Friday, December 25, 2015

Review: Christmas on Primrose Hill

Given the number of books Karen Swan has written and my preference for the types of novels she writes, it's surprising that Christmas on Primrose Hill was only the second book by Swan I've read. I quite enjoyed it!

Here's the synopsis:
On Primrose Hill...
Twinkling lights brighten London's Primrose Hill as Christmas nears - but for Nettie Watson, it's not parties and presents that she wants.
Promises are made
For Nettie, Christmas only serves as a stark reminder of the life she used to have...One day she made a promise to never leave home, and so far she's stayed true to her word.
Promises are broken
Under the glaring spotlight of the world's media, Nettie is unexpectedly caught up in a 21st century storm...Her exploits have made her a global name and attracted the attention of one of the world's most eligible men - famous front man, Jamie Westlake. But now she has his attention, does she want to keep it?
Fairly early on the reader can figure out there's a secret about Nettie's mother...but you don't know what it is and it takes forever for it to be revealed. It. Drove. Me. Crazy. Not only that, but I really couldn't understand why she didn't want anyone to know about what had happened. I suppose I could to a point but...I would think it'd be something she'd want to share with someone she was becoming close with. One of my good friends, and fellow blogger, Natalie of Browsing Bookshelves, enjoyed the suspense though so it's all a matter of personal preference.

I got a huge amount of enjoyment out of the social media/viral video storyline. It was fun to listen to them report how things were going and how much money they were raising. I almost wished the Blue Bunny was real because it'd be pretty amusing to watch the antics Nettie and her team got up to. Social media and the Internet move quickly so the story (sort of...see above paragraph) moved quickly too. The viral marketing part of the story almost went too fast, which was odd considering other parts of the story dragged. I couldn't really keep track of time because everything was happening at a rapid pace.

Time to talk about the romance! While I almost wanted something else to happen (because I'm a sucker for those types of stories), in the end I'm glad it didn't. (Yep. That's vague. But I can't tell you more than that otherwise I'll start spoiling the story.) Average girl meets famous guy is always a fun storyline and I enjoyed reading as Nettie and Jamie's relationship evolved. 

While the novel doesn't have too much to do with Christmas itself, you get the gear up/hype of the holiday season as well as some Christmas magic (not literal's not that kind of story). The holiday hints were subtle - markets, ice skating, tree decorating - but perfectly paired with the overall novel. It's one of those Christmas stories that should leave you with many warm fuzzies when you've finished it.

I'm quite happy I have more Karen Swan books to catch up on because I don't want Christmas on Primrose Hill to be my last. Swan writes engaging, sweet, emotional, and funny stories. You may be done with your Christmas reading now but I think you should still pick this one up and carry on the festive spirit for just a few more days.

Merry Christmas!

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

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review: Christmas at Lilac Cottage

I love when two of my favourite things come together - like British chick lit and Christmas stories. I was really excited to read Holly Martin's Christmas at Lilac Cottage because it sounded really sweet and full of the holiday spirit. I was right, for the most part, and enjoyed reading this book. And look at that sweet cover!

Here's the synopsis:
Welcome to the charming seaside town of White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air…
Penny Meadows loves her home – a cosy cottage decorated with pretty twinkling fairy lights and stunning views over the town of White Cliff Bay. She also loves her job as an ice-carver, creating breathtaking sculptures. Yet her personal life seems frozen.
When Henry and daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage to rent the annex, Penny is determined to make them feel welcome. But while Daisy is friendly, Henry seems guarded.
As Penny gets to know Henry, she realises there is more to him than meets the eye. And the connection between them is too strong to ignore…
While the spirit of the season sprinkles its magic over the seaside town and preparations for the ice sculpting competition and Christmas eve ball are in full swing, can Penny melt the ice and allow love in her heart? And will this finally be the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of?
Like a creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, you won’t want to put this deliciously heartwarming novel down.
Spend the perfect Christmas in White Cliff Bay this year. Snowflakes on Silver Cove coming very soon.
My one main issue with this book is that there was a lot of repetitiveness and unnecessary information. I cannot count the number of times Penny mentioned her ex-boyfriend or Henry talked about his ex-girlfriends. I just couldn't understand why they kept bringing up the exact same thing. Nothing new was revealed and it didn't move the plot along at all. This was my only issue and, while it really did drive me bonkers, it wasn't too hard to move past.

If you know me and my reading tastes, you'll know I love small town stories. This novel shows the sweet side of small towns, and the ugly side. I appreciated that because too often only the positives of a teeny town is written about. Granted, the downside of this particular small town was pretty ugly - vindictive women, nose in everyone's business gossips, and the like - but at least Martin acknowledged it. Of course, she also showed how amazing small towns can be when they come together to make sure the town's favourite Christmas event, the ball, went on in the face of impending disaster. Yay communities pulling together!

There was a lot going on in this book (actually, almost too much) but all the storylines kept me turning the pages to find out what happened next. Martin does a nice job of weaving everything together.

I really wanted Penny and Henry to have a Happily Ever After. Like, desperately wanted it. Right away I could sense they both deserved to find that perfect person (for them) and I hated all the stupid little things that got in the way of the two of them finally getting together. But (slight spoiler but it's a holiday chick can't be too surprised) when they eventually do get together, it's just the sweetest. They both have a lot to learn about being together but I loved reading as they learned those things.

Overall, Christmas at Lilac Cottage was really sweet. Author Holly Martin has written a lovely Christmas themed story that focuses more on the characters and their journey (romantic and otherwise) than the holiday itself, but that's ok. If you like English contemporary/chick lit novels, check this one out.

