Sunday, October 29, 2017

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33280872-without-merit

I have a weird relationship with Colleen Hoover’s books. On one hand, I usually enjoy them because they’re very compelling and readable, however, on the other hand, there can be problematic elements in them that make me question why I keep reading these books. I didn’t find Without Merit as compelling as I hoped I would, and it left a bit to be desired.
 
Merit is kissed by a boy who shakes her whole world, unfortunately, she’s pretty sure he’s the boyfriend of her twin. The twin she’s really not that close with. She’s not very close with anyone in her family because of something that occurred when she was a bit younger. There is a lot of build-up to the ‘event’ with her family, and it takes a while to find out why Merit and her family do not mesh very well. It’s a disturbing revelation when it’s finally revealed, too.
 
I found it hard to like any of the characters, and I didn’t connect to any of them, which is important to me. They were all either shallow, selfish, inconsiderate, or all three. They didn’t treat each other like a family should, and it bothered me when suddenly they were able to resolve all their issues.   There were a lot of issues in this book, but none of them were handled or resolved very well. This book tries to deal with divorce, suicide, incest, abuse, and that’s only a few of them. It just seemed like there was too much going on. I didn’t understand the addition of Luck, either. He didn’t add anything to the story. Can we please talk about the names in this book, too? Merit, Honor, Luck, Sagan, and Utah. It’s silly, but the names bothered me.
 
I will probably keep reading Hoover’s books, but this one fell short for me.  I read It Ends With Us recently by Hoover, and really enjoyed that one.
 
A copy of this book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada, but as always opinions remain my own.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Review: The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32895536-the-blackbird-season


From the publisher:
“Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…

Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.”

In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.

Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life.

And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate.

Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.


My thoughts: This was the perfect book to read this time of year. Kind of creepy, kind of atmospheric, and definitely intriguing. I haven't read Moretti's previous bestselling The Vanishing Year, so I was able to go into this novel without any expectations. This novel is told from four points of view, Nate (the accused), Alecia (Nate's wife), Bridget (Nate and Alecia's friend, and also Nate's co-worker), and Lucia (the missing teen), which means it is very character-driven. Personally, I love character-driven books. I love being able to get inside a character's head, and try to figure out why they act the way they do. I think it allows a unique perspective into the plot, as well.

I found some of the characters hard to like and trust. Nate came across as unintentionally pompous. He had to be liked by absolutely everybody, despite their feelings towards him. Alecia was a bit hard to like, too, but I was able to sympathize with her more than Nate. She didn't know what to believe, which I understood. How easy would it be to deny that your husband is capable of something so horrible? At the same time, how easy would it be to believe once you start finding what you think is undeniable evidence? It's not as easy as one would assume.

Lucia was easy to sympathize with, especially the more you got to know her. She was a teen with typical teen problems, but she also had a difficult home life. She was my favourite character, and I wish we had more from her perspective. I loved her journal entries, and think she was very intelligent. She is accused of being a witch, and you can certainly understand why as you read the novel.

There was a lot going on in this novel, but it all fits together by the end and I loved that you never really knew who to trust. The ending was not what I expected, but I was happy with it. I rated this one 3.5 out of 5 stars, and would highly recommend it to people who love character-driven mysteries.

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33584812-mrs-fletcher?ac=1&from_search=true
From the publisher: Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website called MILFateria.com, which features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.

Meanwhile, miles away at the state college, Eve’s son Brendan—a jock and aspiring frat boy—discovers that his new campus isn’t nearly as welcoming to his hard-partying lifestyle as he had imagined. Only a few weeks into his freshman year, Brendan is floundering in a college environment that challenges his white-dude privilege and shames him for his outmoded, chauvinistic ideas of sex. As the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.


My thoughts: Mrs. Fletcher is my first Perrotta book, and I'm not sure how I felt about it. Eve is struggling with her identity as a recent 'empty nester', and after getting the 'U R my MILF' text ends up on a porn site. I thought it was interesting how the text and site led her on such a sexual identity journey. There is definitely some satire in this novel, but it manages to be up to date on current social headlines. I thought there was a lot going on with Eve's character. Discovering your sexual identity is not a linear thing, but I think there was just too much going on. I also did not connect with her, and I know that's not important to some readers, but it is to me.

Brendan made me very angry. He was so privileged and spoiled and he had no idea. He did not treat women well, and once he's finally called out on it, he goes running back to his mom. I don't know if it's because I'm a mom to a son myself (mind you, he's one so not the same) but I was very frustrated by most of Brendan's behaviour and I found his chapters difficult to read.

In the end I rated this 3 out of 5 stars. It definitely wasn't horrible, and I liked the way it made me question some of my own ideas, but it wasn't my favourite. I was a fan of the side characters more than the two Fletchers, and wanted more of their stories.

Good read, but not my favourite.

I received a copy of this book for free from Simon and Schuster Canada, but as always, opinions are my own.

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.