Friday, April 21, 2017

Blog Tour: The Scribe of Siena

The Scribe of Siena is the final book I have to review for Simon & Schuster's Timeless Tour. It's been so much fun! I have one final post for you next Friday. I know nothing of Siena, other than it's in Italy. I also don't know much about the Black Plague, or any plague, really. So, because of all that, I was intrigued by Melodie Winawer's debut novel.

Here's the synopsis:
Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother’s affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.
After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice finds a startling image of her own face and is suddenly transported to the year 1347. She awakens in a Siena unfamiliar to her, one that will soon be hit by the Plague.
Yet when Beatrice meets Accorsi, something unexpected happens: she falls in love—not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs.
The Scribe of Siena is the captivating story of a brilliant woman’s passionate affair with a time and a place that captures her in an impossibly romantic and dangerous trap—testing the strength of fate and the bonds of love.
I used to read time travel books quite a bit when I was a kid (no, I still haven't read Outlander!) so I liked the idea of a contemporary character making her way back to the 1300s. The time travel element set The Scribe of Siena apart from a lot of the other historical novels I've read recently (and not just for this tour...2017 is apparently the Year of Historical Fiction). I didn't know when Beatrice was going to go back in time. Was it going to be during a surgery she was performing? When she was having one of her "empathy" moments? (Side note...what was actually up with those moments? I found those harder to believe than the time travel.) I also didn't know when she would go back to present day. Or if she even would. The time travel really kept me in suspense.

I think the biggest problem I had with this novel was the sheer amount of detail included. I think it was a case of Winawer trying to fit too much research into one novel when the story didn't necessarily warrant it. I also found there were too many characters. It wasn't a matter of not being able to keep track of who was telling the part of the story, that was fairly well done. Beatrice's part was told in first person while the (many) others' were in third person. The issue was more that I didn't understand why some characters really had to have their part of the story shared. In particular, it wasn't until about halfway through the book that I realized why the young priest, Bartolomeo, may be important to the overall story. He had already had some, small, parts of the story dedicated to his POV but once the (very small) revelation was made, he's not mentioned again until close to the end of the novel. He does play a part at the end but not enough to warrant him taking up character space in my brain.

There were three main reasons I kept reading this novel (other than, you know, for the blog tour). The conspiracy - whatever Ben had found out about why Siena was hit so hard during the plague - was quite compelling. I'm also a sucker for a Happily Ever After and really hoped I would get one (though hoping for a character to stay in the past to get said HAE is a weird feeling). Finally, the scribe part of the story was so interesting.

One of the best things about reading The Scribe of Siena is it has made me much more interested in Italian history. It's one (of many) places I've never been but I'd love to visit Siena now and see in person the town Melodie Winawer described in such detail. It seems that I'm in the minority with other readers who received various advance copies of this novel as many Goodreads reviewers thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel. I liked it but expected to enjoy it a heck of a lot more.

*An ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada, in exchange for a review for the purpose of a blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review: How Meg West Was Won

I’ve read quite a few of Libby Mercer’s books over the years and have always enjoyed them. I read her latest, How Meg West Was Won, back in September (yeah...I'm a bit behind...) and it was just as delightful as her others!

Here’s the synopsis:
Whoever heard of a white knight showing up in a pair of old, scuffed cowboy boots?
She may be smart as a whip, but Meg West's co-op is in a heap of financial trouble. When sexy and rugged cattle rancher, Dutch Hargrave, makes her a job offer, the vegetarian California girl can't afford to refuse. And quite frankly, she hasn’t got the strength to turn down a man with a slow, Texan drawl that makes her toes curl.
Enlisting the help of the feisty bombshell is the answer to Dutch's prayers—and his fantasies. Meg has the professional know-how to help lead his ranch into the 21st Century.
Before long, Meg and Dutch are as busy as a stump-tailed bull in fly season, working around the clock trying to preserve Dutch's heritage. But while the grueling work brings them closer together, the heat on the ranch starts to rise. Will Dutch find a way to win over Meg West while saving his family's farm?
I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of when the hero and heroine have opposite views of the world (or are outright “enemies”) and then end up falling for each other. So, I was a little worried when I read that Meg was a vegetarian and Dutch was a cattle rancher. How on earth would these opposites be attracted to each other? Luckily Meg was a vegetarian who understood that others eat meat and some people, like Dutch, make a living because of it. Meg was open-minded and that was a quality that was really attractive to read in a main character. Dutch was a bit more set in his ways but reading as the two of them tried to find common ground and really understand the other was sweet. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get along like that?

One of the things I love about Mercer’s books is they tend to involve a storyline I never would have come up with, or realized I wanted to read. I liked that the book was set on a farm and was about trying to save both a farm and a co-op all at the same time.

How Meg West Was Won was a sweet, funny, and smart read that will appeal to contemporary lovers – especially those who look for a Happily Ever After. I can’t wait to see what Libby Mercer writes next!

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

Blog Tour: Promises to Keep

Like most Canadian kids, I learned about our country's history in school. And, again like most kids, I was bored. I remember hearing about the Acadians but I wouldn't be able to tell you more than they had some French ties and lived on the East coast. Genevieve Graham's newest novel, Promises to Keep, shows what it would have been like for a family of Acadians when the British came to take over their land. It's a heartbreaking tale with uplifting moments and, most importantly, so very interesting. This is my third stop on Simon & Schuster Canada's Timeless Tour - have you been following along?

Here's the synopsis:
Summer 1755, Acadia 
Young, beautiful Amélie Belliveau lives with her family among the Acadians of Grande Pré, Nova Scotia, content with her life on their idyllic farm. Along with their friends, the neighbouring Mi’kmaq, the community believes they can remain on neutral political ground despite the rising tides of war. But peace can be fragile, and sometimes faith is not enough. When the Acadians refuse to pledge allegiance to the British in their war against the French, the army invades Grande Pré, claims the land, and rips the people from their homes. Amélie’s entire family, alongside the other Acadians, is exiled to ports unknown aboard dilapidated ships. 
Fortunately, Amélie has made a powerful ally. Having survived his own harrowing experience at the hands of the English, Corporal Connor MacDonnell is a reluctant participant in the British plan to expel the Acadians from their homeland. His sympathy for Amélie gradually evolves into a profound love, and he resolves to help her and her family in any way he can—even if it means treason. As the last warmth of summer fades, more ships arrive to ferry the Acadians away, and Connor is forced to make a decision that will alter the future forever. 
Heart-wrenching and captivating, Promises to Keep is a gloriously romantic tale of a young couple forced to risk everything amidst the uncertainties of war.
Promises to Keep takes place during a time of war and, as the synopsis so accurately pointed out, it's totally heart-wrenching. I felt like my heart was breaking for the last third of the book. For a girl who loves her Happily Ever Afters, that's a tough story to read. As someone who knows history was not kind to many people and war is hard, I understood why so many terrible, awful things had to happen over the course of the novel. 

