Friday, September 26, 2014

Review Repost: The Banks of Certain Rivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review: Since You've Been Gone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Why Haven't I Read More of their Books?

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.

Have you ever read a book, loved it, and then decided you had to read more books by that author? And then...didn't? That's what this week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about. In alphabetical order, here are ten authors whose book I read and now find that I need to read more of. Note: it was completely unintentional that the first three on the list ended up being Canadian authors! Links lead to Goodreads or review.

Angie Abdou
I adored The Bone Cage. The writing and the story were fantastic and I want to see what Abdou's other work is like.

Joseph Boyden
I couldn't stop thinking about The Orenda after I finished it and I've heard that Boyden's other works are just as good.

Terry Fallis
I recently read my first Fallis book, No Relation, and enjoyed it. The boyfriend has read all of Fallis' others though and tells me he likes the older books better. I liked the humour so I imagine I'll love the other books even more.

Katie Fforde
I freaking loved Wedding Season and I still haven't read any more of Fforde's books. Silly because I really do love British chick lit.

Michele Gorman
Bella Summer Takes a Chance was so much fun and so enjoyable so I'm amazed that I haven't read more of her books yet.

Jenny Han
I was a Jenny Han virgin before reading To All the Boys I've Loved Before, despite owning the whole Summer series. I can't wait to read more of Han's work!

Sarah Jio
Yeah...I know. I've only read one of Jio's novels! I loved loved loved Goodnight June so I cannot wait to read the rest of her books.

Morgan Matson
I devoured Since You've Been Gone this past summer and Matson will now be my go to author when I need a good summer book. (Since I've read all of Sarah Dessen's. Multiple times.)

Ali McNamara
McNamara is another British chick lit author and I really enjoyed From Notting Hill with Love...Actually. There are more in that series so there's plenty more McNamara to love! 

Ali Novak
I really liked My Life with the Walter Boys and am really looking forward to reading other books from this young author. Particularly My Life as a Walter Boy!

Bonus: Two Cheater Entries

Gayle Forman
Technically I've read two Forman novels, Just One Day and Just One Year, but they're kind of the same, right? I mean, they're not, but they take place during the same time period so it's sort of the same. So I really need to read her others. Like, need to.

Erin Morgenstern
This is a cheat entry because she only has one book published and there are no upcoming titles listed on Goodreads. But The Night Circus was so freaking amazing that I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Save the Date

I was recently in a reading slump. *cue the horror music* I wasn't interested in anything I had to read (part of the problem, really, is that I have to read certain books for review...but that's a post for another day). I picked up two different books and put them down before finishing them (rare for me). I read another that I just wasn't thrilled with. But why does any of this matter to you? Because Mary Kay Andrews' Save the Date was the book that got me out of my slump. Woohoo! It was exactly what I needed to read...light, but not mind-numbing, with likeable, real characters.

Here's the synopsis:
A Savannah florist is about to score the wedding of a lifetime—one that will solidify her career as the go-to-girl for society nuptials. Ironically, Cara Kryzik doesn't believe in love, even though she creates beautiful flower arrangements to celebrate them. But when the bride goes missing and the wedding is in jeopardy, Cara must find the bride and figure out what she believes in. Maybe love really does exist outside of fairy tales after all. 
It's no real surprise that I enjoyed the wedding aspect of this book. I almost always love books that centre around weddings because I find that those occasions lend themselves well to chick lit and women's fiction novels. But this novel isn't all wedding all the time. I think that's because the heroine, Cara, isn't the one getting married. Instead, she's providing flowers (and sympathy and advice) to the brides of Savannah. In the novel, the weddings provided a way for certain characters to meet. Also, Cara's shop wasn't just there to provide flowers for the brides in the story. It had a lot of drama surrounding it because of the problems she was having (I don't want to give anything away since the synopsis doesn't even hint at those struggles) and I liked that. This leads to another thing I liked about this novel...

One of the things I like about women's fiction and chick lit is that they're not just about the romantic relationships. There almost always is one, and, let's be honest, I love that, but I need more from my romances. So, I was really happy that Cara's career and her shop played such a large role in the novel. I mean, I'm not happy that Cara was struggling so much but it was great to see her tackle the problems head on and learn from those struggles. She grew as a character, and a person, and I always love seeing that it the novels I read.

Of course, the romance was an important part of this book. When Cara and Jack meet, they're both very anti-love. Both of their last relationships ended badly and neither were looking for another. Plus, they didn't exactly meet under the best circumstances. I'm not telling you how they met but it's pretty amusing and unique. Definitely a good meet-cute! I was rooting for them throughout the whole story. I think the reason they had problems was pretty stupid, especially on Cara's part, and it felt too much like a plot device, but I'm glad they worked it out!

Overall, I really enjoyed Save the Date. Mary Kay Andrews' latest novel isn't groundbreaking but it was exactly what I needed to be reading so I liked every minute of it. This is a novel to read if you're looking for a feel-good story (you definitely get the HEA in this one!) with good characters and a good story-line.

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Giveaway: Meet Philippa Gregory!

If you're a historical fiction fan you'll know the name Philippa Gregory. The author of The Other Boleyn Girl (and many others) will be in Toronto on September 22nd talking about her latest novel, The King's Curse. And guess what? I have a ticket to give away! (Thank you, Simon & Schuster Canada!)

Curious about this book? Here's the synopsis:
Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter—Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret’s contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.
After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret’s world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and “holiest” woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors.
Tickets for this event are only $5 and you can purchase them at TicketWeb (if you don't win this giveaway...or if you do and want to invite a friend!). Once you buy your ticket, join the Facebook event page. Don't have a copy of the book? Don't worry, Indigo will be on site selling books.