*An eARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I'm a very bad blogger. I should have had Marie Landry's book read last year before Christmas, instead of in January. Not only that but I should have written the review right away so it'd be ready to go for this holiday season because I should have known there would be issues and I'd have a broken laptop to contend with! Alas, here we are a few days before Christmas and I'm finally reviewing a few of the holiday themed books I've read this year. I may be delayed but I'm still going to tell you that you must read The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. I loved it! It's a novella so you definitely have time to read it before the big day. Plus, it's just 99 cents so you really can't say no to that.

Here's the synopsis:
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, right? At least that’s what twenty-year-old Ginny Bailey’s grandmother always told her, and Ginny believed it until Grama died. She even put on a brave face the following two Christmases, carrying on Grama’s traditions and decorating her house and cafĂ© with Grama’s favorite decorations.
But Ginny can’t pretend any longer. When she finds out she’s going to be alone for the holidays this year, her Christmas spirit goes out the window, along with her luck. Everything that can go wrong does, and Ginny just wants to spend the holidays hiding under the covers...until Dean Riley comes back into her life. With their shared past, old feelings begin to resurface almost immediately, and Ginny thinks Dean might just be the Christmas miracle she’s been waiting for to help her remember why Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year.
Unlike some books that take place at Christmastime, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year really does centre around the holiday. The magic of Christmas, not just the day, is really present, which I adore. As hard as it is for Ginny to celebrate the holiday without her Grama, she still goes all out and celebrates the holiday as her Grama would have wanted. Plus, the whole town is full of Christmas cheer - a little bit like Stars Hallow, in fact. Yay, small towns!

My heart hurt for Ginny. On top of having to spend yet another Christmas without her Grama, her parents (who were never really parents to her, having had her when they were just 18), decide to leave on a last minute vacation. That's what not to do when you've already abandoned your child once, fyi. I knew Ginny was strong but I worried that she'd struggle with the holiday even more. I really wanted to reach through the pages and give her a big hug!

I love Christmas books and I love second chance romances. Put the two together and you have one happy reader. I adored Ginny and Dean together and couldn't wait for them to figure out they needed to give a relationship another try. Their relationship is just so sweet and I loved reading as they figured out their rekindled feelings for each other.

I also love books where the heroine owns her own business. I'm not sure why (today's not the day for a psych analysis) but I do. Perhaps it's because she (usually) immediately comes across as a put together woman who is doing what she loves. That's not always the case but Ginny (who technically doesn't own the cafe yet) thrives in the cafe and has big dreams for it. When I first read about her plans to expand, I immediately wanted to hop into the pages of the book so I could help her reach her dreams.

Finally, can we just talk about this cover for a moment? I may have swooned the first time I saw it and I'm still in love with it today. The image is just so very pretty!

Like I said, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is a novella so it won't take you very long to read. Go buy it for your ereader right now and you'll have it done before you open your stockings. Marie Landry is so talented! I really need to read more of her books, like, immediately!

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Christmas 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.

It's almost Christmas! And while I know everyone who is buying me gifts will have already bought my presents and no one tends to buy me actual books anyway (anyone else prefer that? I have so many books anyway that I'd really rather buy my own!), it was still fun to come up with a list of books that I wouldn't mind finding under the Christmas tree. What books are you hoping for this holiday season?

Carry On - Rainbow Rowell
Can you believe I still haven't read this one?

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
I don't actually own a hard copy of the full novel and I absolutely adore the Rifle Paper Co. cover.

Almost all of Lindsey Kelk's books
I have a few of her I Heart series but I'd also really love to have the books in her newer A Girl series.

Jane Austen: A Life - Carol Shields
There are many Jane Austen biographies out there but I've heard this one's supposed to be really well done.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Newt Scamander (aka JK Rowling)
I have my sister's old copy of Quidditch Through the Ages that she gave me after she was gifted a lovely set of the two books. And I figure with the movie coming out sooner rather than later, I should have a copy of this one, too.

In Her Wake - KA Tucker
I hadn't really wanted to read this prequel (would you call this a prequel even though you should read Ten Tiny Breaths first?) but since Tucker has quickly become one of my all time favourite authors, I feel like I should have this book, too. Also, I should probably own Ten Tiny Breaths and Five Ways to Fall, come to think of it. I have all of the other ones!

Leave Your Mark - Aliza Licht
I'd love to read more girl power, Millennial focused books and this one, about social media and landing your dream job, seems like the perfect fit for me.

Infinity - Sarah Dessen
I call myself a huge Sarah Dessen fan and yet I've never read this short story. I don't even know if you can buy it anywhere but I want it.

Put a Ring on It - Beth Kendrick
I've read the other Black Dog Bay novels so I really want to get back to the small town to see what everyone is up to!

Just One Night - Gayle Forman
I freaking loved the other books in this series and I need need need to know what happens in this one.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Review: Plan Bea

One of my least favourite things is having to say I didn't love a book so when I say that Plan Bea was a book I expected to like (if not love) and didn't, know it's as hard for me to write as it is for the author to read. Hilary Grossman's second novel isn't bad, don't get me wrong. I did find enjoyment in some parts but I just didn't connect with it in the way I should have.

