Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reading Sarah Dessen: The Moon and More

Hosted by I Eat Words
Welcome to month four of the I Eat Words Sarah Dessen Read/Reread Challenge! Check out this post that explains the details about the awesomeness that is this challenge. Ah, a new book from Dessen! That always makes the summer that much better, in my opinion. I'm always excited when she releases a new book because, as you know, she's one of my favourite authors. Even though I had stayed away from early reviews of The Moon and More because I didn't want to know anything about it, I still knew that there were a few mixed reviews out there. I was hesitant because my expectations were so high but I ended up really loving this new book.

Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.
Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.
Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?
Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?
About the Story
Main  Character: Emaline
Age: 18
School Year or Summer?: Summer
Boys: Boyfriend Luke and new boy in town Theo
First description of Luke: "Halfway down the stairs to the front door, I glanced out one of the big windows, spotting the object of their ogling: a tall, very tan guy with curly blond hair, shirtless, wielding a long, awfully phallic looking pool brush." (page 9-10) 
First description of Theo: "He, however, was not from here, something I discerned with one glance. First, he had on Oyster jeans - dark wash, with the signature O on the back pockets - which I hadn't even known they made for guys. Second, he had a knit cap pulled down over his ears, even though it was early June." (page 13)
Crushable?: Neither of them totally did it for me but I'd definitely be more drawn to Luke (and not just because that's my boyfriend's name!)
Big Secret?:  No.
Heavy Storyline?: Not heavy and not overly dramatic but there are issues.
Parents Together?: Yes - sort of. She has a father (biologically) and a dad (her stepdad who adopted her when she was three).
Sibling(s)?: Yes, two older sisters. Margo is 22 and Amber is 20. 
Takes Place In: Colby, the beach town that shows up often in Dessen's works.
Cameos: So many! Emaline's BFF works at the store owned by Heidi, Auden's stepmom, from Along for the Ride and they both make an appearance. Also from Along for the Ride are Clyde and Esther (though I admit that Google had to help me with those connections). Luke's cousins are Wes and Bert from The Truth About Forever. They visit the Last Chance Cafe, which is mentioned in a couple of books, I think. Finally, Spinnerbait (Hate Spinnerbait!) from This Lullaby is playing at the club in town.

About the Book
Released: June 4 2013.
Epigraph?: No.
Format (of the copy I read): Hardcover.
Own?: Yes.
Signed?: No. 
Read or Reread: Read
Age when first read: 26.
New cover vs older cover: Not applicable since this was just published. I do have to say that I'm not a huge fan of the cover. After reading the book I get the significance of the grass but I still think that water would have been a better choice.

My Thoughts
I don't think I really allowed myself to believe that summer was here until I read Dessen's new novel. Her books are just the perfect summer read because they're amazing and almost always take place during summer vacation. I was looking forward to The Moon and More because, for the first time, the entire novel took place in Colby and was told from the perspective of someone who grew up there. I found this aspect of the novel to be really interesting - and probably the reason I really liked this book. I grew up in a town that has its fair share of tourists who are staying at the nearby beaches (Sandy can actually talk about this more because she lives at the beach) but it's not really anything like Colby (I wish it was though!). Like Emaline, I'm a small town girl at heart but, also like Emaline, I was eager to find out what the world had to offer once I was done high school.
Speaking of Emaline, I really loved her character and felt really connected to her. I know what it's like to have a family structure that requires an extra step of explanation and I can still remember my last summer before starting university. She had her flaws and, once again, I wanted to be a big sister for her but I knew she was a smart and strong character and would be able to figure out her life. I just loved reading her story.
One thing I found interesting was that Emaline and her boyfriend Luke were having sex during the story. That sounds weird, I know. The interesting thing is that I can't recall another Dessen novel where the main character was having sex during the book. Remy, in This Lullaby, had slept with guys before but she and Dexter never actually had sex. It seems like an odd thing to note but it seemed quite different for Dessen and that's what made me pay attention. This isn't a bad thing and it's not in any way graphic (I don't believe there are any descriptions at all) but it just made me think. I also could be wrong in recalling all her previous novels - can anyone correct me?
I found the boys in this book interesting, too. Dessen usually writes some excellently swoonworthy male characters (see: Wes from The Truth About Forever and Dexter from This Lullaby) but there was something about Luke and Theo that prevented me from wanting them for myself (hey, you all have book boyfriends, don't try to deny it!). Perhaps it's because Emaline herself doesn't quite know who she wants because she doesn't quite know who she is. Romance really didn't play a large part in the novel and I think that's what made the boys take a backseat in the story.
Overall, The Moon and More is a great read. New and old fans of Sarah Dessen will enjoy it, I think. And if you STILL haven't read any of her books, why not start with this one?

Sandy's Thoughts
Yes! A new Sarah Dessen novel to add to the collection. In her eleventh effort, The Moon and More, Dessen does not disappoint. The characters seem a little older and wiser than some of their predecessors but the coming of age teen story is still there. You still get that same feeling of satisfaction when you close the book for the last time and the story is all wrapped up. As with every Dessen ending there are questions and possibilities untold but there are also twists and turns you never saw coming.
Being the eleventh book, Dessen has mastered the personalities of the towns and people she has created. I love the cameos she throws into every novel and this one had a ton! We met Auden at Clementines, Clyde from the Washroom, Wes and Bert from Truth are mentioned and there are many more hidden tributes to her past novels. That made this novel special to me. I love that she has created her own little world between Lakeview and Colby and that her readers are part of it. I felt like I was part of the Colby beach community and invested in the outcome of Emaline’s summer.
Emaline hopes, from the beginning, for a different kind of summer. By virtue of the fact that it is the last one she will have before moving on to college it should be different. However, fate sees fit to give her a summer of changes that she will never forget. She had wanted the summer to mean reconciliation between her and her biological father and fun times with her long-term boyfriend (page 389). Instead she was gifted with the unconditional love of her younger half-brother and a true sense of herself without a boyfriend to influence her. This summer teaches Emaline that no matter where she goes she will always have her friends, family and Colby to support her.
For most of this novel I struggled to swoon over either boy in Emaline’s life. Luke seemed to be a little too conceited and Theo was just too pushy. It seemed as though both boys were too into themselves and never really heard or saw Emaline they just bowled over her. The boy I really liked was dozy Morris. He and Daisy were the shining couple of The Moon and More for me. It wasn’t until the last fifty pages when Theo shows his true colours and Luke is there that I really felt invested in the Luke/Emaline relationship. Luke finally showed that he knew her and saw her for who she was, not who he thought she was.
I also really enjoyed Clyde’s back-story. I found it very compelling and wanted to know, along with Ivy and Theo, why he had quit being an artist and moved back to Colby if he was so successful.  Clyde is one of the big Colby personalities so it was interesting to discover more about him. Everyone has a story.
Sarah Dessen says it best, “It takes so little to change everything.” (Page 187) That is the crux of every one of her novels. One small moment, action, or reaction can change the entire course of a summer, a year, or a life. I am looking forward to number twelve!

