Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Review: The Missing Girl

It's hard to believe The Missing Girl is Jenny Quintana's debut novel. She has written a twisty story that is both heart-wrenching and heart-pounding all at once. I had no idea what would happen at the end of this novel which made it an exciting read.

Here's the synopsis:
It's been thirty years since Anna's older sister disappeared. Anna's never stopped missing her.
When Anna Flores' adored older sister goes missing as a teenager, Anna copes by disappearing too, just as soon as she can: running as far away from her family as possible, and eventually building a life for herself abroad.
Thirty years later, the death of her mother finally forces Anna to return home. Tasked with sorting through her mother's possessions, she begins to confront not just her mother's death, but also the huge hole Gabriella's disappearance left in her life - and finds herself asking a question she's not allowed herself to ask for years: what really happened to her sister?
With that question comes the revelation that her biggest fear isn't discovering the worst, it's never knowing the answer. But is it too late for Anna to uncover the truth about Gabriella's disappearance?
I don't read a ton of thrillers or mysteries but I usually enjoy them when I do pick one up. I don't really like the scary/terror/terribleness that comes with some of the stories though and that's why I only read them once and awhile. What I do love about them is how I'm never sure what's going to happen next. When they're done well, they surprise me and keep me on my toes (without scaring me of course because I'm a big wimp). Quintana's found that perfect balance I need and I found myself often thinking of the story and the characters when I wasn't reading. I was so invested in Anna's story and, being a fan of happy stories, hoped for a happy ending...or, at the very least, a satisfying closure for her.

I think the way Quintana put together the novel made a big difference in how the reader feels about the story. Each chapter alternated between 1982 and "present" day and they both move forward in time at the same pace (or at least at a similar one). By doing this, we get to meet all the characters who are important to the story, even the ones who are now dead or still missing. And you have to wonder, what do the people who are still around really know about what happened to Gabriella?

This story is about so much more than a missing girl. There are secrets among everyone (seriously...the shocks just keep on coming) and the knowledge that no family is perfect. You may not be able to understand why Anna left behind her remaining family and her life when you first meet her but once you know what it was like for her after Gabriella went missing, you can't really blame her.

If you're in the mood for a family thriller (is that a proper way to describe this? I have no idea), The Missing Girl will keep you interested. Jenny Quintana has written a story that will keep you guessing - and hoping - until the very end.

*A copy of this novel was provided by the Canadian distributor, Publishers Group Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Review: I Owe You One

It seems like I've been reading Sophie Kinsella forever. Lately her novels are hit and miss with me but even if I don't love them, I'm usually thoroughly entertained and left feeling satisfied by the fun and lovely story she's written. I Owe You One, out today, was one that didn't quite hit the mark for me but I had a good time reading it.

Here's the synopsis:
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella, an irresistible story of love and empowerment about a young woman with a complicated family, a handsome man who might be “the one,” and an IOU that changes everything
Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” But since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will? It’s simply not in her nature to say no to people.
So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. Turns out the computer’s owner is an investment manager. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, Sebastian scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. But Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?
Then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. She wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. And Seb agrees, until the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?
The main issue I had was with Fixie and how she was a doormat and incredibly naive. I felt a little bit like her but I wanted to swoop in and fix things for her because she was so blind to what was going on. My heart also hurt for her because her family just didn't listen to her. Ever. I also had issues with the family aspect and it did not get much better by the end of the book. There were some changes but the feeling at the end just left me even more frustrated at the attitudes of her family, her mum included. (I have to be vague here because it's the end of the book but if you've read it or don't care about spoilers, message me and we can talk about it!)

All those feelings aside, I am really glad I read this book. I had read a really bad one just before it and knew Kinsella would lift me up. I told a few friends that this book was like a balm for my soul. I could feel myself relaxing as soon as I started reading it. That is what makes a good book for me - the way you feel. And also why I will never, ever judge someone for what they read. Because that book I didn't like? Total CanLit and the most literary mumbo jumbo I've read in awhile. But the book that made me feel better? That one, and the genre it's in, gets sniffed at. SO FRUSTRATING.

