Monday, June 27, 2016

The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay
Have you ever heard of vaudeville? I hadn't before I read this book. Vaudeville was a variety show program that was popular in the late 1800s to the 1930s. Acts ranged from singing and dancing, to impersonations, to even acts with animals. It was a pretty big form of live entertainment back then, and one I think sounds very cool.

From Goodreads:
In 1919, the Turner sisters and their parents are barely scraping by. Their father is a low-paid boot-stitcher in Johnson City, New York, and the family is always one paycheck away from eviction. When their father’s hand is crushed and he can no longer work, their irrepressible mother decides that the vaudeville stage is their best—and only—chance for survival.

Traveling by train from town to town, teenagers Gert, Winnie, and Kit, and recent widow Nell soon find a new kind of freedom in the company of performers who are as diverse as their acts. There is a seamier side to the business, however, and the young women face dangers and turns of fate they never could have anticipated.

My thoughts:
I loved reading about vaudeville and the different people that were involved with it. There were so many different characters involved in each show, and they really made the story interesting. While this may seem like a sweet story about sisters performing an act, there was a lot of serious talk about the issues that were prevalent in that time period. Racism was a huge issue (and still is), and I enjoyed reading about how the girls tackled it. They put themselves into a few dangerous situations in order to do what was right, no matter the potential consequences to themselves.

I loved each of the sisters for different reasons. They were all different, and you really got to see them grow and flourish throughout the story. Gert was headstrong and tough, Winnie was smart and determined, Kit was young and fun, and Nell was recently widowed and reserved. The story alternated between the perspectives of Gert, Winnie, and Kit, but I wish there had been chapters from Nell's perspective.

I did find it a little slow at times, but the slow parts didn't last long and the story was quick to pick u again. My final rating is 3.5 stars. It was entertaining to read, and filled with lots of different and quirky characters. If you're looking for a fun historical novel, definitely pick this one up.

A copy of this book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The hardest thing as a book blogger/reviewer is writing a review for a book you absolutely loved. If I didn't like a book, I can usually find a few reasons why and BAM, there you go. For a book I loved, I just want to write, 'THIS WAS AWESOME. READ IT,' but I don't think that's really effective.

The book that I absolutely loved and am therefore having a hard time reviewing, is One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I picked up After I Do by Reid earlier this year, and completely fell in love. Why did no one tell me to read her books earlier? When the lovely people at Simon and Schuster Canada contacted me and asked if I'd like an early copy of One True Loves, I immediately said YESPLEASEGIMMETHANKYOU. Or, you know, 'yes, please! Thank you!' like an actual polite human. I devoured this book in two sittings, staying up way too late one Sunday night.

The quick synopsis for this book is Emma marries her high school sweetheart, Jessie. They spend their days traveling and living their lives far away from their hometown. On their first wedding anniversary, Jessie disappears in a helicopter accident over the Pacific. Emma moves home to grieve and try to start over, where she is reacquainted with an old friend named Sam. Sam used to work in her parent's bookshop. They fall in love, get engaged, and then Jessie is found alive. Emma clearly has a choice to make. Does she choose Sam, her new love who offers her the quiet life she's discovered she really loves, or does she choose Jessie, who offers her the crazy, travel-filled life she once had?

I loved both Sam and Jessie for different reasons, however I did lean towards one of them more than the other. I won't say who, because that's who she ultimately picked and I was very happy with the end of this book. They both offered her a completely different lifestyle, and part of her choice was choosing which version of Emma she wanted to be. It wasn't just about choosing the right guy. She had to choose the right Emma. I loved trying to figure out who she was going to pick and see her settle into her future. There was a lot of growth for Emma, and it all felt very genuine.

One of my favourite chapters in this book was the chapter dealing with Emma's grief. It was so raw, and yet so beautifully written. I completely felt Emma's pain and anguish. That chapter didn't follow the format of the rest of the book, but I thought it worked really well. The rest of the book is written in Before and After, so you really get a sense of Emma, Sam, and Jessie.

No one writes about love and loss like Taylor Jenkins Reid. I've now read all of her books, and I've loved every one of them. She has a way with words that leaves you nodding along. I'm married, and many of her books deal with marriage in some sense, so I can always relate to the characters. I think you could definitely enjoy these books even if you aren't married. There is something to take away from each book, no matter your season of life. Her books always leave you wondering what you'd do in the situation she poses, and I find myself incredibly grateful for all I have.