Next month: We're reading That Summer. It will be interesting to go from Dessen's newest book to her first. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Taking It Off the Shelf: Girls in White Dresses

Welcome to my second Taking It Off...the Shelf feature! I started this because I have a TON of books on my bookshelves that have been neglected over the past few years. You can check out my description post here and the review of my first pick, Beginner's Greek, here. This month I decided to pick Girls in White Dresses to read because I'd had it on my shelf for just over a year. It was a birthday gift from my best friend who's working at a bookstore. She told me to pick some titles and she'd buy them for me as gifts as she gets a discount (the thing I miss the most about working at the bookstore!). I also wanted to read this one because I have Jennifer Close's second novel, The Smart One, to read as well!

Here's the synopsis:
Isabella, Mary, and Lauren feel like everyone they know is getting married. On Sunday after Sunday, at bridal shower after bridal shower, they coo over toasters, collect ribbons and wrapping paper, eat minuscule sandwiches and doll-sized cakes. They wear pastel dresses and drink champagne by the case, but amid the celebration these women have their own lives to contend with: Isabella is working at a mailing-list company, dizzy with the mixed signals of a boss who claims she’s on a diet but has Isabella file all morning if she forgets to bring her a chocolate muffin. Mary thinks she might cry with happiness when she finally meets a nice guy who loves his mother, only to realize he’ll never love Mary quite as much. And Lauren, a waitress at a Midtown bar, swears up and down she won’t fall for the sleazy bartender—a promise that his dirty blond curls and perfect vodka sodas make hard to keep.
With a wry sense of humor, Jennifer Close brings us through those thrilling, bewildering, what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life years of early adulthood. These are the years when everyone else seems to have a plan, a great job, and an appropriate boyfriend, while Isabella has a blind date with a gay man, Mary has a crush on her boss, and Lauren has a goldfish named Willard. Through boozy family holidays and disastrous ski vacations, relationships lost to politics and relationships found in pet stores, Girls in White Dresses pulls us deep inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life.
Has anyone else read this one? Has anyone avoided it because they think it's just another wedding book? If that sounds like you I am here to tell you that this isn't really a wedding book. Sure, there are weddings throughout the story but, at it's core, Girls in White Dresses is about friendship and how your life changes throughout your twenties. I loved reading about the choices each girl made to better their life, whether with their careers or romantic relationships, and seeing them grow. This was probably my favourite part of the book - maybe it's just because I'm in my mid-twenties too and am having to deal with changes as well.

The set up of this novel was really interesting. It took me awhile to really get into it and enjoy the way the story was told. Each chapter tells the story of a different girl, mostly focusing on Isabella, Lauren, and Mary, but sometimes a chapter focuses on another "random" friend (someone from college, Isabella's co-worker, etc.). It was kind of reading short stories that all tied together. Like snapshots. There were only a few times I was sort of confused about what point in time we were at but that really didn't matter in the long run.

I found myself laughing multiple times throughout the novel. I could relate to a lot of their situations and I really felt like I was living their lives right along with them. One of my favourite lines was this one:

I bet you're all thinking about the first wedding you went to, aren't you? :)

Overall, I liked Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close a lot more than I thought I would and it's made me even more excited to read her recent(ish) release. I'm also kicking myself because I didn't snag a free ticket when Close was in Toronto earlier this year. Oh well! If you're looking for a great read that will make you laugh and think about your twenties (or wonder what you're going to do when you get there), I definitely recommend this one. I read it in one afternoon/evening and just couldn't get enough of these girls.

Next month I think I'm going to tackle Already Home by Susan Mallery. I bought this one right when it came out, I think, a couple of years ago based on some good reviews from fellow bloggers. Let's hope it's a good read!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: Vanity Fare

I'd been wanting to read Vanity Fare by Megan Caldwell since late last year. At first I was drawn to the gorgeous cover (love it!!) but the the synopsis clinched it. I finally got the chance to read the novel a little while ago and, happily, I really enjoyed it.

Here's the synopsis:
A charming novel about a 40-year-old Brooklyn mother, recently divorced, who starts writing copy for a bakery, discovers a knack for food-related literary puns, and becomes entangled in a love triangle.
Molly Hagan is overwhelmed.
Her husband left her for a younger, blonder woman, her six year-old son is questioning her authority, and now, so is she. In order to pay her Brooklyn rent and keep her son supplied with Pokemon and Legos-not to mention food and clothing-she has to get a job. Fast.
So when an old friend offers Molly a copywriting position at a new bakery, finding romance is just about the last thing on her mind. But the sexy British pastry chef who's heading up the bakery has other thoughts. And so does Molly when she meets the chef's intimidating business partner-who also happens to have a secret that might prevent Molly from getting her own Happily Ever After.
I read this one as part of the Dewey Readathon at the end of April and it was my last read of the 24 hours. If it hadn't already been past midnight I would have read this one in one sitting - I was that into it. I loved the premise of a bakery with a literary twist. Does anyone know if one exists? Because I need to visit it. Caldwell wrote about the bakery and the designs for it in such detail that I really felt like I could see the finished product.

Sometimes I have trouble really relating to characters who are mothers and/or are divorced since I'm not at that point in my life. A really engaging story will make me forget about that and Caldwell's novel was definitely engaging. Molly was an awesome character and I found myself wanting to be her friend. She was so real (read: just enough flaws to make her believable) and funny. She adored her son (who was probably one of the cutest kids found in women's fiction) and was determined to make the divorce process as easy and smooth as possible for him.

Another great thing about Molly was that she wasn't giving up on love. Granted, she didn't go after love in the right place to start out with but these things have a way of working out. Funny how novels work, isn't it? :) The romance in this story was really great to read about. I liked that I was kept on my toes in regards to Nick's feelings for Molly. Did he like her or not? Oh, and when he was hanging out with her son? So sweet. I loved how things all worked out in the end - sort of like a modern fairy tale.

Vanity Fare was a great read and I am so glad I got the chance to read it. I will definitely be on the lookout for more novels by Megan Caldwell. If you're looking for a light read with heart, I can't recommend this one enough. I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up on my top ten list at the end of the year!

Buy on,, Chapters Indigo, Kobo

*I received a copy of this novel from the publisher, HarperCollins Canada, in exchange for an honest review.*

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Books I've Read So Far In 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature.

