Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: Shopaholic to the Stars

Everyone's favourite shopaholic is back! Yes, Sophie Kinsella has written a new Becky Bloomwood novel. Shopaholic to the Stars was released yesterday, October 21st. It's been a long few years since Kinsella's last Shopaholic book and I found myself wondering if I would still like these books after all of this time. Verdict? Wellllll...I didn't love this one. But I didn't hate it either.

Here's the synopsis:
Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) has stars in her eyes. She and her daughter, Minnie, have joined husband Luke in LA—city of herbal smoothies, multimillion-dollar yoga retreats, and the lure of celebrity. Luke is there to help manage the career of famous actress Sage Seymour—and Becky is convinced she is destined to be Sage’s personal stylist, and go from there to every A-list celebrity in Hollywood! But things become complicated when Becky joins the team of Sage’s archrival. How will charming and supportive Luke deal with this conflict? Is it possible that what Becky wants most will end up hurting those she loves most? Shopaholic fans old and new will devour Sophie Kinsella’s newest adventure!
I know it seems wrong for a self-professed chick lit lover to say that she didn't love a book by one of the great chick lit authors. But, there it is. My problem is Becky. She does the same (stupid) things over and over again and never seems to learn from her mistakes. I can handle Kinsella's standalone novels, where the characters are usually doing that same thing, because it's not a series. How has Becky not figured out that she shouldn't spend a ton of money on useless things in SEVEN books?!? I was worried with the last book, Mini Shopaholic, as I was getting more annoyed than usual with Becky and it seems that carried over to this book. Sigh. 

The other thing that bothered me about this book was the ending. I won't give any specific spoilers but be warned that this book ends with a cliffhanger. A CLIFFHANGER. In a chick lit book! I don't think I've ever really encountered that. The whole reason I put up with Becky's silliness is because, in the end, she figures out her mistakes and all is well. She does have that epiphany in this book but there's a secondary plot line that isn't concluded at the end. And, I admit, that frustrated the hell out of me. This could very well be a very personal thing but I think it's something readers need to be aware of.

Those who adore the Shopaholic series will still like this one. It is a fun book. I especially liked that Suze and her family went to LA to stay with Becky, Luke, and Minnie. I always enjoy reading about best friends and Becky and Suze are great chick lit besties. I also quite liked the storyline surrounding Sage and her archrival (I don't want to give a name because I don't want to give it away!). It was fun and dramatic (without being series) - and involved fashion! Always a good component of a Shopaholic book.

So, overall, I was kind of bummed with Shopaholic to the Stars. I wanted to love Sophie Kinsella's latest novel. I really did. I'm just not feeling the series anymore and I wonder why it really needs to continue. I'll probably keep reading Kinsella's standalone novels but I don't know if I'll really want to revisit Becky's world. Tell me...what do you think of the Shopaholic series? Will you read Becky's latest adventure?

*An ARC was provided by the publisher, Random House of Canada, in exchange for review consideration.*

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Mega Post

Today's the day! If you missed my mini post about what I plan on reading for today's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon, check it out.

Be warned: This is going to be one big ol' post by the end of the day.

First up: the opening meme!
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I'm reading from St. Catharines, which is just by Niagara Falls on the Canadian side.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Definitely Isla and the Happily Ever After but I'm not sure I'm going to get to it! 
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? 
It's not so much a snack as it is an alcoholic beverages...the boyfriend and I have been waiting weeks for the pumpkin beer at a local craft brewery to be done. It finally is and we'll be having some tonight!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! 
I am very tall (6') and have a ridiculous rabbit named Tonks (you should know the reference if you're reading this blog!). I mentioned in yesterday's post that I had to work today...I am the Event and Volunteer Coordinator for the Lions Foundation of Dog Guides Canada. Finally, I'm obsessed with tea.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I've been pretty happy with how I've taken part in the last few read-a-thons. I know today is going to be different (and difficult) because I have to go into work (ew) so I'm taking it easy and just reading whatever I can. I'll be happy if I can finish one book and get started on another.