Here's the synopsis:
Could falling in love allow a cold, stubborn, and selfish women to open her heart back up to her family?
Beatrice Buchanan has spent more years than she can remember distancing herself from everyone close to her. She has no relationship with her grandchildren and the only time she speaks to her daughter is during her weekly fifteen-minute commute to the nail salon. When Bea meets Walter on a cruise she realizes there may be more to life than designer clothes and impressing the ladies at her country club.
We live our entire lives thinking we know those closest to us. But do we ever really?
On the outside, Annabel O’Conner has it all – the perfect husband, two adorable children, and an amazing job. The only thing missing is her mother’s love. When Bea begs her daughter to help plan her wedding, Annabel reluctantly agrees. Little does she know the impact of her decision or the surprise that is in store for her!
This emotional and honest women’s contemporary fiction novel will tug at your heartstrings and the twist ending will shock you.
The core of the story was an intriguing and gripping one. My heart hurt for both Anna and Bea. I couldn't imagine having such a strained relationship with my mom. I loved seeing them attempt to repair their relationship and Anna encourage a relationship between her mom and her children.

It takes awhile to learn exactly why Anna and Bea's relationship is so awful and almost non-existent. I can't say why, since that's part of the plot twist, but I will say that I had it figured out. And because of this, I found myself reorganizing the storyline to make it "better" (in my opinion, of course). The revelations could have been in a different order and still would have packed a punch. Plus, I wouldn't have been waiting and waiting for the big reveal to occur. It was so anticlimactic for me. That was a big flow issue for me but there were other ones as well. The way Anna and Bea revealed information to each other was so stilted, even allowing for their strained relationship. There was also a piece of info Bea gave Anna that I didn't see how she could know. There were some recalling of conversations that were so awkward. For example, after a dinner out with the whole family (which we don't get to read about), Anna and her husband are getting ready for bed and are talking about how funny their daughter was that evening. I assume most parents would laugh and move on but they quote, verbatim we're to assume, exactly what she said. It just didn't feel natural to me.

Never being in Anna's situation myself (though I have a non-existant relationship with my dad so I can kind of see where she'd be coming from), I can't say for certain what I would do in her place. But that shouldn't matter...I should be able to understand why a character is acting the way she is (this is women's fiction, not a thriller, you know?) and I just didn't get why Anna was so hellbent on catering to her mother's every request when Bea had been so so horrible to her. It just didn't quite make sense to me.

Like I said, I wanted Plan Bea to be a winner for me. I know so many other chick lit and women's fiction fans adore Hilary Grossman's books but it doesn't seem to be in the cards for me. Would I tell you not to read it? No, of course not. Read it if the story speaks to you! But maybe it doesn't need to be tops on your TBR list.

*A copy of this novel was provided in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2015

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.

It's the end of the year which means "best of" lists are everywhere. This week's Top Ten Tuesday has us throwing our lists into the ring with our ten favourite books of the year. Not an easy feat, let me tell you! As of right now I've read 106 books (I'm hoping to make it to 110 by the end of the year!). So, as you can imagine, picking 10 out of over 100 is tough! The titles are linked to Goodreads and I've included review links where applicable. Also - these books aren't really in any particular order. What were your favourite books of 2015?

The Royal We - Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (review)
I've been recommending this book to everyone this year! I couldn't get enough of it when I read it. And I'm so excited that Lauren Graham and Mae Whitman are both attached to the film adaptation!

Chasing River - K.A. Tucker
It was hard to pick just one of Tucker's books for this list (I read five of her books this year) but Chasing River edges out its competition for a couple of reasons. It's an amazing story and it takes place in Ireland. Kind of makes me wish I had listened to the audiobook!

First & Goal - Laura Chapman
I read two of Laura's novels this year (plus two short stories and one manuscript) and it was really hard to choose between First & Goal and The Marrying Type (review). They're both amazing!

The Lake House - Kate Morton (review)
I was obsessed with this book when I was reading it, which was good because it was a massive novel! Morton writes fantastic stories that weave historical, contemporary, and mystery all in one lovely package.

We'll Always Have Summer - Jenny Han
Can you believe I only just finally read Han's Summer series? I actually read them in the summer and it was a perfect idea. I loved them all but this one just stuck with me a little bit more than the others.

Anne of the Island - Lucy Maud Montgomery
I've reread most of the Anne books this year and it's reminded me how much I adore them. (It's been 13-15 years since I first read them!) Of all the ones I've read so far, I really loved Anne of the Island. I think it's because it has a New Adult feel since she's at college in this story.

Saint Anything - Sarah Dessen
A year when there's a new Sarah Dessen novel is a happy happy year for me. I was so very pleased with her latest book. It's a bit darker than her other books which I loved.

99 Days - Kate Cotugno
I hadn't read Cotugno's first book, How to Love, though I had heard of it. Once I saw Jamie of The Perpetual Page-Turner (and The Broke and the Bookish) raving about 99 Days, I knew I had to give it a read. I was totally obsessed and will recommend it to any contemporary YA fan.

Where Sea Meets Sky - Karina Halle
This was the first Halle book I read and I've read two others by her this year as well. I loved this one just a wee bit more because the main male character was Canadian and the majority of the book took place in New Zealand. Apparently travel novels were the way to my heart in 2015.

At the Water's Edge - Sara Gruen (review)
This was another fabulous historical fiction novel I read this year. I really loved Water for Elephants so I was looking forward to the new one by Gruen. While I wish Scotland played a bit more of a role, it ended up being a book I couldn't put down.

Bonus Book
Novelista Girl - Meredith Schorr
I'm including this novel as a bonus because it's not yet published. It is the sequel to one of my all time favourite books, Blogger Girl, and it's just as amazing as the first book. I can't wait for all of you to read it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors

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.