Some giveaway rules and info:
  • The winner must be able to get him/herself to the event (so make sure you can travel to Toronto!)
  • The winner will not receive an actual ticket. The winner's name will be on the guest list.
  • I will email the winner after the giveaway ends to confirm. If I do not hear back within 24 hours, I will choose another winner.
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Event Recap: An Evening with Emily Giffin and Elle Canada

I'm super behind with a two of my bookish event recaps. Like, "this particular event happened in June and it's now September" behind. Oops! On June 16, I, and a whole bunch of other book lovers, crowded into a bar in Toronto to attend An Evening with Emily Giffin and Elle Canada. It was an awesome girls night out!

I try to make every Toronto visit into a social event so I was happy that two of my favourite Toronto authors, Lydia Laceby and Samantha Stroh Bailey, would be attending the event with me. It had been ages since I had seen them and this event was perfect for catching up while having a bookish time.

When we got into the event, which was held at The Citizen, we handed over our tickets and were given our swag bags in exchange. We could hardly wait to dive in to find out what we had been given! First order of business: free drinks! We could have wine or a specialty cocktail (and, of course, I didn't get a picture nor can I remember what was in it other than was good though). We got two tickets so I tried both!

After getting our drinks, we decided to get our free Pandora bracelets and charm. Obviously, since it was a freebie, the bracelet isn't one of their high end ones but it's still very nice! I liked how they did the charms for this event - everyone got a charm with their astrological symbol on it. Cute idea, no? (I'm a Gemini, in case you're curious.)

Pic of a pic. Not ideal :)
There was a photo booth up at the Pandora station as well so we, of course, had to get a picture! While Sam and Lydia got one of just the two of them I did my blogger duty and pimped their books to the photographer!

We realized that the seats were filling up quickly so we hurried to find a place to sit (there were not enough seats to accommodate everyone and, even though we got seats, we didn't appreciate that there wasn't enough room).

Emily Giffin finally came out, talked/was interviewed for awhile, and then answered some questions from the audience. A typical sort of book event! She mentioned that she has never written anything autobiographical or based any characters on herself but Shea, the heroine of her latest book The One and Only, ended up being a lot like her. She said Shea's voice flowed more than any other character.

At the time of the event I was still trying to figure out what, exactly, I wanted to do with my life so I found this story meaningful: when Giffin was leaving the law office she worked at to move to London to work on Something Borrowed, a partner said, "Good luck with that whole writing thing" and she thought she'd die if she had to go back. She eventually realized that there was no shame in that as she wouldn't fail because she had tried

Other things to note...Giffin did say that she will write a sequel to Where We Belong (which makes me SO happy) and that she was currently at work on the Something Borrowed script (yay! More John Krasinksi!).

There were only a couple of brave males in the crowd who were there supporting their ladies (I think
the Argos cheerleaders thrilled the guys more than the rest of the event!). One guy was sitting next to me and during the interview portion of the night he pulled out his girlfriend's copy of the novel and started reading! Too cute.

Even though I'd met Giffin before, I decided to wait in line to get my complimentary copy of The One and Only personalized (each swag bag contained a signed copy). Definitely worth it to have another signed book in my collection! (Just realized I don't have a pic of the book and it's now at my mom's waiting for her to read it!)

Overall, the event was a pretty good one. I think I enjoyed meeting up with the girls and being in the city more than the actual event itself (you know when an author's personality doesn't thrill you like another author's might? Yeah...that...) but I'm still happy I went. The swag bag, which included delicious cookies, definitely helped ;)

Stay tuned for another couple of event recaps in the next few weeks as I play catch up :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: You Can Sit With Us

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 playing on the back to school theme that seems to be popping up everywhere. Especially since here in Canada the kiddies are back to class today! This TTT is asking, if I was back at school, which characters would be at my lunch table? Ooh, so tough! So I'm kind of cheating. Note: I definitely didn't intend to make this an exclusively female list. I guess my lunch table is my equivalent to a boys allowed! Unless they're wearing pink on Wednesdays. Links lead to Goodreads.

Kim from Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr.
I freaking love Kim and I think we'd immediately hit it off. Could we perhaps have a liquid lunch?

Basically any Sarah Dessen heroine but especially Remy from This Lullaby and Auden from Along for the Ride.
I love Dessen's main characters because they're so freaking real. I'm not a teenager any more but hanging out with them would be a lot of fun. Maybe if I'm eating lunch with them, fictional characters, it means I can also go back to being a teenager? :)

Cassie from S.E.C.R.E.T. series by L. Marie Adeline.
It might be a little inappropriate for the lunch table but I'd really like to know more about the women she met in New Orleans and through S.E.C.R.E.T. Plus, Cassie seems like one awesome woman that I'd love to get to know more about her.

All the girls in the When Girlfriends... series by Savannah Page.
The six girlfriends in this series are all different but each of them would be a lot of fun to hang out with!

Hazel Grace Lancaster from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
She's such a smart and funny teen who's dealt with too much in her life. Getting the chance to hang with her would be great.

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
She might have some difficulty with the cafeteria food but wouldn't it be great to get to know Lizzie and find out what Darcy was really like?

Lexi from Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman.
Lexi and I could totally be besties so lunch time with her would be awesome.

Cath from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
I wish I could sit down with her and help her through her first year of post-secondary school. It's tough! And I'd love to hear more about Levi aka one of the best book boyfriends ever.

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Anne-with-an-e has been a favourite character of mine for many years. How cool would it be to hang out with the literary world's favourite redhead?

Anne Blythe from Arranged by Catherine McKenzie.
Not to be confused with the married Anne Shirley, Anne Blythe is the heroine in my favourite McKenzie book. She ends up taking part in an arranged marriage and I'd definitely want to hear about that.