so I knew that I needed to skip to chapter 10 and read the section on poop. As well, my daughter is in daycare part-time, so I wanted to read the chapter on how to approach daycare during potty training, which is Chapter 12. Lastly, my daughter can be well… spirited… to put it lightly. She can be stubborn and has recently begun to have crying fits over the smallest thing. I know that it will become a more significant issue during potty training, so I also read Chapter 13 Behiavour vs Potty Training that speaks precisely to this. Everything she wrote was constructive and made me feel much more prepared for potty training.

There are also a few things I didn’t like about this book. First off, Glowacki repeats herself A LOT, and I mean A LOT. Sometimes I would be reading a paragraph, and it felt like I had already read that same paragraph in every other chapter (like the exact same paragraph). This happened numerous times, and I got a bit annoyed by it. I am sure there is a reason for it, but, personally, it bothered me. I also do feel this book could have been summed up in far fewer pages. It seemed to become a bit redundant after a while. However, this does not take away from her method to potty training because I am convinced she knows what she is talking about, and I will surely use this method.

Things I learned from this book:

I found the first six chapters really helped me understand how to prepare for potty training and how to make it a success for my daughter. She was very explicit about what needs to happen in the house and how parents are to act throughout the first couple of days. I knew I would need to be home initially, but I didn’t realize how important it was until she laid out all the reasons why. I also know it is important to begin talking about this upcoming change to my daughter before potty training begins. For example, saying things like, “We’re almost done your diapers, you will be using the potty soon.” This allows your toddler to begin to register what is going on in a couple of days. I found her first six chapters to be very informative.

As I mentioned, pooping has been a bit of an issue for my daughter. This has been an issue since she was four months old. She has frequent constipation episodes, and sometimes we have had to use kid suppository’s to help her, which is so hard! So naturally, I am a bit concerned about how the poop in potty training will go. After reading Chapter 10, I do feel more prepared for what could go wrong and less anxious about how she will overcome this.

Chapter 12 was also beneficial because sometimes daycares are not interested in helping with the potty training process, and sometimes the daycare is entirely on board. She goes over what to do in almost any daycare situation and how to handle this obstacle. Glowacki explains how to deal with daycares who are not willing to follow the potty training plan. Luckily, after speaking with my daughter’s daycare, it sounds like they are completely on board!

Chapter 13 went into some behavioural obstacles you may encounter, depending on your toddler’s attitude. I found this helpful because I am finding as my daughter gets older, she is becoming more stubborn, and despite my efforts, this doesn’t seem to be going away. This chapter helped ease my anxiety on the behaviour topic and helped me understand how to try and overcome her reluctancy.

Final thoughts:

Overall I think this book is a great read for moms who are getting ready to potty train their toddlers. It is a quick and easy read that will help ease potty training anxiety. Her method is proven to be effective and successful. She has been doing this type of work for many many years, and I would definitely consider her an expert.

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This is a list of things I have purchased for Potty Training or have been recommended:


Birds Without Wings – Book Review

By: Louis de Bernieres

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars — Genre: Historical Fiction — N. of Pages: 554

This is the second time I have read this book. I chose to reread it because I had such fond memories of the book, and I wanted to include it on my blog. I thought it would be best to reread it in order to give it a proper review.

Why I initially read this book:

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I love historical fiction novels, and my background is Greek, and this book is about Greeks living in the Ottoman Empire during the early 1900s. Therefore, it suited my interests very well. My sister had also read it and loved it. I had known of Louis de Bernieres because of his famous novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, that was eventually turned into a Hollywood movie. That novel was also a great read; however, the film did not do the book justice. Therefore, since I liked the author, it had great reviews, and it fit into my interests, I thought I had to read it.

The theme of this novel:

I believe the overall theme of this book was innocence. The innocence of a small village town in eastern Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), the innocence of regular people disconnected from the world’s politics, and the innocence of children. The book is mostly set in a small village that, for hundreds of years, Christians and Muslims lived in harmony with Greeks, Armenians and Turks until the world’s leaders arbitrarily told them that they were now enemies. Muslims would pray to the Virgin Mary; Christians would go into Mosque’s to pray. Christain’s allowing their daughters to marry Muslim men, Muslim women being best friends with Christians. This is what this little town was like, and it represents what so many towns in Greece and Turkey were like until the war tore them apart.

