Friday, December 30, 2016

Review: Christmas Under the Stars

Over the years Karen Swan has become synonymous with Christmas books. This year's winter offering is Christmas Under the Stars. A wintery book that's set in Canada? I'm in.

Here's the synopsis:
Worlds apart. A love without limit.
In the snow-topped mountains of the Canadian Rockies, Meg and Mitch are living their dream. Just weeks away from their wedding, they work and play with Tuck and Lucy, their closest and oldest friends. Meg and Lucy are as close as sisters - much to Meg's sister's dismay - and Tuck and Mitch have successfully turned their passion for snowboarding into a booming business.
But when a polar storm hits, tragedy strikes. Alone in the tiny mountain log cabin she shares with Mitch, Meg desperately tries to radio for help - and it comes from the most unexpected quarter, a lone voice across the airwaves that sees what she cannot.
As the snow melts and they try to live with their loss, the friendship Meg thought was forever is buckled by tensions, rivalries and devastating secrets. Nothing is as she thought and only her radio contact understands what it is to be truly alone. As they share confidences in the dark, witnessed only by the stars, Meg feels her future begin to pull away from her past and is forced to consider a strange truth - is it her friends who are the strangers? And a stranger who really knows her best?
I've never been to Banff but it's somewhere I'd like to travel to. If you don't know what that area of Canada looks like, look it up and start planning your trip. So. Beautiful. Anywho...I don't think I've ever read a novel that's set in Banff so I was excited about that. Even though I haven't been there myself, I felt that Swan managed to capture the essence of the city. Apart from a few word choices and terms, it really felt like I was in Canada and I loved that. But those few words and terms irked me quite a bit, unfortunately. Canadians do not use the term "ice-hockey", OK? We call it hockey, full stop. We use Celsius for temperature, not Fahrenheit, and while we're taught metric weights in school now, we tend to use pounds, not kilograms. Here's a big one: Canada has provinces, not states so don't have a Canadian ask someone when they last left the state, please. And yes, I did check my ARC against a finished copy (and you should be glad I did because there were two major mistakes in the advanced copy that were thankfully fixed in the published book). Oh, and my one final annoyance...the characters go to a Stanley Cup quarter final game in Calgary. The Flames are playing against, wait for it, the Toronto Maple Leafs. First of all, the Leafs are sucking so they wouldn't make it to the quarter finals. (OK, so that's just mostly a dig at the Leafs haha) Second, these two teams would not be playing each other in the quarter finals because one is an Eastern division team and the other is a Western division team. Am I reading too much into this? Maybe. But this is a novel about my countrymen (and countrywomen) and I want it to reflect my country properly, you know?

*breathes* OK. Time to be positive because the book had a lot to offer.

This story twisted and turned in so many amazing ways. It wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be and that was amazing. Swan is able to write these heart wrenching, drama filled stories that keep you interested and turning the pages right to the very end. I actually could not believe how the story ended up. I do believe my jaw dropped! 

The book wasn't all about the drama though. There was a romance woven throughout that was so sweet and such a slow burn, which it needed to be. Meg was in no place to start dating but, bit by bit, she realized that maybe she could open herself up to love again. Jonas seemed to be such an incredibly smart and decent man and I really wanted that for Meg.

I really loved that Meg and her sister, Ronnie, rediscovered their bond over the course of the novel. They were close growing up but something shifted as they got older. I'm pretty close with my sister (which I'm sure she'd agree with when she's not annoyed with her big sister haha) so I always enjoy books about sisters. It was great to see Ronnie help Meg emerge a little bit more from her grief when Meg visited her in Toronto.  

