CONVERSATIONS FOR TWO by Jacqueline Markowitz


5 out of 5

Conversations for Two beautifully presents the fragmented memory of one woman after a life of loss and love. Inspired by the loss of Markowitz’s brother and the rediscovery of his personal writings years later, Markowitz uses these pieces of him to ask what about memory is tangible and what is imagined; how “real” are the written words that Markowitz can hold in her hand? What of the images they inspire? The use of metaphor and lyrical prose unearths the beauty in tragedy in a pure and gorgeous way.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jacqueline at Toronto’s 2016 Word on the Street festival, and interviewed her over the phone two days later. She is a wonderfully kind and interesting woman. I could have talked with her all day, but that would have been selfish of me. I wanted to specifically probe her for more details about the Beatles concert she attended when she was ten years old, but alas. She also started her own publishing company, The Jam Press, under which she published Conversations for Two. The company’s logo—a little strawberry—reminds me of the movie Across the Universe based on the Beatles’ music and the song “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

Jacqueline Markowitz writes as if from a dream. I feel as if I’m seeing her thoughts from underwater in the most dazzling way. Some of my favourite descriptions of hers are about the woman’s mother. Here is an excerpt that has stayed with me for over a week now:

“I squeeze my eyes and see her. She is ethereal in the green water, scented with lavender. She would never see the beauty that I saw. One shoulder is lower than the other, and her hips are out of line. Her body is lopsided, the shape of a woman who carried children on one hip while dealing with the meat and potatoes of life on the other. There are the scar slashes where a breast used to be. Her body has been ransacked of its treasures. The outline of the pacemaker is sheltered within her beautiful collarbones, from which her skin is neatly folded and hung.

“I can see her. She had the skin of sonnets, creamy, even as life seeped in those feathery lines than fanned from the edges of her eyes, especially when she smiled. She would say it’s because she drank a cup of hot water with lemon every morning. And, I can see her face as she looked in her bedroom mirror at night, her little finger bent with arthritis smoothing cream across the contours of her face, and sometimes she could catch a glimpse of the woman who lived inside of her. Her eyes once brown, now laced with blue and green. Green like mine.”

-Jacqueline Markowitz, Conversations for Two

I honestly haven’t read anything so good in months, perhaps even a year. This is a book that stays with you in your heart as you live your life, quietly staying shadowed in the background. It’ll ease back out every now and then with a good quote or a simple word or two pertaining to my life’s goings-on. If I had to describe it simply, I would say it is a sigh on the wind. Quiet and peaceful, and now a part of me as the wind is part of the earth.


Tuesday’s Track List #2

Hey guys! So I had so much fun with last week’s Tuesday’s Track List that I wanted to do another one today. Today I’m picking only books that are sitting on my bookshelf right now, which makes things a little bit challenging for me, but all the more interesting. I’m also only picking songs that I have on my iPod. This will also give you a little bit of a sense of who I am, in case any of you are interested.

Book: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Song: “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” by Iron & Wine


Book: The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz

Song: “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” by Cage the Elephant

vinyl princess

Book: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Song: “Gimme Sympathy” by Metric

13 little blue envelopes

Let me know what you guys think of the pairings! If you have anything else that you’d like to recommend, let me know.

Happy reading.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

P.S. It would be SO COOL if the authors actually checked this out. I know that with my last post, Lauren Morrill actually retweeted the link on Twitter. It was so awesome! So if you’re one of these authors and you checked it out, let me know what you think! Do you have your own track list for your book? I’d love to know what it is.

THREE DAY SUMMER by Sarvenaz Tash

three day summer

4 ½ out of 5

[ARC provided to me in paperback format in exchange for an honest review. Date to be released: May 19, 2015. Imprint: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Release information: Hardcover, $17.99/$21.99 Canadian.]

It’s 1969 and the biggest concert of all time is about to descend on the small town of Bethel, New York, only nobody knows just how big it’s going to be yet. There have been rumours, which is why Michael just has to go. It’s the only thing he’s sure about. Torn between enrolling in college—which he’s not too thrilled about—and putting his name down for the draft into the Vietnam War when he turns eighteen—which he’s impartial to—Michael is happy to just focus on the music, despite the manipulative girlfriend that he wishes he could break up with tagging along.