A brief overview of this book:

As mentioned above, this novel was mostly set in a small town in Western Anatolia called Eskibahce, at the end of the Ottoman Empire. It follows the lives of the Eskibahce villagers from the beginning of the 1900’s through small wars, the Great War, then the War of Independence and the Great Population Exchange. The story begins showing how harmoniously everyone in the village lived with each other regardless of religion and cultural background. You are introduced to many different characters at the beginning, and you follow each of these characters as they weave through major historical events. Louis de Bernieres creates incredibly interesting characters that are intriguing from the moment they are introduced. Each character tells their story in their own chapters, including the real historical figure Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. You see how the changes made by leading men in the world affect this little towns’ inhabitants. You gain an understanding of how the repercussions of people’s actions seem to affect the most vulnerable in society.

“…but in my opinion, as I have also said, everything that happened was made to do so by the great world.” (p 537)

About halfway through the book, de Bernieres focuses a lot of time discussing many of the Great War details, and I would say this is the only part in the book that I felt needed to be shortened. There were too many back-to-back chapters from Mustafa Kemal and one of the book’s main characters, Karatavuk explaining the details of the war from their perspectives. I think this part of the book may be difficult for some readers, who may not be as interested in history, to get through.

The end of the book focuses on the deportation of Greek Christians to Greece. The perspective is shown through the villagers of Eskibahce. The utter shock the Christian villagers face when they are told they are going to their country, Greece, which they have never lived in. The sadness that is bestowed on the Muslim villagers who tearfully say goodbye to their friends. You see the love these villagers had for one another when the Muslim men decide to follow their Greek friends to their destination to guarantee their safe passage. This is the love that is so rarely seen today between Christian and Muslims in most of the world. This chapter really brings the message of this book to light.

What I learned from this book:

I learned so much from this book that I don’t even know where to begin. The book’s overall message that few men make the decisions that affect millions is what impacted me the most. How simple words and decisions could change the course of history. These same men turn best friends into enemies just by using simple words. Many times in the book, we see a Greek Christian and an Ottoman Muslim love one another (friendly or romantic) despite being told by world leaders that they are now enemies.

“How strange that the world should change because of words, and words change because of the world” (p 287)

Another thing I learned is how quickly good human beings can turn evil. The atrocities that Greeks and Turks committed to one another after living among each other harmoniously for so many years is truly baffling. How does one hate another so much to commit such horrible crimes to innocent people? I will never understand that, but it is clear the humans are capable of awful things.

“Much of what was done was simply in revenge for identical atrocities…” (p 6)

Final thoughts on this book:

Overall this is a great book; I loved it the first time I read it, and I loved it the second time I read it. Louis de Bernieres writes so eloquently, including many important hidden messages. There were some messages I didn’t even catch the first time I read this book. I truly recommend that everyone reads this book, even if you aren’t into historical fiction because so many things that you learn from this book can be connected to today’s world. The only reason I did not give it a 5/5 is because the middle section was a bit hard to get through because of the vivid details of the war.

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The Nightingale- Book Review

By: Kristin Hannah

My Rating- 5/5 Stars — Genre: Historical Fiction — N. of Pages: 440

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is one of my most favourite books. It is centered around two sisters living in France during World War II. The Nightingale included romance, love, agony, sadness and much more. From the very first page of this book, you are hooked!

I first came across The Nightingale after I joined a book club and was asked to select a book for the group to read. I knew I wanted to choose a historical fiction book because my group was not familiar with that genre, and I was convinced I could convert them with the right book! I began looking into popular historical fiction novels, and The Nightingale kept appearing on all my searches. I wanted a book that didn’t include too many historical ramblings and had an excellent story, and The Nightingale seemed to be just that. Therefore, I selected it for my book club and luckily, it was a big success! Everyone loved it, and it sparked so many great conversations. In fact, many of the people in my book club continued to ask for other recommendations on historical fiction novels for future reading.

As I have mentioned, The Nightingale is now placed at the top of the list of my favourite books. I know this will be a book I read many more times in my life. The Nightingale was incredible from the very first page. The characters, the events, the story were engaging and exciting. I honestly struggled to put this book down each night; if there was no need for sleep, I could have finished it in 24 hours.