2013 is just about halfway over (which is kind of insane...where has the year gone?) so it's high time to create a Best So Far list, don't you think? As of today, I've read 96 books so far this year. That's a lot to go through! Luckily, Goodreads was able to help me sort through my favourites of the year so far. It was actually ridiculously easy and I've realized that I have read A LOT of really great books. I could have easily picked twenty! Though, in all honesty, I really did pick more than ten as I couldn't pick favourites out of the Sarah Dessen, Heather Wardell, and Stephanie Perkins books! Have you read any of these? What are your favourites of the year so far? My picks aren't in any particular order and the links lead to my reviews.

Don't forget to check out their blog for a full list of everyone participating this week!

Sarah Dessen (Just Listen, This Lullaby, Dreamland, The Truth About Forever, The Moon and More)

Finding Lucas - Samantha Stroh Bailey
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
Hidden - Catherine McKenzie
Anna and the French Kiss/Lola and the Boy Next Door - Stephanie Perkins

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
The Bone Cage - Angie Abdou
Vanity Fare - Megan Caldwell
Heather Wardell (Live Out Loud and A Life That Fits)
The Karmic Connection - Libby Mercer

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: Redesigning Rose

I am SO excited to share my review of Redesigning Rose with you today. Some of you know that I also write reviews for the site Novel Escapes and have been doing so since the end of 2011. Since then, I've come to think of Lydia Laceby, the owner of the site, as a friend. I am thrilled to announce that she is now officially a published author! I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the first few chapters early on in the editing process but knew things had changed quite a bit between then and the final product being released. I was excited to read the full novel and I wasn't disappointed. Lydia has written a wonderful novel - one that I devoured in one sitting.

Here's the synopsis:
Rose Parker's husband has been lying. About everything.
When a conversation with her husband triggers questions, Rose Parker uncovers alarming answers that shatter her perfect life. But it is only when she shoves her belongings in her SUV and drives off that Rose realizes just how far from perfect her life actually was. She has nowhere to turn.
While debating between distressing sleeping arrangements-her mother’s house full of questions or a hotel room with too much solitude-Rose bumps into an acquaintance from her gardening class and allows bubbly, exuberant Becky to indulge her in a wild night full of whiskey, weeping, and whispered confidences. Suddenly, Rose has a new friend, a roof over her head, and two gorgeous men moving her out of her marital home.
As Rose struggles to settle into her new life, she remains determined to comprehend her past. And with time and distance and especially wine, comes knowledge. Frank wasn’t the only one lying to her. Rose was lying to herself.
We find out right away that Rose's husband, Frank, is up to no good. I immediately felt connected with and protective of Rose. Having a lying, and possibly cheating, husband is pretty awful and poor Rose was completely taken by surprise. I also quickly figured out that Rose has a spark inside her, one that's been hidden since she married Frank, and that helped me like her even more. I loved seeing how Rose grew into the woman she was always meant to be.

Becky came into Rose's life at just the right moment. Actually, you could say that Rose showed up in Becky's life at the perfect time, too. They complemented each other and they were able to learn from each other as well. Rose needed to have a social life (even if it was forced upon her...and I loved the scene when she realizes her friends are planning evenings for her so she's not alone) and Becky was able to provide that. Becky, in turn, needed to learn some things about herself as well. I don't want to say too much but Becky's story took a really interesting turn and I liked how it fit into the overall plot and how it was resolved.

The gorgeous men mentioned in the synopsis are Becky's brother Scott and his friend Adam and they provided an excellent storyline as well. It wouldn't be a chick lit or women's fiction novel without at least a touch of romance and I adored the love story in this book. Sure, I was a bit frustrated that no one was saying how they really felt or allowing themselves to act on those feelings but I knew there were huge obstacles to overcome. In the end, though, I loved how everything worked out for all the characters.

Overall, Redesigning Rose was a fabulous read. There were a few instances where there needed to be just a few more connections but it wasn't anything that really took away from my overall enjoyment of the novel. I definitely recommend Lydia Laceby's novel to chick lit and women's fiction lovers. If you don't want to buy it on,, or Kobo (but I think you should) and if you have a Goodreads account you still have some time to enter to win a copy here. Hurry, it ends on the 30th! But seriously, get yourself a copy of Rose's story. You won't be disappointed.

Happy reading :)

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Guest Post: Catherine McKenzie

I am so excited to have Catherine McKenzie on the blog today as part of The Savvy Reader tour for her latest novel, Hidden. I reviewed the book earlier this week and I loved it (you can catch the full review here). When trying to come up with a topic for Catherine to write about I thought about how she is always promoting other authors' works and decided that's what I'd like to know a bit more about. Read on for her response (and thank you to Catherine for writing this post!):

One of the great things I learned when I published my first book is how supportive most authors are of other authors. We sometimes read about literary "feuds" between some big name authors, but in general that's not reflective of what's going on in the general writing community. In reality, authors help each other in lots of little ways. From being "beta" readers (i.e. providing early feedback), to blurbing books (which I've been lucky enough to get from authors I didn't even know), to spreading the word about books they've read that they love, to providing a community of people you can lean on when you have your thousandth question about the publishing process. Writing can be a really solitary act, but authors supporting other authors helps make it into a community, which is awesome. Speaking of which, as you know Kaley, one of the ways that I like to support other authors is to spread the word about books I love. The current book I'm raving about is The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison, which you can read more about here: You will laugh, you will cry, you will thank me for recommending this book.

Blogger's note: The Banks of Certain Rivers is a really great read and you can check out my review of the book here, if you're interested!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature.

Ah, summer. It's almost here! For a lot of people summer means a lot more reading time. It used to be that way for me, too. When you're in university it's hard to find time to read for pleasure so once summer hit, I tried to fit in as much reading as possible. Now summer means a ton of great books to read. There are some amazing books being released this summer, or have been released in the last month or so. Instead of picking all new books for this list, I've actually compiled my current TBR list - it's literally my summer reading list. Have you read any of these ones yet?

Don't forget to check out their blog for a full list of everyone participating this week!

The Moon and More - Sarah Dessen
As Dessen is one of my favourite authors, this was one of the two books I was most looking forward to this summer (the other was Hidden by Catherine McKenzie and I finished - and loved - that one last weekend). I've actually had this since pub day two weeks ago and I STILL HAVEN'T READ IT. Madness.

The Devil Wears Prada/Revenge Wears Prada - Lauren Weisberger
Confession: I haven't actually read the first book. Loved the movie, own the book but haven't found time to read it. I bought the new sequel because: 1. I own book one. 2. I had a gift card. 3. It was on sale for only $15 online. 4. There was free shipping. How could I turn that down??

Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan
I've been hearing about this book since my internship at Random House Canada earlier this yaer and thought it sounded like a lot of fun. It didn't hurt that everyone who had read it was raving about it. I was actually able to see Kwan, briefly, in the hallway at RHC and get introduced. Fun! And that cover is just so sparkly! Who doesn't love sparkles?

Trains and Lovers - Alexander McCall Smith
This is another one that I was alerted to by my internship. I've never read any of Smith's books but this one intrigued me.

The Search Angel - Tish Cohen
I just got this one in the mail yesterday from HarperCollins Canada after being asked to review it. I think it's a really interesting premise - a search angel is someone who looks for the birth parent(s) of an adopted child - and I've only heard good things about Cohen's work.

The Painted Girls - Cathy Marie Buchanan
I can't believe I STILL haven't read this one. I won a copy in a huge giveaway months ago, received a personalized and signed copy, aaaaand it's still sitting on my shelf. Will have to rectify that soon.

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion
This is the one book on my list that I don't actually own but I do still have a little bit of gift card money left over from my birthday so I just might have to pick this one up. Once I finish the other nine books on this list!

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour - Morgan Matson
Another rare YA book for me but I've heard so many good things about this one and it was staring at me in the face when I was at the library a few weeks ago so I thought I'd give it a shot. That reminds me. I should check the due date...

Lost Without You - Heather Thurmeier
This is the third and final book in a series that I've been loving. It's an awesome romance trilogy with a really cool twist: each story takes place during a different reality TV show. The first was a Bachelor-esque type show, the second was similar to The Amazing Race, and this one...actually, I'm not sure what show it's supposed to be. But I'm really looking forward to reading Zoey's story as she was what you would call a massive bitch in the first two books!

Girls in White Dresses - Jennifer Close
I've had this one on my shelf since last May and that's why it's my next pick for my Taking It Off the Shelf series I started. I also have a copy of her latest that I want to read but I want to read this one first.

Excerpt: The Rockin' Chair

Earlier this year I read Steven Manchester's novel Twelve Months. It was a nice read (full review is here) so when he asked me to feature his new novel, The Rockin' Chair, I agreed to share an excerpt on the blog. The book is released today so if you like what you read you can now purchase the novel. Enjoy!

It was a bitterly cold Saturday morning when friends from far and wide came to pay their respects. Everyone who knew Alice adored her and equally loved her grieving husband. The McCarthy’s tiny field of granite was filled with mourners. As the preacher spoke, an eerie silence filled the frozen air.
“The Lord blessed each of our lives with the gift of knowing and loving Alice. Now He has taken her home to be with Him. Those who remember her, who loved her, walk with heavy hearts today, but we must also remember that Alice has been freed from the heavy chains of this world. She now walks with the Lord and shall dwell peacefully within His house for all eternity. Until the day we meet again...”
The preacher’s kind words were carried on the icy wind and John listened carefully to each one. Amidst them, a thousand memories reminded him of why he felt such loss. A thousand more reminded him of the void that now filled the desolate chambers of his heart. He stood rigid, conscious not to sway, and nearly snickered when the pastor mentioned “forgiveness.”
While John fought back the tears that burned to be free, the preacher’s drone drifted and became distant. John tried comforting himself with his own thoughts, but the ache in his heart was worse than anything he’d ever imagined. I’m nothin’ without Alice by my side, he thought, and the pain made him want to join her.
The preacher continued to talk above the sniffles. John glanced down at the scarred earth where friends had dug the hole. Beside his parents, Alice’s pine casket was about to be committed. A roll of old burlap covered the hole, while a mound of dirt mixed with snow sat behind them. Interrupting his own prayer, John questioned the Lord. Why ain’t there another hole dug beside her, Father? It don’t make no sense. It ain’t natural for Alice to be layin’ here alone.
John understood the cycles of life and had always been as comfortable with death as he was with life, but putting Alice in the ground alone was a tough one. I got no purpose walkin’ this earth without my wife matchin’ every step. God, how I wish I was layin’ right there beside her in our eternal bed. He became entranced in the fantasy.
Shoulder-to-shoulder, Hank, Elle, Evan and Tara stood across the casket from the old man. In his most difficult hour, Grampa John needed to stand alone and they respected him for it.
Elle rubbed Hank’s back, comforting her husband and ignoring her own pain. She loved Alice too. In fact, for years she loved her like her own mother. Then, when the illness took hold and caused the kind woman to live more in the past than the present, Elle loved her like one of her own children. Either way, the depth of the love never changed. At the end, though—just before Alice passed on—Elle prayed for closure. Realizing the harshness of such hopes, she wanted an end to everyone’s suffering once and for all. It had nothing to do with loving her mother-in-law any less. It had to do with peace. Mercifully, the Lord finally answered her prayers.
Denying herself the permission to mourn just yet, she continued to rub Hank’s back and whisper things in his ear that only he could hear. There will be time for me to cry later, she decided.
Hank stared at the beautifully carved casket and played the same reel of his mother over and over in his mind. He remembered watching her slave away for years in the house. She washed clothes by hand, hung them out and warned Hank, “You best stay clear.” Most of the time, he minded her. She canned vegetables, never stopped cooking and was usually busy working on one of her quilts. She was non-stop. Her routine was no easier than Pa’s, only she was being monitored by the ghosts that watched from frames on the parlor walls.
She was also in charge of haircuts and what a treat they were. If Hank didn’t squirm and fuss, she’d rinse out the bowl when she was through hacking him up and fill it with a few scoops of cherry Jell-O. Hank loved rubbing the new fuzz at the back of his head, as he sucked the sweet slime through his teeth.
Ma was also the self-appointed boss of hygiene. Every Saturday for sure and sometimes once during the week—depending on how much dirt had accumulated—she’d draw him a bath. Hank loved that old porcelain tub. It was like climbing into a swimming pool, with lion’s claws holding up its weight. Ma would leave him be for awhile, then call out, “Cover up your privates. I’m comin’ in.” With strong hands, she’d wash his hair, all the while complaining, “I swear there’s more water on the floor than in the tub!”
He could still see her sneaking dinner up to his room when he was punished, never thinking any less of him for misbehaving; and the wedding ring—from her own finger—that she gave Elle at the breakfast table the morning after he and Elle had eloped. He would never forget the way she always found time to talk, or better yet—to listen; and the ways in which she showered his children with love. The list went on and so did the invisible projector in his head.
Hank struggled to stop it, but the movie kept playing and the emotions he fought to contain finally overwhelmed him. As Elle rubbed his back, telling him, “It’s okay, hon, let it out,” the dam burst wide open. Hank’s whimpers could be heard above them all. Although he was bawling like a child, his embarrassment was suddenly replaced by another truth. This was not a physical pain that he felt. It was his heart and it was breaking. It didn’t matter that he was weeping in front of people. It don’t matter what anyone thinks, he thought. There was great freedom in it.
Hank looked across the casket and noticed his father standing strong. “Pa’s mask is still set in place,” he mumbled under his breath. As Elle leaned in to hear what her husband was trying to say, he added, “I ain’t ever been no match for him but it don’t matter no more.” For the first time, Hank felt sorry for his father.
Evan listened to his father’s labored sighs and childlike sobs. Like a contagious disease passed on by the wind, to his surprise he could feel the man’s pain. With all the resentment he held toward his father, his heart still bled for him. Looking to his side, it amazed him how pain could be such a cohesive bond in bringing people closer together. The bottom line was—they were family. Beyond their differences and hard feelings, they shared a common love and the pain that came from losing it. He’d always thought of his father as being lazy—in a fearful sort of way. Now, he just felt bad for him. Evan realized that his love for his father was stronger than his own pride. He placed his hand upon his pa’s trembling shoulder. Allowing his own tears loose, his mind suddenly flashed Carley’s smiling face. His body shuddered at the unexpected picture, and he realized that the woman he thought was his soul mate had already become nothing more than a bad memory.
Tara huddled against her brother. As the pastor spoke, her thoughts jumped from Lila to Bryce to the possible reasons Georgey didn’t make it to the funeral. Her mind was everywhere and she felt a wave of anxiety wash over her. Her life was in complete shambles, but looking around she discovered that Evan had been right. She wasn’t alone. There was pain etched into every face. All I want is a drink, she thought. Her body craved it terribly. She looked across the casket and noticed Grampa John’s mouth moving. He’s whispering something to Grandma, she realized. That was it. She lost it.
Trapped in his own bitterness, anger and sorrow, John stared at his wife’s coffin. Suddenly, Alice’s bony finger nudged him hard in the back, causing goose bumps to cover his body. It’s her touch, he knew. I’d never miss it. The strong smell of lilac wafted in the air. She’s tryin’ to tell me somethin’.
As if he’d been blinded for days, his eyes reached across the casket and rested upon his family. He gasped at the sight of them. Quickly studying each face, for the first time he could see the pain—and it wasn’t only from grieving the loss of Alice. The entire family was broken. He could feel it as plain as Alice’s message on his back. They were all slumped over from the weight of the cross they each carried. How could I have been so blind? he thought, kicking himself for missing it. If there had been a second hole, he would have endured his own grief and buried their pain instead. His concern had already shifted.
John continued to study their eyes. It was clear. The very fabric of their lives had become stained and tattered. The look on the two young ones only confirmed John’s beliefs of the world beyond the mountains. Like a cruel dream grinder, it’s chewed ‘em up and spit ‘em out.
Their parents weren’t in any better shape. Hank could barely stand, while Elle neglected her own needs—as usual—and tended to him. John felt Hank’s pain and cringed over the doubts of being able to heal the one who needed it most. He shook his head. The quilt that Alice spent so many years on is unravelin’ at the seams, he thought. No wonder she kept pokin’ me until I opened my eyes. While my squaw struggled so hard to remember her own life, her family was all fightin’ to forget their own. He felt one more nudge in the back and grinned. “I know, Alice. I know,” he said aloud. Others glanced nervously at the outburst. John’s grin scared them more.