It's always so much fun to find new-to-you authors. Especially if they've been writing for awhile and have an extensive backlist for you to become obsessed with. The list of new to me in 2015 authors is a mix of debut and more established authors, with quite the Canadian contingent. What authors did you discover this year?

Sally Christie (The Sisters of Versailles)
I read Christie's debut novel, the first in a trilogy, earlier this year and reviewed it for Niagara Life magazine. I was also lucky enough to meet her at the Ontario Blog Squad Meetup in July. She is so nice and the book was so addictive. I cannot wait for the second book to be released. (The Rivals of Versailles is out in April!)

Marissa Campbell (Avelynn)
Campbell's debut novel is another I reviewed for Niagara Life. And, once again, I was obsessed with it. Rumour is this historical fiction novel will have a sequel and I am thrilled! She's another of the Canadians on the list.

Karina Halle (Where Sea Meets Sky, Racing the Sun, The Pact)
I had been hearing of Halle's work for awhile, particularly because I knew K.A. Tucker (one of my favourite authors) is a friend and fan of Halle. I don't think I'll read all of Halle's backlist (she's written a lot more darker romantic suspense than I think I'd enjoy) but I will definitely check out all of the contemporary novels she publishes. Plus, Halle is the third of four Canadians on this list.

Taylor Jenkins Reid (Maybe in Another Life)
I know, I know. I received an ARC of her first novel - you know, Forever, Interrupted that so many people lost their minds over? - early on but I just never got around to reading it. I know now that I've been missing out because I thoroughly enjoyed her 2015 release.

Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (The Royal We)
I reviewed this book for Novel Escapes and it's probably one of my favourites of the year! I can't wait to see what they write next.

This was a novel that really surprised me. I wasn't expecting to be as sucked in as I was! Wilbanks' debut novel is worth a read if you like time travel stories.

Kate Beaton (Step Aside, Pops)
Can you believe 2015 was the first time I had read Kate Beaton? I had heard of the Canadian's work but just never checked out her site, Hark! A Vagrant, or her first collection of the same name before reviewing her latest for Niagara Life.

Colleen Hoover (November 9)
Yep. I've met Hoover twice and this was the first book I've read by her! I know others have said it's not her best but I really enjoyed it. I'm excited to read the two other (signed!) books I have by her at home and find copies of all the rest if I continue to enjoy them.

Abbi Glines (Twisted Perfection, Simple Perfection, Until Friday Night, While It Lasts )
I've met Glines twice as well but I just never got around to reading my copies of Twisted Perfection and Simple Perfection. I finally read them this spring and, hoo boy, did I get addicted. I read one on a Saturday and the next on Sunday - each in one sitting!

Raina Telgemeier (Drama )
A friend of mine knew I wanted to start reading more graphic novels so she suggested one of Telgemeier's. I adored Drama! The story, the art, everything! Definitely need to check out more of her work.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Review: Dangerous Lies

I hadn't read any of Becca Fitzpatrick's novel before Dangerous Lies ...not any of the Hush, Hush series or Black Ice. I don't know if I would have picked up her newly released novel on my own so I am super thankful Simon & Schuster Canada thought I might enjoy it and sent me an ARC. Enjoy it, I did. I read it in one day while on vacation because I simply could not put it down.

Here's the synopsis:
Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.
After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.
But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.
As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks…
Like I said, I finished Dangerous Lies in one day (multiple sittings even though I would have loved to have sat out in the sun on the cruise ship all day reading it!). I was hooked from the very first page. A teenage girl mentioning how she could be in danger of ending up in a river with cement shoes will do that. Fitzpatrick drew me in with danger - plus a sense that all was not as it seemed - and kept me invested with intriguing characters.

Stella is in an impossibly hard situation. Almost 18 and going into the Witness Protection Program? Not only that but what about what she witnessed that made WITSEC necessary? That's not something anyone should have to deal with.    

I really loved Stella. She was a bit of a... contradiction, shall we say. What we first learn about her - her mom's a drug addict, she witnessed a murder, and more - causes the reader (or maybe just me) to make some assumptions about Stella's background. I liked that Fitzpatrick played with stereotypes a little bit because it was another instance that separated it from similar stories.

There was A LOT of tension in this novel but Fitzpatrick made it work. She knew when to add another roadblock or complication to further heighten the drama. You might think this story would be over the top but it all comes together in a fantastic heart pounding, gut wrenching way.

After I finished the book I figured out another reason I probably enjoyed it so much - it reminded me of a K.A. Tucker novel. This is high praise from me because I absolutely adore her and her books. Tucker's novels are New Adult so I'm thrilled to have found a Young Adult comparison I could recommend to the younger crowd (or those who, for some reason, still won't read New Adult).

Dangerous Lies will definitely be on my recommend list for this year. Becca Fitzpatrick has written a suspenseful novel that is one hell of a mystery. It also has characters that grab hold of your heart and just won't let go. If you like suspense and mystery novels - or even if you don't and you find yourself intrigued by this book - read Dangerous Lies. And PLEASE let me know what you think. I need to talk about it with someone and find out if they figured out the twists or not!

*An ARC of this novel was provided by Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review: Whisper If You Need Me

Dina Silver is known for her women's fiction novels but she has recently released her first YA book, Whisper if You Need Me. The contemporary novel was an absolute delight to read and Sarah Dessen fans should take note.