I know I'm posting my review after Christmas (and I hope everyone who celebrated had a wonderful holiday!) but you can definitely still read this book now that Christmas is over. Even though the holiday is right in the title, it doesn't have any holiday spirit. The book is written so you know what the date is for every chapter. Christmas Day is actually skipped right over. I'm glad I wasn't reading this looking for a festive novel because I wouldn't have gotten it. But it's a wonderful winter read that is perfect for reading by the fire while looking out at the snow. Or, I suppose, giving you a great image of snow if you live somewhere that doesn't get the frosty white stuff (lucky you!). 

It might not seem like it, but I did enjoy Christmas Under the Stars. Karen Swan has written a book unlike one I have ever read before. Even with the few things that annoyed me, the unique story and setting really helped me like Swan's latest novel. 

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

Monday, December 19, 2016

Review: Miracle on 5th Avenue

Miracle on 5th Avenue is the third and final book in Sarah Morgan's From Manhattan with Love series. I wrote about the first two books (Sleepless in Manhattan and Sunset in Central Park) earlier this year. OK, maybe "wrote" isn't strong enough..."gushed" might be more accurate. I just adored this series and was both sad and happy to finally read the last story.

Here's the synopsis:
It will take a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this perfectly festive fairy tale of New York!Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she's given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn't expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.
Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife's death looming, he's isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn't appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?
I knew even before I read the synopsis of this book that Eva was going to be paired with Lucas, who also happens to be one of Eva's best friend's favourite authors. I could sense how Morgan was setting it up in the first two books but I was looking forward to seeing how she was going to have the pair actually meet. And seeing how on earth they'd get along. Eva is all sunshine and sweetness and Lucas is a crime writer who tends to see the worst in the world. Talk about opposites attract!

And attract they did! It's almost always amusing to be the reader and know that both the heroine and the hero are attracted to each other but aren't doing a damn thing about it and/or trying to deny their attraction. Why they tried to resist it, I'll never know but I did love reading as the attraction between Eva and Lucas grew. And grew...and grew...until they finally gave in.

I'll admit I was very worried about Eva because she's such a sweet character. But don't confuse sweet with boring or helpless. She is a strong female who just loves love and tries to be positive as much as possible. I did like that Morgan allowed Eva to finally grieve some more for her grandmother without feeling so guilty about it. I was worried because I knew there would come a time in the book where Lucas would inevitably hurt her (I'm no newbie to romances...I know the formula and don't mind it as long as the author makes me want to keep reading. And Morgan always makes me want to keep reading) and I didn't want to see her hurt. Of course, I also knew I'd get the Happily Ever After I wanted :)

I had put off reading the third book in the series for a couple of reasons. I like to give myself a break between books when I know the main characters are going to change. I fall in love with them and I want to keep reading about them and I know if I switch too soon then I won't love the next pair as much as I should. I also wanted to wait to read this until closer to Christmas because I knew it would help get me in the holiday spirit. It's not so Christmassy that you can't read it at any time of year but it has enough festive cheer to make it a fantastic read for the season. Decorations, holiday galas, New York in December, and the magic of just all works so well for romance novels!

I don't know how much else I can say about Miracle on 5th Avenue that I haven't already said about the first two books in Sarah Morgan's series. I loved it and didn't want it to end because I just adored spending time with Eva, Lucas, and the rest of the characters (though I found they don't make as many appearances in this book as in the others...perhaps because Lucas isn't part of their group and he's holed away trying to finish his novel). I highly recommend the From Manhattan with Love series. In fact, the first book would make a great stocking stuffer for the romance lover in your life!

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

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cover Reveal: Until It Fades

If you know me, you know that I am a HUGE K.A. Tucker fan. I've met her a few times over the last two years and she is so great! Because I absolutely adore her books, I'm thrilled to be a part of the cover reveal for her upcoming novel Until It Fades.

