Two books that have stayed with me since I read them in December are both from Raincoast Books (www.raincoastbooks.com) – Green Vanilla Tea by Marie Williams and Laughing at my Nightmare by Shane Burcaw. Both books share the common thread of sadness, but both are really stories about love and acceptance and learning from others. Must-reads for any age.

Green Vanilla Tea
Marie Williams
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoastbooks.com
Amidst the delights of family, tragedy strikes. Marie Williams watches helplessly as an undiagnosed illness slowly debilitates her 40-year-old husband Dominic in both body and mind. As the condition progresses, the devoted family man and loving partner seems to change and disappear beneath an expressionless face. In this powerful memoir, Williams writes of the courage, spirit and unshakable family bond that sustains them as they struggle to dealt the with the inexplicable.
Editor’s Note: A truly heartbreaking memoir by Williams. I was frustrated when reading the book because Williams didn’t know what was happening to her husband; she thought it was something mental. I assumed it was an illness of some sort. Once the diagnose was made, the book became sad, but also thought-provoking. It’s a great book, and one everyone should read so they know how to treat people who are different.

Laughing at my Nightmare
Shane Burcaw
Raincoast Books
Shane Burcaw is your typical 21-year-old wiseass blogger with an enthusiasm of life and all of its bizarre and beautiful moments. The only difference is that Shane is diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) at two. He has been in a wheelchair his entire life so his day-to-day life looks slightly different than that of your average able-bodied person.
Editor’s Note: When I described Laughing at my Nightmare to my coworker, she commented that I read a lot of sad books. It was then I realized I had done Shane Burcaw, and his book, a disservice. Laughing at my Nightmare is about more than a guy in a wheelchair with a disease, it’s a look at a man who embraces life and finds  humour  and positivity in everything. I started reading this book wondering if I would recommend it and ended telling the world this is a must-read book about a man who understands that while sometimes life can suck, it’s the only one we have so we need to enjoy every moment.

Let’s Start a Riot
Bruce McCulloch
HarperCollins, http://www.harpercollins.ca
Editor’s Note: I am not a Kids in the Hall fan (I am not not a fan, I just don’t have an opinion about the show). However, I thought McCulloch’s book would be a fun read. Some of the stories were awful, and many of them have stayed with me. I am not a fan of his writing style, but I did laugh out loud in the part about the mouse – and the urges of a hunter.

Jump and Your Life will Appear, an inch-by-inch guide to making major change
Nancy Levin
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoastbooks.ca
Are you ready to make changes in your life – but feel something is holding you back? Is your soul asking you to take a leap, but you’re afraid to take it? This book will hold your hand and give you the courage and faith you need to jump across the threshold to where you are to where you want to be.
Editor’s note: There is enough personal information in this book, to make this an interesting book. There are exercises throughout the book to help you in your decision to end your marriage or start a new career (or any other change you are looking to make). At the end of each cheaper is a piece about forgiving yourself.

The Change You Want! Change your Mindset and Change Your Life, Simple steps you can take for 21 days to create successful outcomes in your life, business or career
Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta, http://www.thechangeyouwant.net
Do you want to change the outcomes in your life? Our thoughts, beliefs and experiences are building blocks that shape our mindset and in turn determine our desired outcomes. Start to positively shape your mindset and you will take the outcomes in your life from good to great.
Editor’s note: This small compact book is easy to read with three points for each short chapter. Each chapter offers a space to write notes and make a plan.

The Mousehouse Years, A Memoir
Velvet Haney, http://www.velvethaney.com
Velvet Haney’s The Mousehouse Years is the history of her parents’ dysfunctional romance and the story of a single mother raising six children in the slums of Toronto in the early ’60s.
Editor’s note: It’s not my style of illustration, but I found myself dragged in the story of Haney’s parents and grandparents. It was neat reading about Toronto’s past. I liked that within the book, Haney speaks for her mother – a funny way to give additional information. Justin Skinner, our City Centre reporter, did an article on Haney. Read it here: http://www.insidetoronto.com/news-story/4882902-former-model-velvet-haney-pens-graphic-novel-based-on-her-childhood-in-alexandra-park/