Fixie is a really sweet and lovable character though. I absolutely adored reading as she grew a backbone and stood up to her family and the other jerks around her. I was sure Kinsella would give her a happy ending and I was rooting for it the whole way through the book.

The actual premise of this novel with all the IOUs is so much fun. I can just see Kinsella's mind working as she was likely thinking, "What if...." It's such a crazy chain of events that I enjoyed reading.

While I Owe You One didn't wow me like I know Sophie Kinsella can, I'm glad I read it. It's perfect for a time when you need to laugh.

*An egalley of this novel was provided by the publisher, Penguin Random House, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.* 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Review: Half Spent Was the Night

In 2017, my book club read Ami McKay's The Witches of New York and we (mostly) all loved it. Personally, I loved it because it was well-written and such a good story about witches as they could have existed. Harry Potter is great and all but that kind of magic never really seems real (no matter how many of us hope(d) for a letter from Hogwarts ourselves). The magic in the world McKay has created seems entirely possible. When my book club learned there would be a novella that would allow us to see what Adelaide, Eleanor, and Beatrice were up to, we were ecstatic and immediately knew Half Spent Was the Night would be our December 2018 pick.

Here's the novella's (it's only 92 pages!) description:
Beloved author Ami McKay is back, bringing us a magical follow-up in the tradition of Victorian winter tales to her mesmerizing bestseller, The Witches of New York
During the nights between Christmas and New Year's, the witches of New York--Adelaide Thom, Eleanor St. Clair and the youngest, Beatrice Dunn--gather before the fire to tell ghost stories and perform traditional Yuletide divinations. (Did you know that roasting chestnuts were once used to foretell one's fate?)
As the witches roast chestnuts and melt lead to see their fate, a series of odd messengers land on their doorstep bearing invitations for a New Year's Eve masquerade hosted by a woman they've never met. Gossip, dreams and portents follow, leading the witches to question the woman's motives. Is she as benevolent as she seems or is she laying a trap. And so, as Gilded-Age New York prepares to ring in the new year, the witches don their finery and head for the ball, on the hunt for answers that might well be the end of them.
The book is subtitled A Witches' Yuletide and I had thought (before reading the synopsis) it would take place at Christmas. Instead, the story begins on December 29 and ends on New Year's Day, with an epic New Year's Eve party in between. (A quick Google search of yuletide also provided some background information - yay, learning!)

The book opens with a line I absolutely love and thought of often during the same time frame last year:

Is that not perfection?

As you'd expect, this book was as well written as the first Witches book. The world McKay has created is so interesting and the characters, the three main witches especially, are so multi-layered and fascinating.

All that being said...I know it's a novella and it isn't supposed to be long buuuut I found it way too short. I could have used more time with the women to really feel like I understood how they were feeling about their lives at that moment and about the mysterious New Year's Eve party. The story almost felt surface level and there wasn't quite the depth I wanted and expected from McKay. Even though it was well written. Am I even making sense? The best I can figure is this story was published to fully wrap up a storyline from the first book and to introduce the next twist. (And holy is it ever an interesting twist!)

The magic at the party was much more...grandiose, let's say, than what you normally encounter with these witches. But, once things wind down and you realize what really happened...you know why it was such a spectacle. I wish that explanation had been explored a bit more because I felt like I was missing something.

I am glad I read Half Spent Was the Night and think that anyone else who loved The Witches of New York should read it as well. It didn't quite satisfy my need for a sequel though so I will continue to impatiently wait for the next full length novel (oh, how I hope there actually will be a next) about these witches from Ami McKay.

*A copy of this book was provided by Penguin Random House in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Monday, January 28, 2019

Review: The Gown

I knew about Jennifer Robson's books well before I ever picked one up to read. I had purchased them for other people but, for some bizarre reason, never got around to reading them myself. That changed last year when I heard her speak at a local library event and I bought, and had signed, Goodnight from London. I read it immediately and fell in love. I paid close attention from then on because she had mentioned that night about her next book, which was going to be about women who worked on Queen Elizabeth's wedding dress. Perfect timing since I, and everyone else, was binge-watching The Crown and waiting for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding. This novel though? The Gown is about so much more than a wedding dress worn by a future monarch. And it's incredible - one of my top reads from 2018.