Here's what the book, which will publish on May 2, 2017, is about:
Twenty-four-year-old truck stop waitress and single mother Catherine Wright has simple goals: to give her five-year-old daughter a happy life and to never again be the talk of the town in Balsam, Pennsylvania: population three thousand outside of tourist season. And then one foggy night, on a lonely road back from another failed attempt at a relationship, Catherine saves a man’s life. It isn’t until after the police have arrived that Catherine realizes exactly who it is she has saved: Brett Madden, hockey icon and media darling. Catherine has already had her fifteen minutes of fame and the last thing she wants is to have her past dragged back into the spotlight, only this time on a national stage. So she hides her identity. It works. For a time. But when she finds the man she saved standing on her doorstep, desperate to thank her, all that changes. What begins as an immediate friendship quickly turns into something neither of them expected. Something that Catherine isn’t sure she can handle; something that Catherine is afraid to trust. Because how long can an extraordinary man like Brett be interested in an ordinary woman like Catherine…before the spark fades?

Gah. I cannot wait. 

I won't make you wait (or scroll) any longer. Here is the gorgeous cover of Tucker's Until It Fades!

You're hooked, aren't you? Good :)

Here are the all important pre-order links:

About K.A. Tucker 
K.A. Tucker writes captivating stories with an edge.
She is the USA Today bestselling author of 14 books, including Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water, and her latest Adult Suspense novel, He Will Be My Ruin. Her books have been featured in national publications including USA Today, Globe & Mail, Suspense Magazine, and Publisher's Weekly.
K.A. Tucker currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and a Chug.

Connect with Tucker

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Review: What Light

I haven't read Jay Asher's other novels (Thirteen Reasons Why, The Future of Us) so when I heard about What Light wanting to read it was based on the synopsis alone. In its favour? It's a contemporary YA (pretty much the only YA books I'll read these days) and it's set at Christmas! Plus, the cover is freaking adorable.

Here's the synopsis:
Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it's a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.
Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.
By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb's past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.
I will read pretty much any Christmas book that even hints at a romance but most of the time (almost always, in fact) they're adult novels. Sometimes Christmas books hardly mention the holiday and sometimes it's all Christmas, all the time. What Light was a perfect balance and had just enough Christmas spirit. 

What helped a lot with the holiday spirit was that Sierra's parents own a tree farm and they sell their trees in California for a month or so before Christmas. They're such an integral part of Christmas for so many people and they absolutely love it. It sounds so cheesy, that they really look forward to seeing who their trees go home with every year, but I absolutely love that sentiment. The family isn't just trying to sell trees for a profit (in fact, Sierra thinks this Christmas might be the last one they are able to sell at their lot), they're trying to supply families and individuals with one important part of Christmas. 

I struggled a lot with Caleb's past and how I felt about it. I completely understood why all the parents in the story were concerned (is that a sign that I'm an Adult? Identifying with the parents in YA novels?) but I could also see why Sierra wasn't at all concerned. She felt that she could see the damage it had done to Caleb and how he was still trying to make up for it. But, once you met the other person involved in the event from the past (no spoilers here, folks!), you realize that it should be a non-issue at this point. Now, a few days after finishing the book, I think I've settled on feeling like Sierra's parents...concerned but with trust in Sierra to make sound decisions. 

What Light is one of those YA novels that adults can totally read and love (hello, I was thrilled with it) but there are those few moments that had me smiling and thinking, thank god I'm no longer a teenager. Heather, Sierra's BFF in California, is so distraught with her boyfriend situation (he's just so dull!) that she's determined to break up with him after the holidays. Grown women don't always know what they want in relationship but there's a certain adoreableness (yes, I'm making up words here) to this particular dilemma because Heather is still so naive. It was actually kind of a sweet reminder what it really was like to be a teenager in love. But no. I do not want to go back to being 17!

Jay Asher's latest novel is exactly the book to pick up this season if you love sweet and real Christmas stories. What Light is an easy read but it will make you feel a little bit of everything - happy, sad, nostalgic, romantic. The Christmas spirit is in every single one of these pages and I adored that. It's definitely a book for the Christmas and book lover in your life (and I won't tell if that's you!). 

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