Over the last few years I've gotten in the habit of reading the acknowledgments at the end of the book. I admit it started because I became friends with more authors and my name started popping up but that made me realize that every name in every acknowledgment is important. It's especially great to read them when the book is a historical novel as the author will often discuss their research and the reasons why they've focused on a particular subject. That was the case with Graham. She wrote about how many people, including Canadians, think our history is boring. I'll admit I'm one of them. History classes in school could never hold my interest for very long even though I knew, on some level, it had to be better than textbooks and memorizing dates. Graham says, (and I absolutely adore this), 
"Our stories are just waiting to be written, and they need to be written so people will want to read and learn more. Often that means they require fictional reimagining and that's where I come in. My goal, my passion, is to breathe life back into Canadian history."
Well, Ms. Graham. You've done it. You managed to completely capture my interest and, as I said, made me realize that I don't remember much about the Acadians and that needs to change. So, thank you.

Amélie is a fantastic heroine. She is tough, she is smart, she is loving. I'd like to think I'd handle being thrown off my family's land with half as much strength as she did (that's not to say she never felt defeated because she definitely did), but I don't think I'd be able to handle it. She stayed strong for her family (her elder sister had bursts of strength as well and, in those moments especially, I really wanted to know more of how Claire was really faring) and did everything in her power to put her family back together again.

I really enjoyed reading Promises to Keep. Genevieve Graham's latest book was one I didn't want to put down. It has a wonderful storyline, excellent writing, and characters whose lives will grab you and won't want to let you go. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have to look up Graham's other novel Tides of Honour!

Make sure you follow along with the blog tour! You can check out the Timeless Tours site and the graphic below for more details.

*An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada, in exchange for a review for the purpose of a blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: City of Friends

Joanna Trollope is one of those authors who I've heard of for what seems like forever. But...I've only ever read one of her novels (the updated Sense & Sensibility for The Austen review is here if you're interested). When her latest, City of Friends, showed up in my mailbox I was immediately intrigued and fell head over heels in love with that cover. I was in the mood for a contemporary tale so it moved itself right to the top of my TBR list. And was it worth it? Yes! It was a delightful story that kept me interested and I knew right away that I'd be passing it on to my mom to read too.

Here's the synopsis:
The day Stacey Grant loses her job feels like the last day of her life. Or at least, the only life she'd ever known. For who was she if not a City high-flyer, Senior Partner at one of the top private equity firms in London?
As Stacey starts to reconcile her old life with the new—one without professional achievements or meetings, but instead, long days at home with her dog and ailing mother, waiting for her successful husband to come home—she at least has The Girls to fall back on. Beth, Melissa and Gaby. The girls, now women, had been best friends from the early days of university right through their working lives, and through all the happiness and heartbreaks in between.
But these career women all have personal problems of their own, and when Stacey's redundancy forces a betrayal to emerge that was supposed to remain secret, their long cherished friendships will be pushed to their limits...
City of Friends takes the typical format when multiple characters are the focus of the story. Each chapter of this novel follows a different friend - Stacey, Melissa, Gaby, and Beth - as they each deal with the fallout of Stacey losing her job. I sometimes have problems with books like this but it didn't bother me as much as it normally does. It took awhile to get into and really get a sense of each woman but it flowed better than other novels like this I've read in the past.

That being said, I think I wanted more from each woman. The story takes place over the course of a year or so (I think? That was another issue...I wasn't totally sure how much time had passed.) and each woman had a lot going on that had to be fit into one chapter. There were gaps but I think that's just kind of how life goes. You're going to have days that are of great importance to your life, and those are the ones we got with this novel, but there are also the other days when you're just putting one foot in front of the other and everything is ticking along as usual.

Speaking of being like real life, I thought the friendship between the four women was realistic. They may be in their forties and I'm just in my twenties (hoo boy...can only say that for another month or so!) but female friendships are similar at all ages. I did love the following quote because I knew exactly what kind of "crossed wires" Trollope was referencing. It makes me look forward to even more solid friendships in the future:
"Even when they couldn't meet, they rang each other, or texted, or tweeted. The inevitable crossed wires of their twenties and thirties had mellowed into a much less judgemental support system in their forties." (page 12)
They have such a great friendship that they know they are always there for each other even if they don't see each other for a few weeks at a time.

I loved how successful all four women were (yes, Stacey lost her job but she definitely didn't deserve it). They were proud of their successes because they worked hard to get where they were. This hit pretty hard as I was reading this book back on International Women's Day.
The fact that they've had to fight to get where they are, and had to fight much harder than their male counterparts, is referenced throughout the novel. Also, all four women are so supportive of other women in their workplaces and, in Gaby's case especially as she manages so many people, will do whatever they can to make sure other women are able to succeed. As much as I loved this whole female success storyline...I think it shows a lot that I even needed and wanted to reference it. We've come so far but there's still more work to be done!

Final note...I already mentioned how much I love this cover. I'm not sure what it is but all of the elements together work for me. This cover is, from what I can tell from my (admittedly not very thorough) Internet sleuthing, for the paperback. There is another cover for the hardcover that I also really love. It has a very different feel but it also fits the story so well. Each woman has a house and lifestyle that suits them, or so they think, and so this cover is lovely. (This is actually making me realize that Trollope spent a lot of time discussing their houses and living arrangements. Interesting that I hadn't noticed it until now.)

City of Friends is a book for you if you love (or are in need of) contemporary novels. Joanna Trollope has written a story of four smart, realistic women that you will thoroughly enjoy reading about. You'll drop into their lives and, at the end, emerge with the desire to text, write to, call, or visit some of your own best friends.

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

Friday, April 7, 2017

Blog Tour: Q&A with Genevieve Graham

For my second stop on the Simon & Schuster Canada Timeless Tour, I'm so excited to share a Q&A with Genevieve Graham. She's the author of Promises to Keep which I'll be reviewing next Friday. The book is a great one and focuses on Amélie in 1755 when the British have invaded Acadia. Enjoy!

Amélie’s world is torn apart by war and infiltrating forces, a reality that unfortunately persists in present day. Did you find any parallels between Amélie’s world and your own while writing Promises to Keep?
War and disagreements will always exist—as will love and understanding, though the latter do not often make the headlines. The interesting thing to me is how both sides to every battle believe absolutely they are in the right, whereas those who seek love so often feel themselves to be undeserving. Parallels? No. Wars over this land were fought centuries ago, and I feel confident I will never leave my home unless I choose to do so. My family, my home, my beliefs, and my life are safe. 