The Incomparables
Alexandra Leggat
Anvil Press, http://www.anvilpress.com
Lydia Templar is obsessed with fabric, the texture and weight of cloth. When she discovers her husband is having an affair with his leading lady, she seeks revenge the only way she knows how: she weaves her panic, pain and paranoia into the costumes, and loses her job. She returns home to her family bed and breakfast, where she meets a group of counsellors, who lure her into a role she didn’t see coming – herself.
Editor’s note: What a bizarre book. I debated whether I like it or if I should continue reading it, but as it’s still in my brain a week later, I will take the time to read it. I understand Lydia’s pain, and can even believe her gift, but I can’t wrap my head around these counsellors. I spoke with a representative from Anvil Press who told me the counsellors are an integral part of the book they are needed for Lydia’s personal and psychological growth. She also said it’s a hard read, but rewarding.
Updated: I was more than half way through the book when things started to make sense. And then the end! I think I got it, but wow. To be warned, author Alexandra Leggat doesn’t flip between times at each chapter, but each paragraph. You have to be on the ball to read this one.

The Paris Winter
Imogen Robertson
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Maud Heighton came to Lafond’s famous Academie to paint. While her fellow students enjoy Paris, Maud slips into poverty, until she stumbles upon an opportunity when Christian Morel engages her as a live-in companion to his young sister, Sylvie. But not is all at it seems and the pair are not as darling as they seem.
Editor’s Note: While reading the book, I kept going back to the description wondering if I read it wrong. When it happens, it happens and wow. I didn’t see it coming, nor did I see the rest. What a great book. Very colourful and great description of Paris in the early 1900s, particularly for people who are poor.

Watch How We Walk
Jennifer LoveGrove
ECW Press, ecwpress.com
LoveGrove was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and in Watch How We Walk, Emily, is the youngest member of a rigid Jehovah’s Witness family. After her older sister, Lenora, rejects her upbringing and her favourite uncle is ostracized, Emily begins to question her faith. And when Lenora disappears, everything changes for Emily.
Editor’s Note: Wow. What a horribly sad book. It was such a horrific story. The life that Emily and her sister, Lenora, have to live is awful – so much control, doom and gloom and rules. Now that I am finished the book, I am trying not to judge people’s choices, but the damage Emily lived through was heartbreaking.

On my reading list
Books I will be reading:

Jack A. Langedijk, http://www.because.zone
Robert Sanchez is living the dream; one could say the man has it all. He is blessed with a beautiful wife and daughter and a career that brings him true joy. Then a tragic accident leads Robert to a chasm of dark despair. He is incapable of helping himself off a cliff. Because takes us on a journey of two Roberts as he struggles to find a way to once again believe.

Red Queen
Victoria Aveyard
Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood – those with Red blood serve the elite, whose Silver blood gifts them with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by living in a poor, rural village until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes and all the nobles, she discovers she has power, too – an ability all her own. Mare is drawn quickly onto the Silver world where one wrong move can lead to her death.
Update: This books similar to The Jewel by Amy Ewing (HarperCollins). It made me angry – how are people treated such a way. It also made my head spin; if I was Mare, I would I have no idea who to trust either. It kept me guessing until the end. A great read.

The Code of Seven
Sherina HM
The book focuses on seven individuals in the code of seven as they explore their interconnective lives, creating a portal between galaxies. Their tremendous forces influence natural events on different planets.

The Iron Trial, Book 1 of the Magisterium
Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Scholastic, http://www.scholastic.ca
Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trail and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worsts an fails. Now the Magisterium awaits him.

Other books
A Foggy Sunrise

David Kimel
The Second World War affected all of Europe, but some sides of this tragedy are rarely remembered.
In his new book A Foggy Sunrise, author David Kimel reveals the drastic changes that the war brought to his home country of Romania, leading to his decision to leave their home, family and country to immigrate to Canada.
Spanning the decade from 1937 to 1947, A Foggy Sunrise begins before the war when Kimel was just a child. It reveals a moment in time of his family and the entire country struggled to cope with the rising tide of war, anti-Semitism, famine and a corrupt Communist regime.