Here's the synopsis:
A strong-willed yet vulnerable young beauty, Julia Pearl is sixteen years old when she’s sent away to summer camp for the first time. Julia’s father and stepmother are convinced that time away from home will be good for Julia, hoping it will restore the confidence she lost when her mother disappeared five years earlier.
Released from the emotional constraints of her new family and the ugly reputation her mother left behind, Julia finds herself reluctantly tossed into the free-spirited and often drama-infused world of overnight camp—where she quickly falls for an intensely charismatic counselor named Jack Dempsey, a nineteen-year-old college student who will prove to save her life in more ways than one.
Rich with humor and poignancy, Whisper If You Need Me is a timeless story that will remind readers of the strength of friendship, the unwavering devotion of family, and ultimately, the power of young love.
My favourite thing about Sarah Dessen novels (yes, I know this isn't a review about one of her books...bear with me here) is that the story is about more than just romance. Sometimes romance doesn't even really factor into the story. The point of the novel is to watch the heroine, a teenage girl, find her way in the world. There is drama, usually of the family sort but not always, and a little something special that hooks you and drags you, quite happily, into the story. Dina Silver has found that little something with her new book. Julia has a lot of stuff to work through...why her mom left, being "forced" to go to summer camp, having a new step-mother and step-siblings, plus a severe nut allergy. And for those, like me, who enjoy the swooning, the first kisses, and the romance, there's some of that too.

The setting played such a huge part in this novel. I never went to summer camp as a kid (the closest I got was a few day school trip to a nearby camp. I think I've blocked most of it out.) so there's a bit of a novelty factor for me. But I think summer camp is perfect for a contemporary YA novel and allows for a bunch of high school kids (and therefore a bunch of drama and angst) to get together somewhere that isn't school. 

The only little teeny thing that bugged me has to do with the age of the characters. Julia is 16, Jack is 19. I just could not see how a guy who's just finished his first year of college could want to date a high school. I wish Julia had been going into grade 12 instead of 11...I think that would have eased my mind so much more. But really...that was the single thing I had an issue with in this novel.

That being said...oh, the feels I had reading about Julia and Jack. I think the fact that he was older did help because he was able to help her learn to deal with, well, life. And their first kiss? Talk about swooning. It was almost instalove but because they weren't allowed to be together (ooh, forbidden love to boot!) they had the chance to build a friendship first. 

Finally, I liked that Julia was able to make some new friends while at camp. She has to deal with Mean Girls (oh my god, these girls were awful) but between Jack and her new friends, she's able to (usually) ignore the taunts and ridiculous comments and emerge on the other side even stronger than before. 

I could not stop reading Whisper If You Need Me. Dina Silver sucked me in with her riveting, well written story. This is one that all contemporary YA fans will enjoy, especially those who like their heroines strong and relateable. 

*An advanced eARC was provided by the author in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Monday, November 9, 2015

Review: November 9

I have a confession to make: I hadn't actually read any of Colleen Hoover's books before November 9 (out tomorrow...yep, on November 10th). This is even more ridiculous when I tell you that I've met her...twice. I've always wanted to. I own a few of her books but I just haven't read them yet. An ARC of this one fell in my lap, though, so I decided I'd take the plunge and finally read a CoHo book. And I did it in one day!

Here's the synopsis:
Beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover returns with an unforgettable love story between a writer and his unexpected muse.
Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day before her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon’s last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist.
Oh, man. Guys. I couldn't put this book down. It's heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching and emotional and so addictive. You know right off the bat that Fallon has had a pretty tough couple of years. And there's a hint that Ben's life isn't quite as it seems (though you kind of forget about that and then when you do find out what happened it's a bit of a slap in the face). I loved Fallon and Ben's relationship...and hated it all at the same time. I so admired them for approaching it in the way they did but all I could think was, "JUST BE TOGETHER, PLEASE!" As heartbreaking as it sometimes was, I knew it was for the best. I really enjoyed seeing how they grew as characters and people over the course of the November 9ths. 

I loved the fact that Ben was a writer. I feel like there are not enough writer characters out there, especially in New Adult. They're not usually males, either, at least in the books I tend to read. So not only did I like what Ben wanted to do for a living but I also enjoyed that writing and books played such a large part in the novel's plot. Particularly romance novels! They just don't get the credit they deserve and kudos to Ben for reading so many romances.

What's holding me back from giving this one a full, wholehearted, flailing five star review is the ending. I didn't see the twist coming, thankfully, but I found it too similar to a twist in another New Adult novel (I'm not telling you which one because then you'll figure out the twist and that would be wrong). The flow was a little thrown off as well and I don't know if I really got the conclusion I wanted.

Overall though, I really liked November 9. I'm interested to see what longtime Colleen Hoover fans have to say about it but this newbie was pleased. I tore through the story and enjoyed reading about two very flawed but very relateable characters. Best book ever? No, not really. But it did exactly what I needed it to: keep me 100% invested in the story and turning the pages as fast as I could to find out what happened next.

*An ARC of this novel was provided by Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Happy Blogaversary to ME!

That's right, my friends. Today is the day Books Etc. turns FIVE! I cannot believe I've been writing this blog for five years now. It seems like just yesterday I put this Blogger blog together. (Yep. Five years in and I'm still using Blogger...once I'm back from vacation I plan on changing that. I hope.)