Why is the Acadian Expulsion an important part of Canadian history? What about the expulsion inspired you to write about it? 
I grew up in Toronto then spent almost twenty years in Calgary before I moved to Nova Scotia, and when I arrived here I had no idea what an Acadian was. Many people around here have Acadian ancestry, and it seemed like something I should have just known. So my husband and I took a weekend drive out to the Grand Pré area, hoping to gain a true understanding of the Acadian culture. After sampling some of the fine wines bottled along that lovely shore, we toured the Grand Pré Historical Site. I cannot tell you how much that visit touched us both. The exhibit leads the visitor through the day to day lives of these “neutral French”, teaches us about dykes and aboiteaux, then draws back the curtain to reveal the brutal, unconscionable crime committed by the British. In my mind I could hear them singing and playing music, see them bringing in the harvest or tending the fish weirs, and when I visited an actual Acadian house I could practically feel the family inside. How could I not follow Amélie’s story? How could I not be inspired? 
There are a lot of books written about the Expulsion, but I had not read any. That actually works out well for my writing technique. As a writer, I use historical facts as a framework to my stories and do not allow myself to be swayed by anyone else’s interpretation.

In your research for Promises to Keep, what information was the most surprising to you? Are Amélie and Connor based on real people? 
When I began my research I learned over 10,000 Acadians were forcibly taken from their homes and shipped to points basically unknown, but I did not know they travelled in the hulls of rickety, rented ships. I did not know families were torn apart, though I suppose I cannot say I was surprised by that; war is not kind or humane. I was happily surprised when I came across the story of one actual ship, the Pembroke, on which 232 Acadians freed themselves from the eight sailors taking them across the sea—and the greatest surprise was finding the actual Charles Belliveau, mast maker, who piloted the Pembroke after their liberation. What luck! I even found his exact dialogue with the defeated British captain! 
I suppose my biggest surprise was the reception I got when I told people the theme of this book. Their anticipation was stronger than for any book I’ve written before. 
Regarding my characters, unless I am referring to actual people (like Colonel Winslow, who is a known figure whose 1755 journal is published on the internet), I do not base them on real people. I imagine a people or a place in time, land in their lives like a fly on the wall, and the individual characters appear in my imagination, complete with personalities and mannerisms.

Amélie is quite headstrong and outspoken in contrast to other women in the novel. Were you able to find examples of feisty women in eighteenth century history? Did you feel you needed to give them a voice? 
I didn’t base Amélie on anyone in particular, but in every group of people we are bound to find varied personalities. Amélie was a loving, dutiful daughter, but she was also intelligent and curious. 18th century etiquette generally required women to be quiet and modest, but the Acadians were sheltered from the outside world, oblivious for the most part to those expectations. In addition, the Acadians lived alongside the Mi’kmaq, and the Mi’kmaq are a matriarchal society. Amélie learned to speak both Míkmawísimk and French, and knowing those languages gave her deeper insight into her changing surroundings. She felt protective of her family and their way of life. Once her world began to turn upside down and the British appeared to cast aside the rules of decency, she broke out of her shell to meet the challenge. 
Your writing transports readers to a different time and place. If you could live in any time period anywhere in the world, where would it be? 
I think I would have to choose a time period that had at least some modern conveniences. While I love the glory of centuries ago, when we envision the hero on horseback streaming through the battlefield with sword held high, I do not envy the women of that time. I think I’d prefer the 1920s-1940s. We were not yet as strong as our male counterparts, but we were well on our way, thanks to the suffragettes’ hard won victories. And yet it was still an era when ladies were ladies and gentlemen treated them as such. Doors were opened, and kisses were by invitation only. I am a romantic, but I’m a realist as well. And because I’m a romantic, if I were to choose a location, I think it’d be Paris.  

Did you always want to be a writer? If so, did you always want to write historical fiction? 
I had never even considered being a writer until I was in my forties. Until then I was a reader, a musician, a promoter, a piano teacher, and above all, a wife and mother. When I was in school, I did not enjoy history at all. To me, history was merely dates, names, and places to memorize for exams. Maybe it was the fault of my short memory span. Or perhaps I simply needed to mature so I could understand that none of today’s stories would exist without stories from yesterday. Then I began to read good historical fiction, and I was smitten. History fascinates me now that I can envision characters within the stories. I have tried to write other genres, but I always return to historical fiction. I love breathing life back into history one story at a time.

As a reader, who are some of the storytellers you find most inspiring, and why? 
Diana Gabaldon is the one who inspired me to write. I read her “Outlander” series seven times before finally sitting down and trying something myself. I love the writing of Susanna Kearsley, Penelope Williamson, Sara Donati, Ami McKay, and Jennifer Roberson. And since I love epic, sweeping historicals, I savour Wilbur Smith’s books and the beautiful prose of Khaled Hosseini. On the mystery/suspense side I enjoy authors Harlan Coben and my friend, Pamela Callow.

What can readers expect from you in the future? What are you currently working on, if anything?
I’m always working on something! At present I have four books underway, which seems crazy—probably is—but I find when I run into some kind of writing block I simply need to refocus on something else for a bit and that gets me back on track. It can get confusing at times, though. The novel after Promises to Keep will be the companion to Tides of Honour, returning twenty years later to the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia. I have also been researching the British Home Children in Canada and the beginnings of the RCMP (NWMP) including the Klondike Gold Rush. And the fourth, well, I think I’ll keep that as a surprise for now!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: The Enemies of Versailles

The Enemies of Versailles was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017 and I'm thrilled to be part of the Timeless Tours Blog Tour with Simon & Schuster Canada. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books of Sally Christie's Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, and I was really looking forward to reading the final installment.

Here's the synopsis:
In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.
“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute quite another kettle of fish.”
After decades suffering the King's endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.
Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches inevitable revolution.
I think I've realized a good historical novel is, to me, equally entertaining and interesting. I really didn't know much about Louis XV before I began Christie's series. Truthfully, I may not have known anything about him. I only knew the very basics about XV's grandson, Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, and the French Revolution (sorry, history teachers). Now, though, I really want to dive in and do some research of my own. I think Christie did a good job of finding that balance of storytelling and educating.

That being said, I do wonder if sometimes the history and research played a part in the detail of the story. Some events were described in detail but others were skipped over. Was that because there wasn't a lot of documentation and Christie didn't want to make up too much?

The title of this book has a bit of a double meaning, I think. "Enemies" doesn't just refer to the animosity between Adelaide, Louis XVI's daughter, and Jeanne, his mistress. At the end of the book I think it also means those who are opposed to the monarchy and are in favour of the Revolution.

My biggest problem with this book was that I had no idea what year it was at any given moment. So much time passes in this novel (the first chapter is, I think, around 1750 when Jeanne is 7 and the epilogue is 1800) and I found it jumped around so much that it was hard to keep up.

Wait - I have another big problem. Simon and Schuster Canada. Guys. Friends. Why did you change the cover? Now my series doesn't match! Sigh. Bookworm problems.

I hadn't really thought about how Christie was going to have to end this series. I didn't realized that Louis XV would be dead, as would be his grandson and granddaughter-in-law. Pretty much everyone I had "met" in the last two books were dead too, either because of old age or because of the Revolution and the guillotine. That is incredibly dismal. But that is life. That was life for these very people who actually lived and died so many years ago. It says something about the stories Christie told that I mourned the characters. Before reading these novels they had only ever been names in a history book.

