The Beekeeper of Aleppo – Book Review

By: Christy Lefteri

“Where there are bees there are flowers, and wherever there are flowers there is new life and hope.”

My synopsis of the book:

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is centred around a Syrian family affected by the civil war that is spreading around them.  The first few chapters show the reader how ordinary life was in Syria before the war. Nuri and his cousin Mustafa owned and ran a bee farm where they made honey.  Nuri is the novel’s main character; he is married to a woman named Afra and has a son, Sami. There are many other important characters, like Mustafa, that play a role in shaping this story.  The reader travels with Nuri as he escapes Aleppo with his family and tries to reach England, where his cousin Mustafa lives.  Nuri travels across the Syrian border into Turkey, where he then begins his trek to the Mediterranean Sea to get to Greece. Once in Greece, his troubles only worsen as he tries to find ways to leave and continue to his final destination, England.  Christy Lefteri shows the reader the difficulties refugees face in their journey to safety and the personal struggles refugees carry as they leave their homes, friends and families.  Nuri and his family’s story of freedom are filled with heartache and sadness that will follow them for the rest of their lives. 

“Money gets you everywhere. This is what I always say. Without it, you live your entire life travelling trying to get to where you think you need to go.”

My review:

I’m finding it very difficult to write a review on this book because I don’t want to take away from the importance of the Syrian refugee crisis.  The Beekeeper of Aleppo gives a voice to the Syrian people who lost their homes to the civil war.  Unfortunately, I must admit, the book itself struggled to captivate me. 

In the beginning, it was difficult to follow along with the different periods presented in the chapters. I usually have no problem with books not written in chronological order, but this story did not flow from one period to another well. It eventually became much clearer but, the first impression of the book wasn’t great.

Also, I never found myself connecting with the main characters. There needed to be a bit more character development in the beginning to draw me into their story.  I found myself hoping I would become more attached to the characters as the chapters continued but, it never really happened. I was heartbroken when each horrible event happened to them but, mainly because I knew somewhere in this world, these events happened to real people. 

Although I found this book to be pretty average, I would still recommend it because of the importance of understanding the Syrian refugee crisis.

The most important message to get from this story is that Syria was a developed, established nation that was struck by a civil war that tore the entire country apart.  Unfortunately, because of the multiple middle eastern conflicts that we are accustomed to now, we assume that all of the middle east is continuously at war, this was not the case for Syria.  Syria had been living peacefully for many years.  This is what made the civil war even more difficult for Syrians.  Lefteri does a good job at making this message clear.

About the author:

Christy Lefteri has a close connection to the story.  She spent two summers volunteering at the refugee camps in Athens, getting to meet many Syrian families.  Writing this story was also important to her because she is also the daughter of Cypriot refugees. 


My COVID Lockdown Booklist

As a new year begins, the hopes of a new beginning away from COVID is slowly diminishing. In Switzerland, where I live, we enter into our 3rd week in lockdown, with three more weeks to go. One way I plan on passing the time is by reading some of the unopened books I still have on my shelf. I decided to make a list of all the books I want to read during this time. I’m hoping it will give me something to look forward to each week and help get me through this lockdown!

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by: Christy Lefteri

This book caught my attention because of its connection to current events, specifically the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe. Over the last couple of years, we have been watching heartbreaking scenes of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria for Europe. This book tries to put a face to this crisis by writing about a fictional Syrian family and their refugee story. The family decides to leave Syria after the war has already begun; they embark on a dangerous journey to freedom, trekking through many of the same escape routes Syrian families are all too familiar with. I’m sure this will be a very captivating story and shed light on the struggles refugees worldwide experience.

What Alice Forgot by: Liane Moriarty

Many friends and family have continuously recommended this book, so I have finally decided to add it to my list. This story is about the effects of memory loss and piecing together a life that is unrecognizable. It is slightly different from the type of books I usually read, but lockdown is a great time to explore some new genres!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by: Heather Morris

This book has been on my book list for many years, but every time I think about opening it, I wonder if I am truly ready for the emotional roller coaster I know this book will embark on. However, recently I read another book by Heather Morris, called Cilka’s Journey, and I loved it. It was definitely emotionally tormenting but, I am very glad I read it. So I decided I needed to give The Tattooist of Auschwitz a read.

A Promised Land by: Barack Obama

I haven’t read a biography in a long time, and I find myself craving to read one. Since American politics has been a focal point in world news recently, I found it only fitting to add A Promised Land by Barack Obama to my book list. Whether you agree with his politics or not, you cannot argue his presidency’s historical significance and wonder how he got there.