The Theme of this book…

The Nightingale is about two sisters and the very different paths their lives take during World War II in France. These sisters appear very different, but as the book continues, you begin to see the fight both of these women have. Hannah brings the characters’ thoughts and emotions to life; the reader truly begins to feel those same emotions felt by the characters. This book is about family love, the struggle for survival and the need to fight for your values.

The Nightingale shows you the difficulties the French people faced, mostly women, who are at home under German occupation. It shows French women’s perseverance to do whatever they could to help in the war effort from their homes. This book was not about war battles and soldiers; it was about the struggle of occupation, the push to survive, and the fight to gain freedom. Truly a remarkable story about a challenging time in France’s history.

What I learned from this book…

The Nightingale is an inspirational story about women’s fight for survival and their constant determination to protect their family and those around them. The ordeal that these two sisters experience is beyond my imagination; it seems impossible to overcome such horrible obstacles in your life. It shows the human will and strength and how strong it is. It made me feel that no obstacle is too hard to overcome and how important it is to fight for what you believe. I learned so much more about the difficulties faced by the women living under occupation during World War II, something I think the history books do not focus enough time on. It opened a new door to the perspectives of World War II.

Other books written by this author… 

Kristin Hannah has written many books, so I have listed some of her better-known books below:

*The Four Winds (newest book)
*The Great Alone
*Home Front
*Night Road
*Winter Garden

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Potty Training… Ugh!

Now that my daughter is 2-years-old (well in 3 weeks), we are beginning to discuss potty training her, and well, I am not super excited about it. I am really excited about not wiping her poop bum for much longer but, I am not excited for the daunting task of getting her to use the toilet. I feel like we have just gotten into a good rhythm, and now we’re changing things up again! At each milestone you get to a point where you feel like you have a handle on motherhood for a bit and just as you begin to feel that way, another task approaches.

One of the aspects I am the most concerned about is every time we leave the house her saying, “I have to pee” and I am sure it will happen at the most inopportune moments. It takes us about 1 hour to prepare to go to the beach (packing everything we need, getting her changed, putting sunscreen on, etc.). In the winter the process is even longer with jackets, gloves, snow suits and so much more. Now I am picturing adding in pee breaks whenever she says she has to pee (and who knows if she actually has to go!). Needless to say, I am not excited about it.

I decided I may be more inclined to begin this process if a know a bit more about it so I decided to research books to read on the topic to help me feel better about this process. Luckily, there seem to be many popular potty training methods to choose from. One method I see often is the “3 Day Potty Training” technique. This sounds interesting because it claims only to take 3 days to have them fully potty trained (not including night time), which sounds fantastic! Another technique I have heard about is based on the book, “Oh Crap! Potty Training”, by Jamie Glowacki. This method sounds very interesting, and the title is excellent. The book excerpt discusses the author’s use of sass while writing about her experiences with potty training, and from that description, I was sold! Therefore, I have decided to begin reading this book to prepare for the next step in my daughter’s life. Stay tuned for my review!

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A Long Petal of the Sea- Book Review

By: Isabel Allende

My Ratings: 4/5 Stars — Genre: Historical Fiction — N. of Pages: 336

“Venezuela received Victor with the same easygoing generosity with which it took in thousands of immigrants from many parts of the world… [Venezuela] was one of the wealthiest countries in the world… nobody killed themsleves working… life was a long party, with a great sense of freedom and a profound sense of equality.” (p253-254)

This quote profoundly impacted me from the book, ‘A Long Petal of the Sea’ by Isabel Allende. Comparing the sentiment that Victor and his family felt towards Venezuela and knowing what Venezuela has now become makes this statement unbelievable. This quote also highlights the central theme of this book, the ever-changing political landscape of once-stable countries. It shows how quickly security and freedom can slip from your grasp. Victor and his family begin as refugees fleeing a political coup in their home country, and this theme follows them everywhere they go.

Why I chose this book…

I decided to read this book because I kept seeing it pop up on many book blogs and reading lists. I was interested in reading a historical fiction novel but in a new and unknown historical period. This book begins with the Spanish Civil War, something I know very little about but have always been interested in learning more. Therefore I decided it would be an interesting read on a new topic.