SO many amazing things have happened over the past five years. I have made new friends (IRL and online), met more authors than I ever imagined possible (including a few of my all time favourites), read way more books than a normal person should (but I'm not normal), interned at Random House of Canada and Project Bookmark Canada, helped plan a chick lit author event, and oh so much more. (You can read about my second blogaversary here, third here, and fourth here.)

This past year was really hard for me, particularly in the career department (which directly relates to how much money I have and therefore determines everything else I can - or, more frequently, can't - do). My blog really took a hit and it's only been in the past few months that I've gotten back into the swing of things. I'm still getting there but one of the things that really helped was finally making it to BEA and the back-from-hiatus Ontario Book Blogger meet up.

I'm still learning as a blogger (and a human!) and I'm hoping for even more change and amazing things over the next year.

Now, a couple of bloggers - Jaime of Two Chicks on Books and Amber of Me, My Shelf, and I - are both celebrating their five year blogaversaries as well and wanted to open up the celebrations to anyone else who is in the five year cllub. The start of the Fantastic Fives celebration starts TODAY and because the start date falls on my actual blogaversary, they granted me the first spot. How sweet is that?

Fantastic Fives Interview Questions

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm a 28 year old, tall (6'), Canadian (I live about 20 minutes away from Niagara Falls) female. I'm obsessed with books (duh), tea (someone may need to stage an intervention and ban me from David's Tea), and my bunny (her name is Tonks…yep, like the Harry Potter character). I've lived in enough places to have collected four different library cards. I have a background in communications, events, and fundraising and I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

How did you get started blogging?
The short answer is I just started because I wanted to talk about books. The longer answer includes a previous knowledge of blogging thanks to my fourth year seminar class in university (my final assignment was writing a blog…it's still live if you want to check it out!) and finding a few blogs online thanks to Twitter (I'm pretty sure Chick Lit Plus was the first blog I fell in love with).

How did you pick the name for your blog?
I hardly remember! I think I settled on it because I knew it wouldn't strictly be about books.

If you could go back in time and tell your newbie blogger self one thing what would it be?
Pick a better url, haha! But also to just do your thing and not worry about what anyone else is reading or how they're blogging. It took  me awhile to learn that.

What have you learned in your five years of blogging?
The book community can be really great and welcoming but there are catty/cliquey moments that make me feel like I'm back in high school. So, I've learned to ignore those moments and focus on the good, which includes the amazing friends I've made and the insane opportunities I've been given. I've also learned way more about the publishing process which has been eye opening and so much fun.

What was the first ARC or book you ever received from a publisher?
It wasn't an ARC but the first book I received was A Scottish Ferry Tale and it was part of a blog tour (review is here if your interest is piqued!). I adored it! It took time though. I didn't get it until almost six months after starting my blog.  

When you’re not reading or blogging, what can we find you doing?
Not reading…I don't understand…Kidding! I'm a pretty average girl. If I don’t have my nose in a book, I'm either hanging out with my boyfriend or friends, likely watching TV shows, movies, baseball or the odd hockey game, or my whackadoodle rabbit act like the crazy nut she is. I could also be at the gym. The whole fitnessing thing is kind of recent (even though I played basketball many moons ago) since I screwed up my back earlier in 2015 and working out and getting stronger has helped immensely.

I couldn't NOT share a pic of Tonks (there are many more
on Instagram and Twitter, promise.)
The Fives

Five Favourite Books
Harry Potter (Ugh. FINE! Prisoner ofAzkaban) (review)
Anne of Green Gables (though I might love Anne of the Island more)
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (review)
Arranged by Catherine McKenzie (review)
Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr (review)

Five Favourite Book Boyfriends
Marcus Flutie from Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series (I think he was my first book boyfriend)
Brook from Laura Chapman's First & Goal
Dex from Sarah Dessen's This Lullaby (review)
Any of the three brothers from Nora Roberts' Inn Boonsboro series (review of book one and book three)
Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables (actually, he may have been my first book boyfriend but I don't think I realized it at the time. I was, like, 10 when I first read it.)

Five Favourite Book Quotes
"'All life's lessons are not learned at college,' she thought. 'Life teaches them everywhere.'" 
Anne of the Island

"As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly and then all at once."
I may have my issues with John Green but I adore this quote from The Fault in Our Stars.

"And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure." 
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

“I am simply a 'book drunkard.' Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.”
Lucy Maud Montgomery (I actually have a bracelet with this engraved on it)

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
Jane Austen

Five Blogging Tips For New Bloggers
1. Don't say yes to every review request.
2. Be polite and courteous to authors and publishers. This may be a hobby but you should conduct yourself in a professional manner. They don't have to send you books so make them want to work with you. Review books when you say you will! (I'm still working on this. So many books, so little time.)
3. Interact with other bloggers! It's an amazing community. And we won't bite, promise. (Er…except for the crazy chick I heard about at a past BEA.)
4. Schedule. You don't want to miss reviews/promos/NetGalley archive date because you forgot to write it down. It will also help you decide what to read next.
5. Have fun! Your blog is just that: yours. Give it personality! Write reviews how you want to write them and don't worry if you're doing it "right" because right is the way that makes you happiest.