What does your lockdown booklist look like?


The Happy Ever After Playlist- Book Review

Author: Abby Jimenez

“You can’t control the bad things that happen to you. All you can do is decide how much of you you’re going to let them take.”

I want to start by saying that The Happy Ever After Playlist, by Abby Jimenez, is actually the second book of a series.  However, I didn’t know this when I started reading it; I only realized it after I had finished the book.  The Friend Zone is the first book in the series but, The Happy Ever After Playlist can definitely stand alone.  Zero knowledge of The Friend Zone is needed to read this story.

I picked this book up from the bookstore because I felt it was time to read a lighthearted, fun, romantic book that would make me smile.  This book did just that.  My last few books had been pretty dramatic, serious and emotional, so this was a welcomed break. 

What is this book about?

The main character, Sloan Monroe, is trying to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance suddenly died in a motorcycle accident two years ago.  The first book gives the excruciating details of the accident and the hospital scene; in this book, you are left to imagine how terrible this experience would have been for Sloan.  I, for one, am very glad I didn’t have to read about those details.  This story is focused more on how Sloan will help herself move on from this loss and bring happiness back into her life.

One day as Sloan was driving and stopped at a stoplight, a dog (which we later find out is named Tucker) ran into her car, causing quite a big scene.  Once Sloan pulled off the road with this dog, she tried to look for the owner but could not find anyone that knew the dog.  She decided to bring the dog home and care for it until she could locate the owner.  Little did she know this encounter would change her life.  Tucker brought so much energy into Sloan’s life, and you begin to see Sloan coming out of her depressed shell while trying to care for this dog.  Eventually, we find out the dog owner is a man named Jason, who is currently in Australia for work.  Sloan and Jason begin speaking over the phone, at first only concerning Tucker, but gradually, they find themselves more interested in learning about one another.  Jason is the first man that Sloan finds herself crushing on since she lost her fiancé.  This is how their romance begins.   The beginning of their relationship is exciting and playful, everything a new relationship should be.  Eventually, as they start to fall more into one another, their relationship becomes a serious love affair filled with dramatic ups and downs, especially once Sloan realizes that Jason is an up and coming musician.

My thoughts on the book…

This is an enjoyable, lighthearted romance novel.  You know the characters will fall for one another right from the beginning, but the turns and twists it takes along the way are pretty surprising.  I also really loved Sloan’s character; I was always rooting for her.  I truly wanted her to find happiness, whether it was with Jason or in her own life.  I think the character development of Sloan was the best part of this story.  You watch her struggle in the beginning to find a way to move on with her life after her sudden heartbreak, then slowly see her trying to put happiness back into her life.  I liked that even though Jason had a big part in helping her move on from her loss, Sloan individually worked on how she could better herself and move on from her tragic story.  When she finally gets back into the hobbies she loves, it is genuinely heartwarming. She began as a fractured love hurt young women and grew into an independent artist who woke up every day prioritizing her happiness. 

Jason’s character I fell in love with right from the beginning, I think most women would.  He was incredibly charming, flirtatious, kind and caring.  He knew what Sloan had gone through and approached it perfectly.  He always put her happiness at the forefront of his life, which is something every woman deserves.  His character definitely hit many women’s fantasies of falling in love with a beautiful famous singer.

This book was a very enjoyable read; I especially loved the ending.  This is a perfect book to lift your spirits and make you feel so warm inside. The songs Jimenez included before each chapter really represented the feelings you experience when reading that chapter, and I thought that was a unique twist to this romance novel.   Whenever I would read this book throughout my day, I was instantly in a better mood and really, what more could you want from a book?

A little bit about the author…

Abby Jimenez is the author of The Friend Zone and The Happy Ever After Playlist. Jimenez is also a famous baker who has won many Food Network Competitions. She first showed off her literary skills through comments on her baking page: Nadia Cakes. She has a new book coming out in spring 2021 called Life’s Too Short.


Before We Were Yours- Book Review

This book is written by Lisa Wingate.

“A woman’s past need not predict her future.  She can dance to new music if she chooses.  Her own music.  To hear the tune, she must only stop talking. To herself, I mean.  We’re always trying to persuade ourselves of things.”

Lisa Wingate, the author of Before We Were Yours, tries to expose the true story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society (TCHS) through a fictional account of a family who lived in a shanty boat that floated along the Mississippi River.  This family becomes one of the many victims of the TCHS. The TCHS portrayed themselves as a home for lost or left children, a home that focused on finding suitable homes for the children.  In fact, they stole children and babies from families that society looked down upon.  Although Wingate’s story is fictional, the story rings true for many families who became victims of the TCHS. 