You don't have to be a history fan to enjoy Sally Christie's The Enemies of Versailles, or the rest of the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy. This time period really lends itself well to fiction because it was so full of intrigue, gossip, and drama. I'm sad the series is over but I've been inspired to do some more research on Louis XV, his mistresses, and his family.

Make sure you follow along with the blog tour! You can check out the Timeless Tours site and the graphic below for more details.

*An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada, in exchange for a review for the purpose of a blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: Fractured

Catherine McKenzie is one of my favourite writers and I always look forward to her latest novel. Fractured was released last fall and even though I read it right away I just haven’t sat down to share my thoughts on it! Bad blogger.

Here’s the synopsis:
Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbor John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.
After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbors out to get her, too? As tension in the neighborhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.
I’ve been finding a lot of authors who started out writing and publishing lighter books have begun gravitating to the darker, more twisted stories. I think we can thank Gone Girl for the emergence of “grip lit” and I appreciate how its given authors, women in particular, the ability to put more serious and dramatic novels out in the world. I think people are finally coming to terms that female characters can be unlikeable (and women can write them). My point? Fractured is much more twisted than McKenzie’s earlier books. And it’s awesome.

The story is told by both Julie and John and each chapter takes place either in the past or present day. McKenzie makes it really easy to follow, which I, as a reader, really appreciated. Each chapter, whether it's told by Julie or John, is in first person and I found it really gets you into the mindset of each character. (Quick aside...I found that Julie is the main character but the story would not have been as impactful had it not been for John's parts of the story.) There are also emails from the Pine Street Neighborhood Association president sprinkled throughout as well that help set the tone of how the rest of the neighbourhood is feeling about Julie and her family.

Julie isn't as unreliable as some other narrators in this genre but you can't help but wonder if you can trust her or if she's hiding something that will impact the rest of the neighbourhood and, ultimately, the overall story. You also have to wonder if you can trust John. You're pretty certain you can but every once and awhile something happens that makes you go, "hmmm." All of this helps create the suspense and you can't wait to find out exactly it was that happened "that day" which John alludes to at the start of the novel.

And here’s a fun fact – McKenzie has written and published Julie’s novel. You can actually buy The Murder Game by “Julie Apple.” How cool is that? I only just purchased it myself recently but I’m looking forward to reading it!

Finally, check out this article McKenzie wrote about the cover of Fractured and the state of covers by female authors. It's a must read that has so many great points.

You're definitely going to want to pick up a copy of Fractured if you're into thrillers and really good storytelling. Catherine McKenzie is still firmly in my list of favourite authors. I already can't wait for her next book!

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Lily and the Octopus

I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting when I started Lily and the Octopus. I had heard amazing things so I thought I'd give it a try. But...I'm still not entirely sure what I got with Steven Rowley's novel.

Here's the synopsis:
Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of Pi, Lily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart.
When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.
The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details.
We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.
For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog.
Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.
Remember the last book you told someone they had to read?
Lily and the Octopus is the next one.
I'm going to go against the synopsis and give you a bit more background on the story. Lily has been Ted's dog for many years and one day he realizes there's something growing on her head. Ted decides that that something is an octopus. I think he knows, deep down, that it's a tumor and Lily is therefore very sick. What follows is a story that is sweet and heartbreaking all at once.

So that magic the synopsis alludes to? It took the reader on a bizarre adventure on the high seas and that is when Rowley completely lost me. I love a good magic realism book but when I'm not expecting something like that and when I wasn't as invested with the story to begin doesn't help my enjoyment. 

I can't pinpoint what, exactly, my issue was with this novel. It wasn't a bad book. It was written well. I just don't think the subject matter resonated with me and I think it needed to for the reader to fully enjoy the novel.

I do have to say that I love the idea of being able to have actual conversations with our pets. And the opening? That Thursdays are for talking about boys Ted and Lily think are cute? Love. (Ted is a Ryan Gosling fan while Lily is Team Ryan Reynolds.)

Lily and the Octopus really was a sweet novel. I think it might resonate more with dog owners. I have a rabbit and I'd be devastated if an "octopus" moved in with us. Many, many other people absolutely adored Steven Rowley's novel so don't just take my (oh so very lukewarm) thoughts on it.

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: Hungry Heart

Jennifer Weiner has long been a favourite author of mine. I was able to see her when she was in Toronto a few years back and she was so nice and real. Because I find her to be an overall excellent human, I was so excited to read Hungry Heart, Weiner’s first non-fiction book.

Here’s the description of her book of essays:
Jennifer Weiner is many things: a bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and an “unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter, and a sister; a former rower and current cyclist; a best friend and a reality TV junkie. In her first foray into nonfiction, she takes the raw stuff of her personal life and spins into a collection of essays on modern womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Tina Fey, Fran Lebowitz, and Nora Ephron.
Jennifer grew up as an outsider in her picturesque Connecticut hometown (“a Lane Bryant outtake in an Abercrombie & Fitch photo shoot”) and at her Ivy League college, but finally found her people in newsrooms in central Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, and her voice as a novelist, activist, and New York Times columnist.
No subject is off-limits in this intimate and honest essay collection: sex, weight, envy, money, her mom’s newfound lesbianism, and her estranged father’s death. From lonely adolescence to modern childbirth to hearing her six-year-old daughter’s use of the f-word—fat­­—for the first time, Jennifer Weiner goes there, with the wit and candor that have endeared her to readers all over the world.
By turns hilarious and deeply touching, this collection shows that the woman behind treasured novels like Good in Bed and Best Friends Forever is every bit as winning, smart, and honest in real life as she is in her fiction.
I’ve met a few authors who just don’t give off an accessible sort of vibe but Weiner is so genuine. That personality comes through in the book and you really feel like she's just chatting with you and telling you, and only you, her stories. 

Side note: if you watch The Bachelor(ette), make sure you follow Weiner on Twitter. I'm guilty of hate-watching the show (though I've skipped the current season...Nick drove me bonkers so I couldn't bring myself to watch it) and I find that many of the things my friends and I are thinking and saying are what Weiner is tweeting. Funny, insightful, and sometimes cringe-worthy, they're definitely a must for any fan (or "fan") of the franchise. 

I love how passionate Weiner is about feminism and, in particular, discussing and bringing attention to inequality with book reviews. The issue is, basically, if you look at any major publications that review books, you'll see that women authors just aren’t getting reviewed as often. And when they are, it's not usually for commercial fiction but, meanwhile, genre fiction for men is often reviewed. I think I was expecting even more about this issue in the book and was a little let down that she didn't tackle it as much as I thought she might. She has written other articles about the issue so I encourage you to look them up.

When I finished Hungry Heart, I found I wanted more. I imagine Weiner had many more stories to share but only so many could make it into the book, which is too bad. So many stories, so few pages to share them in. I guess I'm just greedy!

I also wish there had been more present day stories and anecdotes. I loved finding out what Weiner's childhood was like and how it shaped her as a woman and an author but I found I wanted to know more about how she's living her life now and what she thinks of even more current events.