Here's the (really long) synopsis:
From the internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.
“Millions will welcome this joyous event as a flash of color on the long road we have to travel.”—Sir Winston Churchill on the news of Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding
London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.
Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?
With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.
Historical fiction can be tricky...I find authors might try to teach me too much and the novel will read like a textbook or they'll toss facts around willy nilly in a way that makes it seem like they haven't done their research or they had a story idea and just decided to plunk it down in the past. Robson though? She is one of my favourite historical fiction writers. She knows what she's talking about (having a doctorate in British economic and social history from the University of Oxford and a father who's a historian) and is a damn good storyteller. She's able to weave together (ha! No pun intended) a story and I really feel like I'm right there with Ann and Miriam. She knows all the little details that would place the story in 1947 but it doesn't feel like she's lecturing at me. The story and setting sucks me in and I love it.

I hadn't realized, when I first started hearing about the novel, that there would be a contemporary component to this story. I liked reading about all three women and looked forward to their stories intertwining, because I knew they had to, one way or another. I don't think the contemporary story was quite as strong as I expected but I still looked forward to each of Heather's chapters.

The three characters Robson created - Ann, Miriam, and Heather - are amazing women and I adored them. They all face hardships (though Heather's are very much "first world problems"but problems nonetheless - and ones I could completely identify with) and are strong enough to work through them. They can see a solution and will do whatever it takes to get through the tough times. The revelation about Ann just about broke my heart but I was also in awe of how she managed to make the most of the situation. I just wish connections had been kept, though I could understand why she wouldn't want to (vague enough for you?). The friendship between Ann and Miriam is something to be envied and I loved reading it.

The actual plot - Miriam and Ann are embroidering the dress Elizabeth will wear when she marries Philip and, in present-ish day, Heather searching for answers about her grandmother and herself - is also so interesting. You may think that things would get complicated, given the many threads (again...no pun intended) Robson has to bring together but she's a talented writer and everything flows smoothly.

The Gown is a historical novel that perfectly brings together a specific moment in time with characters who stand out as much as - if not more than - the dress they're embroidering for a future Queen. Jennifer Robson has written one of my favourite books of 2018 and one I've been recommending to everyone and their sisters (I'm also not the only one as it's been on the bestseller lists for multiple publications over the last few weeks!). Even if you think one part of this novel isn't for you, read it anyway because you're going to fall in love.

*I received an ARC of this novel at an event I paid to attend last fall, which was hosted by HarperCollins Canada. There was no expectation for a review but I loved the book so much I needed to tell you all about it.*

Monday, January 21, 2019

Review: Be the Girl

There are a few authors who are on my "I will read absolutely anything they write" list and K.A. Tucker is one of them. She wrote one of my favourite books of 2018 (The Simple Wild, which I reviewed here last year if you missed it) and is gifting us with another book early in 2019. Be the Girl - just released today! - is a little different than anything she's ever written before but it's no less amazing.

Here's the synopsis:
From the national bestselling author of the Ten Tiny Breaths series and The Simple Wild comes a poignant story about a girl trying to change her future while evading her past.
Almost sixteen-year-old Aria Jones is starting over. New postal code, new last name, new rules. But she doesn’t mind, because it means she can leave her painful regrets behind. In the bustling town of Eastmonte, she can become someone else. Someone better.
With the Hartford family living next door, it seems she will succeed. Sure, Cassie Hartford may be the epitome of social awkwardness thanks to her autism, but she also offers an innocent and sincere friendship that Aria learns to appreciate. And Cassie’s older brother, Emmett—a popular Junior A hockey player with a bright future—well … Aria wishes that friendship could lead to something more. If he didn’t already have a girlfriend, maybe it would.
But Aria soon finds herself in a dicey moral predicament that could derail her attempt at a fresh start. It is her loyalty to Cassie and her growing crush on Emmett that leads her to make a risky move, one that earns her a vindictive enemy who is determined to splinter her happy new world.
As I mentioned, Be the Girl isn't quite like any of Tucker's other novels. For starters, she's self-published this one - after years of being traditionally published. That doesn't necessarily make it different than her other books but, to me, that indicates that this was a story that had to be told even if the publishers may not have thought so. The other big thing is that this is a YA novel. It's possible this story could have been told with adult characters but it wouldn't be nearly as good.