Wingate chooses to keep the real name of the director of TCHS in her story, Georgia Tann.  Tann ran this orphanage for about 30 years in Memphis.  Some children died under her supervision, and many were tortured.  This story also highlights the involvement of many other people within the community, such as police officers, doctors and government officials.  They allowed Tann to commit these atrocities to so many families.  At the end of the book, Wingate includes the many sources she turned to for knowledge on the TCHS when writing this story (I will include these sources at the bottom of this post).

While reading this story, the one thing I kept asking myself was, who was going to stick up for these families and these children?  Unfortunately, no one ever does.  No adult comes to the rescue of these children.  The reality is many children within this orphanage had to fend for themselves and try to take care of themselves until the horror was over. 

A little bit about the book…

Unlike my other posts, I will not focus too much on describing the details of this story as the description is told perfectly at the back of her book.  But I will mention some important details.

This story is told through the eyes of the character Rill Foss.  Rill Foss is the oldest of 5 children. She was born to a loving mother and father who lived in a shanty boat on the Mississippi River.  Periodically, the family anchored in different towns so the children could go to school, and it seemed like the Foss parents loved and cherished their children.  The love Rill Foss experienced from her parents gives her the drive to fight to protect herself and her siblings and the determination to bring them back safely to their home on board the Arcadia.   

The other main character in this book is Avery Stafford.  She is a very different character than Rill.  She is born into a very wealthy, upper-class family in South Carolina.  Avery is a successful lawyer from New York City who has returned home to support her sick father, the Senator of South Carolina.  Avery knows she is being groomed to one day become Senator and walk in the footsteps of her father.  She shadows her father to many different events trying to understand more of this world she may be thrown into.  Throughout this journey, she continuously feels like something is missing and wonders if this is really the life she wants for herself.  She is also engaged to a man who she slowly realizes she may not love anymore.  It is at one of her fathers’ events that she runs into a woman named May Crandall. Avery’s life from this moment on changes as she tries to decipher what May is telling her and how Avery’s family is involved.

My review of the book…

“But the love of sisters needs no words.  It does not depend on memories, or mementos, or proof.  It runs as deep as a heartbeat. It is as ever-present as a pulse.”

I found the story to be absolutely captivating from the first chapter.  I was very interested in the Foss family and how they lived their life on board the Arcadia.  This story gives readers a brief look into the life of how some impoverished Americans lived.  I knew little about these “shanty boat” people; therefore, I was fascinated to hear about how they survived the depression.  Wingate also includes a small information section at the back of the book giving more details about Mississippi’s shanty boat people.

Additionally, she described the kidnapping of the Foss children very well.  This shows how involved law enforcement was in taking these children to the TCHS.  She also showed how the adults manipulated these children into coming with them, lying to them to gain their trust.  The way the Foss children were taken from their parents was shocking and unimaginable.

Wingate described life at TCHS with incredible detail while also sparring you the sickening reality of some aspects of the torture some children experienced within the facility.  However, when it came to the more horrific events at TCHS I was glad that Wingate provided only the detail necessary.

Rill Foss’s character development is also very well done.  You get a real sense of how this 12-year-old little girl becomes the caregiver to her siblings.  You see her develop into a strong young woman fighting for her family. 

Wingate does a great job at intertwining the two stories of Rill and Avery, always making you wonder what their connection will be.  Is Avery related to any of Rill’s lost siblings?  Is Avery’s grandmother a friend who helped expose TCHS?  Wingate always keeps you on your toes, wondering how they are connected while never tiring the reader with each of their stories’ details.

I really enjoyed this book, but some parts are pretty disturbing, which could make it difficult for some people to get through.

About the Author:
Lisa Wingate has written many best selling books, receiving many rewards for her work.  Prior to writing she was a journalist.  

Other Wingate books: 
Before and After
The Book of Lost Friends
Carolina Chronicles 

Books she used to help write about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society:
Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children by Viviana A. Zelizer
Babies for Sale: The Tennessee Children’s Home Adoption Scandal by Linda Tollett Austin
Alone in the World: Orphans and Orphanages in America by Catherine Reef
The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption by Barbara Bisantz Raymond

Short stories at the end of the book:
The River Gypsies By Lisa Wingate 
The Shanty-Boat People (excerpt) By: Charles Buxton Going


The Age of Light – Book Review

This book is an interesting work of fiction because its main characters are based on real people. Parts of their lives have been put together by the author, Whitney Scharer’s, imagination. I didn’t know this until I had completed the book and began to do some research into the author. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of reimagining peoples lives but, many of Scharer’s readers seemed to like it.