The preacher had just finished his sermon when John dropped to both knees and spoke to his wife. “I see now, squaw. Seems I still got some chores that need tendin’ to.” He placed his lips to the frozen casket and kissed her. “You’re right, as usual. There’s some mendin’ to be done. So leave the porch light on for me and I’ll be along when I’m through.” Standing slowly, he straightened out his back and steeled himself for the chores ahead of him. I still got a few more miles to go, he decided. And it looks like I’ll be travelin’ all the way to hell to reclaim these kids. It was time to take them back from the evils of society.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Hidden

Most readers look forward to many new books throughout the year but they usually have that one book they can't wait to get their hands on. For me, the book I was most looking forward to in 2013 was Hidden by Catherine McKenzie. I have read and loved Catherine's previous three novels and am constantly recommending them to others. I was curious to see if her fourth novel lived up to my did! I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out what would happen next in this fantastic novel.

Here's the synopsis:
When a married man suffers a sudden fatal accident, two women are shattered—his wife and someone else's—and past secrets, desires and regrets are brought to light.
While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Not one but two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son and contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother—her ex-boyfriend—Tim.
With Tish’s co-workers in the dark about her connection to Jeff outside the workplace, she volunteers to attend the funeral on the company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life. Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, our personal choices and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.
One of my favourite things about this novel was that it is told from three different perspectives - Jeff, Tish, and Claire. It's all told in first person and you'd think it'd get confusing but it doesn't. Though, I admit, it did take me until I was about three quarters into the novel before I realized what the (clever) indicator was: different font for the first few words in each chapter. I think it takes real talent to be able to keep each thread both separate and connected, and to know which scenes to repeat from different perspectives and which to only touch on once. I think McKenzie did a fabulous job of telling the story from each perspective and I loved reading the inner thoughts of each character.

I really wasn't sure how things were going to end up by the last page and I loved that. What makes this even better is that even when I thought everything was all sewn up, McKenzie threw in a little twist. Admittedly, I'm not sure if I particularly likes how it ended but I know that was the right way to conclude the story.

As with McKenzie's previous novels, she's given us some fabulous characters. They are in no way perfect (hello, this story deals with a possible affair) but that's what makes them so awesome. They're real and relatable and so much fun to read about (er, perhaps fun is the wrong word to use when one of the characters is actually dead...). Even with the potential of a couple of affairs, you'll still fall in love with the characters and want the very best for them.

Catherine McKenzie has, once again, delivered a fantastic novel. Hidden will definitely make my top ten favourites list for 2013 and will be another novel I push on everyone who is looking for a good book to read. Friends, prepare yourselves!

Check back on Wednesday when Catherine stops by with a great guest post!

*Thank you to The Savvy Reader for inviting me to take part in this tour. An ARC of this novel was provided by HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review.*

Thursday, June 13, 2013

CLP Blog Tours: Meeting Miss Mollie

Today is my stop on the CLP Blog Tour for Di Jones' latest novel, Meeting Miss Mollie. I read Jones' debut novel, Transplanting Holly Oakwood, awhile back (check out my full review here if you missed it) and while I didn't loooove it, it entertained me and had me looking forward to this next book. Meeting Miss Mollie was cute and funny but I found it a little lacking.