“One thing I want all readers to take away from my story is that life can be filled with hardship, danger and brutality, but human kindness, good will and faith will remain and shine through it all,” Kimel said in a release. “It’s only when liberty is taken from people that they must run somewhere else for a better life.”

Candyland S.I.N.S.
Toronto author Joan Barrett’s new book, Candyland S.I.N.S. is a practical and emotional guide on how to prepare for and enjoy dating online during the later years of life. The author draws from others’ experiences as well as her own, while using compelling studies to help those who might be too scared to take the plunge.
More than a third of all marriages between 2005 and 2012 began online. Many claim the fastest growing age demographic of the online dating industry is the more mature generation of baby boomers and older. Barrett happily lands in that category and participates in what she playfully calls S.I.N.S., or singles Internet dating services.

Chloe Sparrow
Lesley Crewe
Nimbus Publishing, http://www.nimbus.ca/Chloe-Sparrow-P6864.aspx
Chloe Sparrow is a 25-year-old TV producer with a hit show on her hands. The Single Guy is a popular new reality series, where dozens of women are trying to woo bachelor veterinarian Austin Hawke. As the filming gets underway, though, accident-prone Chloe finds herself in one predicament after another. But Chloe has bigger problems. The stress of her home life with her nutty, but lovable Gramps and Aunt Ollie is getting to her, her job is consuming her, and painful memories from her past threaten to overwhelm her.

Daily Love, Growing into Grace
Mastin Kipp
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
When Mastin Kipp found himself at rock bottom, addicted to drugs and parties, living in his ex-girlfriend’s parents’ tiny pool house, he looked for divine help. What he found took him in a new direction. He moved from a life filled with excesses to one teacing about the power of self-acceptance and service. To spread the love beyond his circle, Kipp started @TheDailyLove, which has more than a million followers.

Engage the Fox: A Business Fable About Thinking Critically and Motivating Your Team
Greenleaf Book Group
Recent research indicates only about 20 per cent of employees worldwide are actively engaged, while 70 per cent of all projects at work are not completed on time or fail to meet expectations. Why? Simply put, most people do not think critically and effectively when attempting to solve everyday business issues.
As a way to help us make decisions and solve problems more effectively in any aspect of our lives, storyteller and author, Jen Lawrence, along with highly successful businessman and University of Toronto instructor Larry Chester, have written the new guide, Engage the Fox: A Business Fable About Thinking Critically and Motivating Your Team. In this fun, humorous, and easy-to-read business fable, the authors guide readers in important business decision-making, using animals portrayed in time-tested parables to represent different aspects of human personalities.

Finishing School for Women
Roman Plastich
Relationships fail for various reasons, but what if the solution was as simple as doing some research before making a commitment. Reman Plastich has written a straightforward guide that pushes people to analyze the best relationship for their needs and wants. With persona stories and self-reflective quizzes, Finishing School for Women provides the tools, insights and strategies to help couples find common group and work toward a common goal.

I Was Here
Gayle Forman
Penguin Books, http://www.penguinbookshop.com/book/9780451471475
When her best friend, Meg, drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything, so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot Meg never told her.

Love Your Enemies, How to Break the Anger Habit and Be a Whole Lot Happier
Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Inspired by Buddhist philosophy, this book introduces us to the four kinds of enemies we encounter in life: the outer enemy, the inner enemy, the secret enemy and the super-secret enemy. In this practical guide, we learn not only how to identify our enemies, but how to transform our relationship with them.

Mother’s Message in a Bottle: Loving Letters for Life
Edited by Tyler Hayden
Nimbus Publishing, http://www.nimbus.ca/Search.aspx?k=message%20in%20a%20bottle
Mother’s Message in a Bottle is an inspirational collection of more than 40 letters from mothers around the world to the people they love.

Natural Beauty
DK Books, http://www.dk.com/ca/boutiques/start-fresh/start-fresh-natural-beauty
Pamper yourself from head to toe with step-by-step instructions guaranteed to make you look and feel gorgeous. Learn how to make your own cleansers, creams, soaps, body butters, shampoos, scrubs, and more, using natural ingredients that are safe and gentle on your skin.