Tucker is such a phenomenal writer with an amazing knack at writing deep emotions. That meant this book gave me all the feels - including ones I hadn't really felt since I was in high school myself. Many YA authors can write that angsty, emotional roller coaster that are the feelings of a teenager but there was just something about this book that totally transported me back to my own high school. Maybe because the book was set in a town that was ridiculously similar to my own hometown - also a small town in Ontario, north of the big city of Toronto (though slightly more north than I think this fictional town is supposed to be). I felt this so acutely that I could immediately picture and smell my town's arena when Tucker described the arena Aria was setting foot into. There's a distinct smell to small town arenas and it's one that's hard to explain unless you've been in one.

This book also made me incredibly glad social media didn't exist when I was a teen. In fact, I don't even think Mark Zuckerberg was at Harvard when I was Aria's age. *checks internet* OK, I can't figure out when he started but I'm pretty sure thefacebook officially began the year I turned 17, a year older than Aria. But I digress. Social media is pretty brutal for adults sometimes so I can't imagine the special hell some teens face these days. I was also feeling pretty thankful that I sort of stayed under the radar when I was in high school. I did my best to not attract attention because I was so shy and awkward (which, let me tell you, is not easy to do when you're a six foot tall female basketball player in a school that holds the jocks at the top of the popularity hierarchy). I was lucky that I found my people early on and we had a solid group of friends. But I also wondered, as I read Aria's story and got to "know" Cassie, if I could have been a better person. Probably. I imagine I was never outright mean nor did I knowingly bully anyone but I'm sure there were instances where I giggled with my friends over someone different or ignored someone who was just trying to be friendly. It's a hard thing to think about yourself but that's part of why Tucker's new novel is so necessary. It makes you take a hard look at how you treat others and think about what you could do to be better. To paraphrase Emmett, there's no excuse to be a dick to someone just because they're a little bit different.

You may have noticed I've gone on a lot about the feelings this novel inspires instead of the actual plot. That's because Tucker has woven an incredible tale that I can't talk about too much because I'll spoil it all and you'd be pissed. Trust me. Aria's story is completely hidden at the start and is revealed bit by bit over the course of the novel. And that's the way it should be. So enough about plot!

Moving right along to the characters...I loved Aria. She's real, she's flawed, and she's trying hard to be a good person. Although, I don't think she really needs to try that hard. It's no work at all for her to be friends with Cassie. Cassie was an absolute joy to read. Her bubbly personality leapt off the pages. On the other hand, my heart broke every time someone ignored or teased her. I am so, so glad Tucker has written a book that features such a gem of a character. Emmett would have made teenage me swoon so I completely understood how Aria was feeling. A cute jock who has a heart of gold? Sign me up. Zach, Emmett's best friend, also deserves so many standing ovations for being such an incredible human.

I've realized this review of Be the Girl isn't exactly like most other reviews I write. But I think K.A. Tucker's novel isn't like most other novels. It encourages discussion and deep introspection and is a book that needs to be read by everyone. Young, old, in between. Everyone. You won't regret the time you spend with Aria, Cassie, and Emmett. You may cry (I did) but this is a story that's going to stick with you for a long time.

Buy Links
Amazon * iBooks * Kobo * BN

Print and audio will be available at a later date.

About the Author
K.A. Tucker writes captivating stories with an edge.

