Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reckless Years: A Diary of Love and Madness by Heather Chaplin

Synopsis: Trapped in a dissatisfying marriage for nearly a decade, New York journalist Heather Chaplin finally summons the courage to leave. On her own, she finds herself intoxicatingly free, pursuing adventure, and juggling romance on two continents in multiple cities. She contemplates the meaning of life; she falls for a handsome Irishman.

But as the adventures progress, Chaplin’s own reckless choices send her spiraling downward—and toward a reckoning she’s avoided all her life. Pulled from Chaplin’s own diaries, Reckless Years is a raw, propulsive debut: unfailingly profound and impossible to put down.  


My Thoughts: I have a hard time reviewing memoirs. I really enjoy reading them, but when it comes time to review them, I always hesitate. Who am I to comment on someone else's reality? Especially a reality that includes some dark times. I love Heather's voice; the way she writes is so descriptive that you actually feel like you're sitting next to her. The book is comprised of actual journal entries, so what you get is so raw, vulnerable, and at times, completely relatable. You'll laugh with her, cry with her, and definitely root for her while reading this book.

I loved watching Chaplin try to regain her life and herself. She definitely didn't always make the best choices, but really, who does? She lived in the moment and I was really impressed (and jealous) with her ability to just up and head to Dublin to see her brother. Also, I really want to know which band her brother was touring with, but that's just me being nosey.

Chaplin's eventual downward spiral can be hard to read because it's so raw, but I loved it because since it's a memoir, you already know how it ends. Chaplin is now the founder of a journalism and design program at The New School. I'm sure she's still dealing with some things, but knowing she ends up successful (and I hope even more, happy) leaves the story with a real sense of hope.

Pick this one up if you're looking for a unique voice and a raw, hopeful story.

A copy of this book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada, but as always, opinions are my own.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32620332-the-seven-husbands-of-evelyn-hugo
 
Are you looking for the perfect summer read? Well, you can stop searching now because The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid absolutely delivers a scorching summer read. This book has it all: diversity, romance, humor, and a little intrigue. If you've never read anything by Taylor Jenkins Reid, you seriously need to. I read my first book by her last year and immediately fell in love. She's one of my favourite authors and one I can truly say just keeps getting better. This story is woven together so intricately that you will begin to wonder if you're actually reading a celebrity memoir.

Evelyn Hugo is a 79 year old former Hollywood headliner who is finally ready to tell the story of her seven husbands. Throughout her time in Hollywood she was the seductive blonde with massive sex appeal and more than one scandal to her name. There is way more than meets the eye with Evelyn, though. She recruits journalist, Monique, to tell her story. Monique is fairly young and going through a divorce. Evelyn's choice to recruit Monique leaves her curious and left me wondering if there was some sort of connection between the two.

I found myself getting lost in this beautiful story. Each section is about Evelyn's relationship with one of her husbands and I could not read this fast enough. There is one person in particular who is the love of Evelyn's life and one of the reasons she has chosen to finally tell her story. I won't spoil anything, though, because it is truly better to not know who her one true love is until she wants you to know.

This story was completely captivating. Evelyn was a fantastic character full of contradictions; humble yet bold, soft yet hard, and a little infuriating at times. She was the perfect actress and one Hollywood would surely be obsessed with today if she were real. I really did feel like she was real at times, which is a testament to Taylor Jenkins Reid. Reid has a way with words, especially when dealing with love and loss. She shines brightest when she's writing about love and loss and what it means to be human. Her characters become real people right before your eyes.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a must-read this summer! It's on sale today, so go out and buy it! While you're there, pick up one of Taylor Jenkin Reid's other books because she is amazing. I would probably read her grocery list and be enthralled.


I'm part of Simon and Schuster Canada's blog tour, so a copy of the book was provided for free, but as always, opinions remain my own. Make sure to check out my fellow bloggers posts; something tells me their feelings will be similar to my own.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Summer Contemporary Reads

I've been all about the summer contemporary reads this past week or so. I went through a big fantasy phase, but now I just want to read stories that take place on beaches or cottages or just anyplace warm. Maybe it's because where I live it's only JUST started to feel like summer. We suffer from Sprinter (Spring/Winter that just won't quit) around here.