Here's the synopsis:
She’s the Agony Aunt who has it all. Except for one small problem – her life is a disaster.
Annabelle is a hard nosed writer with a good marriage, a nice flat, a thriving career at Adorn magazine and a busy social life. She has only one ambition – to be the best known Agony Aunt in the UK.
When her world is turned upside down by her husband’s infidelity she strikes out on her own and goes flatting with a jet setting businessman. But things in her new house aren’t quite what they seem and her problems mount.
Through her ups and downs, Annabelle forges a relationship with the strangest of friends and discovers the best things in life are those she always avoided.
The thing that bugged me the most about this novel was that it was told from multiple perspectives. This is not normally a big deal for me but in the case of Meeting Miss Mollie, there were just too many characters. I can deal with three, at most. This one had the three main characters (including the dog, Mollie, which was actually quite cute), as well as Annabelle's boss, Christian's ex-fiancee, and Annabelle's dad (I feel like I'm missing one but I didn't write them down). It was a little much. Jones did do a good job of making sure most events were covered and there wasn't any duplication of scenes. However, I think the multiple perspectives thing lost a little something at the end because I have no idea what happened between the last scene and the epilogue (I think it was an epilogue...must start writing these things down...also, needing to check things like this is why paper books are better than ereaders). I don't want to give anything away but I needed way more links and connections than I was given. Instead of being happy for the ending, I was left scratching my head.

Enough negative talk. I did have fun reading this book. It was a fairly quick read, as I don't think it quite hit 200 pages, and it was easy to sink into over the course of a weekend afternoon. The story was cute and had a lot of elements that kept it from being too typical. The fact that Mollie got to narrate parts of the book and share her own thoughts was highly entertaining.

Finally, I have to say that I really like the covers for Jones' novels. They're bright and simple but really fitting for the story. 

Overall, Meeting Miss Mollie was a nice read but it won't be making any favourite lists for me. That being said, I will keep an eye out for Di Jones' next work. Third time's the charm?

Happy reading :)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: Chocolate for Breakfast

Imagine this: you have a book to read that quite a few people you know have been raving about. You're probably really looking forward to it, right? That was the case with me and Chocolate for Breakfast by Martha Reynolds. Taking a look at my Goodreads page, I could see that a handful of my friends had rated it at 4 or 5 stars. Excellent! I dove into the novel and...was disappointed. I wanted to like it but, unfortunately, it just didn't do much for me.

Here's the synopsis:
Young Bernie (Bernadette) Maguire is in for the journey of a lifetime when her junior year abroad takes her to Fribourg Switzerland. Ripe for love and adventure she is seduced by a handsome Swiss banker. She is horrified when she discovers she's pregnant. Protected and befriended by those who help to keep her secret for as long as possible, this moving rite-of-passage tale will warm the heart as a young woman struggles with an all-too-familiar dilemma. Yet after the unexpected death of her father, Bernie’s life takes some unexpected turns that will take decades to resolve.
One of the things that sort of threw me off was that the book takes place years ago (1978, maybe?). At first I wasn't sure why but once things got going and I realized where the story was headed, I knew that I would probably be put back in the present by the end of the book. It's not that I disliked the fact that it took place in the past. In all honesty, I have no idea why it threw me off.

Also, I have discovered this year that I really dislike books where the main character, usually a teen, gets pregnant. I understand that accidents happen and that's not as bad to read about, but in this case it was just a matter of Bernie being uninformed. I may have even called her stupid as I was reading the scene (not very nice of me, I know). This is a very personal opinion, I think, and everyone will not be as put off by it as I am.

Once Bernie realized she was pregnant, I was able to stop waiting for that to happen and try to enjoy the rest of the story. There were some nice parts to the book - she has a great best friend, Lisa, and I really liked reading the scenes that were just the two of them being typical college girls abroad. I was also happy that she had two adults to help her through a pretty rough time of her life. One was the program coordinator (I suppose that's what he was called) and the other was her doctor, who just happened to be dating said program coordinator. I desperately wished that things had turned out differently for Bernie and Timmy. I wasn't really a fan of how things ended up between them. Communication is key, people!

The final thing that sort of irked me about this book was the ending. The last section put us in present day and, for some unknown reason, into third person perspective. I have no idea why the viewpoint changed but it didn't help my already lacking connection with Bernie.

Overall, Chocolate for Breakfast just wasn't a winner for me. It seems like many others really enjoyed Martha Reynolds' novel (see the book's Goodreads page) so this could be purely a matter of personal taste. Have you read this one? What did you think?

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

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Touring My Bookshelves: Shelf #2

Time for another tour stop! About a month ago I showed you the large (and full) shelf that still resides at my mom's place. Today I'm showing you one of the large bookshelves I have at my own house. Someday I'll have enough space for all of my books in one place. Maybe in my next place!

This is my bookshelf in all of its glory. Complete with TV seasons on DVD, a few movies, and Tonks' cage beside it. Speaking of Tonks, the bookshelf now has her personal touches on it as she's nibbled the bottom right part of the shelf. Nothing like a few bunny chew marks on a bookshelf! I was OK with it (it's wood, it won't hurt her, and I'd rather her chew that than the trim on the wall) but the boyfriend was not as appreciative as he actually made this shelf back in high school. Ah well. We love the bunny too much to be too mad! In case you're curious, the TV shows include Gilmore Girls, Sex and the City, Bones, House, Glee, and The OC. The movies hanging out over there with the penguins, are my kiddy movies - Cinderella, The Baby-Sitters Club, Cars, Tangled, etc. - and Christmas movies - The Holiday, Love Actually, Polar Express, and so on.

These two shelves are full of books that I really want to read. I've had a lot of them for ages but just haven't had time to read them. This is why I started my Taking It Off...The Shelf feature. I can pretty much tell you when and where I bought each of these books, which were purchased with my staff discount when I still worked at the bookstore, and which were won, freebies, or gifted. I won't bore you with that though! The only books on these shelves that I've read are Beginner's Greek, The Night Circus, and Best Friends Forever. Yep, there are a lot I still need to read. There are so many that I can't wait to get to...both of Beth Kendrick's, These Girls, JulietThe Next Best Thing, and The Meryl Streep Movie Club, just to name a few. The Devil Wears Prada will be finally read soon (I've only seen the movie) but I have Revenge Wears Prada on its way (a giftcard + just $15 for the hardcover + free shipping = a no-brainer!) Finally, Girls in White Dresses is my next Taking It Off pick. If you want to know some of the other titles (because the picture isn't that great, sorry) just leave a comment and I'll clear things up!