She is the USA Today bestselling author of 18 books, including the Causal Enchantment, Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water series, He Will Be My Ruin, Until It Fades, Keep Her Safe, The Simple Wild, and Be the Girl. Her books have been featured in national publications including USA Today, Globe & Mail, Suspense Magazine, First for Women, and Publisher's Weekly. She has been nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance 2013 for Ten Tiny Breaths and Best Romance 2018 for The Simple Wild. Her novels have been translated into 16 languages.

K.A. Tucker currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her family
Find K.A. Tucker Online

*An ARC of this novel was provided by the author in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.* 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Back at 2018

What. A. Year.

Anyone else feeling like that? And also that we feel like that at the end of every year?

It seems like the year has flown by for me but it's also been jam packed. Most of it was all good things but there's been a ton going on. Mostly thanks to the new job I started back in March - woot! That defined my year, for sure, but in between all the learning and the growing and the learning (so much learning), I kept at the blog and read my little heart out.

Even though a lot of mental energy has been sucked up by getting used to a new position, I've been finding I've had much more energy for blogging. I've also been reading a whole lot more. I now have an hour lunch break, instead of the half hour I used to have. I try to take the full hour every day (sometimes work takes precedence but I know myself and I know I need that break that, well, I'm entitled to). That's a lot more reading time! There's a park just a few blocks from my office so this summer and fall I risked cutting into my reading time to wander down to sit and read in the sun. So worth it. I'm making it to the gym a whole lot more too (also helps me feel so much better) and that allows for reading time while I do cardio. Related: I've listened to a few more audiobooks this year which is nice for not only walking around downtown but also for listening to during an entire workout, weights included.

I'm still writing reviews for a local magazine, Niagara Life, and that allows me to get out of my comfort zone and read more widely. Another thing helping me expand my reading horizons is my monthly book club. I think it's been just over 3 years since I've joined the club and it's been so great to get together with like-minded women and chat about books and life. And drink wine. Book club allowed me to finally read The Alice Network (SO GOOD) by Kate Quinn and Beartown (SO EFFING GOOD) by Fredrik Backman.

I'm finding it harder and harder to get to book events in Toronto (reminder: I'm about an hour and a half, in good traffic which isn't a thing that exists, away from the city) but I did manage to get to a few over the last year. The events I'm attending are changing, just as the blogging world has. I'm hopeful there will be even more adult reader events in the next year.

My first event of the year was the launch for Marissa Stapley's second novel, Things to Do When It's Raining (check out my review here). It was lovely to see all of the support she has from her friends and family. She has a great network of women authors who were (mostly) all there and it blows my mind that they know who I am. These women include contributors to a national newspaper and multiple best-selling authors. I wrote in my Instagram post about the evening how crazy and wonderful that is.

The library in Grimsby, a city in my region, hosts authors once a month for about six months of the year and tickets are always sold out. Luckily my boyfriend gets free tickets so I get to experience this great event. In April, Jennifer Robson was one of the authors. I hadn't read her books but I've purchased them for gifts. I was so enthralled by her talk that I bought Goodnight from London and devoured it a few days later. Read it.

HarperCollins Canada had a few great events I was lucky enough to attend this year. In May, they held a Meet and Greet with Joanna Goodman (author of The Home for Unwanted Girls) and Ellen Keith (author of The Dutch Wife). Even though the books were still very new, I had already read (and thoroughly enjoyed) both novels for Niagara Life (you can see the issues with my reviews here and here). Listening to the women talk about their novels was so great. You can read my full event recap post here.

The second Meet and Greet event I went to at HarperCollins was in June and featured three authors - Karma Brown (author of The Life Lucy Knew), Tish Cohen (author of Little Green), and Uzma Jalaluddin (author of Ayesha at Last). Jalaluddin's book was a highly anticipated read for me so I was thrilled to hear her speak. I've met Karma on numerous occasions and was really looking forward to her new book too. I've only read one of Cohen's (many) books but loved it. It was so cool to hear from three authors who are at very different points in their careers speak. Also, the inscription in my copy of The Life Lucy Knew may be my new favourite. Karma had no idea what to write so I just told her to write "s'up" - and she did.

