Book Review

Victoria BC Bookstore Scene

When visiting a new city, what is one of the most important things on your itinerary? For me it is finding the town’s best bookstore and finding food. Since this is a book blog, lets focus on the books.

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When I visited Victoria in British Columbia this past week, I made a note to look up a few bookstores. I also made a note of packing light in case I found more books to bring back home. Imagine my joy when I found out there was a very well known and beautiful bookstore right next door to my hotel. That is what I call serendipity!

Munro’s Books:

Located in the heart of downtown Victoria, this bookstore has is very hard to miss. The first thing that caught my attention as I walked in was the beautiful architecture. You can tell that the building has been modernized but that old school charm has been maintained as well. There are also beautiful fabric banners on one side of the wall that depict the four seasons. Back home in Montreal, I tend to spend most of my time in Chapters/Indigo and sometimes venture out to the used bookstores scattered around our city. It was great to explore something completely different from what I am use to seeing.

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The selection of books ranged from new releases, classics, autobiographies, cookbooks and so much more. There was a whole wall of fiction, which I gravitated towards right away. I was also grateful for the section with staff picks because all the options were overwhelming me. Needless to say, I was ready to give away all my money to this cute bookstore. There was also a nice tourist section with books about Victoria and it’s many attractions. I quickly flipped through some of these books and added a few spots to my itinerary. The staff was incredibly kind and attentive. One of the staff members even gave me a bit of a history lesson regarding the bookstore and the first owner. There were also various bookish items for sale at reasonable prices. I came close to buying a “I love Mr. Darcy” tote bag but a quick poll on bookstagram gave me the impression that it would be next level cheesy. Looking at my boring tote bag right now, I realize leaving it behind was a mistake. Quick advice: always buy the bookish item!

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Munro’s Books is located at 1108 Government Street Victoria, BC.


Russell Books

I was already on cloud nine from my experience in Munro’s Books. Then comes along a little message in my instagram DM from a fellow bookstagrammer who tells me there is an even bigger bookstore located just three blocks from where I am staying. Needless to say, I fired up my GPS and made my way to the location. Can I say serendipity again?

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Also located in the heart of downtown Victoria, this bookstore was huge. I’m pretty sure if I did not look touristy already, my reaction as I entered the bookstore gave me away. I squealed and did a little spin taking in the endless aisles of books. There was every section you can imagine: cooking, gardening, literature, poetry and a little salute to Harry Potter hidden in various aisle. As I was looking for the fiction section, one of the workers told me I could find that section upstairs. “Hold on…THERE IS AN UPSTAIRS?”

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Yep, there are two floors of endless piles and aisles of books. The fiction section was gigantic. It took me a while to make my way through each aisle and trying hard to pick just one book. There was also staff recommendations when you feel too lost or overwhelmed by all the options. There are piles of books lying around on the floors as well so you never know where your next great find will be hiding. The books were generally in great condition and the prices were very reasonable. Of course the staff was very welcoming and helpful.

Russell books is located on 734 Fort St, Victoria BC.

Chapters:

Of course you are always drawn to what you know. Walking out of Russell Books, I saw Chapters down another street so I decided to give it a little visit. It feels weird entering another Chapters and not knowing where everything is located. It made me realize how I am usually on autopilot in the bookstores in Montreal. Having three bookstores in close proximity to each other made it a fun little afternoon of bookstore hopping. Since I was only in town for a couple of days, I could not spend too much time at each location. Therefore, I believe another trip is due soon to fully experience these places.

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Book adventures:

I brought one book along with me on my trip to Victoria. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins seemed to be an appropriate choice and I thought it would make a great beach read. However, I underestimated how distracted I would become by Victoria’s beautiful scenic views. This made paying attention to the book very difficult. Even reading on the plane was cut short when I looked out the window and saw the mountaintops. Sadly, I did not get far in my reading but my book did end up making its way through many beautiful locations.

Here is my book chilling by the ocean at Beacon Hill Park:

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Here is my book doing a tour with me at Fisherman’s Warf:

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Here is my book keeping my tepid tea company as I completely ignore it due to the beautiful views out my window:35841663_10103694994842647_3773146404671717376_n (1)

If you are going to the Canadian westcoast, it would be really easy to forget about bookstores and enjoy your time by the water. However, I strongly recommend taking a stroll in these two bookstores. Even if you are not a reader, I believe you would enjoy the gorgeous architecture.