A little bit about the book…

The book begins in 1966 in England with the main character, Lee Miller and her husband Roland, living in the countryside. At the time, Miller is writing cooking pieces for Vogue. She writes about her cooking methods and photographs each step of her cooking process. This is where it becomes evident that Lee Miller is a skilled photographer. Miller is very unhappy in her current life, and you even begin to wonder, because of her attitude and drinking, if she has always been unhappy?

As the first part of the book continues, we are introduced to many new characters, including her editor at Vogue, Audrey Withers. Withers asks Miller to write a new piece focusing on her time in Paris working with the famous photographer, Man Ray. Immediately Miller refuses but quickly realizes that she doesn’t have much choice if she wants to continue working for Vogue. Miller lists some stipulations for the piece and then accepts.

It is at this point that Miller began her story, beginning in Paris 1929. She moves to Paris to begin her photography career and eventually meets and falls in love with Man Ray. This romance is a whirlwind from the very beginning. Man Ray was much older than Lee Miller, which isn’t surprising once you understand the relationship Miller has with her father. She begins her career as Man Ray’s assistant, learning from his photography skills to help her own future career. However, as their romance begins and while she continues to be Man Ray’s assistant, she begins to fear her own photography career is becoming secondary to Man Ray. It also becomes clear that their relationship was turning destructive. As the relationship grew, Ray became much more controlling, and his obsession with Miller becomes very concerning. For these reasons and many others, the love story in the book didn’t captivate me.

Scharer also includes short stories about Miller’s childhood. Miller experienced a very traumatic sexual assault when she was very young, by a trusted family member. This event, plus her parents’ reactions to the event, I believe, impacts the way Miller views most of her sexual encounters. I also felt like this experience influenced her relationship with Man Ray. Showing how these traumatic events hurt the victims for almost their entire lives.

Would I recommend the book?

Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy this book. I didn’t find myself connecting with the main character Lee Miller. I also felt there was no closure with this book’s ending, and I found myself wondering what the book was really about? Scharer also included information about Miller’s life during World War II and those events were never really connected to her current life or to her life in Paris. In the end, I wasn’t sure why they were even included. The ending provided no closure to Miller’s current life and her obvious unhappiness.

Overall I don’t think I would recommend this book to my peers but, if you disagree or have additional comments to my review comment below!


City of Girls – Book Review

Book by: Elizabeth Gilbert

My Rating: 3/5 Stars — Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction — N. of Pages: 496

What was this story about:

City of Girls is written as one long letter.  A woman named Angela asks Vivian Morris, the main character, to explain Vivian’s relationship with Angela’s father. Vivian responds to this letter with the story of her life beginning at age 19.

Vivian Morris is from a wealthy family who lived in the suburbs a couple of hours away from New York City.  Vivian is a lost teenager when we meet her; she specifically calls herself “an idiot” at the beginning of chapter one. She fails out of college and needs to return home to her disappointed parents.  Her parents are at a loss as to what to do with their teenage daughter, who doesn’t seem to fit in in the high society surrounding her and is not academically successful.  They decide to send Vivian to live with her Aunt Peg in New York City. Therefore, in 1940 Vivian Morris gets onto the train and heads to New York City. 

Aunt Peg lives and owns a theatre in a poor neighbourhood in New York City.  The theatre is not in good shape and is not really in the centre of the ritz and glamour of theatre in New York City, but Vivian loves it! Vivian is in amazement of The Lily Playhouse, Aunt Peg’s theatre.  She is impressed and fascinated by the showgirls, the dancers, the actors, the play writers and everyone else involved in this theatre. Aunt Peg discovers Vivian’s sewing skills and asks Vivian to be the seamstress for the theatre.  She then becomes consumed with making, fixing and purchasing fabrics for the costumes in the plays.  This is when she begins to create friendships with the showgirls, specifically Celia.  Celia is a beautiful showgirl who seems to take a liking to Vivian.  Celia teaches Vivian how to showcase her beauty, go out in New York City, and have sex with lots of men.   Vivian adapts this new way of life and thrives in it, until one horrible night where she makes a mistake that will derail the life she built and loved in New York City at the Lily Playhouse. 

After a brief return to her parents’ house and a pivotal interaction with her brother, Walter, who is about to go to war, she eventually returns to New York City with Aunt Peg.   She returns to New York City to help her Aunt Peg with a new theatre job supporting the war effort.  This is where we begin to see Vivian’s character mature a bit and better understand who she is. 