Speaking of Karma, she came down to Niagara for a Wine and Words event (a local library, where I worked a few years ago, has an author visit a different winery every month-ish). I love supporting libraries and local events and authors I love so of course I went (you can see my Insta post here). A friend came with me - and ended up purchasing a book too! I also helped a couple of other older ladies decide which books to purchase for themselves. I just love talking about books!

In a completely different type of event, my friends and I went to Word on the Street in September and also got tickets to watch the premiere of Anne with an E. We got to see the show on the big screen at a theatre, with some of the actors there, and afterwards we got flower crowns. It was a really fun and neat experience. And free!

HarperCollins also hosted a wonderful tea featuring Jennifer Robson (yes, my second Robson event, if you're keeping track) and Kate Quinn. As soon as I saw tickets go on sale I jumped on it because I knew they'd sell out (they did...in less than 24 hours, I think). My friend, Natalie, managed to get on the wait list and scored herself a ticket. Remember that group of authors I mentioned who are friends with Marissa and who all support each other? Natalie and I were seated with all of them at this event. It was so lovely! A bit surreal. But lovely. Jess Allen from The Social hosted and interviewed the authors and we learned so much about their writing process.

In October a friend and I went on an epic road trip for an author event featuring K.A. Tucker (one of my favourites), Marissa Stapley (second event of the year for her too), and Joanna Goodman (yep, second event). We drove a couple of hours to visit my friend's new baby, then had a flight of cider and beer at a local brewery/cidery, followed by lunch with Tucker and a group of her fans (!!!), and then the event. And then a drive home. Phew! It was an amazing day though and the event was wonderful.

I went to a second Grimsby author event in October which featured Joanna Goodman (the third time this year I've seen her!) and Eden Robinson (author of Trickster Drift). The stories these women told were amazing and it was a great event. Then, in November I went to a third event with Beverley McLachlin (the former Chief Justice of Canada and author of Full Disclosure) and Dave Williams (former astronaut and author of Defying Limits). It was probably my favourite event they've hosted because McLachlin and Williams had such fascinating lives to share with us. Every event Grimsby holds is well done because they put so much effort into it.

Wow. Looking back I've realized I really have been able to go to a lot of events. Lucky me!

As for the actual reading I've done? I read more books in 2018 than I have in years. I'm working on book #110 because I like nice, round numbers. You can check out my full year in books on Goodreads here. I learned the shortest book I read was Half Spent Was the Night at 112 pages and the longest, at a whopping 656 pages, was Lethal White. Two very, very different books. I wanted to read more diversely this year but I didn't do as well with that as I would have liked - only reading 5 that could truly be called diverse. Gotta do better in 2019. I read way more books by men this year than I have in awhile, with 10. 89 books were from women. 32 books were by Canadians, 6 were YA (that number keeps dropping, which isn't surprising), ad 4 were non-fiction. I posted last week about my favourite books of the year so check that out and let me know what your favourite books of the year were.

Overall, 2018 was a really lovely, bookish year. I'm hoping I can read a lot next year as well and do better about reading more diverse stories and authors. Attending as many author events as possible is also on the agenda.

I hope you all had a great 2018 and wish you all the best for 2019!

Friday, December 28, 2018

My Favourite Books of 2018

Another year has come and (almost) gone and it's been one full of reading for me! As I write this, I've read 108 books in 2018. Trying to choose favourites among those 108 is mighty difficult, let me tell you. I've put my thinking cap on, consulted Goodreads (you can see my full year in books here if you're interested), and come up with a list of books I fell head over heels in love with this year. Because choosing this list was hard enough, I ranked them based on when I read them. And also because choosing them was hard, I have a list of honourable mentions - these are books that I really liked but didn't quite crack the top ten. All of these books are wonderful and there's something for everyone.

Shrewed - Elizabeth Renzetti (review in Niagara Life - page 62)
This was an amazing collection of essays and every woman (and man) should read them. Renzetti is an excellent writer and makes so many great points in this book. I also love that she's Canadian so she's feeling the same way the rest of us are in our country.