If you're a fan of Jennifer Weiner's novels, you're going to want to read Hungry Heart. If you like memoirs and books of essays by smart, funny women, you're going to want to read it. I hope she writes another series of essays soon. In the meantime, I'll impatiently wait for her next novel.

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Rerelease: Blogger Girl Series

Yesterday was a very exciting day for Meredith Schorr. Her five (amazing) romcom novels have been republished with her new publisher Henery Press. Meredith is one of my favourite people so I'm thrilled to be promoting the hell out of these new covers (and even some new insides too!). Meredith's Blogger Girl series is amazing. I mean, how could I not love books about a chick lit blogger?

Above is the cover of Blogger Girl, the first story about Kimberly Long. And, I absolutely must draw your attention to the short and sweet quote on that most adorable cover. How cool is that? None of her other new covers have blurbs and the one that does have one, it's by yours truly! I'm not sure if it's cool to be this excited but I am.

I reviewed Blogger Girl back in 2013 ( has it been that long?). If you missed it that time around, check out my thoughts here.

Novelista Girl is the continuation to Kim's story. I was thrilled to get back to her life and see how things were going for her. Here's what I thought of the second Blogger Girl novel when I reviewed it last year.

You're going to want to buy these books (yes, you really will want to) so I've made it easy for you. Here are all the buy links for the two Blogger Girl books.

Blogger Girl 

Novelista Girl

A born-and-bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related emails way more than she was probably supposed to. After trying her hand penning children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling writing romantic comedy and humorous women’s fiction. She secures much inspiration from her day job as a hardworking trademark paralegal and her still-single (but looking) status. Meredith is a loyal New York Yankees fan, an avid runner, and an unashamed television addict. To learn more, visit her at

Follow Meredith on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: All About Romance

Created by The Broke and the Bookish
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. (Side note: I only did one TTT in 2016! And it was over a year ago! Crazy.)

Happy Valentine's Day, bookworms! Are you doing anything special today? Nothing planned for me. We're not into celebrating Valentine's Day so it's just another Tuesday in our house. Even though I'm not part of a typically romantic couple, I adore romances. I will read pretty much any book that has any hint of a romance - chick lit, women's fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, and, of course, romances. Gimme 'em all. I'm interpreting today's TTT of All About Romance Tropes/Types as a list of my favourite tropes. I've included an example for each so you get a better idea of what I mean by the trope. Links lead to Goodreads. I only came up with eight because, to be honest, it was getting late on Monday night and I needed to get to bed! What are some of your favourite romance tropes?

Small Town
This is, hands down, one of my favourite tropes. I don't really know why because I wanted to get out of my own small hometown so badly but I guess there's just something about stories in teeny little towns to tug at my heart.

Example: I love Nora Roberts' Inn Boonsboro series and thought The Perfect Hope was the perfect way to wrap up the series. Bonus: you can actually visit the Inn and bookstore. Nora and her husband own them!

Second Chance
I think I love these stories so much because, like most people, I always wonder about what could have happened if life had gone one way instead of another. (To be clear, these days I wonder about more career related things than relationships gone wrong!)

Example: Jennifer Weiner puts her own (fantastic) spin on the second chance romances in Who Do You Love.

Classic Example: Persuasion by Jane Austen. And there have been so many books written that pay homage to this wonderful story, too!

I absolutely adore Christmas and one of my favourite things about the holiday is reading all of the romances that have anything to do with Christmas. It does get annoying when "Christmas" gets slapped on a story that barely has a whiff of peppermint or evergreen. But...when there is the holiday spirit and a sweet romance? Oh, I'm a happy girl.

Example: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is, well, simply wonderful. It has the Christmas spirit and it's by one of my favourite author/blogger/people, Marie Landry. Bonus: It also takes place in a small town and is a second chance romance.

Summer Vacation
This trope is only really applicable to YA novels. I think I have a fondness for them because I had quite a few summer romances in high school. There's just something magical about those few months off school when the weather is beautiful and you don't have a care in the world.

Example: Sarah Dessen wins all of the summer vacation stories. Yes, there are other, amazing authors, like Morgan Matson, but I've been reading Dessen for so long that summer vacation = her novels. Along for the Ride is my favourite summer story because it also takes place in a beach town.

Friends to Lovers
This trope can be overdone but when it's done right? I love it. One friend realizes they have feelings for the other but they don't know if the feelings are reciprocated. Such tension!

Example: Anne of the Island. There are so many great examples's Anne and Gilbert. Swoon.

Boy/Girl Next Door
This kind of carries on from the friends to lovers but I just really like when two friends grow up together and end up realizing they're in love with each other.

YA Example: My Life with the Walter Boys was so much fun to read. I need more!

Either I haven't found enough or there just aren't enough sportsing romances out there. Good ones, of course. I particularly need more with baseball or hockey or basketball. There are enough football books out there already. Anyway. I've played sports and enjoy watching them so I also really enjoy reading about athletes falling in love. And yes, I'm being a bit sexist when I think of these types of stories. Tall, strong, men with all sorts of other redeeming qualities on top of their athletic prowess? Yum.

Example: This was a really hard one to choose because the few I've read (there should be more!) are all so good. But my virtual bestie, Laura Chapman, has an awesome series about football (yes, I know what I just said) that everyone should read. Start with First & Goal.

Road Trip/Vacation
This is sort of the adult version of the summer vacation trope. I like reading about couples who are in a different place than they're used to and either fall in love or fall in love more deeply while they're vacationing.

Example: Karina Halle has written so many books that would suit for a lot of these tropes (without being cliche...important!) but one of my favourites of hers is Where Sea Meets Sky which brings a guy from BC to New Zealand because he's chasing after a girl.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Review: My Not So Perfect Life

I've been reading Sophie Kinsella for years and I'm always happy to see when she has a new book (except the Shopaholic books - I've given up on those because Becky drives me up the flipping wall). It's been awhile since I've read one of her adult books (I read and enjoyed Finding Audrey, review here) so I was really thrilled when I received a copy of My Not So Perfect Life. I dove in and could not stop. This book is exactly what I want chick lit to be and I loved it. 

Here's the synopsis:
Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.
Ok, so the real truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers.
But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?
Until her not-so perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business.
Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday, and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams? Or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman with everything – have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems.
And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?
I loved Katie. It helped that she's only a few years younger than I am so I really understood her struggles, especially in terms of her career and cultivating a seemingly perfect life online (you know you're guilty of only posting the good stuff too, don't try to deny it!). It's common for me to find myself rolling my eyes at chick lit heroines, particularly Kinsella's. I didn't find myself getting frustrated with Katie, not much anyway. I wanted her to be honest with her dad but I could totally understand why she was holding back. Maybe I wasn't getting annoyed because I just identified with Katie on so many levels and could see bits of myself or my friends in her. Whatever the reason, she was an absolute joy to read because she was smart, funny, and such a genuinely good person.

