What I’m Reading: The Immortalists

From the book jacket:

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

My review:

After reading the book jacket for The Immortalists I was intrigued and just had to give it a go. After all, if you knew what day was your last on earth, how would you live your life?

The story starts off with the four Gold kids visiting the fortune teller and then kicks off their timelines. The book is sorted into four parts, one per character, and each section blends the timelines together between characters.

While each chapter was pretty long (40+ pages in come cases) I found myself blasting my way through Simon and Klara’s sections. They were perhaps the most enjoyable and interesting to read, then the pace got a little slow when it got to Daniel, and even more so with Varya. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it, I just felt like I wanted a bit more out of Daniel and Varya’s storyline.

In the end, The Immortalists isn’t overly graphic, but depicts a fictional-but-accurate tale of the times. And the premise itself is a great conversation starter: If you could know when in time will be the day you die, would you want to know? Would knowing shape your life differently?

My rating: ★★★★/5

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September Recap

The first month of school is done! Did you survive? We hung in there the best we could but I think we’ve found our rhythm and are back in the groove of things.

Isla started grade 2 this year and after the first week of school she was finally placed in a classroom. (Because of a large amount of new students it took a while to shuffle everyone around.) She was happy to get the teacher she was hoping for and so far she’s really loving her classroom.

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The classroom she’s in is a grade 2/3 split, so I’m hoping she does okay. Her teacher seems wonderful and has been teaching for quite a while, so I’m confident Isla will be able to absorb everything that’s being taught with no issues.

The most exciting school-related event, however, was Norah starting preschool! She’s been dying to go to school practically since Isla started kindergarten two years ago, so when she learned that she FINALLY gets to go twice a week, she was ecstatic!

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She looks forward to going and needed no convincing that school is an exciting place to be. And she’s already learning so much! I hate comparing Isla and Norah, but Norah definitely has more “learning” to do than Isla did at this age, so preschool is definitely benefitting her a lot more.

In addition to going back to school, Isla returned to ballet classes this month and is happy to be back in the studio with her dance friends. She also started rehearsals for the Nutcracker performance that she’ll be in come November, so that’s exciting as well. Norah so far isn’t in any extracurriculars, but I’m leaning towards something like soccer or baseball come the spring. The kid needs to MOOOOVE so I think a sport would be better for her than something as structured as dance or gymnastics.

Of course, there was also the Dirty Feet trail race I ran near the beginning of the month. My legs took a solid week to recover but I think they’re back to normal now ;) I’m not sure what my next race will be – I haven’t even ran since then – so whenever I find the time/energy to do that we’ll go from there.

Kyle and I also got in a dinner and a movie just this past weekend! My mom had the girls over for a sleepover, so we got to go out for dinner and then we headed to the theatre with a friend to watch Rambo: Last Blood! The movie was everything I expected it to be, and then some, so I give it two solid Bowie Knives up, lol.

September, unfortunately, wasn’t entirely celebrations and excitement. Near the end of August we learned that Sam, our German Shepherd, was suffering from a pancreatic disease called E.P.I.. Generally, it’s more common for older dogs to contract the disease, so Sam’s case was highly unusual, but it explained why he was so skinny and not gaining any weight. Sadly, the medication to help his pancreas regulate his food digestion was a cost that was unexpected and something that we wouldn’t be able to maintain, especially on top of the semi-annual bloodwork he’d need. After a long discussion with the breeder we received Sam from, we decided that it would be best for Sam to go back to her. It was something that definitely wasn’t an easy thing to do, and I still miss him terribly, but I know he’s getting the care he needs by someone who can afford to do so.

The girls handled his departure extremely well (me, not so much), and I’m so ridiculously proud of both of them for being so grown up about the situation.

All that being said, we didn’t want to remain a one-dog house for too long, so Kyle and I began the search for another puppy. We had many discussions over what kind of dog to get – we thought about another shepherd but were still in shock from Sam’s issues – so we opted for a “Good Ol’ Labrador retriever.” We searched the mighty Internet high and low and eventually stumbled across a litter that was ready to go, so one sunny, Saturday morning we dropped the girls off at my mom’s and the rest is history …

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Meet Lars! He’s the chillest little chonkster and the girls are so happy to have a puppy in their lives again. I’m pretty smitten too, potty accidents aside, lol. And Campbell loves having a friend to play with again – he’s been SO good with Lars and it’s great to see him perky again.

So, that’s September in a nutshell! Lots of ups, a couple of downs, but overall it was a decent start to a new school year! October has the potential to be an interesting month, but we’ll see how it goes!

What were some of the highlights for you in September?!

What I’m Reading: Red, White & Royal Blue

From the book jacket:

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

My review:

I picked up a copy of this book after hearing a lot of positive feedback about it. The idea behind the book was quite intriguing, but I think it really could have been put together more cleanly. Also – I can’t help but assume that this is a fictitious spin on what politics may been like if Clinton had won the 2016 election, but I digress…

The main story idea itself was good – a secret love between the First Son and HRH? Scandalously wonderful! I cheered for Alex and Henry’s love story and I truly wanted them to be together. Love know no boundaries (or political policies), you know? But all details involving their “bow-chicka-wow-wow” moments was … Meh. I don’t know if it was skirted over on purpose or if the author was too apprehensive of researching the subject matter, but those moments fell flat, IMO. There needed to be more than kissing, a smile, an “Oh Baby” and spooning.

Additionally, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m not American, but I just didn’t enjoy the whole re-election subplot and felt that the story could have had the same impact if it didn’t revolve around an election.

Red, White & Royal Blue definitely has an important message behind it – that policies need to change with the times and you should be allowed to love whoever you want to love openly – but I feel the story could have been delivered better. Chop out the centre third of the story and again, the point still could have been made. It was too long for what it was.

In a nutshell: I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. It just didn’t live up to the hype for me.

My rating: ★★★/5 Stars