Five Blogs You Want The World To Know About – Canadian (er...Ontario) Edition!
1. Browsing Bookshelves (Natalie is now one of my closest friends and we met because of blogging!)
4. Ms Lady Critic (she started blogging and is now focusing on booktubing)

Now for even more fun...I've decided I WILL do a giveaway this year. I don't exactly have the money (working part time is such a delight) BUT the book community has done so much for me so I want to give something back. Here's a bit of fine print: I'm away on vacation right now so I have no idea if the Rafflecopter will even decide to work. And because I'm going away well in advance of this post going live and have a ton of other things to think's a bit of a generic giveaway. I'll work out with the winner where the book will come from and, depending on where the winner lives, I might send a few little extra fun things. So make sure you leave a way for me to contact you in the blog post comment. If, for some reason, Rafflecopter doesn't work, leave a comment for me telling me what one of your favourite books is and I'll do a manual giveaway on the 29th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check out the other blogs that are turning five this year!
November 9 Fiktshun
November 10 Two Chicks On Books
November 11 Me, My Shelf and I
November 12 Bewitched Bookworms
November 13 Novel Novice
November 14 Book Angel Booktopia
November 15 Maer Wilson
November 17 YA Book Shelf
November 19 Bookish Lifestyle
November 20 Once Upon A Twilight
November 21 Annette's Book Spot
November 22 Bookaholics Anonymous
November 23 Deal Sharing Aunt 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Review: The Lake House

It was almost exactly five years ago that I read The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. I fell head over heels in love and I told everyone and their mother they needed to read it too. Seriously...I worked at Coles bookstore the Christmas it became popular in Canada and I hand-sold it to anyone looking for a gift for the woman in their life. But I have a confession to make: that was the first and last Kate Morton book I read. I think I had such a fear of her subsequent books not living up to my expectations that I didn't make the time to read her others. Until The Lake House . And, boy, am I glad I agreed to review this one and be part of Simon & Schuster's Read-a-Thon!

I'm doing my read-a-thon post a little differently than the others for a few reasons...first, I'm on vacation right now and had to have this scheduled a week ago. This means that I can't really discuss the book with you as much as I'd like. Also, I'm in charge of the final part of the novel and it seems only fair to give my thoughts before asking questions about the whole book!

Here's the synopsis:
Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…
One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.
Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.
A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.
I'm going to echo the synopsis: Morton is a fantastic storyteller. She's able to weave together such a compelling story. It makes the reader want to read the book from start to finish in one sitting. (I'd be damn impressed if you read it in one sitting...this is a hefty book at about 400 pages.) Morton sucks you in with a multi-layered and complex story. The Lake House takes place in various decades (mostly the 1930s and 2000s) and in different towns (London and Cornwall). It's a third person narrative which allows for viewpoints from all sorts of characters. That all sounds confusing, doesn't it? But, in Morton's more than capable hands, it completely works.

I love that this novel has a mystery at its core and clues are shared sparingly throughout the novel. I kept thinking that maybe I had things figured out about Theo's disappearance, only to realize I was way off base. I didn't feel too bad though because the characters had no idea what happened either and everyone seemed to think they had a hand in the event. There was a lot of confusion that needed to be cleared up before things started to make sense and I loved the moments when things started to fall into place. I actually had a "HOLY CRAP" light bulb moment that was almost I felt pretty proud of myself.

Final (random) side note: I started reading the book on a Tuesday. I watch the TV show Castle, which is on Monday nights, so when I began the novel I, for some reason, kept picturing Sadie as Stana Katic, the actress who plays Detective Beckett. There's no real reason for this link (it wasn't based on what Sadie was supposed to look like!) or for sharing but I thought it'd be fun to include part of my reading experience :)

Kate Morton's latest novel is a total winner for me. The Lake House will be one I recommend to many people once again this holiday season - and beyond. It's an amazing story that's written so incredibly well. The mystery will suck you in and the characters will keep you even more invested. If you've read Morton before: read this book. If you like historical fiction: read this book. Just read this book.

Now...for the read-a-thon discussion questions! I'm going to try to avoid spoilers but I'm talking about the end of a novel - and a mystery to boot - so proceed with caution!

Questions for Chapters 28-35

There are two mysteries in this book. Sadie eventually becomes, one could say, obsessed with both and works hard to find out what happened to Theo and Maggie. Did you ever doubt Sadie or start to wonder if she was an unreliable character?

A lot of pain and heartache could have been avoided if many of the characters had been open with each other from the start. Why do you think it was so hard for everyone to be honest? Would the close knit family relationships have anything to do with it?

Did you see the ending, regarding both Theo and Maggie, coming? Would it have mattered to you if either outcome had been unhappy or happy? What about the other, smaller, mysteries? Were you shocked by any of the revelations?

Don't forget to check out the prior readathon posts!

Chapters 1-9: Lost in a Great Book

Chapters 10-18: Be Nice or Leave.

Chapters 19-27: Ms. Bibliophile

*An ARC of this novel was provided by Simon & Schuster Canada for the purpose of the read-a-thon and for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Friday, October 30, 2015

Review: Sleeping with the Enemy

I expected Sleeping with the Enemy to be your typical romance novel. In a way, Tracy Solheim's latest book fit that bill. But there's more to it than a former couple being thrust together once again many years later (though that's one of my favourite tropes). There's another factor in play in this novel...someone intent on ruining the lives of these characters. That element added something extra to the story and made me like it that much more.