One True Loves is on sale today, so please do yourself a favour and go out and buy it and then buy her entire back list. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

A couple years ago I wrote a post on why you should be reading Morgan Matson. Since that post, I've read Since You've Been Gone and her latest, The Unexpected Everything, and I can 100% say that everything I said in that post still holds true today.

In The Unexpected Everything, we meet Andie who has always been the girl with the plan. Until she was the girl with no plans. As you can imagine, this completely throws her off and leaves her disheveled. To top it all off  her congressman father, whom she's not really close with anymore, is being investigated and is home for the entire summer.

I loved the relationship between Andie and her father. It developed perfectly and really left me feeling good. Matson always has positive family relationships in her books and that's something I really like. It's easy to write about the dysfunctional family, but it's important to write about the realistic family. Mind you, Andie and her dad go through their fair share of dysfunction but they end up becoming much closer because of it. I loved seeing her dad really own up to being a good father figure for Andie.

Since Andie has no summer plan, she ends up walking dogs for the summer, which sounds like the perfect summer job to me. Who doesn't want to spend time outside in the sunshine with happy dogs? Add in the adorable guy she meets, Clark, and hello, perfect summer. Except it's not a perfect summer because there is no such thing. Clark is fantastic. He is absolutely everything that Andie needs and he's her complete opposite. I think Clark may be my favourite Matson guy so far. He's mature but super nerdy. Sweet, but not afraid to be tough if he needs to, and what he does for a living is super impressive.

Another thing I love about Matson's books are the friendships. She always seems to write about positive friendships, which is sometimes rare in YA. There are no frenemies here, and I love that. Andie has three best friends, Palmer, Toby, and Bri and I loved them all. They each had their own thing going on, but they were always there for each other. Like every friendship, they do have their issues but they aren't catty and mean to each other. I loved trying to decipher Toby's emoji conversations. They were pretty hilarious!

Andie ends up having the absolute perfectly unplanned summer and it's everything she never knew she needed.

This is the perfect summer book to completely lose yourself in on a beautiful day. Cute boys, friends, dogs, ice cream, and an awesome scavenger hunt. This book made me want to go back to being 16, and that doesn't happen very often. Definitely go and pick this one up. It's on sale today!

SimonTeen (Simon and Schuster Canada) provided me with a copy of this book for review, but that didn't sway my opinion at all.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley

Last summer I randomly bought The Seven Sisters and I fell in love with it. When I learned that it was going to be a series of seven books, I was excited and, of course, impatient. I reached out to Simon and Schuster Canada about reviewing The Storm Sister and since they're awesome people, they sent me a copy. Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada!

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 Seven Sisters followed Maia and her roots to Brazil. The Storm Sister follows Ally to her roots in Norway, where she finds she may be related somehow to a famous composer.

The thing I love about these books is that essentially, you get two stories in one. Ally is struggling to come to terms with some losses in her life and how to move on in 2007. The other perspective is of Anna and Jens in the late 1800s/early 1900s, who may be somehow related to Ally. I love the dual perspectives and the history involved in Anna and Jens story. Despite not being alive in the same time period, I found some similarities between Anna and Ally and their circumstances.

Riley weaves such an intricate story within a story and really leaves you needing to know if Ally is related to the famous Anna and Jens. Switching between the two time periods is effortless and even if you know nothing about classical music, you won't find the story hard to follow. In fact, you'll probably learn a thing or two.

I love all the characters in this story. Ally is (so far) my favourite sister and my heart broke for her on more than one occasion. I like how you get glimpses of the other sisters, but you don't get to fully know them until their own story is written. I want to know more about the secondary characters such as Ma, who has been the girls' guardian alongside Pa Salt. I figure those details will slowly come out as the series progresses.

