Hello, and welcome to my blog! SharaLee Reads is all about books and literature and story. I love them and I want to share that love (or hate, as the case may be) with all of you! Feel free to leave comments and suggestions and ask questions. I also sometimes post book-related videos from my YouTube channel (also called SharaLee Reads), found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb6USCZxfUl_30eYn1RWSqQ

Some books I review are sent to me by the authors and some are my own. Read and enjoy!

– SharaLee

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Current Song: Elastic Heart (Acoustic) – Sia, quickly followed by Last Kiss – Taylor Swift as I type this.

So many changes in my life, it’s crazy!

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting unhappily in my bedroom, wondering where my life was going, when I suddenly decided, “You know what? I am tired of being a victim. Yes, I live with bipolar disorder. Yes, I will have setbacks. But I can’t wait around forever for things to go back the way they were before my illness developed. They never will. I have to incorporate this illness as part of my life, and not let it BECOME my life.

So I called up an Academic Advisor at the University of Winnipeg (where I had previously nearly completed a 3-Year Bachelor of Arts, but had to drop out due to the development and seriousness of my illness) to see what my GPA was, where I stood, and what I could do to complete my degree in a different field, namely Psychology.

Current Songs: Closing – The Nightmare Before Christmas, quickly followed by Turn It Off – Paramore as I was typing.

It turns out that even though my marks had started to go down drastically during my last classes at the University, I still have a GPA of 3.548, and thus I qualify not only for bursaries and scholarships (which I can start applying for in November), but I am able to enter the 4 Year Honours Psychology program as soon as the Spring term!

I didn’t want to apply for student loans for one Spring course (Psychology 1000: I had started taking this course, but had dropped it a few years ago, thinking my career was headed in a different direction), so I thought, well I guess that means I have to get a job.

I updated my resume, uploaded it to Workopolis, applied to be a Customer Service Representative at a call centre on a whim in the middle of the night, and two days later got called in for an interview. Later that day I was hired, and I now have a full-time job with benefits, an excellent work environment, amazing coworkers, and a means to pay for my Spring course without accruing any debt.

Current Songs: Save Your Day – Jose Gonzalez, Scarborough Fair – Celtic Woman

I no longer feel useless or like a burden to my family or like I’m wasting my potential. My academic advisor told me that every single one of the 66 credits I had earned for the 3 Year English Lit. BA can be used toward my Honours Psychology, which means that not only have I already completed all of my electives and humanities, but I am only 54 credit hours away from graduating. I AM ALREADY OVER HALFWAY THERE.

Once I graduate from the U of W, I plan to take Applied Counselling at Red River College and work using a behavioural therapy model based on DBT to help troubled youth and young adults.

A switch just flipped, and I suddenly realized I was at a place where I could take charge of my life again. It’s not a high, it’s not an impulse, it’s not a delusion. It’s just normal and filled with hope and potential. This is such a good thing, I had to share it with all of you.

Some of you might wonder, ‘How can someone with a mental illness be a counsellor for other people?’ Just to be sure of this myself, I asked my psychiatrist’s opinion, and he said that because I have suffered and live with bipolar to this day, it will help me be more empathetic in my job and will be an advantage rather than a disadvantage. I have no illusions that there will be no hard work involved, but I really feel that this is my purpose. It’s wonderful to find a niche. I. Am. Happy.

End Songs: Tonight – Lykke Li, All Fired Up – Petra

Book Review – ‘The Dragonfly Saga: Book I: Empress of Canton’ by Juliann Troi



Kathryn Hopewell is the wealthy daughter of William Hopewell, the head of the powerful Hopewell Trading house in Canton in the early 1900s. She has just stepped off the docks after completing business studies at Harvard University in America, and is off to a good start in what she believes will be her position of taking her father’s place as head of the trading empire. Alas, alack, gasp! An unforeseen circumstance has appeared! It turns out Kathryn’s father only sent her to Harvard because he had the money to burn and thought real university would knock that idea out of her silly little head. He has engaged her to a useless Australian named Collin McNeal, who will be the one taking over Kathryn’s hopes and dreams and who is apparently completely devoted to her, even though he has never met her.

There is unrest in China during this period. Warlords and generals vie for provinces and citizens are caught in the crossfire. Kathryn and her friend Lucy go shopping for one fateful day in a district outside their safe zone, and are captured.