The top shelf in this picture is my random paperback shelf. These are ones that I obviously want to read, since I own them, but don't have high priority (sorry to the authors on this shelf!) The second shelf holds my non-fiction titles. Between the boyfriend and I, we own most of Malcolm Gladwell's titles (the only one we're missing is Blink) but I have yet to read any. I've been meaning to read Becoming Jane Austen since the movie came out ages ago and I really want to get to my won copy of Seen Reading. You'll also notice that this shelf features my Harry Potter books. The set was a combo birthday gift from myself and my mom a few years ago. I haven't actually read my copies yet but I had lent the first three to my former boss. I couldn't believe I was doing it, and it pained me greatly, but she had never read them and I thought that was a greater travesty than lending out my virgin books! My boyfriend got me that gorgeous The Tales of Beetle the Bard set you see there as a gift many years ago. The book is all fancy-fied and there are separate illustrations included. You can also kind of see that I have a wand there. That's Ginny's wand that I bought on my trip to Universal studios last year, because I'm super cool like that.

So there we have it! Tour stop number two has come to an end. I have one more big shelf to showcase as well as a couple of shelves of books that are still residing at my mom's. I've brought so many to her in the last few months that the picture my sister took for me awhile ago is no longer up to date. I'll be there at the end of the month so I'll update the pic and share them with you next month! I hope you enjoyed this little tour :)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Time for an Internship Update

I'm nearing the end of my internship at Project Bookmark Canada but I wanted to give an update before my final wrap up post. Truth be told, I started this post about two weeks ago but just didn't have the time to finish it. Now instead of six weeks left I have four...maybe. I'm not entirely sure when my last day is! So far, things have been really great. I've been doing a lot of reading and researching, with the odd admin days thrown in. I've got lots of pictures to share that will help tell the story of my internship so far, so let's begin!

So, this is a Bookmark! This is the one that's in my hometown of Midland (bonus points if you're from Canada and know where that is...points not applicable to family and friends) that had recently been graffitied (er, how exactly do you spell that?) The book the excerpt is from is The Queen of Unforgetting, a great read. My sister had given me the heads up that it had been tagged, I told Miranda, and she asked if I would be able to clean it the next time I visited my mom. No problem! We made a family event of it - my mom helped me clean it, my sister took the photos, and my stepdad supervised and pointed out spots we'd missed. As you can see we successfully cleaned it! Yay us!

The main part of my position right now is reading. Specifically, reading books set in Calgary (so if you know of any, let me know!) It's been really interesting and I'm enjoying the fact that I'm recognizing certain landmarks and roads as they come up in multiple novels. It's actually making me want to visit Calgary! My library card is getting quite the workout and so far I've only had one late book. Oops! It was bound to happen with the number of books I have checked out! What I've loved about this is the fact that I'm reading so much great Canadian literature. I went into this internship without much experience reading Can Lit but I've really enjoyed many of the books I've read so far. My favourite definitely has to be The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou. It's about a wrestler and a swimmer who are trying to make it to the Sydney Olympics and is such a good read.

One of the great things about this internship is that I get to work from home. It's a nice change from having to embark on a two hour commute, one way, every day to Toronto. I did have to venture into the big city for a meeting with the lovely Amy from Penguin but it was oh so worth it. I got to pick her brain about social media and then she brought me back to the office and threw some books at me. Not bad for a day of work!

I mentioned having to do some admin stuff. I've gone to Hamilton to work with Miranda at her home office a few times so far. The first couple days I went we organized and shipped off books and Kobos to winners from our recent Page Turner campaign. As you can see from the above pictures, there were a lot of books to mail out! I've also helped her with some bookkeeping stuff (and let me tell you...two bookish people trying to do accounting stuff is pretty funny) and receipting, which I'm used to with my background in nonprofits.

So there we have it. Once I finish my twelve weeks, I'll give you more of my thoughts on the overall experience. I still have no idea what I want to do with my life and I've come close to having a meltdown over the past week but I'll figure it out. Here's hoping I have some good news in my final intern wrap up post!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review: She's the Boss

A couple of years ago I read Lisa Lim's debut novel Confessions of a Call Center Gal (the review can be found here) and enjoyed it. When Lisa asked me to review the sequel, She's the Boss, I immediately said yes. As I suspected I was constantly giggling and that really helped me enjoy the novel.

Here's the synopsis:
The Devil Wears Prada meets The Office. Twenty-something Karsynn is now a boss but she's not so much The Devil Wears Prada as she is The Angel Wears Payless. With a brighter career, things should be going better for Karsynn, right? Wrong. There's now a new director at the office--Carter Lockwood, and he's brought his reputation for wrecking havoc amongst the ladies. Karsynn prides herself in being the only one impervious to Carter's good looks. In fact, she takes great pleasure in blowing on the embers of Carter's hostility.
Karsynn thinks Carter is arrogant and obnoxious. Carter thinks Karsynn is an ignorant, sassy spitfire. But when they start working closely together, they discover that first impressions can be deceptive. Karsynn may be winning the battle against Carter, but will she lose the war? And more importantly, will she lose her heart?
One of the things that  kind of stuck out for me was that I thought the book actually needed more build up to the romance - it was sort of a surprise when Karsynn realized she liked Carter. (Romance actually seems like a bad word choice as neither Kars nor Carter are particularly romantic!) I know that seems silly because everyone always wishes there was more of a surprise factor when the heroine and hero get together. In this case I was just struggling to understand how their feelings changed. Does that make sense? By the end I could tell that they were going to work well together so that helped reconcile whatever odd feelings I had about the whole situation.

Like I said, this book was funny. Karsynn manages to get herself into some hilarious situations that were a lot of fun to read about. Unfortunately, I didn't make good notes while reading this book so I don't have any specifics. One part that sticks out, and I've actually referenced recently, is when Kars is told that her team needs to cut down on the swearing while working. Her response? To tell her team to replace curse words with a place on the map. Trust me, hilarity ensues.

I also just have to share this:

A snippet from my review of Confessions of a Call Centre Gal made it into this book! Whee!

If you like an offbeat sense of humour, pop culture references, and entertaining stories, give She's the Boss a read. (Though I'd suggest reading Confessions of a Call Center Gal first!) Lisa Lim delivers a great story with crazy characters that you'll find yourself wanting to party with.

Happy reading :)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Travel Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is full of books that feature travel in some way. I left out a couple of the obvious titles (Anna and the French Kiss and Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes) because I knew they'd be on several lists and I wanted to feature other titles that some people may not have heard about. I hope you'll find some new reads! Enjoy :)

Don't forget to check out their blog for a full list of everyone participating this week!

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - Ann Brashares
Greece tends to feature at least once in each book and there are other road trips and such usually featured.