Cora wants to be a doctor. It’s her deepest, darkest secret. It’s why she’s volunteering as a candy striper in the medical tents at the concert being set up practically in her backyard. But even she can’t resist the music, and when Michael comes stumbling into her tent, carried by two of his friends and then left there, his love for Jimi Hendrix and knowledge of the music scene is intoxicating. Cora finds herself swept up in Michael’s enthusiasm, but a part of her holds back. It’s the part still hurt by her recent break-up. It’s the part still scarred from the fact that her ex-boyfriend didn’t believe she could be a doctor because she’s a woman.

Cora and Michael discover themselves in the middle of the biggest musical gathering in history and discover each other as well. Three Day Summer will leave readers wishing they had been at Woodstock and feeling the flower power. Music lovers will go crazy over this book about the biggest concert of all time.

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like Three Day Summer before. It was an incredibly unique and refreshing read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me of the movie Across the Universe, only the YA book version, and I love Across the Universe. I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at.

One of the things I loved most about this book was its emphasis on living in and really experiencing the present, which was ironically delivered through a story that takes place in 1969 at Woodstock. Though the book wasn’t as perfectly swoon-worthy as I had hoped, it did have some steamy moments and the character development was spot-on. It did have a slight slump at the 4/5 mark where I could see where the book was going and I just wanted it to get there. That being said, it made me wish I had been born a few decades earlier so that I could have experience Woodstock.

I hope Tash writes more books that take place in this era because Three Day Summer definitely has me wanting to explore it more. I’d also love to see fans of the book posting pictures of random people at Woodstock that they think could be the characters in the book. (And just a side note: everyone needs to hear Joe Cocker’s version of “Come Together.” It just so happens to be on the Across the Universe soundtrack.)

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

P.S. I never do this, but for this book, I sticky-tabbed three separate pages that had really awesome quotes. They are mantras to live by, I swear.

Also, fun fact: my mom was a candy striper.

Check out this book on Goodreads!

Purchase this book on Amazon.

Waiting on Wednesday: SAINT ANYTHING

saint anything

Hey everyone!

I saw all of these “Waiting on Wednesday” posts popping up on my timeline and I decided to give it a try. I can’t guarantee that these posts will be regular occurrences (I have other ideas for posts that I think could be really fun and interesting…) but for today, at least, you shall know what I’m excited about.

My WoW pick is Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. A little story: me and Sarah Dessen go way back, and I mean about ten years back. When I was twelve I picked up this here little beauty… the_truth_about_forever

I have to be honest here for a second. I am the type of person who will buy a book solely based on the cover, at that age especially (I was about twelve at the time). Now I like to read the back or the inside sleeve, sometimes a paragraph or two. I’ve become jaded in my old age, apparently. I’m much pickier.

Anyways, I saw this particular cover and instantly fell in love. I hadn’t read any YA before—though I had accidentally read a quite steamy Adult novel which was my introduction to oral sex but HAVE NO FEAR! I simply believed oral sex meant two people sitting across from each other and talking about the sexual things they’d like to do. I was a fairly innocent child.

Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever was my introduction to the YA genre, and I was instantly hooked. I read every single one of her books that were out at that time, and have been a dedicated fan since (though I have not yet read The Moon and More. I’m a little bit scared that the MC cheats on her boyfriend and it would make me so sad…).

I’ve heard a lot of really great things about Saint Anything. The cover is beautiful, the MC is named Sydney which is a name I LOVE, and it seems to have a bit of a darker feel which I’m excited to experience. Sarah Dessen never disappoints me. We’re thick as thieves, her books and me. I’ll be picking this one up as soon as it’s out.

A few other things I’m eagerly awaiting:

  1. The Avengers: Age of Ultron
  2. Pitch Perfect 2
  3. Star Wars Episode IX
  4. Batman vs. Superman
  5. Astoria by Marianas Trench (CD)

Have a great Wednesday!

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

Click the links above to visit Goodreads and Amazon!