Coffee or Tea Challenge
Amanda over at the Fig and Thistle is holding a fun challenge. Would you agree with:
Quote A: “What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?” – Anthony Trollope

Quote B: “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” - C.S. Lewis
I've already mentioned I'm a tea lover so I am firmly #TeamCSLewis. Part two of the challenge asks us to share pictures of us with our beverage of choice so here are a few pics of me and my favourite drink! All of these pics can be found on my Instagram if you want to follow me for tea, bunny, and book pictures! :)

Top left: taking a pic for the David's Tea #selftea contest. In the rain. Top middle: buying a tea for McHappy Day. Top right: pic with tea at work because I liked my shirt!
Bottom left: my last mug of chocolate cake tea. Bottom middle: introducing author Samantha March to Tim Hortons! Bottom right: my first Christmas Starbucks beverage last November.

Update! The read-a-thon is now 14. I think? Anyway. I've driven an hour to and from work, worked an AGM (good gracious, those things are boring), ate a delicious meal (the boyfriend made chicken pot pie), and had two and a half glasses of pumpkin beer. AND finished book number one, which is the whole point of the day. The book was If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Yes, the one that was just recently made into a movie. It was very much a The Hunger Games scenario for me - I had heard of the book but wasn't interested until I learned more about the story. I'm glad I read it even though I feel like bawling in the corner, clutching a teddy bear. I will take a brief break to drink more beer (seriously, it's like pumpkin pie in a glass), perhaps do some challenges, and then I'll dive into book two. Which I don't even think is on my kobo yet (it's a NetGalley book). Guess I better get back to it!

Mid-Event Survey: (technically later than mid but that's ok)
1. What are you reading right now?
I just finished If I Stay and I should move on to Blame it on the Mistletoe but it's not on my kobo yet.
2. How many books have you read so far?
Just the one. *shakes fist and curses at working on a Saturday*
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Still Isla!
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
TOTALLY. Work. Work on a Saturday sucks. It's been awhile since I've had to deal with that. I have dealt with that by drinking beer. And just rolling with it. I got one book done. I am thrilled with that!
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
That I was actually able to complete a book! It's a library book too and therefore not one I must review so I don't even have to worry about my mental review backlog (guess what I'm doing tomorrow...)

Colour Cover Challenge
You know what's fun? Inspecting your bookshelf for pretty colours after yummy beer. Wishful Endings created a fun challenge...picking four books that have the same coloured cover. Here are four GREEN books! I tried to find a fourth green and red one but it just wasn't happening. :)

Book Spine Poetry:
I really need to get back into reading but the challenges are fun. And I'm lazy (I have to retrieve my kobo and cord to put my next book onto it...not well prepared, obvi). What do you think of my poem for Ticket to Anywhere's challenge?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: October 2014

It's that time of year again! Tomorrow is the Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon. I've taken part for a couple of years now and I thought I'd give it another go this fall. Minor problem though: I have to work for part of the day tomorrow. Boo! I will be trying to squeeze in as much reading as I can in between a coffee date with a good friend in the morning, the commute to and from work (an hour with no traffic...ugh...wish I could have found good audiobooks...), and the few hours at work. This will be my Saturday night!

So, now that I've told you what my day will look like, what books will I attempt to read?

If I Stay - Gayle Forman
I read Just One Day/Just One Year last year (this year?) and LOVED them. I had put off this one because I didn't know if I was interested and then the damn trailers hooked me. I guess those film people know what they're doing.

Blame it on the Mistletoe - Nicole Michaels
It may be a tad early for Christmas books (the weather is still so nice and fall-like and the trees are oh so pretty!) but this is one I got from NetGalley and it expires on the 24. Time to get into the holiday spirit!

Isla and the Happily Ever After - Stephanie Perkins
I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS ONE. As much as I cannot freaking wait to dive in, my friend does own a copy of this so if I can't get to this before it's due back at the library I have a Plan B.

Here for the Cake - Emily Poule
This is the next book in my Novel Escapes queue that I've been meaning to read for ages. Plus, it'd be nice to throw in a chick lit book amongst the YA and romance!