Lucy, who is British, is (of course) snuffed out (in fact, anything not American is looked upon as slightly inferior in this cloying melodrama), but General Cheng Jiong’s nephew Wang Ti-wei (who is acceptable as a secondary character because he, too, has gone to school in America and has Americanized his name to Ty Wang before returning to China and getting embroiled in family and national politics) has fallen in love with Kathryn and protects her by offering to lead her to General Cheng’s home in the north where they will be free to escape and he can return her to her father.

Like Disney’s version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, within three days, they have declared their undying love for one another, and become married in the peasant fashion (eat a meal and sleep in the same room together – which makes me wonder how many people I can claim as spouses today: all interested, come forth into my fold!)

The book ends with their arrival at General Cheng’s home of Shaoguan, which it turns out is actually Wang Ti-wei’s childhood home that was appropriated from him after his mother died. There they complete their final act of marriage, all in a rosy glow of prayer and Bible reading and endless repetitions every five seconds of his ‘sable’ eyes and her ‘teal’ ones.

This book attempts to produce a strong female character, and Kathryn is indeed feisty, but only through an arranged marriage can she receive her inheritance, even though she is more qualified, and the romanticization of the role Westernization played changing China forever, the fact that Ty has to be somewhat Western to be equal to Kathryn, is for lack of a better word, appalling, as though he could not have been legitimate without her as his wife, or she could not somehow have survived without a husband. The image below illustrates how I feel Troi uses Kathryn: she idolizes her – this ‘Chinaman’ is lucky to have her, and his many ninja-esque exploits only serve to feed into the fascination of the exotic that this book only uses as though to say, ‘What a fascinating time before they finally caught up with our American society’.


I give this book 2 stars out of 5, because the writing isn’t entirely terrible, but nothing more than that, for not only being sexist and racist and very ‘Murican, I could not believe the amount of times ‘sable’ was used to describe Ty’s eyes. There is such a thing as a thesaurus. His eyes could also have been ‘black’, ‘dark’, ‘ebony’, ‘jet’, ‘jetty’, ‘raven’, ‘dusky’ or ‘dusty’, but no, ‘sable’ was the only adjective used to describe them, and that was enough to lose at least one star. Don’t even get me started on the many other adjectives she could have used instead of ‘teal’.

Hello From the Other Side

Hello, again!

Since the last time I posted, my hubby & daughter & cat & I have moved to a new place in an area of Winnipeg that we just love. It has beautiful trees everywhere, old character houses, we’re close to the Assiniboine River, and a library and a thrift store, and delicious restaurants (Charisma of India has amazing Indian food, Decadence Chocolates has the best handmade chocolate (and spicy chocolate-covered salted hazelnuts & almonds!) I have tasted in the entire city, and we live just around the corner from Boon Burger, an all-vegan burger restaurant we are dying to try).

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Left to Right: ??? chocolate which turned out to be filled with Chai ganache & Coffee-flavoured chocolate from Decadence Chocolates

I am a huge supporter of small businesses, and that is especially easy to do in a neighbourhood with so much talent, so much flavour, so much care to the excellence of whatever craft it is that someone decides to pursue. Another place I recommend, that I really want to visit more, is Hollow Reed, where natural ingredients and remedies are not only sold, but actively harvested. This place also offers classes on recognizing and harvesting the healing crops native to our province, and how to use them, something I am very interested in investing in in the future.

It’s a great neighbourhood to be in, and I’m so glad Ivy can grow up somewhere safer and with less crime and noise pollution than one of our previous neighbourhoods. This is it for now, but I just thought I’d update on some of the more interesting places in our neighbourhood. Oh, and best yet: our front yard is a Pokestop. So all in all, I’d say this move was good for us.

What are some of your favourite places around where you live? Please let me know in the comments! Have a great day!❤🙂

 – SharaLee

‘Hawthorne Cottage’ by R.L. McCallum

Hawthorne Cottage

I shall broach unto thee a dark farewell

If not ye heed this ghastly knell –

Henceforth beware where time is keeping

The dead abroad who are not sleeping…


Thus begins R.L. McCallum’s Victorian gothic tale of Professor Alexander Greystone, a writer from London who moves to a haunted cottage in Hampshire, England for a more peaceful, simple life. Little does he suspect the terror that awaits there in the form of the seven Hawthorne sisters, former tenants of the cottage who haunt the house and whose contact with the living is rife with terror and violence. The novel follows Greystone’s investigations into the root of paranormal activities at Hawthorne Cottage, bringing the reader through a gamut of close calls, near-death and (full-death!) experiences, a haunted painting, and ignorant curious bystanders until it comes to its conclusion and the reader finds out whodunit.