I highly recommend this series. I've rated both books 5 out of 5 stars. I would advise starting with The Seven Sisters, but I don't think you absolutely have to. Why wouldn't you, though, when both stories are so good? This is definitely a series you want to get hooked on.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz & Still Mine by Amy Stuart

I have been an awful blogger and reader lately, but I have a valid reason. My husband and I are expecting our first baby in September! We are so excited (and nervous) and cannot wait for this new adventure. That being said, being pregnant is exhausting. I'm now 18 weeks and finally feel a little more energetic. I was also in a car accident in February (baby and I are fine), which resulted in our car being written off and that was just one very long, crazy month. I'm hoping that I can settle back into a routine before I hit the uncomfortable 3rd trimester.

I've got two reviews today because I am awful and I'm behind on my reviews. Both books were provided by Simon and Schuster Canada, but as always, all opinions are my own. Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada!

If you're looking for a book with lots of secrets and unreliable characters, this is definitely the book for you. After finding her husband dead at the bottom of the stairs, Tanya is on the run and not for the first (or last) time. Right away you're wondering if she killed her husband and you realize that she is quite unreliable. Throughout the book, she is forced to change her name and identity in order to keep her secrets. The name changes are nicely sectioned out, so it's not confusing to follow.

Tanya meets Blue, who may just be even more unreliable than Tanya. Tanya ends up moving in with Blue and the two find themselves entangled in a mess that leaves Tanya running again. You really do feel like a passenger in Tanya's life of craziness.

Each time Tanya ran and changed her identity it was almost like reading a new character, which I enjoyed. I wanted to hate Tanya because I didn't know if she was a ruthless killer, but at the same time, I found myself liking her and really wanting her to be a good person.

My favourite part of the book were the random emails from an unknown male named Ryan to Jo. Who is Jo? Is Jo another version of Tanya? The e-mails span from 2008 to 2015 and hint at a very bad past for whoever Ryan and Jo may be.

I felt like there were a lot of different mysteries in this book and a lot of questions. All the questions are, thankfully, answered by the end and many of the answers were not what I anticipated. This book definitely takes you on a ride. I rated this 3 out of 5 stars.

Still Mine is a thriller with a dark atmosphere and seedy characters that will leave you feeling unnerved. Clare is on the run from her husband and her troubled past. With the help of a mysterious man named Malcolm, she ends up in a very small town, Blackmore, and draws attention to herself when she starts asking questions about a local missing girl, Shayna.

Clare finds herself getting acquainted with the residents of Blackmore, and finds herself involved in their twisted lives. I found that I couldn't trust any of the characters, and I wanted to know how they were involved in the disappearance of Shayna. There's her ex-husband, her friend, a drug dealer, her parents, a doctor, and you honestly don't know what any of them have to do with anything until the very end. I loved that I couldn't trust anyone. There are a lot of characters in this book, but they're easy to keep track of.

I found myself fully involved in this book as I was reading it, and basically read it in two sittings. I had so many questions, not only about Shayna, but about Clare and Malcolm. Is Malcolm a good guy, or is he just waiting to harm Clare? Clare felt like she was being watched the whole novel, and I felt that way, too. I was on edge, waiting for some big revelation.

The ending was not what I was expecting, and I mean that in a good way. I was happy with the ending, and the last page left me desperately needing more. I would definitely recommend this to people looking for a dark thriller full of seedy characters in an equally seedy town. I rated this 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dark Territory by Susan Philpott Review
Full disclaimer: I did receive this book from the publisher in exchange for review, but my thoughts are my own, and I was going to read this regardless. 

From the publisher:
Signy Shepherd has spent her career with the Line, a modern underground railroad, shepherding at-risk women out of peril. When Signy takes Lizzy, a young woman desperate to save her infant son, under her protection, the case appears to be like any other. With a severe winter storm on the horizon, Signy drives Lizzy and her son out of the city. Suddenly, she finds the police hot on their tail, and when Lizzy’s erratic behavior propels them into further danger, Signy begins to suspect that her new ward is not the victim she claims to be.

Meanwhile, Signy’s PTSD-stricken mentor, Grace, investigates Lizzy’s husband. But Lizzy’s husband is hiding secrets of his own, and soon Grace finds herself out of her depth. As the treacherous blizzard closes in, the entire operation spirals out of control. Isolated and relying on nothing but her instincts, Signy is confronted with a choice that will force her to risk not only her own life, but those of the people she cares about most.

My thoughts:
Dark Territory is the second book in the Signy Shepherd series by Susan Philpott. The first book, Blown Red, was released last year and it was fantastic! This book was even better, in my opinion.