Happy travelling and reading!

Shazia.

Book Review

Author Spotlight: Ruth Ware

I remember reading a comment on Goodreads about Ruth Ware becoming the Agatha Christie of our times and I cannot agree more. Ruth Ware’s books are eerie page-turners that have kept me up till the wee hours of the night reading till my eyes were bloodshot and my mind was reeling. I love psychological thrillers and murder mysteries and I have found that Ruth Ware’s writing has a creepy tone that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. You just feel that something is horribly wrong and something bad will happen. You also find yourself asking many questions throughout the book: Can you trust this character? Can you really trust any character? Who is the murderer? What in the world is going on? Ruth Ware, how do you come up with this stuff? Yep, many questions!

The Death of Mrs. Westaway

One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret
Never to be told

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First off, Ruth Ware’s newest release has the most intriguing cover. Just looking at the black and white cover with the intricate gate filled with magpies and cobwebs was enough to grab my interest.

The novel introduces us to Harriet Westaway, a young woman struggling to make ends meet ever since her mother passed away. Harriet is a tarot reader who has the eye for observing human behaviour and figuring out the reason why people visit her. When a loan shark threatens to turn Harriet’s life upside down, she turns to what appears to be her only hope: a mysterious letter addressed to her stating that she has come into an inheritance left by her grandmother, Mrs. Westaway. The problem: Mrs. Westaway is not her grandmother. Harriet decides that life has knocked her down enough and that money can be her turning point. She embarks on the journey to her “grandmother’s” funeral and starts working her cunning plan to convince the family members that she is part of their family. Things take a dark turn as Harriet’s lies get out of hand and as she gets pulled deeper into the family secrets. She starts realizing something sinister is at the heart of their house and past.

The description of the creepy mansion fit into the storyline so well. The image of the cold, worn down home filled with secrets was so vivid in my mind. The feeling that everyone in this book was up to no good overwhelmed me. I questioned the characters motive and analyzed their behaviour with each turn of the page. I can tell you that I did not see that twist coming in the end. I finished this book in a day and I think I was so wrapped up in what I just read that I could not process what I felt for a couple of days. All I can say is, this is a Ruth Ware novel so be prepared for the creepy factor and a lot of suspense!

The Woman in Cabin 10:

“What was going to happen to me? There were only two possibilities—they were going to let me go at some point. Or they were going to kill me.” 

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When travel writer Lo Blacklock gets an assignment aboard a luxury cruise, she believes she has scored not only a big step in her career but some much needed time away from the drama of her own life. She soon realizes that this voyage will be anything but relaxing and more of her own personal nightmare. When Lo believes she witnessed a murder aboard the ship, she tries her best to convince the cruise staff of what she thinks happened. However, nobody seems to believe her and everyone is accounted for on the ship. There is no evidence of foul play and Lo eventually begins to question her own sanity. The biggest question: Who is the woman in cabin 10? This book had me questioning my own sanity as I kept trying to find answers to my questions or predict what would happen. Of course all my predictions were wrong, but I enjoyed how the mystery unravelled. Another hit by Ruth Ware!

In a Dark, Dark Wood:

“There was something strangely naked about it, like we were on a stage set, playing our parts to an audience of eyes out there in the wood.” 

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What happens when you take a couple of women with a past and place them in a dark and deserted cottage in the woods for a bachelorette weekend? Nothing good that’s for sure! Another eerie story about how lies and secrets from a decade earlier unravel in the most unexpected and horrifying way. I was quite shocked by how this story took a turn in a direction that I was not expecting. This book was a quick read for me and was perfect for those long commutes to and from work. Just make sure you are paying attention to your bus stop (learn from my mistakes folks).

In a Nutshell:

If you are looking to get swept away by a book then Ruth Ware is the way to go. I would take The Woman in Cabin 10 on vacation and I would read The Death of Mrs. Westaway on a rainy day snuggled up in a blanket and a cup of tea. Either way, you cannot go wrong. They are the kind of books you will read fast because you need answers to your questions.

Happy Reading!

Shazia.