I know I won't get to them all but a girl can dream!

My start time for the read-a-thon is 8am. That's when I planned on getting up anyway but I won't start reading until after that.  I don't think the library would appreciate me bringing If I Stay into the shower. Unless I can come up with a way to waterproof my books?

Once again I'm taking a super laid back approach to the read-a-thon. I'll read what I can, do what challenges I can, and enjoy the day. It'll give me something to look forward to while I'm at work. Trust me...reading is MUCH better than an Annual General Meeting...

Are you taking part in the read-a-thon? What are you planning on reading? Have you read any of the ones I'm planning on tackling?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Review: A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home

Have you heard of the blog A Beautiful Mess? If you like decor, fashion, and all things pretty, you probably have. Sisters Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman have so many awesome ideas and they've recently compiled their home decor tips and DIY ideas in the new book, A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home: Painting, Crafting, and Decorating a Cheerful, More Inspiring Space. Whew, that's a mouthful. Unlike some other interior design books, this one is totally relatable and a lot of fun to read.

Here's the book's description:
Step inside the world of Elsie and Emma, the sisters behind the décor blog A Beautiful Mess. With tiny budgets and a crafty, can-do attitude, they overhauled each room in their first homes with DIY projects using family photos, vibrant fabrics, flea-market finds, and affordable furniture. Now, you can learn how to paint, craft, and decorate your way to a happy, bright space with distinct personality. In the same upbeat spirit and modern style found on their blog, you’ll find fresh, all-new projects including:
• An inspired geometric-pattern coffee table made of balsa wood
• A hand-lettered statement wall featuring your favorite quote
• A quick and easy electrical tape update for your refrigerator
• A set of beautifully designed serving dishes
And more!
Packed with bonus styling tips from hanging the perfect gallery wall to making mismatched furniture work, Happy Handmade Home is design inspiration for personalizing your own space.
I really liked all of the DIY projects interspersed throughout the book. Some were fairly easy (making a cool design out of electrical tape on a coffee table) while others required slightly more work (a bed frame for a guest bedroom). None of the projects would be unreasonable for anyone with the space, time, and funds. Of course, you may find the ideas daunting if you're not into DIY but if you aren't, I'm not sure why you'd be reading this book! :) There are a few projects for every room of the house so you're sure to find at least one thing you're going to want to try.

The book isn't all do-it-yourself projects. It also includes lovely pictures of the authors' own homes. They use those pictures to give ideas for your home. Seeing the collection of cow skulls and antlers in one of their living room's can help you envision how to showcase your own collection of unique objects. Shopping for a new dining room set? Why not do what they did: get a table and then find individual chairs at flea markets and shops and paint them all the same colour. As long as you think outside of the box, and the authors help you do that, you can take their ideas and make them work for your own home.

I also really liked how they had a page or two on how to celebrate in almost every room. Have a kid's birthday party in the new playroom. Or how about a brunch with your ladies in your stunning backyard space? I loved thinking about the parties I could have in my imaginary and newly decorated house.

It's hard to give a written review of such a stunning visual book but A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home is a home decor book after my own heart. It's fun and a bit quirky but so beautiful. Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman's book may not be for everyone but if you love DIY projects or even just watching HGTV to see all of the pretty houses, you should definitely check it out. Speaking of which, I would love to see these girls get their own TV show!

Happy reading...and decorating!

*A copy of this novel was received from the publisher, Random House of Canada, in exchange for review consideration.*

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Blog Tour: Goddess Born

Though I don't read them often enough, I really enjoy historical fiction and fantasy novels. So, when the opportunity arose to read Goddess Born, a novel that would include both elements, I jumped at the chance. Kari Edgren's novel was intriguing and kept me turning the pages until the end.