Many people probably wouldn't care too much what Katie's job is but I loved that she worked in branding. I'm a communications grad and I've worked in marketing type positions over the years so I really liked reading as they tried to come up with campaigns and worked on different projects. It's only a small part of the book but it rang true for me and it helped me enjoy the story that much more. 

As much as I loved Katie, I also really liked Demeter. I could see how she was a bit of a nightmare to work for (we've all had bosses like that, right?) but I could also see glimpses of someone who's trying to hold it all together and starting to show some cracks. Or maybe I could see it just because I figured where the story was going. The point is, Demeter was a really interesting character and I loved the reminder that no one's life is perfect, no matter how it's filtered on Instagram.

Final side note...I really want to go to Katie's family's farm and try glamping. I am not an outdoorsy kind of girl (camping? No thank you) but I am a small town, country girl so the idea of getting away from the city and spending time at a farm without the distractions of life is incredibly appealing. And Kinsella made Biddy's food sound freaking amazing. 

Just in case you want further proof of how much I liked My Not So Perfect Life, I'm planning on buying it this week (in I essentially have to pay with a kidney) so I can go to a signing on Saturday. It's not often authors I enjoy come to Canada so I'm thrilled that I live close enough to go to the event. (I just need to hope for no snow!) 

My Not So Perfect Life may have just catapulted itself to the top of my list of favourite Sophie Kinsella books. It's not perfect (sorry, couldn't resist) but the teeny little things that I wasn't thrilled about didn't even matter because the story is, overall, so so good. If you're a lover of contemporary stories with heart and laughter that feature smart and real women, you have got to pick up this book!

*An eARC was provided by Random House in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Monday, January 30, 2017

Blog Tour: Juliet's Answer

I'm not a Shakespeare fan. I never really enjoyed it when we had to read one of his plays in high school English class (except the time we had to make up a scene for Macbeth and my friends and I decided that the three witches got their prophecies from fortune cookies). I don't remember anything beyond the highlights of Romeo and Juliet. I hardly recall the Leo and Claire adaptation, to be honest. But something about Glenn Dixon's new memoir intrigued me. And once I started reading Juliet's Answer, I could hardly put it down.

Here's what this memoir is about:
Eat, Pray, Love (from a man’s perspective) meets Under the Tuscan Sun—a fresh, heartwarming story about a man who travels to Verona, where he answers letters addressed to Shakespeare’s Juliet, all in an attempt to understand heartbreak, to heal and to find love again.
In fair Verona where we lay our scene…When Glenn Dixon is spurned by love, he does something unusual. He travels to Verona, Italy, to become a scribe of Juliet, Shakespeare’s fictional character, all in an attempt to understand his heartbreak. Once there, he volunteers to answer the thousands of letters that arrive addressed to Juliet, letters sent from lovelorn people all over the world who long to understand the mysteries of the human heart.
Glenn’s journey takes him deep into the charming community of Verona, where he learns the traditions of the townspeople and becomes involved in unravelling the truth behind Romeo and Juliet—Did these star-crossed lovers actually exist? Did they live in Verona? Why have they remained at the forefront of hearts and minds for centuries? And what can they teach us about love? At the same time, we learn about Claire, Glenn’s unrequited love, the source of his heartbreak. Was she truly his soul’s match, or was she, like Rosalind in Shakespeare’s classic play, a mere infatuation who pales in comparison the moment his real Juliet enters his life?
When Glenn returns home to Canada and resumes his duties as a Grade 10 English teacher, he undertakes a lively reading of Romeo and Juliet with his students, engaging them in passions past and present. But in an intriguing reversal of fate and fortune, his students—along with an old friend—instruct the teacher on the true meaning of love, loss, and moving on.
An enthralling tale of modern-day love steeped in the romantic traditions of eras past, this is a memoir that will warm your heart.
I, like many other chick flick lovers, watched and enjoyed the 2010 Amanda Seyfried film, Letters to Juliet. That was the first time I remember hearing of Juliet's house and the letters people (mostly women) write to her. The movie barely scratched the surface of Juliet's secretaries. In fact, Juliet's Answer probably could have gone more in depth. But it's fine, almost better, that Dixon didn't because then it'd be more of a research book and less of a memoir. But Dixon gave me a much better idea of what it's like to be one of Juliet's secretaries. The idea that so many people write to a fictional character with their love problems is both heartbreaking and romantic. And that there are people who write back to those who leave a mailing address? That letter won't change the world but that response means the world to someone. 

Here's a true testament to how enthralled I was with this book. I started reading it just after the same time I got really sick. I took it with me on day 3 of a sore throat to the walk in clinic where I had to wait an hour and a half to have a doctor confirm my self-diagnosis of strep throat within about thirty seconds of examining me. Brutal and "poor little ol' me", I know :) But the time almost flew by as I kept my nose in the book and tried not to breathe on anyone. I was transported to Italy and Glenn's world as I sat on an extremely uncomfortable chair. If that doesn't say "engaging", I don't know what does.

I'm so intrigued by the fact that Romeo and Juliet may have actually existed. Had anyone else heard that before? Because I most certainly hadn't.

I think Dixon found a great balance of facts and personal experience. I really enjoyed how he put together his experience in Verona with what was happening with his love life back at home in Canada. Just one or the other wouldn't have been as engaging but weaving it together the way he did made for a great and interesting read.

And that cover? Between that and the way Dixon wrote about Verona I want to jump on a plane to Italy immediately. 

Juliet's Answer is a fairly quick and easy read but it's one that will stick with you for awhile. Glenn Dixon has written an absolutely lovely memoir that allows you into his past and his life while also educating you on a play you thought you knew. 

Now, as a bonus for my blog tour stop, here's a piece on "The Science of Love" from Glenn Dixon. Enjoy!

While writing my book, Juliet’s Answer, I looked at a lot of the research on love and much of it came down to this: love is not one single thing.  Many of the experts agree that there are at least three separate but related facets to what we might call true love, and interestingly, each facet has its own individual brain chemistry.
            The first and most obvious aspect of love is sexual attraction. It’s no surprise that this biological system is almost entirely controlled by the hormone testosterone, in both males and females. Of course, we all know that there more to love than sex, but we must admit that it’s a big part of it.
            The second facet of love in what is sometimes called the triangular theory of love is called intimacy. It’s includes touch, cuddling and hugging and kissing but it’s much more than that. This element of love also involves trust, it involves being able to share your dreams and your deepest secrets with the person you are with.  These connections are strengthened and controlled by the familiar neurotransmitters of serotonin and dopamine which light up the reward centers in our brains. A look can be enough, a gentle word or the warmth of your lover’s hand in yours.
The third facet of love is the most interesting. It is sometimes called commitment.  A wealth of research shows that there is an expiry date on the first two facets of love, a period many researchers peg at about four years. This is a part of the theory of evolutionary psychology –  the four year period being the span of time needed to bring a pregnancy to full term and then raise that child to the point where the little he or she can walk and talk and basically function in the world.  This, or so the research claims, defines an ‘window’ for many relationships, whether or not a child has been conceived.  But the third facet of love goes beyond this simple time frame. For the lucky few, love can last much longer, even an entire lifetime.  It is a matter of wanting to, a conscious decision that your life is the better for it.  It’s associated with a remarkable neuro-hormone called oxytocin.  This is the same chemical that causes goslings to imprint on the mother goose, it’s the same hormone that bonds a mother to her newborn baby and if you ever see an elderly couple walking hand in hand after all those many years, you can be sure that it is washing through their happy brains.
All these neuro-hormones and their associated neural pathways form the chemical moons that pull at the tides of love.  It’s complex of course but in this sense we are all, like Romeo and Juliet, star crossed, our fates sealed by our very own biology.