The plot was imaginative and enjoyable, the perfect story for a rainy day, and I finished this book in less than a week, which is always a good thing. It holds the attention of the reader in most places, but I did find it to drag too slowly in several instances. The author claimed to have purposely used Victorian vernacular in writing this piece, but I found a few anachronisms, and  at times the character voices were not very distinguishable from one another, especially those of Professor Greystone and Constable Kingsley. Other than that, however, the description was excellent and the dialogue between Greystone and Woodruff was especially good.


I enjoyed the classic elements of the gothic novel, the rain, the ruined cottage, the hauntings, a few deaths. I was slightly disappointed that the nature of Mrs. Parmby’s relationship to the Hawthorne sisters was not further explored, and I felt Miss Farnsworth was not prominent enough a character to be included as she is in the synopsis of the book. I also wondered why, if Anastasia Hawthorne were pregnant when she died, was there no baby among the hauntings at Hawthorne Cottage? The conclusion had promise, and then fell short. The mystery of the killer of the Hawthorne sisters was solved, but Abigail Hawthorne had not been helped to the other side, nor did Greystone discover where she had been laid to rest. The reader, however, is told in what feels like an aside, of how Abigail is brought to peace and where her body had been hidden all along. It felt untrue to Alexander’s character that he would muscle through so many near-death escapes at Hawthorne Cottage to get to the bottom of the mystery, all for the sake of writing his book, which is a very strong motive, and then not give himself the satisfaction of tying up the loose ends for himself and his readers, especially when the other spirits were no longer causing trouble in the house to distract him. I also felt that the death of Cora McKenna was unnecessary, unless the trend of women dying in whom Alexander is interested is to continue in further Professor Greystone novels, as was hinted at in several places throughout the book.

‘The Gothic’ – Check out this link for an explanation of the genre of gothic literature

Grammar & Punctuation

I found there to be several small grammar and punctuation errors, but nothing that hindered the actual progression of the book, and all in all I quite enjoyed this spooky story.

Star Rating

For an excellent ghost story (but because of a few too many hitches) I give this book a resounding 3.5 stars out of 5 and recommend it as a satisfying read for a rainy day or a weekend at the cabin.

Further Reading

R.L. McCallum has a great voice and other works by him can be found on Amazon or at his website.

Love Life Goals

*shirt can be found here.
Love. So passionate, so deep. Turn on some R. Kelly and go back to the days when a love song was a love song. Us before ourselves. Love is a lot of things more, but it’s not easy. Passion and forgiveness make it worth all the hard times. 💜

Day 1

Have decided to more actively take care of myself. 

This includes a more concerted effort toward:

  • Hygiene 
  • Exercise
  • Eating Better
  • Daily Meditation/Mindfulness
  • Exploring my Spirituality
  • Forgiving Myself
  • Practicing Gratitude
  • Financial Responsibility

Ivy was up at 2 am last night, crying and then running around like a Wild Thing. I got her down after a diaper change and some water. This happened repeatedly until the early waking hours of today. Graham finally got her down at I don’t know what time with a bottle of milk, and we were all shocked to wake up after 11 am. (Ivy usually gets us up by 8-8:30 at the latest). She must be going through another developmental leap. In two weeks she’ll either be another clothing size or be speaking full sentences.

I caught up on notifications, Graham made coffee. I had it with cream but no sugar, as usual.

Checked my phone for any missed messages from my doctor’s office. There were none. He is moving his office at the moment, and all messages will only be checked periodically until he settles in at the new office on June 30, so I wasn’t surprised. I’m still not particularly fond of waiting, but there’s nothing I else I can do at the moment. C’est la vie, I suppose.

Had ordered some underwear online, and it arrived today. Ivy was thrilled and ran around with panties on her head for a good half hour. Tried them on – no luck, too small. I ordered the biggest size, but I’m a big-boned girl of partial German ancestry with extra weight besides, and the website is based in Asia. It was a gamble to begin with. At least Ivy got something out of them. Ordered earrings too and they at least look good, so I didn’t feel too terrible.

However, Underwear Situation pushed me to make a decision. Am going to return to ‘flexitarian’ ways. It’s the best and most accessible way I know to eat healthier and make sure I get my fruits & veggies. If I’m at my parents’ house or something and they have no other options, I’ll eat what is served to be polite. But I am going to try to stick to non-meat options and also do crunches, see if I can’t lose some of that medication/bad food/inactivity weight. After all, I’ve got a pair of red silky panties to fit into! 