A Scottish Ferry Tale/Scotland by Starlight - Nancy Volkers
Cassie decides to go on a trip to Scotland to visit her boyfriend but ends up getting dumped. She takes a ferry to an island and finds love there. 

The Dressmaker - Kate Alcott
Talk about a trip...this book starts off with the voyage on the Titanic. 

All at Sea - Heather Wardell and The Perfect Man - Sheila O'Flanagan
Both of these (excellent) books feature cruises.

Swimming at Night - Lucy Clarke
Katie finds out that her sister has died while traveling abroad in Bali. She decides to retrace her sister's steps to see what really happened. It's not a fun travel book but it's an excellent read.

Stuck on You - Heather Thurmeier
This book features a type of Amazing Race event based in New York. So much fun.

All Roads Lead to Austen - Amy Elizabeth Smith and Under the Tuscan Sun - Frances Mayes
These are two good travel memoirs. I liked the Austen one (which takes place in Latin America) because it worked in some research as well but I also liked seeing exactly what Mayes' life was like (since it's different than the movie!)

Arranged - Catherine McKenzie
Anne decides to take the plunge and goes on an all inclusive trip to Mexico...for an arranged marriage. This is one of my favourite books. 

Review: Sea Glass Island

I had been looking forward to the final novel in Sherryl Woods' Ocean Breeze trilogy because I had enjoyed the first two books so much. Sea Glass Island was a great wrap up to the series and I loved reading it.

Here's the synopsis:
With her two younger sisters heading for the altar, will Samantha Castle exchange old dreams for new ones? Lately she'd rather be on the North Carolina coast with family than in New York with agents and actors. Though she vows not to let her teenage crush on Ethan Cole influence her decision, it's hard to ignore her feelings for the local war hero.
Ethan lost more than his leg in Afghanistan. He lost his belief in love. Even being surrounded by couples intent on capturing happily-ever-after won't open this jaded doctor's heart. It's going to take a sexy, determined woman—one who won't take no for an answer.
I was really interested in seeing how Samantha's story would play out. Ethan was her teenage crush and up to this point, she hasn't had any interaction with him. I didn't find that odd though. They hadn't had any reason to cross paths, even though he was best friends with her younger sister's fiance. The only thing that seemed strange was that the meddling didn't start until now. Of course, that wouldn't make sense in terms of the trilogy so it's easy to overlook! Anyway, I had no idea how Samantha and Ethan would interact and I liked that. All too often there aren't any surprises in a final book in a series like this. I loved reading along and watching as Samantha and Ethan tried to ignore their growing attraction for each other.

This wasn't just a romance novel. Like the other two novels, there was some soul searching required on behalf of the main character. Each sister had to truly think about what she wanted in life, and in love, before she was able to be happy at the end of the novel. In Samantha's case, she had to decide if she wanted to give up her whole actress-in-New-York lifestyle. It was nice to have something else going on other than just the romance - even though this one was a really fun love story to read about!

There's not much else I can say about this series that I haven't already said in my reviews of Sand Castle Bay and Wind Chime Point (links lead to my reviews), though I do think Samantha was my favourite! I definitely recommend Sherryl Woods' Ocean Breeze Trilogy to anyone looking for a sweet and enjoyable romantic read this summer. All three books are now published so no need to wait for another to be released! Go check them out and enjoy.

Happy reading :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Review: The Karmic Connection

When author Libby Mercer asked me to review her latest book, The Karmic Connection, I immediately said yes. I don't even think I really paid attention to what the book was about, to be honest. Why? Because I read and reviewed Mercer's second novel, Unmasking Maya awhile ago and loved it and knew I would love whatever she came out with next. I was right. Her most recent work is funny and sweet and thoroughly enjoyable.

Here's the synopsis:
What is the universe up to?  
Guilty of nothing more than working too much - or so they say - Adam Stowe is dumped at a "wellness center" in the middle of nowhere by a couple of concerned colleagues. When he meets Lorraine, the beautiful and bewitching yoga instructor, his spirits start to lift, but once he discovers what a flighty fruitcake she is, they drop back down to subterranean levels. 
For Lorraine Jameson, Luna Wellness Center was a beacon of solace when her life was falling apart, and she can't stand the way Adam's toxic energy is poisoning the peace. He embodies everything negative about the life she discarded eighteen months ago. Despite being fiercely attracted to the arrogant man, she's determined not to let Adam Stowe anywhere near her heart.
Adam and Lorraine couldn't be more unsuitable as a potential couple... so why is the universe so dead set on uniting these two?
This book was a quick read for me. I was actually able to finish it in one night (granted, it's more of a novella than a full length novel as it clocks in at 144 pages) while I was sitting on the floor watching my bunny run around like the maniac that she is. Since it was getting pretty late, I was glad to have an engaging and entertaining novel to keep me awake while Tonks got her exercise at her own personal gym (aka my living room). I found myself laughing out loud at numerous scenes, especially when Adam got himself into very New Age-y situations and felt incredibly awkward. I wish I had noted which scenes really entertained me but I was too busy enjoying the story to make notes!

I've found that the two books by Mercer that I've read have had similar couples. Not necessarily in personalities but in the fact that the males are more traditional with office type jobs while the females are more free spirits. This really had no impact on the story, I just found it interesting. This does make for a more entertaining story, I think. The couple seems so incredibly unsuited but there's something there (that Mercer is careful to write about in subtle ways) that makes you realize that they're actually meant to be together. I found myself rooting for Lorraine and Adam and couldn't wait for them to realize that the universe was right and they actually belonged together!

I loved all the secondary characters in this novel. I loved Lorraine and Adam too, in case you were worried. Random fact: I was immediately interested in Lorraine once I saw the book's cover because she and I have very similar hair! :) Celeste, the owner of Luna Wellness Center, seems like an awesome lady. I liked that we were introduced to the other visitors at the Center (argh, I want to type that as "Centre!" My Canadian-ness doesn't like typing it "er" hehe) through Adam's eyes. He assumes they're all hippy dippy types and we are led to assume right along with them. Of course, there's always more to someone than initially meets the eye and Mercer allows each character to show why they're at Luna and what they're struggling with. One of my favourite scenes takes place between Adam and the teenage girl who's at Luna because she thinks she's too fat. It's really sweet and helped Lorraine see that there was more to Adam than she initially thought. What can we learn from this? Don't judge someone until you really get to know them!

Overall, I loved The Karmic Connection. Libby Mercer has written another funny and entertaining novel. It has a great mix of romance and sexiness that is so much fun to read. This is a perfect read for a summer weekend for romance and chick lit lovers alike. I can't wait to see what she writes next!

And just because I's a picture of my nutty bunny (though she's not being very nutty in this picture):

*A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.*