My thoughts on the book

What I liked:

I loved the description of New York City in the 1940s.  The glamour, the parties, the social scene all were described perfectly.  I have only been to New York City once, during Christmas time, and I loved it, but it seemed even more amazing how Gilbert told it.

I also loved the fun and excitement that was described in theatre life at the Lily Playhouse.  It seemed like such a fun place to work and live.  Most importantly, the characters who lived and worked at the Lily Playhouse were all interesting in their own way.

The relationships that Vivian made with the other characters were the best part of this book.  There was something Vivian learned from every person that came into her life.  Sometimes people came into her life for a brief moment, and sometimes she created lasting friendships with people she grew to love.  However, it was clear that every relationship, whether long or short, played a role in creating who Vivian Morris was.  I have always believed that everyone who comes into your life plays a role.  It could be a brief one, someone you enjoy at that time, or a life long friendship. I feel this was one of the most critical messages from City of Girls.

What I didn’t like:

Unfortunately, there was quite a bit that I didn’t like about this book. Vivian’s character was just not that interesting.  I feel she lacked depth, excitement and maturity.  I was more interested in the characters around her; then I was in her story.  About halfway through the book, I realized I didn’t care what happened to Vivian’s character, and I found her kind of annoying.  Her character growth was so focused on her sex life that it became redundant to keep reading about. Vivian’s central character trait seemed to only be about her love for sex, and it is tough to keep the book interesting when you’re solely focused on that.  At the beginning of the book, I found Vivian to be extraordinarily naive, but that never seemed to go away, even as she grew older.  She got herself into dangerous situations with men but, for some reason, never really learned from these experiences; what’s worse, she never seemed to care.  I knew pretty early on that I wouldn’t love this book, but I was able to keep reading based on the character development of the people around Vivian.  The book is also very long, and it seems it could have been summed up in far fewer pages. It was also challenging to keep reading when the main character seemed to lack depth.   

If you have read this book, what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with my comments?


Beach Read – Book Review

By: Emily Henry

“…when the world felt dark and scary, love could whisk you off to go dancing; laughter could take some of the pain away; beauty could punch holes in your fear.  I decided then that my life would be full of all three.” (Henry, 3)

I want to start by saying I do not like the title of this book; it does not do this book justice AT ALL. I’m not sure why the author chose this title because it also doesn’t seem to connect to either character.  That being said, the title is literally the only negative thing I can say about this book.  Beach Read by Emily Henry was simply amazing. 

I came across this book at a local bookstore in Switzerland.  They had a small English section near the back.  I saw Beach Read perked up on display broadcasted as a new read.  I almost ignored it because of the title.  However, once I looked into the reviews, they were all fantastic! I was on a hunt for a funny, easy read, and this seemed to match perfectly.  I am so glad I picked up this book, it was exhilarating from beginning to end.

What is the book about?

This book centers around two characters, Augustus Everett (nicknamed Gus) and January Andrews. The book is narrated by January. It is set in the summertime in a small lake town called North Bear Shores.  Gus and January are both staying in cabins next door to one another.  January is visiting this cabin for the first time and stumbles upon her neighbour, Gus Everett.  January realizes that she recognizes her neighbour Gus from her college years, she remembers that he often was rude to her, but she always had a small crush on him.  She always felt like they competed with each other, even after college, when they became published authors.  When Gus and January first stumble upon each other outside of their cabins, their interaction does not go well.  Gus is visibly angry about something, and January is mad with the way he is speaking to her.

As time progresses, Gus and January find themselves continually running into each other; they realize later on that the town people may have had something to do with that.   They eventually form a friendship with one another, becoming more and more fond of each other.  Their relationship challenges both of them to come outside of themselves in different ways. This book is a story of grief, love, laughter and acceptance.  It is so much more than just a ‘rom-com’.

My review…

I think you can already tell how much I love this book.  The book made me cry, made me laugh and made me yearn for the characters to fall in love.  Henry’s writing is so detailed that although I knew these characters were not real, I found myself genuinely caring about them.  She shows how different these two characters are, but she also makes you feel like they belong together. The smart, sarcastic way the characters communicate is so entertaining.  The heartwarming story she forms around January and Gus is tantalizing.  As well, the father-daughter relationship that January is trying to figure out is heartbreaking. Simultaneously, the reader is trying to understand Gus’s tortured past with his father. I did not want this book to end; I was incredibly sad when it was over.  Emily Henry knows precisely how to captivate her audience. I had never read anything by Emily Henry before but, I have already ordered another one of her books!

More books by Emily Henry:

The Love that Split the World 
When the Sky Fell on Splendor 
A Million Junes
People we Meet on Vacation (will be released May 2021)