Sometimes the setting in a book can feel like a character. In the books I've been reading lately, I definitely feel like this is true. The settings have made me want to just pack up and go somewhere new. If only, right?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30038906-the-names-they-gave-us
 
Emery Lord is one of my favourite authors. This story takes place at a summer camp, which was amazing. Lucy is a Christian who finds herself questioning her beliefs after her mom's cancer comes back. Her family runs a Christian summer camp, but her mom wants her to spend her summer at the camp across the lake. That camp is for kids who have been through hardships and who don't have easy lives, so Lucy feels like she can't relate.
I loved this book. I loved Lucy and all of the other characters, except her stuffy boyfriend who was way too perfect. I really appreciated the relationship Lucy had with her parents. Too often in YA, the parent-teen relationship is full of angst, which can be true to life, but I liked reading about a good relationship full of respect.
I mentioned that Lucy is a Christian and questions her beliefs, but this is not a religious book at all. It's a book about growing up, friendship, and experiences. The summer camp setting was one of my favourites and I'd like to read more stories that take place at a camp.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13338545-porch-lights

I happened to find this on Goodreads while I was browsing and knew I had to pick it up. Jimmy is killed in a fire, and his wife, Jackie, and son, Charlie, are left to pick up the pieces. Jackie decides to spend the summer in her childhood house with her mom, Annie. Annie has been separated from her husband, Buster, for over ten years.
This book was full of fun characters. Annie was the type of grandmother we all want to have; lovable and quite quirky. I thought she was hilarious, even if she was a bit off base at times. Charlie was a sweetheart and my heart absolutely broke for him and everything he had to go through.
This takes place in the Lowcountry, which is one of my favourite settings. I've never been, but books that take place there always leave me wanting to pack up and go. White beaches, churning seas, and lighthouses. Ooh, I have a love of lighthouses.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15505346-on-the-island

I've been hearing about this book for ages, and someone posted on Twitter that the ebook was on sale for $1.99, so I grabbed it and started it right away. I read this so quickly! I did not want to put it down, but there's a tiny human who depends on me so I ended up reading this in two sittings. Anna is a 30 year old teacher who is hired to help sixteen year old T.J catch up on his studies after he misses most of the school year dealing with cancer. They're going to spend the summer on an island with T.J's family, but on the way, their pilot has a fatal heart attack and they crash land in the middle of the ocean. What a premise, right?
This book takes place over a few years and I loved reading about the evolution of Anna and T.J's relationship. They're able to meet most of the basic needs, but what about their physical and emotional needs? They find themselves depending on each other for absolutely everything.
This book was honestly so good. I need to read more books about being stranded on an island because the setting was so interesting. I don't even want to say too much because I think it's just better to read it, so seriously, go read it.


I'm currently reading this one and really enjoying it. I'm about 79% done, and it's proving to be a classic Sarah Dessen novel. I've been reading Sarah Dessen for more than ten years now, and I will continue to read whatever she writes as she's one of my absolute favourite authors. I love the setting of her books. Some take place in the fictional town of Lakeview, and others take place on a fictional island of Colby. Dessen's characters are always relatable (even as a thirty year old), and never fail to make me nostalgic. I can't say too much about this one yet, as I'm not done, but I'm having a lot of fun reading it. Louna lives with her mom and helps her with her wedding planning business, while trying to deal with the aftermath of her great love, Ethan. The story of what happened between the two is told slowly, but it really works. Ambrose is hired by her mom for the summer, and Louna finds herself in a dating bet with him. Ambrose is full of life and can be a bit much, but you know his heart is in the right place. I'm excited to finish this one up tonight and see what happens.

I'm forever looking for new recommendations, so I would appreciate any summer contemporary recs you may have. Up next I think I'm going to read Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han, but that could always change if someone recs something even more enticing.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Party by Robyn Harding: A Review & Author Q&A!

 


The Party  by Robyn Harding is one of those books that absolutely grabs you and makes you want to keep reading. Jeff and Kim Sanders are the 'perfect' family with two great kids who would never do anything wrong. Or so they think. They throw a sixteenth birthday for their daughter, Hannah, who is a smart, sweet girl with a great head on her shoulders. Again, or so they think. One of Hannah's friends is tragically injured at the party, which leads to a lawsuit and their perfect lives begin to crumble around them. Suddenly no one in the family is as perfect as they may seem.

I read this book in two days, which honestly with a 9 month old, is a feat these days. That is truly a testament to how good this book was. I loved how real the story was. A teenager getting injured at an unsupervised party is definitely not far-fetched and neither is what follows. This book shows what can happen when your perfect fa├žade is turned completely upside down. No one in the Sanders family is who they seem to be, and there were things that I did not see coming at all. You'll be surprised at which Sanders family member is the most imperfect.

It makes you wonder how you'd react as both the mother of the injured teen and also as the mother of the party-thrower. As moms, we definitely have mama-bear instincts, but how far is too far? When does justice become about more than just justice? The questions The Party had me asking myself made it that much more interesting and fun to read.

I rated this one 4 out of 5 stars, and I'm looking forward to picking up other books by Robyn Harding. I read most of this before bed, but I think it would be a fantastic book to read while sitting on a deck by the lake. Definitely add this to your summer TBR!