Signy works for the Line, which is an underground railway of sorts that helps women escape terrible situations, which is as empowering as it sounds. Signy helps transport the women to their new lives, and of course, runs into trouble along the way.

In this book, Signy is tasked with helping Lizzy Stone and her young son, Justin, escape her successful doctor husband, Solomon. Solomon seems like the perfect husband and father with a successful medical career, but he is definitely not the man he appears to be; however, neither is Lizzy. Signy has to decide whether Lizzy is telling her the entire story, and if she's not, how can she help someone who may be more dangerous than Solomon?

What I love about these books is that you don't always know who you can trust. I wavered between trusting and not trusting Lizzy, which made the book more interesting. On the surface, Lizzy seemed like a scared wife/mother, but underneath, she may have been hiding her own demons.

Grace is another character who returns, and I'm glad that we got to see a little bit more about her and her past. I was feeling a little skeptical of her after Blown Red, but she really grew on me throughout this book. I'm excited to see where her character goes next.

Signy is definitely my favourite character. She is tough, resourceful, smart, and not afraid to kick some ass when necessary. She had a rough start in life, but that hasn't stopped her from becoming an absolute necessity for the Line and the women she helps. She's a little more vulnerable in this book, as she needs to ask for help from a person that she doesn't exactly want to. I was pleased to see her more vulnerable, though, as it added more depth to her character. I can't wait to see how else she'll grow as the series continues.

This book is perfectly paced; even when the action stops the story is continuing to move forward. It will leave you flipping the pages as fast as you can, and will never let you stop wondering who to trust. It will make you cheer to see women being portrayed as strong and successful people who can more than handle their own. Philpott is fantastic at crafting characters you'll want to see succeed.

I do have two small gripes. I was a little sad that the book took part mostly in the U.S. I loved that Blown Red took place in Canada, and I hope that Philpott chooses to set the next books back in Canada.

The only other small thing is that at times, there are scenes that are so graphic they had me cringing. This is to be expected in a thriller book, though, so while it didn't bother me a lot, I could see it bothering those who may be a bit more sensitive.