The Wedding Date/The Proposal - Jasmine Guillory
I think romcoms are FINALLY making a comeback (meaning they're finally getting recognized in popular culture again) and Jasmine Guillory is a big reason why. Her books are fantastic - full of heart and laughs and they're diverse. They're definitely needed on your bookshelf. I can't wait for her next book.

The Good Liar - Catherine McKenzie (review)
I've been reading (and loving) McKenzie's books for years and they're all great. The last few were ever so slightly less great. The Good Liar though? Holy man. Amazing. It's a twisty, well told tale with characters who are so interesting.

Still Water - Amy Stuart (review)
I didn't read Still Mine, the first book in the series Stuart is writing, and I really wish I had. You don't need to to really enjoy Still Water (since I really liked it) but I'd recommend it. Read them back to back and get sucked into the really intriguing world Stuart has come up with.

The Alice Network - Kate Quinn
This was a book club pick and I'm so glad it was. I had heard of it when it published back in 2017 but didn't pay a whole lot of attention and thought it would be a different type of story than it was. I don't know what that story was but the one I got? It was ah-mazing.

The Simple Wild - K.A. Tucker (review)
I'm pretty sure I say it every time I read a new Tucker book but this one is now my all time favourite of hers (and there are a lot to choose from). Calla is very different than the other characters Tucker has written and I loved that. It was mostly set in Alaska, which was great, but there were some scenes set in Toronto. I'm so glad to see my country (and a neighbouring city) show up in more and more contemporary novels.

Dear Mrs. Bird - A.J. Pearce (review)
For a book that takes place during the Blitz, Pearce has written a really entertaining story. I found myself laughing out loud often. Of course, she also wrote a lot of heartwrenching scenes. There's just so much to love about this story.

Ayesha at Last - Uzma Jalaluddin
I never did get around to reviewing this one and wish I did because I don't think I can properly give this book justice in this little blurb. Plus, I want to tell everyone and their sister about this book and if I talk about it more, more people will buy it and also love it. It's well-written with wonderful characters. Jalaluddin has put a Muslim twist on Pride & Prejudice and it's set in Toronto (I think technically it's Scarborough but I can't recall those specifics at the moment). Come for the loose Jane Austen adaptation, stay for the amazing storytelling.

Beartown/Us Against You - Fredrik Backman
This was another book club pick, thank goodness. Once again, I'm not sure what I thought Beartown would be like but holy hell. This book. It's heavy and heartbreaking and so freaking good. It was so good that I immediately put the second book on hold at the library. Also so freaking good. Ugh. Read them and discuss them with me, please.

The Gown - Jennifer Robson
My review of this book isn't up yet, since it only publishes next week, but just know - IT IS WONDERFUL. It's mostly historical but there's a present-day character as well. And it is 1000% a book for anyone who enjoyed The Crown. If you've never read Robson's novels, you're seriously missing out. She's so well educated and writes insanely entertaining and riveting stories.

Honourable Mentions:
Things to Do When It's Raining - Marissa Stapley (review)
Tides of Honour/Come from Away - Genevieve Graham (review of Come From Away)
The Dutch Wife - Ellen Keith (review in Niagara Life - page 62)
Full Disclosure - Beverley McLachlin (review in Niagara Life - page 62)
Bridal Girl - Meredith Schorr (review)
Goodnight from London - Jennifer Robson
The Wild Heir - Karina Halle (review)
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart - Holly Ringland (review)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows (pro tip: listen to the audiobook of this one)
Save the Date - Morgan Matson (review)
The Life Lucy Knew - Karma Brown
Counting on You - Laura Chapman (review)
Roomies - Christina Lauren
Open Look - Jay Triano (review in Niagara Life - page 70)
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart Turton (review in Niagara Life - page 70)
The Christmas Sisters - Sarah Morgan (review)
Marilla of Green Gables - Sarah McCoy (review)
The Winters - Lisa Gabriele (review will be up soon)
Half Spent Was the Night - Ami McKay (review will be up soon)
Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield (review will be up soon)