I was lucky enough to be offered a Q&A with the author, Robyn Harding, as part of the blog tour. See below for more insight into this great book!

1) Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?
 I like to take very real, very relatable situations and then take them to the edge. Or right off the cliff, as is the case in The Party. I think most readers can relate to the concept of a sweet sixteen party where teens drink behind their parents’ backs. But I wanted to explore what would happen when the unimaginable occurs, and how everyone involved would deal with the fallout.

2) Why did you choose to write from multiple characters’ perspectives?
 I find it fascinating how people perceive situations, particularly conflict, differently. Husbands and wives, kids and parents, friends and neighbors, can all have incredibly diverse points of view on the same events. I felt that a dramatic situation like the one in the book would be much more interesting if we could examine it through several different lenses.

3) If you were Lisa and your child was hurt, do you think you'd react the same way she did? Would you have gone after the Sanders in the same way? Would you feel vindicated if you won?
I am the most non-confrontational person in the world, but, like most mothers, I can be fierce when it comes to my kids. Still, I wouldn’t attack Jeff and Kim like Lisa did. The Sanders are superficial, disingenuous, unpleasant people but the accident was not their fault. And while Lisa thinks she’s looking out for her daughter, she’s subconsciously operating from a place of jealousy and resentment. Three million dollars would be life changing, but I wouldn’t feel satisfied or vindicated if I got it by suing my neighbours. 

4) Kim seems very shocked to learn the things Hannah's been doing. Do you think a parent can ever truly know their own kid(s)? 
I have two teenagers. My daughter and I have a very open, communicative relationship. My son is less forthcoming, but if I ask him something point-blank, he seems incapable of lying to me. But I’m sure they both have aspects of their lives that they keep from their mom. What normal kid doesn’t? When I was a teenager, I was incredibly sneaky. My poor mom had NO idea! 

5) It seems like all the Sanders have secrets. They don't seem very connected and just do their own thing. How do you think a family gets to that point? Is there any way to fix it? 
I think the characters in this story have all lost touch with what is truly important: love, connection, authenticity…. They’re obsessed with superficial things like appearances and possessions, so they’re all unfulfilled. Sadly, I don’t think it would be hard for a family to lose each other in today’s competitive, status-conscience society. Sometimes, it takes a dramatic event to make people realize what really matters. Unfortunately for the family in The Party, the crisis brought out the worst in all of them. 

Thank you, Robyn! The book is on sale today and I definitely recommend picking it up!

I was provided with a free copy of the book from Simon and Schuster Canada, but as always, opinions are my own.

Friday, April 28, 2017

What I've Read Lately

Being a new mom is hard. Your needs get put on the back burner so you can keep your new tiny human alive and happy. When my son was first born in August, I practically stopped reading. It's not that I didn't have the time, as newborns nurse and sleep a lot, I just didn't feel like reading. My favourite time to read is before bed when I can curl up in my bed with my book. I've done that since I was a little girl, and it's my favourite way to relax. Our son was sleeping in our room up until March when we moved, so I didn't really have that opportunity because once he went to bed, I wouldn't go in the room until I went to bed myself. Sure, I could read on the couch (and I do), but it's not the same.

Now that he's in his own room and I have my room back, I've been reading much more and I love it. I've written a few review posts lately, but I also wanted to write about the other books I've been reading.

We Were on a Break by Lindsey Kelk - I've written about my love of Kelks books before, and this one was no exception. I literally laughed out loud and woke my sleeping son up at one point. It was really funny, but also really sweet and thought-provoking. Liv and Adam decide to take a break from their relationship, but eventually consider possibly making the break permanent. I loved getting to read from both Liv and Adam's point of view, and I was really happy with the ending.

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir - I actually won this one back in August before it came out, but received it after my son was born. I started it back in October, but didn't finish until the other day, which is not because it wasn't good. I loved An Ember in the Ashes, and I loved this one, too. Laia, Elias, and Helene are fantastic characters and their stories have evolved so well in this book. I'm already excited for book 3.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult - Picoult is one of my favourite authors and this did not disappoint. This was hard to read at first because a newborn dies in it, which as a new mother, that's definitely my biggest fear. It was a great read, and one that's very important these days. It tackles racism and will make you question your own views. I think this should be required reading in school because of the quality discussions it can inspire.

Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens - Stevens is another of my favourite authors and again, this did not disappoint. I actually read this in 3 days or something, which is a feat these days. Stevens' books always mess with my head and leave me feeling a little creeped out. She takes every day instances and makes them terrifying. In this book, Lindsey and her daughter escaped an abusive marriage, but eleven years later, he's out of jail and Lindsey feels like he's stalking her. Creepy, right? This is something that could happen, which makes it all the more scary.

