The Visitors by Catherine Burns

I highly anticipate that this book will become the topic of much conversation and popularity once it is published. 

4/5 stars.
ebook, 225 pages
Read from August 28, 2017 to September 1, 2017

It is books like this that make me love Netgalley more than I already do. If you need a creepy read that will make sure you never look at your next door neighbours the same way ever again, then look no further. I highly anticipate that this book will become the topic of much conversation and popularity once it is published (September 26, 2017).

Marion is a meek, simple-minded spinster in her mid-fifties who has never had to work a day in her life thanks to the money left from her family’s company. She is very content to live out her days watching television, day dreaming, snuggling teddy bears and avoiding confrontation at all costs, especially from her overbearing brother, John. John has always been smarter than Marion and was always favoured by her parents. John could do no wrong, even when he started to show dark and unnerving behaviour, while Marion was constantly reminded of her simpleness and inability to accomplish anything.

The two of them have lived together for some time, as neither of them is married, but John likes to have ‘visitors’ come over occasionally. Marion never knows where these visitors go as they never leave the cellar once they arrive.  She continuously turns a blind eye to the sounds and movements she hears coming from these ‘visitors’ while trying to comply with John’s demands and rules. She is soon forced to deal with the ‘visitors’ when John suffers from a heart attack and needs to be in the hospital for an extensive amount of time. Marion, momentarily free from her overlord brother, starts to discover what she is truly capable of.

You are not sure whether you should love or hate Marion, You initially feel sympathy for her with her atrocious upbringing and with the way that John treats her, but that nearly turns to revulsion with her inability to be anything but passive and eventually selfish and unfeeling. The reader, like Marion, doesn’t have a full understanding of her character at the beginning of the book and as the story slowly heats up, things begin to unravel in some pretty sickening twists and turns.

While not a necessarily a full fledged mystery or thriller, this novel and the author’s writing style, has an ability to appeal to anyone who doesn’t mind getting inside the heads of borderline psychopaths. While the story does not start off with a bang, Marion and John are too intriguing to walk away from ensuring that the reader is hooked and not ready to put the book down until it is finished.

This book has been one of my more enjoyable reads of 2017 and a good reminder to go out on a limb for books sometimes as surprises can be awesome. If you loved
Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train then this book will be a must read for you.

Shame: A Brief History by Peter N. Stearns

Shame, we have all felt it. However, the majority of people undermine how much it has shaped the world that we interact with everyday.

3/5 stars.
ebook, 182 pages.
Read from July 11, 2017 to July 20, 2017.

Shame, as an emotion, has a core meaning, in relating individuals to wider social groups and norms — real or imagined

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Shame, we have all felt it. However, the majority of people undermine how much it has shaped the world that we interact with everyday.  From our sexual behaviour, politics, self-worth, and even our upbringing.  What is shame and what makes it different from guilt? For many scholars, this has been a broad and difficult definition to tackle and an even harder topic to discuss in terms of history and its impact on modern society.  Peter N. Stearns attempts to address these grey areas with his new book which, is set to be published in September 2017.

Guilty people apologize and also take steps to avoid repetition. Shame, in contrast, is a more global emotion, which can emerge in response to the same kind of wrong act and violation of standards. It may develop earlier in life than guilt– guilt requires more cognitive sorting capacity– but above all it emphasizes self-abasement. It is the self that is at fault, not the commission of the act. This creates greater pain and intensity than guilt. A shamed person feels very bad indeed– but also makes it more difficult to escape.”

The novel opens with the widely debated matter of shame versus guilt and whether or not shame is a primal human emotion. In order to address the history of shame, the author breaks down the novel into four more additional chapters to address each stage in history and how shame is built and progresses through time.

The author draws from a wide-variety of knowledge and cultures to provide excellent examples of shame from across the globe.  The most impressionable chapter of the book was by far the last chapter which addressed shame in modern-day USA. The reason I felt this chapter was successful was that it was channelled and concise where as the previous chapters, while interesting and insightful, covered a globally large scope on shame.  As a result, I also felt that the author missed out on key topics of shame, specifically with women’s sexuality and minorities, both historically and for our present day. While it was mentioned and discussed to a point, surely a large portion of how shame is structured and how it has created our current social and cultural society was built and carried on the backs of shamed women and minorities? Perhaps it is too presumptuous for me to suggest that, however, this book would have benefited from discussing the effects of shame within one country or continent, rather than that of the whole world.

In the last chapter, the author also discusses how technology and social media has given rise to a revival of shame in the modern-day. I also appreciated the references and discussions that the author made in relation to other current researchers on shame, such as Brené Brown.

Overall, this novel is an intriguing look into how shame has shaped our world over the years and how it is currently effecting our everyday lives. The majority of this book is historical in nature but there are also some good sociological and psychological insights as well. I would recommend this book for those looking for an academic read on a topic that is worthy of more exploration.

A big thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Vegan Cookbook by Adele McConnell

“A diet based on plant foods is not one of restriction or denial.”

3/5 stars.
ebook, 150 pages.
Read from July 11, 2017 to July 18, 2017.

Vegan food gets a bad rap. I mean most people physically cringe when they think of only eating vegan food or even participating in a conversation with a vegan about food in general. Animal ethics aside, a vegan diet is one of the healthiest diets to partake in if it is done correctly. Now, I know what you’re thinking, the minute you hear healthy you associate it with tasteless, restrictive, soul-killing, boring food. It is books by Adele McConnell that are changing that perspective.

You will find that there is a wide range of healthy and incredibly tasty food that will make you feel nourished and satisfied after your meals.”

Adele McConnell offers a variety of tasty, colourful, easy, and dynamic recipes that will appease the whole family. The best part is that Adele focuses on real food and tries to avoid all the over-processed vegan alternatives like soy and TVP (texturised vegetable protein). She provides a few easy dairy-free cheeses that you can easily make at home as well as few side dishes that you can pair with variety of meals.

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From Indian cuisine to Asian and Mexican, there is something in this book for everyone. My personal favourite recipes are: Udon Noodle Bowl, Curried Cabbage with PotatoesMushroom & Pea Coconut Korma, Khao-Soi – Thai Curry Noodles. 

The format of this book is beautiful. Even with my old, black and white Sony eReader I can see that the care that went in to the format of this book. The pictures are beautiful and the pages are in an easy to read format. My one complaint is that I wanted more photos! What is also very helpful is that the author marks each recipe with logos indicating if the recipe is soy-free, gluten-free, seed-free, nut-free, raw or sugar-free.

fun-prank-to-play-oniapassed-out-vegan-memes-12972091I was also hoping for a few more main dish recipes. There are tonnes of books on vegan desserts and I would have rather have had the main dish section doubled and the dessert section left to 2 or 3 recipes. I’d like to think that most people spend more time eating main dishes than dessert. Right?

This book is a solid convincing base for anyone wanting to give veganism a try or even just for those who are looking to reduce their meat intake and eat healthier.

A big thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.