*An ARC was provided by the publisher, Simon and Schuster Canada, in exchange for a review for this blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Friday, January 13, 2017

Cover Reveal: Rocked Up

It shouldn't be a secret that I adore Karina Halle's contemporary novels. I was so excited and intrigued when I learned she had written a novel with her husband, Scott Mackenzie! (As they say in their author bio for this book, it's like her novel Smut come to life! And if you haven't read Smut, you should.) Rocked Up is set to be released on April 12th.

Here's what the novel is about:
Rocked Up is a STANDALONE rockstar romantic comedy and the fun and sexy brainchild of New York Times bestselling author Karina Halle and her husband Scott Mackenzie.
I have been watching him since I was a child.
He didn't notice me back then and it didn't matter. Brad Snyder, guitarist and singer for one of the world's greatest bands, was my entire life.
My father, the CEO of Ramsey Records, takes credit for all of Brad's success, trying to control him in the same way he's controlled me.
But I finally get an opportunity to prove myself.
To be wild.
To be free.
Today I'm auditioning to be the replacement bass player for Brad's band. If I get the job, I'll go on tour and work with Brad every day, in very close proximity.
There's only one rule: he's not allowed to touch the boss's daughter.
Remember when I said that Brad never used to notice little ol' me?
Well, Brad's noticing me now.
In a way that's going to get us both in trouble.
My name is Lael Ramsey and we all know how this will turn out.
Doesn't that sound great?

Hang Le has designed many of Halle's covers in the past and I adore her work. Ready to see her latest work? You bet you are!

I'll admit that I hadn't realized the play on words until I saw the pregnancy test on the cover. Knocked up, rocked up. It makes me even more intrigued about this book - and I hope you are too!

Author Bio:
Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Smut, The Artists Trilogy, Heat Wave and over 20 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her rescue pup and her husband Scott Mackenzie, who co-wrote Rocked Up with her. That's right. It's like the book SMUT come to life! This is their first venture as a writing team. A lot of music was played. A lot of laughs were had. A lot of sex was...put in the book!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

7th Annual End of Year Survey

It's that time of year again! Time for the End of Year Book Survey, courtesy of Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner! To be honest, it's past that time of year. But that's ok! I'm still going to post my answers. How was your reading life in 2016? Links will lead to Goodreads (but only the first time I mention the book/author) or, if noted, to my review.

Number Of Books You Read: 103
Number of Re-Reads: 8
Genre You Read The Most From: Adult Contemporary (fiction, chick lit, romance, and so on)

Best in Books 

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?
You can’t expect me to pick just one, right?
Best Reread: Arranged – Catherine McKenzie
Best (Romantic) Suspense: He Will Be My Ruin – KA Tucker (review here)
Best (Adult) Contemporary: Poles Apart – Terry Fallis
Best YA: The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson
(Fun fact: almost all of those authors are Canadian!)

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
First Comes Love by Emily Giffin. I’ve been a Giffin fan for years but I just didn’t love this one, even though many others did.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
It wasn’t so much the book itself that was surprising but the subject matter, which was based on truth. In The German Girl, by Armando Lucas Correa, it’s 1939 and a ship full of Jewish refugees was turned away in Cuba, the USA, and Canada before being forced to head back to Europe. Some people were allowed off and the novel focuses on a fictional girl who stays in Cuba with her pregnant mother but her father is not allowed off the ship. He, like many others, dies in a camp in Europe. I didn’t love love love the book but it made me realize how many stories I just don’t know from history.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
I reread Arranged by Catherine McKenzie this year because my book club decided to read it (yes, with my urging) and it’s one I’ve pushed on many people over the years.

5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?
I finally read All Lined Up by Cora Carmack and loved it. I wish my library had the books because I definitely can’t afford to buy the rest of them! 
I also freaking loved Sarah Morgan’s series From Manhattan with Love. A definite must for romance lovers. 

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?
Karma Brown. I actually came across her in a way that’s fairly normal for others but not for me. A co-worker was given her book and because she doesn’t read, she passed it off to me. See the blogging life category further down for more on Karma!

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
Literary fiction is not usually my jam but I freaking loved The Hidden Keys by Andre Alexis (he won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2015 for Fifteen Dogs…which is also very good.)

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
He Will Be My Ruin by KA Tucker. I love her writing anyway but she wrote such a suspenseful book that I just could not read fast enough.

9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Arranged was a re-read and I’m likely to re-read that one as it’s one of my all-time favourites. I also imagine I’ll reread the Lucy Maud Montgomery books I read this year. But will any of those get read in 2017? Unlikely.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?
The Regulars by Georgia Clark

11. Most memorable character of 2016?
Most of the characters from We’re All in this Together by Amy Jones were pretty memorable but I think I’ll have to choose Georgia Nicolson from Louise Rennison’s series. I read these back in high school and a blogger friend and I reread them after Rennison’s death earlier this year. Georgia is a bit ridiculous and has so much growing up to do but she definitely qualifies as memorable!

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?
Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery.   

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?
Either The Break Katherna Vermette or The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall. Both are must reads.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I know. I had it on my shelf but it took the movie and going to a (very very quick) signing for me to finally read this one.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?
So many parts of Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy had me laughing so hard I was in tears or nodding because I totally understood what she meant. This one is one of the funny ones.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?
Longest: The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson (Goodreads says 519 pages)
Shortest: Winter Wishes – Karina Halle (Goodreads says 87 pages – it’s a novella)

17. Book That Shocked You The Most
While I read many shocking stories this year, most of them had expected shocking moments. Finding out who the killer is, if the father and pillar of the community really was guilty of sexual abuse, who it really was who raped a young girl (oh yeah, I read some really light books this year)…those are all things you expect to find out through the course of a gripping, suspenseful novel. But I had a literal jaw drop moment when I read Karen Swan’s latest book, of all things. Christmas Under theStars had a few more twists than I had anticipated and I think I was more shocked because I figured out one revelation and then, bam, Swan surprised me with another.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)
Georgia and Dave the Laugh from Louise Rennison’s series.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
The friendship between Hannah and Kate in Karma Brown’s The Choices We Make is one of the strongest and best I’ve ever read. 