Here's the synopsis:
Dot-com millionaire Jay McManus is discovering that owning a pro football team like the Baltimore Blaze isn’t easy. An anonymous blogger is out to destroy his reputation, and now his team is being sued by its own cheerleaders. If Jay’s not careful, he could lose big—and not just financially.
Bridgett Janik’s brother may play for the Baltimore Blaze, but she’s not thrilled to be defending Jay McManus, the man who broke her heart. It’s bad enough she has to mingle with Jay during games, but working beside her former lover may be too much for her body—and her heart—to resist.
Jay’s determined not to let Bridgett slip away from him a second time. But, as the two follow the mysterious blogger’s trail, secrets—both past and present—are revealed, and Jay and Bridgett must decide if their relationship can be something more than just sleeping with the enemy.
Bridgett and Jay are both very strong characters. And by that I mean they're strong-willed, ambitious, tough, and so on. They both have demanding careers that they've let run their lives because they're too busy protecting their broken hearts (even though they insist they don't have hearts any longer, let alone broken ones). It was great to read about a woman who was high powered and respected in her industry and I think Solheim did a good job of balancing that career-mindedness with the romance. Her characters showed that you can have a career and personal relationships...even though so many of the characters were real humans and screwed up from time to time. It was refreshing.

I've read four sports related novels this year (plus two manuscripts) and all but one revolved around football. I like sports so I enjoy when novels are set in that kind of environment. Of course, I wish authors would branch out from football but I guess I'll take what I can get. (Side note: please recommend any books that feature baseball teams or players. Or hockey. I am Canadian, after all.) Anyway, the actual game of football doesn't have much to do with this novel. This book features the owner of the team so he's not actually playing the sport. I liked that it gave a behind the scenes look of a franchise.

While Sleeping with the Enemy is part of a series, you don't necessarily have to have read the rest of them. If the series interests you, though, I'd recommend starting from the beginning since past characters show up in this book and you'll know who ends up with who in each book (though these are romances so you'll have an idea anyway!). You'll also have a better grasp on all of the characters. That's one thing I didn't love about this was hard to keep everyone straight. Names were dropped that I should have known but I didn't and I therefore didn't see the point of mentioning them. 

I can't let a review of a romance novel end without discussing the actual romance, now can I? I love a good second chance romance. I sometimes get annoyed when it's clear there was miscommunication between the love interests in the past and it's just due to stubbornness/fear that they haven't worked things out. In the case of Bridgett and Jay, there are elements in play that you don't even realize are elements. That's not a can tell there's more going on but you really don't know what it is. I liked that. Finally, the sex scenes are just steamy enough for this type of romance but be warned if you hate reading about sex or if you're looking for erotica. These two had crazy chemistry. ;)

Overall, Sleeping with the Enemy was a good romance read. It didn't blow me away but Tracy Solheim kept me interested and invested in the characters and story she created. Would I read more of her books? Yes, I probably would. I'm involved in the world of the Baltimore Blaze now and I wouldn't mind seeing what else those characters get up to.

One course complete for the Fall Reading Challenge!
Course: Scandal Studies 101
Department: Romance
*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher via BookSparks as part of their Fall Reading Challenge. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: A Sister's Place

I've read (almost) all of Savannah Page's When Girlfriends series and loved them (you can find my reviews here). So when I learned Page had a new stand alone women's fiction novel, I knew I needed to read it. I could not put A Sister's Place down. It's a Must Read.

Here's the synopsis:
Sisters Gracie and Juliette Bennett used to be the best of friends. But over the years, time and distance have worn the ties of sisterhood that once bound them together. Each has been following her own life's path, growing further apart.
When their beloved grandmother Mimi passes the Bennett sisters are set to inherit her house--the charming Santa Barbara Craftsman, a family heirloom three generations old.
But there's a catch: In order to inherit their home away from home Gracie and Juliette must live at 1402 Laguna Lane for one year...together.
Now, in an unexpected and peculiar way, their paths intertwine. Gracie and Juliette have a chance to come together and reexamine their relationship, perhaps even become the kinds of friends only sisters can be. Because as they'll learn over the course of the trying year ahead, Mimi's clever plan is about more than preserving a piece of family history.
Differences will be embraced, pasts confronted, loyalties tested, and secrets revealed. And in their darkest hours Gracie and Juliette will have to decide if a sister's love is what they need to get through the year. If a unique friendship between sisters is what they've needed all along.
This book will really resonate with you if you have a sister (but you'll still love it even if you don't). My advice though? Make sure you read it when you know you're able to see or at least text your sis. My own little sister is off working on a cruise ship right now and thank goodness I'll see her soon otherwise it'd be hard to make it through the book. Page nails the sister relationship and I adored it. It's just so authentic and I don't think the book would have been as good had Gracie and Juliette's relationship not been so real.

I liked that each sister was very much her own person but you could still see the similarities between the two women. I think the fact that Gracie and Juliette had such distinct personalities made for a more interesting read. The chapters alternate between the sisters and their voices were fresh and different enough that I looked forward to the change in perspective. I liked getting to know each sister and finding out what made them tick, what their jobs were like, and who they were dating.

I really loved the actual story. It's so sad that the sisters' grandmother has died but her passing led to something amazing - the women finally reconnecting and remembering why they were once so close. Besides, Mimi actually has quite the presence in this novel. Between the letters she wrote to the girls for each season and the fact that they're living in her house, the reader really gets to know the grandmother Gracie and Juliette so adored. She actually reminded me a bit of my own amazing grandmother...though I don't think my grandma will leave her house to my sister and I and make us live together for a year. :) The story could seem a little far-fetched but Page manages to bring it all together in a way that makes perfect sense.

A Sister's Place will be one of my 2015 books I'll remember for awhile. Savannah Page's novel struck all the right chords for me and I think it will do the same for many others. It's sweet, sad, funny, and dramatic - just like real life. I highly recommend it!

*A copy of this novel was provided by the author for a CLP Blog Tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*