I would recommend reading Blown Red first, because you'll have more background on the characters, but you could probably read this as standalone and still enjoy it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a heart-pounding thriller with kickass women at the core.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dark Territory by Susan Philpott Excerpt
Today I'm so excited to be posting an excerpt from one of my most anticipated books of 2016, which is available today! Dark Territory is the second book in the Signy Shepherd series. The first book Blown Red was released last year, and is a must-read if you like thrilling, fast-paced books. You can read my review of Blown Red here.
Lizzy Stone hurried down the deserted corridor, its concrete walls plastered with fluorescent biohazard warnings. Clutched under one arm like an overinflated football, Ethan screamed bloody murder, his furious cries echoing through the underground maze. Clamping a hand over the baby’s mouth, Lizzy darted a quick look over her shoulder.
She skittered to a halt in front of a heavy steel door. Ignoring the Do Not Enter sign, she swiped the access card she’d stolen and shouldered the door open. Flipping on the lights, she whirled round, slammed the door shut, and then clicked home the deadbolt. Only then did she lean against the wall and close her eyes.
She breathed in the familiar mix of pine disinfectant and chlorine bleach, and it was a minute or two before she noticed the baby’s squirms grow weaker. She glanced down. His nose clogged, he was struggling to breathe. She whipped her hand away from his mouth, and after a couple of sputtered cries, he let loose again, every muscle in his body quivering with rage.
Swinging him up onto her hip, she patted his back while completing a quick survey of the room. She was surprised to see that nothing much had changed in the laboratory since she’d last been allowed down here. On one wall, a gleaming stainless steel lab bench held an array of scientific equipment, autoclaves, a centrifuge, flasks, and test tubes.
Tears pricked behind her eyes when she saw that the caricature she’d had made for Solomon at the New York State Fair still occupied its place of honour on the centre of the bench. The artist had drawn him hunched over a microscope, a white lab coat hanging around his knees, his hair wild, à la Einstein. Surrounding him, a ring of smiling children held up Thank You signs in a variety of languages.
Turning her back on the drawing, she examined the class II safety cabinet that dominated the opposite wall. With its separate environmental controls it served to keep the operator safe from both biological and chemical agents.
“No,” she cried, prying the baby’s grasping fingers from her long brown hair. She held his writhing, sweat-slick body out in front of her, his tiny feet windmilling. She grimaced as his screams rose in an almost unbearable crescendo.
Striding over to the safety cabinet, she bent forward and peered inside. The empty interior was sparkling clean. Using her hip, she opened the glass shield and set the baby inside.
His shrieks abruptly halted as he stared open-mouthed at this novel environment.
Her shoulders relaxed a fraction of an inch. She’d suspected a stint in Daddy’s sanctum sanctorum might do the trick. As if he were reading her mind, the baby burst out into a babble of infant chatter.
Lizzy slid the door shut, then glanced at the temperature gauge. If she cranked the dial even a little, the temperature inside the cabinet would climb to unbearable levels. Like a dog left in a car on a sweltering summer day, he’d be cooked within minutes.
Shaking her head, she stepped over to a refrigerator-sized incubator. A quick check of the gauges showed that the temperature, humidity, oxygen, and carbon dioxide were ticking along at optimum levels. Peeking through a small window on the door, she could see tightly packed culture dishes. Each dish had a white screw top at one end and a thin layer of pink nutrient medium lining the bottom. Not bothering to don a mask, she reached in and extracted one of the plastic containers.
She peered closely at the contents, noting with satisfaction the fuzzy dark spots that marred the clean surface of the medium. Carrying the culture dish over to a deep metal sink, she twisted off the white cap. Bringing the mouth of the dish under the tap, she turned on the hot water. The little container filled almost immediately, and she watched as grainy splotches of cell tissue broke free of their life-giving moorings, floated to the surface, and rode a torrent of water out into the sink.
She repeated the process until every scrap of her husband’s work met an unceremonious end in the sewer tank deep underground.
Tossing the last culture dish into the garbage, she stepped over to a large metal desk that held the computer in which Solomon recorded his data. She turned it on, and scrolled through the contents. She dragged the cursor past scores of files containing years of raw data and statistical analyzes, as well as a series of scientific articles Solomon was poised to send to peer-reviewed journals.
She paid no attention to the research files. She wanted the videos, and there they were. Hundreds of them. She chose one at random, her lips twisting with disgust as the familiar images flickered to life.
Shuddering, Lizzy grabbed a USB key from the desk drawer and copied the file onto the key, slipping it in her pocket as soon as the transfer was complete. Then she spun the computer tower, opened the back, and slid out the hard drive. Glancing around the lab, she found what she was looking for over by the door. Dropping the hard drive onto the concrete floor, she picked up a heavy metal doorstop and used it to crack open the drive.
Tossing the battered casing in the sink, she found a flask of hydrochloric acid in a glass-fronted cupboard. She poured the entire bottle over the hard drive, watching as the delicate inner workings dissolved into a smoking lump of twisted metal.
Certain that Solomon’s work had been obliterated, she returned her focus to the baby’s miniature prison. He’d managed to roll over onto his side, his fuzz of blond hair dark with sweat. Her hand hovered over the temperature dial. With what his father had planned for him, the poor little thing would be better off if she simply cranked the knob.
The baby stared back at her with his sparkling blue eyes.
“Just like going to sleep,” she whispered through the glass.
Ethan grinned, then plugged a thumb into his mouth.
Lizzy shook her head. “Come here, little monkey,” she said, sliding open the door and lifting him free of the stuffy cabinet. The baby wrapped his arms around her neck and she pressed his impossibly soft cheek to hers.
She was turning to leave when she caught sight of a black marker. Ripping the cap off with her teeth, she walked over to the wall and scrawled the word Murderer in ten-inch-high letters.
Back in the hallway, she spotted a trail of evenly spaced marks marring the concrete floor. Inspecting the bottom of her feet, she found the offending stain on the sole of her right foot. She discounted the idea of returning with a bucket and mop. She’d be long gone by the time he discovered the bloody footprints.
Wiping away an errant tear, she choked back a hysterical giggle. By then, a little extra cleanup would be the least of his problems.
If you think that excerpt is awesome, wait until you read the rest of the book! Come back tomorrow to check out my thoughts (spoiler alert: I loved it). Dark Territory is available today!