What is this book about…

This book goes through the entire life of its main character, Victor. It begins at the time of the Spanish Civil War, focusing on Victor and his family’s experiences. It continues by following Victor and his family as they flee from Spain and end up living in multiple countries. The main characters bounce around as refugees from one country to another throughout their lives. Through Victor’s experiences, we get a glimpse into the Spanish Civil War and then eventually into the Chilean Civil War. We also get to see what Venezuela was like during the early 1980s, a very different picture then what Venezuela has become today. This book covers many topics and historical events. You learn about the struggles of a refugee and what it’s like starting over again in a foreign country. The book ends with Victor in his 80s.

Also, the chapters were laid out by years rather than events, and the reader learns about what happens to Victor (and the supporting characters) during the specific years laid out at the beginning of the chapter.

My thoughts after reading the book… 

I’m happy I chose to read this book. It was eventful, had proper character development, and had some unexpected twists along the way. However, I was surprised to see that the Spanish Civil War was just one event and not the main event in this book. I didn’t get to learn as much about the Spanish Civil War as I would have liked. The layout of this book was a bit different then I was used to, and I felt like some events were rushed. There were also very few times where I felt like I could not put the book down. I was intrigued to keep reading, but not in a thrilling, suspenseful manner. Each chapter ended with the ending of a time frame, not with an intriguing angle that made you want to keep reading. I also found that the ending was a bit abrupt, and I was hoping to hear more about that final major event in Victor’s life. That being said, I still really enjoyed reading this book.

The Author…

Isabel Allende is more well known for her novel, ‘The House of the Spirits,’ but she has written over 20 books that have all won critical acclaim. ‘A Long Petal of the Sea’ is her most recent book, and it is a book that includes stories that were told to her as a child. Her cultural background is South American (raised in Chile), and many of the people and events she writes about are from stories she hears from older relatives. None of the characters are real, but they are all shaped by people she knew.

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American Dirt- Book Review

By: Jeanine Cummins

My Rating- 5/5 Stars — Genre: Fiction, Contemporary — N. of Pages: 400

I bought this book entirely on a whim. I don’t usually read books about South America or the USA; however, every time I saw this book on the shelf, I found myself wanting to read it. I finally bought it, and I am so glad I did. It was a fantastic book detailing the story of Lydia and her son Luca, both fictional characters. Everything that Lydia experiences with the Mexican cartels, the migration routes, the migrants she meets and the final crossing into the USA are real experiences that many migrants face when deciding to leave their homes in Mexico.

The central theme of the book…

Survival is the most dominant theme of this book. First, Lydia focuses on surviving daily life in Mexico with drug cartels running the city she lives in. She then needs to focus on keeping her son alive when the central drug cartel is after them. The whole book is how Lydia and her son survive many days of running from one cartel run town to another. In the end, her new life also focuses on her daily struggle to survive. The struggles that Mexican and South American migrants face as they head to the American border are unimaginable, and this novel brings to light these real hardships.

What I learned from this book…

The author paints a real and vivid picture of what many migrants experience in the dangerous countries they live in that force them to decide to head north. Cummins paints a clear picture of what being a migrant means and the unbearable obstacles that they encounter. I found myself thinking about the current political climate in the US and the horrible conditions migrants face along the US border. As a Canadian, you don’t hear about the ongoing struggles migrants face in their home country, the reason people leave their homes for the dangerous route to America. I felt like I learned a lot about the challenges that many migrants face at home and their desperation for a new life. Lydia and Luca’s journey is extraordinary and unimaginable. Knowing that thousands of migrants take this route every day is incredibly shocking, and Cummins details this sad story perfectly.

Further thoughts…

This book also makes you think of the people and families who don’t make it through to freedom, who are turned back or are killed along the way. I also found myself thinking about the people who make it across to safer countries and how they live their new lives. There are many dimensions to Cummins’s book, and I highly recommend it!