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
He Will Be My Ruin by KA Tucker

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
I kind of wanted to read it anyway but all the press about The Nest made me look forward to the book. End result? Meh. I do not see what the fuss is about.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?
Blake Crawford from Karina Halle’s Smut. Blake is British, smart, funny (sometimes more on the dry wit and sarcastic side), and good-looking. Sign me up. Plus – Halle’s muse was Sam Claflin. Yum.

23. Best 2016 debut you read?
Technically Amy Jones has been published before but We’re All in This Together is her first novel (and it’s delightful). Also a stretch because it’s not her first book but it is her first novel, The Break by Katherena Vermette. Although, I did read Karma Brown’s debut novel, Come Away With Me, this year even though this wasn’t the year she published it.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
The Break takes place in Winnipeg, which is a real place and wouldn’t necessarily need a lot of “worldbuilding” but in order for the story to work, Vermette had to paint a picture of what it’s like to live as a Native Canadian. She did and it’s a total gut punch. And a must read.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
I read a lot of books that are on the lighter side so they have funny and sweet moments throughout so, I think I’ll go with Hot Dudes Reading because, hello.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?
Raise your hand if you’re surprised that it was Me Before You.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
Pretty much anything by Karina Halle but Smut and Heat Wave in particular.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover. Read it.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?
I really enjoyed Don’t I Know You? by Marni Jackson. It’s a book of short stories that follow a woman from 16 to 60 as she has the most random encounters with celebrities in her everyday life. You have to suspend your belief a little bit but once you do, it all works and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. Notable celebrity mentions: Leonard Cohen, Taylor Swift, Keith Richards, Meryl Streep, and Bob Dylan.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
I had an ARC that infuriated me but some of the issues did get resolved so my pick is Falling by Jane Green. It was infuriating and I think tried a little too hard to be like other popular books.

Your Blogging/Bookish Life

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016?
Every year I say, “Kaley, make sure you write down which new blogs you’ve discovered otherwise you’ll forget when it’s time to do the end of year survey” and every year I forget. So, I’m going to promo for a friend (who has no idea that I’m going to hehe) Rattle the Stars belongs to a girl I went to university with. She’s just about to celebrate her first blogoversary (so I guess, technically, I did discover it in 2016 lol).

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016?
I’m going to go with my review of Hot Dudes Reading because the book and review meant staring at hot dudes who were reading. You cannot go wrong with that.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
2016 was my sixth blogoversary, can you believe it? I kind of let it all out in a post celebrating that and I’m glad. We always talk about being yourself and blogging the way you want to blog so I kind of just talked about everything that was good and bad and in between with blogging over the last year.

4. Best event that you participated in?
I finally read Me Before You this year and adored it. I heard Jojo Moyes would be in Toronto (about 1.5 hours away from me) for a signing so made plans to go. It was a bit of a clusterfuck getting there as I didn’t realize until close to the event that it was just a signing, and a fast one at that, and realized the day before that it was at a different Indigo than I thought. I almost didn’t go but having the chance to hang out with Jess from Paper Trail Diary was too good of a chance to pass up. Fast forward to the day of and having to drive into Toronto (shudder) and almost not finding the store and having to buy new copies of the book for Jess and myself because of their stupid rules and not being able to hear any of the Q&A before the signing, we got our copies of Me Before You signed by the lovely Moyes. That doesn’t sound like much fun, right? Well, you’re right. But because of who I was standing with (Terri from Read and Riot), we all got passes to see the movie Me Before You that night – about two weeks before it was released in theatres. VIP theatre (my first experience), free popcorn, water (or pop), magazine, and Kleenex (and yes, it was necessary). It was so much fun and I was so glad I made the trek into the city for the signing!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?
As I mentioned earlier, Karma Brown was a new to me author in 2016. I saw an event coming up where Karma was being interviewed by another author I knew and liked (Marissa Stapley) so I devoured her first book (Come Away with Me, the one I was given) and bought the second (The Choices We Make) at the event. It was a great event – two smart women talking about books and publishing! – and I had a chance to hang out with my Toronto author friend Samantha Stroh Bailey and bumped into author Chantel Guertin too! But that wasn’t the best part of my year with Karma and her books. My book club decided to read Come Away with Me so I tweeted at Karma to tell her that. She ended up coming to our meeting! It was an excellent night and almost everyone in my club was engaged and asked questions. We kept Karma for almost two hours (sorry about that…) but it was a fantastic evening.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
Fitting in time to blog and being inspired to write were my biggest challenges. I got a lot of reading in but just did not feel like sitting down to write the reviews. Sigh.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
My post on my blogoversary was well loved (thanks, guys!) but my review of The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson was a popular one, too!

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
I think everyone needs to read Karina Halle and everyone can because she has something in pretty much every genre. I reviewed a couple of hers this year, and read a few more, but I don’t think enough readers know about her. If you’re a fan of KA Tucker or Colleen Hoover, you should really read Halle.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
Hamilton Review of Books (not to be confused with the musical…I live near Hamilton the city) just started up a month or so ago and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with next. The Penguin Shop in Toronto opened this year but I have yet to visit (they’re only open during the week and I’m never in Toronto during the week or, if I am, it’s after the store has closed). Finally, I discovered FirstEdition Tea and have even bought some…I just haven’t tried it yet. Oops. Their packaging is just so fun!

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I had decided to make my reading goal 75 because I was hopeful I would eventually work full time and would therefore have less time to read. I did get full time but I also managed to read 103 books.
I also reread all of the Georgia Nicolson books with Jessica from Paper Trail Diary. It was a mission and a half (and we may have regretted our decision partway through the year) but we stuck with it. It was really interesting to read YA books from when we were teens and compare them to what teens are reading these days. Let me just say, thank goodness some things are changing.

Looking Ahead
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I bought it the day it released (the actual day time…I didn’t do the midnight release) and because of magazine deadlines and other books and life, I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?
Once and For All by Sarah Dessen (my all-time favourite author!) and Until it Fades by KA Tucker. Oh and Things to Do When It’s Raining by Marissa Stapley! And for a non-fiction choice, Baseball Life Advice by Stacey May Fowles (It looks like Goodreads hasn't updated the listing for the book yet with the right title or new cover but that's the book! You can see the cover here).

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
This is one of the hardest questions to answer! I’m so bad at knowing what debuts are coming, plus I always find it’s YA debuts that are talked about most in the blogosphere. Not helpful for me. (Even if answers for 2 and 4 make you think otherwise haha)
I did find one article on the interwebs that included The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell. I have no idea if I’ll get to it this year or not, but it sounds intriguing and it’s her first novel.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017?
Always and Forever, Lara Jean (SO EXCITED) by Jenny Han and The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie (that one will be my first read of the year!).

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?
Other than recommitting and blogging more, I really really really want to finally redesign my site. There’s so much work involved (design, hosting, etc etc etc) that I’ve been putting it off for awhile now.

6. A 2017 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:
I beta-read one upcoming novel which I’m really excited about but you’ll just have to wait to hear more about that one.

I did finish Juliet’s Answer: One Man’s Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for Heartbreak by Glenn Dixon, which releases later this month, and it was delightful.