Had an apple and Ivy’s leftover cheesy scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Had to flick Lestat away from taking actual bites out of the egg carton while cooking Ivy’s eggs. He was under the influence of catnip, so that could explain it. But still. I love that dumb cat so much it’s stupid.

Book Review – *Picaflor* by Jessica Talbot


This book was truly a pleasure to read. Talbot has a way of using simplicity to approach the most complex of emotional subjects, including the wake of a suicide, a complicated childhood, the wonder and fear of starting fresh in a new place, the guilt and nostalgia of homesickness, and the satisfying though tentative steps one takes from desolation to confidence, healing and self-actualization. Based on the author’s own life, this book rings true without being trite or bitter or overdramatic. Talbot is succinct and graceful in her use of description, private yet open when sharing her inner thoughts. Picaflor is a gem to come across, a breath of fresh air, depicting the hummingbird in each of us, trying to find home. 5 out of 5 stars.

EEG Jitters


This is going to be me in like an hour. I’m probably stressing over nothing, but all the weird suction things and being in a hospital period are starting to freak me out. I’m sure it will go just fine, and I will, as usual, be overreacting, but at the moment I’m very very glad my husband is coming with me to help me find Diagnostics Clinic H and hold my hand.❤

Today Was Better

Today was better than yesterday.
Last night Ivy slept.

Today I accomplished my goal of the day – phoning Meghan the social worker to help us get back on our feet with housing, with respite, and with therapy.

Going to be going for an EEG on April 5, slightly tempted to shave my head before I do so. Resisting temptation until it can be done by skilled hands.

Starting ‘Self-Concept & Communication’ outpatient therapy group at Grace Hospital April 18. Have intake assessment meeting with Michelle in Psychiatric Ambulatory Services on April 11.

Becoming weary of struggling to survive all the time, and yet invigorated when viewing my goals for each day as survival mechanisms. So many people don’t, but dammit, I’m going to be a survivor.

Following the adventures of someone I met in Tulita who is now in New Zealand. Inspired by this woman’s love of life and beauty inside & out. Blessed to have met her in person.

Have been sleeping a lot lately, and feeling sick to my stomach. Difficult to tell if this is stress-induced or viral. Doesn’t feel bad enough to be viral. Possibly stress. Having a conversion disorder has proved if anything that I apparently have no clue how to deal with actual problems.

What I really want to do with my life: go back to school, finish my B.A., eventually get doctorate and teach English Literature. I want to travel more and I want to raise Ivy to be a successful, happy, independent woman. I want to get a tattoo. I specifically want to travel to England to search out family roots. I want to learn more about herbs and crystals. I want to make Graham happy. I want to make at least one other person happy too. Is this attainable? Who knows? But it’s what’s in my heart.

Book Review – Cycling to Asylum by Su J. Sokol

I have just spent a few months finishing up reading Cycling to Asylum by Su J. Sokol, and today I finally finished it. I have to say, the title seemed to provoke more interest and intrigue than the content provided. I enjoyed the character of Laek, a free-thinking teacher from New York in what could conceivably be called a near-future dystopian period, but I absolutely disliked his wife and his two children, basically because Sokol stops at crucial junctions in the story to do a chapter on every single person in the family and their point of view on the same event, which could have been consolidated instead of making the reader read laboriously through the same event four times. If each character was to have his or her own chapter, I would have preferred for that chapter to carry the story a little further, but in this book that just simply didn’t happen. The parents moved much of the story along, the sister a little bit, and the youngest child’s chapters were all completely unnecessary.

That said, I do enjoy a certain sense of national pride when I read this book – that Canada is where people go to find hope and a new life (this publishing house publishes several Canadian-based works, so I expected nothing less from them). They leave New York to get away from violence and terrorist groups to find a new life and hope in Montreal. I enjoyed Sokol’s accurate use of the intermix of English and French that characterizes much Canadian speech, especially in Quebec, and I thought the mood of a Canadian city in winter was captured best of all. Also, I enjoyed the sexual/relational freedom Laek and his wife Janie enjoy in their marriage, as their relationship with Philip seems to represent a bridge between the bad parts of the U.S. they are leaving behind and the good memories they made there.

All in all, I give this book a solid 3 out of 5 stars, for an interesting storyline, but no more than 3, for taking too long to reach a climax and the staunch formulaic nature of the manuscript.