Other books written by Jeanine Cummins:

*A Rip in Heaven
*The Outside Boy
*The Crooked Branch

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Mom books

There are so many parenting and mom books that it can become overwhelming and daunting to choose one that fits your personality. I was more interested in reading fun books about parenting and being pregnant; I wasn’t interested in books that gave me lists or “to do’s” to add to my already long mom to-do list. I looked for books that would help me through this new stage in my life and joke around about the new reality of motherhood. The books I have included on this page were fun books that include real stories about the ups and downs of motherhood. If you’re in search of a book and haven’t been able to find one that suits you, take a look at my mom book reviews and maybe you’ll find one you like!

I have to mention one thing first, if you’re a new mom… pace yourself! You will not have that much time to read, and when you do have downtime, you may not want to read (I laid on the couch and watched Netflix most times). But, whenever you are ready to begin reading again, I think this is a great list to start with!


How to Raise Successful People – Book Review

By: Esther Wojcicki

My Rating- 5/5 Stars — Genre: Parenting, Education, Self Help — N. of Pages: 336

As a new mother, I felt very overwhelmed with the number of books about being a mother or parenting. I also didn’t have much interest in reading those books. I thought that I had a good idea of how I wanted to raise my soon to be baby and any other children I would have. Then one day, I stumbled upon an article written about a woman named Esther Wojcicki, and I was intrigued to learn more about her and her parenting tips. When I heard she was writing a book, I signed up instantly to buy it (and like I said, I don’t read books about parents or being a mom!). I am so glad I made the choice to give this book a chance because it was an incredible book!

This is the first non-fiction book I have ever read that I couldn’t put down. I wanted to continue reading and learning from this incredible woman. I think this book is one of the most important books for parents to read. I have vowed to myself to read it once a year, to refresh myself on her great ideas continually.

She begins the book by asking you, the reader, to reflect on your childhood. Whether your childhood was good or bad doesn’t matter but, being aware of the family culture that influenced your childhood is essential to understanding the parent you are aiming to be. She asks you to stop and answer her quiz to be more aware of how your parents raised you. I found this extremely interesting. It was interesting dissecting the good and bad of my childhood and understanding what I wanted to bring to my children and what I didn’t.

After the childhood exploration portion, she dives into her main parenting focus, which is TRICK. TRICK stands for – Trust, Responsibility, Independence, Collaboration and Kindness. She spends numerous chapters on each concept expressing its importance for children. This is what she stems her entire philosophy of parenting. She believes that these five pillars are the most important things to teach your children from a very young age. With this, your children will grow up to be successful adults, whatever path they choose in life.

Each chapter includes scientific research on the benefits of the specific pillar and how she instilled it in her home and how parents can do this in their home. She also expresses how many MANY mistakes will be made along the way because HEY were all learning, and we’re human and make mistakes. She reminds the reader of that often that she too made many mistakes, but luckily our children forgive us!

She ends her book with an emphasis on the importance of empathy and giving back to your community. She expresses how important it is to teach your kids this by taking part in community service by bringing them along to fundraisers by showing them to fight for what’s right. Teaching young kids this lesson is essential for how they grow into adults and treat other people around them. It was a very moving chapter.

This book is excellent!

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Angela Merkel: Europe’s Most Influential Leader – Book Review

By: Matt Qvortrup

My Rating: 2/5 Stars — Genre: Biography — N. of Pages: 376

I have been very interested in reading a biography on Angela Merkel’s life for some time now. So after doing some research on different books written about her (there are many), I chose this book. It was the best-reviewed and seemed the most accurate to her life.

The beginning of this book logically began with Angela Merkel’s childhood. I enjoyed the beginning of this book and learning about Merkel’s childhood and her eventual rise to power when she became Chancellor.  I found the beginning of the book, the best part of the book.

Unfortunately, once the book got to Merkel’s political career, the book was a bit hard to read.  The author gave too many details on the political world of Germany.  As someone who is not from Germany, I was a bit confused at times, it just seemed the author moved too far away from the main topic.  At this point in the book, my interest began to decline.

However, there were some other parts in the book that gained my interest again. When Qvortup begins to write about Merkel’s handling of European issues such as Grexit, Brexit, and the invasion of Crimea, these topics piqued my interest again. But again, there were too many details added that it didn’t seem necessary. I struggled to finish this book; that is why I gave it a 2 out of 5.

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