Here's the synopsis:
The power to heal is her divine gift, the fear of discovery, her mortal curse.
Selah Kilbrid is caught between two worlds. A direct descendant of the Celtic goddess Brigid, she is bound by Tuatha Dé law to help those in need. Yet as a human, she must keep her unique abilities hidden or risk being charged for a witch. In 1730 Pennsylvania, the Quaker community of Hopewell has become a haven for religious freedom—and fanaticism—and there are those who would see her hanged if the truth were revealed.
For eighteen years, Selah safely navigates the narrow gap between duty and self-preservation, until the day a prominent minister uncovers her secret. Obsessed with her power, Nathan Crowley disregards her betrothal to a distant cousin from Ireland and demands marriage in exchange for his silence. Selah stalls for time, but when news reaches the Colonies of her cousin’s death, time has run out.
Rather than submit to Nathan, Selah coerces a stranger to pose as her husband. It’s a good plan—her only plan—even though Henry Alan harbors his own dark secrets. But when she returns to Hopewell a married woman, the real fight has just begun. As unseen forces move against her, Selah doesn’t know which poses the greater danger—a malignant shadow closing in from outside or the internal fire that threatens to consume her heart.
Book Two in the Goddess Born series will be published in November 2014 and Book Three in June 2015.
Goddess Born was quite the riveting read. I was interested in the magical element to this novel and wondered how, exactly, Selah's powers worked and what the back story was. Unfortunately, this was where I found the novel lacking. I appreciate that Edgren avoided the dreaded info dump at the beginning of the book and did not give everything away at once. What I wished for, however, were more details about Selah's power. We find out right away that there is something special about her and that she seems to have healing powers. We also know right from the start that she is a "goddess born" but it takes a very long time (almost 100 pages if I remember correctly) before any history is shared. It wasn't that I was confused - I could tell that the power was passed on maternally and had done so for many generations. I was more frustrated that I didn't have the whole story about Selah's powers. I felt like the explanation wasn't dealt with properly and because of that my appreciation for the novel was diminished. 

This novel was an interesting one. I really did like reading it. The time period was interesting - the 1700s - not only from a historical perspective but from a fantastical one as well. It's not often that a novel will include some magical elements and take place in that time period. I think it made Selah's plight all the more stressful, for the reader, because there was a very real possibility that she would be murdered if the truth about her powers came out. Sure, that could happen now but knowing "witches" were actually killed made Selah's fate seem very bleak indeed. I don't think I would have enjoyed this book nearly as much if it had not been historical fiction.

Finally, I want to touch on the romantic aspect of the novel. Edgren did a good job of making sure the story did not stray too much into the typical romance genre. There were times when physical attraction and emotional attachments played a large part in the story but it was always done correctly. There was a time and place for these scenes and they were always well placed. So, of course, I appreciated the good love story! Henry seemed like a genuinely good man and I really hoped he and Selah could work out the various problems they had. 

I'm really happy I got the chance to read Kari Edgren's novel. I'm also happy that Goddess Born is the first in a trilogy. If you're a fan of historical fiction and fantasy as I am, I think you'll really like this one too. 

*A copy of this novel was provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.*

Friday, September 26, 2014

Review Repost: The Banks of Certain Rivers

Last year I had the opportunity to read and review Jon Harrison's debut novel The Banks of Certain Rivers. I really enjoyed it! To help spread the word a little more, I'm reposting my review from May 1, 2013 because you may have missed it the first time around. Plus, there's a snazzy new cover!

Here's the review (with an updated synopsis):

I had been hearing quite a bit of buzz about The Banks of Certain Rivers around the Internet, much of it positive. While Jon Harrison's debut novel is not one I would normally pick up, I decided to give it a try because I had a feeling I'd end up liking it. I was right. This was a really enjoyable novel that kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next.

Here's the synopsis:
In the lakeside resort town of Port Manitou, Michigan, dedicated teacher and running coach Neil Kazenzakis shoulders responsibilities that would break a lesser man: a tragic accident has left his wife seriously debilitated, he cares for his mother-in-law who suffers from dementia, and he’s raising his teenage son, Chris, on his own. On top of all that, he’s also secretly been seeing Lauren, his mother-in-law’s caregiver.
When Neil breaks up a fight one day after school, he doesn’t give the altercation much thought. He’s got bigger issues on his mind, like the fact that Lauren is ready for a commitment and he has to figure out a way to tell Chris that he’s in a serious relationship with someone other than the boy’s mother. But when an anonymous person uploads a video of the fight to YouTube, the stunning footage suggests Neil assaulted a student. With his job, his family, and his reputation suddenly in jeopardy, Neil must prove his innocence and win back the trust of the entire community—including his son’s.
Jon Harrison’s The Banks of Certain Rivers is a powerful tale of family, loss, and the meaning of love.