Shadow Walkers, The Glory of Kings
Mutendei Akhaya Nabutete
MAKN-Productions, http://maknproductions.com/makn-literary-publications/
Shadow Walkers: The Glory of Kings is the first in a series of historic mythology stories that predominately feature African mythology, along with the cultural representation of other societies around the globe, portraying their richness and depth through a compelling and captivating fantasy adventure story pitted against the backdrop of history and culture.

Short & Happy collection
S & H Publishing, Inc., http://sandhpublishing.com/S&H_BOOKSTORE.html
Wendy Wong, an Etobicoke author, has two stories included in an international anthology by S & H Publishing, Inc. The anthology contains 36 stories by 25 talented authors hailing from Canada, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Colombia, the U.K., and across the United States. The subject matter and style of the stories are as varied as the authors. Humour, memoir, fantasy, science fiction, dramatic settings and wildly different points of view.

Structurally Sound: Renovating the Middle-Aged Body
Jonathan Paull
More often than not, middle-aged people attempting to get back into shape can be met by unanticipated injuries. Having been out of the gym for a few decades can leave some a bit baffled as to how to get back into shape. In light of recent workout trends like CrossFit, P90X, and other grueling regimens, it can be hard to know where to start, how to move your body and how to find a pace and exercise that is right for your fitness level and personality. Ontarian medical exercise specialist Jonathan Paull and his new book, Structurally Sound: Renovating the Middle-Aged Body, are here to help. In this groundbreaking guide, Paull outlines the necessary tools and exercises that you need to get fit again.

The The Bully’s Trap: Bullying in the Workplace
Tate Publishing and Enterprises, http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore
In The Bully’s Trap, midtown Toronto author Andrew Faas provides comprehensive and provocative insights into the dynamics, impacts and costs of bullying in the workplace, and answers how it can be prevented and stopped.

The First Candle
Dr. Eric B. Swanson
In the post-apocalypse wastelands of The First Candle, a powerful demon prince is set to destroy the last resistance to his dominion. The first candle of the Menorah beckons roving minstrel Martin Longbow to rise u ad gather allies against the spiritual forces that drive earths’ ruthless factions against each other.

The Top Ten Things Dead People Want to Tell You
Mike Dooley
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
If the dead could speak, don’t you wonder what they would ay to those of us they’ve left behind? In pages filled with wisom, humour and yes, joy, Dooley explores our most pressing and profound questions about the afterlife and this life from the fresh perspective of those who have made the transition to the next phase.

Troubled Pilgrimage: Passage to Pakistan
Balwant Bhaneja
Tsar Books, http://www.tsarbooks.com
Troubled Pilgrimage: Passage to Pakistan is about a journey by the author, a retired Canadian diplomat, who is visiting is ancestral land of Sindh and Punjab in Pakistan, the first visit since he was five. The trans-cultural narrative deals with the universal them of displacement and how it impacts the mind and psyche of those involved.

Twisted Forms of Love
Rania Chmaysani
Rania Chmaysani was at a serious crossroad in her life. As she sat down to write what could have ended up being a suicide note, she just kept writing and writing. What may have been a cataloging of the difficulties she had endured – read only by a few – has transformed into a project that encourages others to fight for their futures. Her book follows the story of Hannah, a girl who has survived the violent civil war in Lebanon. Not only having to worry about the violence occurring in the streets, she also has to navigate the dangers of a physically, psychologically and sexually abusive family situation. After Hannah immigrates to Canada, she meets a man who would grow into the most abusive man she has ever met – as well as become her husband.

You Have the Keys Now Drive

Danny Stone, http://www.YouHaveTheKeysNowDrive.com
“You have greatness to offer the world; do not let anyone tell you otherwise. You deserve to live a great, authentic life. If you want it, claim it,” said Toronto resident Danny Stone in a release. As a life coach, public speaker and business owner, Stone has committed his life to helping people that are stuck in life or halted by the fear of change. He assists those whom are searching for their purpose or passions and helps them find their calling. With more than 15 years coaching and inspiring others to reach for their dreams, he hopes the book will reach even more and have a profound impact on their lives.

This article was originally published at insidetoronto.com