I may not have read a lot lately, but I've been reading some great books. My goal this year is 25 books because I'll be returning to work in August (which is breaking my heart), so I'm not sure how much reading I'll do once I have to also balance that. I need to prioritize reading, though, as it's very important to my mental well-being. So far I'm at 10 books, so maybe I can surpass my goal. I'll be happy as long as I keep reading good books!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30969271-the-shadow-sister
 
 
The hardest reviews to write are the ones where you absolutely loved the book because I never feel like I can do it justice. I loved this book and this series. It's honestly fantastic. This is the third book in a series of what is set to be seven books. You can read my review for the second book, The Storm Sister, here, which I also loved.
 
The general premise of these books is that there are six sisters who were adopted as babies by Pa Salt. Pa Salt has sadly died and has left each sister a clue to where they were adopted from and their heritage. The clues involve a letter from Pa Salt, and a set of coordinates leading them somewhere in the world. The Seven Sisters followed Maia and her roots to Brazil. The Storm Sister followed Ally to her roots in Norway, and The Shadow Sister follows Star to a bookshop in London.
 
Star is a great character and one I felt like I related to. She's very quiet and happy with the simple pleasures in life; reading, gardening, and hanging out with her sister, CeCe. CeCe is very headstrong and tends to lead Star. Star begins to feel a bit overwhelmed by CeCe and decides to find out about her heritage, which leads to a little bookshop in London. The bookshop introduces us to a cast of fun characters, such as quirky Orlando, and sweet Rory. Star ends up taking a job in the shop, which then leads to her becoming a sort of babysitter for young Rory at their dilapidated old home in the country.
 
One of the things I love about this series is that while you get the present day story about the sister, you also get the past story about the sisters relative. In this case, we also get to follow Flora MacNichol who is a strong woman living in a society that doesn't exactly celebrate headstrong women. We know Flora is somehow related to Star, and the connection is slowly revealed throughout the two stories. I love getting to read both stories and I've never found switching between the two stories/time periods to be confusing.
 
There is something for everyone in these books; romance, history, family relationships, and of course, a little intrigue. Riley always sets the scenes so beautifully, too. I could picture myself roaming and exploring with Flora, and hanging out in the bookshop with Star.
 
I don't feel like you necessarily have to read each book in the series because Riley sets them up with enough details that you aren't lost, but I do recommend reading them because they're so good. This was definitely a 5 star read for me!
 
A copy of this book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada, but all opinions are my own.
 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda was one of those books that left me wondering if you can ever really truly know someone.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31443398-the-perfect-stranger

Leah Stevens has lost everything. She's lost her job and her credibility, but she found the one person she never thought she'd see again; her former roommate Emmy Grey. The women relocate to a small town where no one knows them and they try to begin again. Leah soon lands a job as a high school teacher. A woman who looks like Leah turns up dead and Emmy has gone missing. No one can find Emmy, but Leah is becoming convinced that she is somehow connected to the murder. Since no one knows the women, people begin to suspect that there never really was an Emmy and that Leah knows more than she's letting on.

This book really hooked me and kept me guessing. It played games with my mind and left me wondering if there was actually an Emmy Grey. Leah is an unreliable protagonist, which definitely added to the mystery. I wasn't sure what to think about Leah. I found it hard to be sympathetic towards her, even though she really didn't deserve the things that happened to her. She was very frustrating at times because she seemed very selfish. How do you live with someone twice and know absolutely nothing about them?

With Emmy missing, Leah is faced with confronting her past, especially as someone in town seems to be digging it up. Leah suspects one of her students, Theo, is messing with her but isn't sure why. This particular storyline kind of creeped me out because it made me realize how easy it is for people to dig up information about us online these days. Theo had no trouble looking into Leah's past with a simple Internet search, which is kind of disturbing if you stop and think about it. What are we putting out there? Mind you, Leah was a journalist so it'd be easy to find her stories, but it kind of reiterates that the Internet is forever and to be careful with what you put out there.

The book has lots of little details and things that really make the story come full circle. I loved not knowing whether or not Emmy was real. I spent most of the book thinking that Leah was also Emmy. I won't tell you whether or not I was right, because where's the fun in that? I ended up giving this book a 3.5 out of 5 because I enjoyed the mystery and it left me wanting to know more.

Megan Miranda is the author of the bestselling All the Missing Girls, which I haven't read, but which has been added to my TBR for sure! The Perfect Stranger is on sale now and is the perfect book to curl up with on these spring nights that are still chilly.

A copy of this book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada, but as always, opinions are my own.