It sounds like it would be horribly depressing, right? The situations Neil faces are pretty brutal, true, but he has great friendships and relationships to help him get through life. I think things could have seemed over the top had Neil not had he not had his friends and family around. He had people in his corner, who believed in him and stood by him as he tried to figure out how to prove his innocence.

I just loved the scenes between Neil and his son, Chris. Neil seemed to do a pretty outstanding job raising Chris after his wife's accident. In fact, their storyline was probably my favourite part of the novel. Their interactions were so real and you could tell how they struggled but also how much they helped each other.

I don't want to say too much else about the plot because there are subtle twists that I don't want to give away. I will say that the story grabbed me. There was a bit of set up necessary, some back story, that was interesting but it wasn't until the action really started that I realized I was completely invested in the characters' lives. In fact, I was so into the story that I was reading it during commercial breaks while I watched a TV show because I couldn't wait to find out how it turned out for Neil.

If you're looking for a good read, pick up The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison. It gives you a little bit of everything - family, love, intrigue - wrapped up in a great story. I definitely recommend it!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review: Since You've Been Gone

I'm a sucker for a pretty cover so Since You've Been Gone by Anouska Knight immediately captured my attention. I wish the story had been just as awesome as the sweet cover but it was still an enjoyable read.

Here's the synopsis:
How do you learn to love again?
In one tragic moment, Holly Jefferson's life as she knows it changes for ever. Now to the external world, at least, she's finally getting back on her feet, running her business, Cake. Then she meets Ciaran Argyll.
His rich and charmed life feels a million miles from her own. However, there's more to Ciaran than the superficial world that surrounds him, and he too is wrestling with his own ghosts. Will Holly find the missing ingredient that allows her to live again and embrace an unknown and unexpected tomorrow?
I don't like to reread the synopsis before diving into a new book. I'll have read it before I request it/agree to review it but I like to go back in almost blind because I sometimes find that the synopsis gives too much away (but a heads up...I'm going to be more explicit about the tragedy that's mentioned). So, because it had been awhile between requesting Since You've Been Gone on Goodreads and actually reading it, I forgot how serious it actually is. The cover completely threw me I imagine it would to others, too. This isn't a novel of a bakery owner looking for her Prince Charming and having fun as she goes on dates. This is the novel of a widow. A woman who doesn't think she can ever love again and doesn't plan on finding out if she can.

Holly is a pretty tragic character. She's young and already a widow, after just a few months of marriage. I can't imagine how hard that would be to deal with. Luckily, she does have friends and family who are determined to check in on her (I adored her sister but was just as frustrated as Holly when it came to her mother) and make sure she's doing ok. She has a flourishing bakery with an awesome co-worker. But she has a huge hole in her heart. I knew that, in the end, she and Ciaran would end up together. I looked forward to seeing how she would evolve over the course of the novel and learn to move on from her tragedy. Holly really grew as a person. She had a few stumbles but I really liked her (except when she was being extremely judgey about Ciaran's wealth) and reading about her journey.

I found the writing in this novel to be a bit awkward. I don't have any good, concrete examples but the flow seemed to be a bit off and some sentences were just plain odd. When there are enough examples of poor writing (or editing), it tends to turn me off the book. Plus, the beginning is really odd. It's hard to explain but Holly is talking about Charlie not being home and then she wanted to have dreams about him...? It was hard to know for sure that he was dead and I just couldn't figure out when certain things were happening. I understand what the author was trying to do but it just left me confused.

Since You've Been Gone isn't a bad read. I just didn't find it to be an awesome one. I wish I had enjoyed Anouska Knight's novel more. I'll keep an eye on what she publishes next. Maybe you'll like this one more than I did!

*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*