Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Back at 2018

What. A. Year.

Anyone else feeling like that? And also that we feel like that at the end of every year?

It seems like the year has flown by for me but it's also been jam packed. Most of it was all good things but there's been a ton going on. Mostly thanks to the new job I started back in March - woot! That defined my year, for sure, but in between all the learning and the growing and the learning (so much learning), I kept at the blog and read my little heart out.

Even though a lot of mental energy has been sucked up by getting used to a new position, I've been finding I've had much more energy for blogging. I've also been reading a whole lot more. I now have an hour lunch break, instead of the half hour I used to have. I try to take the full hour every day (sometimes work takes precedence but I know myself and I know I need that break that, well, I'm entitled to). That's a lot more reading time! There's a park just a few blocks from my office so this summer and fall I risked cutting into my reading time to wander down to sit and read in the sun. So worth it. I'm making it to the gym a whole lot more too (also helps me feel so much better) and that allows for reading time while I do cardio. Related: I've listened to a few more audiobooks this year which is nice for not only walking around downtown but also for listening to during an entire workout, weights included.

I'm still writing reviews for a local magazine, Niagara Life, and that allows me to get out of my comfort zone and read more widely. Another thing helping me expand my reading horizons is my monthly book club. I think it's been just over 3 years since I've joined the club and it's been so great to get together with like-minded women and chat about books and life. And drink wine. Book club allowed me to finally read The Alice Network (SO GOOD) by Kate Quinn and Beartown (SO EFFING GOOD) by Fredrik Backman.

I'm finding it harder and harder to get to book events in Toronto (reminder: I'm about an hour and a half, in good traffic which isn't a thing that exists, away from the city) but I did manage to get to a few over the last year. The events I'm attending are changing, just as the blogging world has. I'm hopeful there will be even more adult reader events in the next year.

My first event of the year was the launch for Marissa Stapley's second novel, Things to Do When It's Raining (check out my review here). It was lovely to see all of the support she has from her friends and family. She has a great network of women authors who were (mostly) all there and it blows my mind that they know who I am. These women include contributors to a national newspaper and multiple best-selling authors. I wrote in my Instagram post about the evening how crazy and wonderful that is.

The library in Grimsby, a city in my region, hosts authors once a month for about six months of the year and tickets are always sold out. Luckily my boyfriend gets free tickets so I get to experience this great event. In April, Jennifer Robson was one of the authors. I hadn't read her books but I've purchased them for gifts. I was so enthralled by her talk that I bought Goodnight from London and devoured it a few days later. Read it.

HarperCollins Canada had a few great events I was lucky enough to attend this year. In May, they held a Meet and Greet with Joanna Goodman (author of The Home for Unwanted Girls) and Ellen Keith (author of The Dutch Wife). Even though the books were still very new, I had already read (and thoroughly enjoyed) both novels for Niagara Life (you can see the issues with my reviews here and here). Listening to the women talk about their novels was so great. You can read my full event recap post here.

The second Meet and Greet event I went to at HarperCollins was in June and featured three authors - Karma Brown (author of The Life Lucy Knew), Tish Cohen (author of Little Green), and Uzma Jalaluddin (author of Ayesha at Last). Jalaluddin's book was a highly anticipated read for me so I was thrilled to hear her speak. I've met Karma on numerous occasions and was really looking forward to her new book too. I've only read one of Cohen's (many) books but loved it. It was so cool to hear from three authors who are at very different points in their careers speak. Also, the inscription in my copy of The Life Lucy Knew may be my new favourite. Karma had no idea what to write so I just told her to write "s'up" - and she did.

Speaking of Karma, she came down to Niagara for a Wine and Words event (a local library, where I worked a few years ago, has an author visit a different winery every month-ish). I love supporting libraries and local events and authors I love so of course I went (you can see my Insta post here). A friend came with me - and ended up purchasing a book too! I also helped a couple of other older ladies decide which books to purchase for themselves. I just love talking about books!

In a completely different type of event, my friends and I went to Word on the Street in September and also got tickets to watch the premiere of Anne with an E. We got to see the show on the big screen at a theatre, with some of the actors there, and afterwards we got flower crowns. It was a really fun and neat experience. And free!

HarperCollins also hosted a wonderful tea featuring Jennifer Robson (yes, my second Robson event, if you're keeping track) and Kate Quinn. As soon as I saw tickets go on sale I jumped on it because I knew they'd sell out (they less than 24 hours, I think). My friend, Natalie, managed to get on the wait list and scored herself a ticket. Remember that group of authors I mentioned who are friends with Marissa and who all support each other? Natalie and I were seated with all of them at this event. It was so lovely! A bit surreal. But lovely. Jess Allen from The Social hosted and interviewed the authors and we learned so much about their writing process.

In October a friend and I went on an epic road trip for an author event featuring K.A. Tucker (one of my favourites), Marissa Stapley (second event of the year for her too), and Joanna Goodman (yep, second event). We drove a couple of hours to visit my friend's new baby, then had a flight of cider and beer at a local brewery/cidery, followed by lunch with Tucker and a group of her fans (!!!), and then the event. And then a drive home. Phew! It was an amazing day though and the event was wonderful.

I went to a second Grimsby author event in October which featured Joanna Goodman (the third time this year I've seen her!) and Eden Robinson (author of Trickster Drift). The stories these women told were amazing and it was a great event. Then, in November I went to a third event with Beverley McLachlin (the former Chief Justice of Canada and author of Full Disclosure) and Dave Williams (former astronaut and author of Defying Limits). It was probably my favourite event they've hosted because McLachlin and Williams had such fascinating lives to share with us. Every event Grimsby holds is well done because they put so much effort into it.

Wow. Looking back I've realized I really have been able to go to a lot of events. Lucky me!

As for the actual reading I've done? I read more books in 2018 than I have in years. I'm working on book #110 because I like nice, round numbers. You can check out my full year in books on Goodreads here. I learned the shortest book I read was Half Spent Was the Night at 112 pages and the longest, at a whopping 656 pages, was Lethal White. Two very, very different books. I wanted to read more diversely this year but I didn't do as well with that as I would have liked - only reading 5 that could truly be called diverse. Gotta do better in 2019. I read way more books by men this year than I have in awhile, with 10. 89 books were from women. 32 books were by Canadians, 6 were YA (that number keeps dropping, which isn't surprising), ad 4 were non-fiction. I posted last week about my favourite books of the year so check that out and let me know what your favourite books of the year were.

Overall, 2018 was a really lovely, bookish year. I'm hoping I can read a lot next year as well and do better about reading more diverse stories and authors. Attending as many author events as possible is also on the agenda.

I hope you all had a great 2018 and wish you all the best for 2019!

Friday, December 28, 2018

My Favourite Books of 2018

Another year has come and (almost) gone and it's been one full of reading for me! As I write this, I've read 108 books in 2018. Trying to choose favourites among those 108 is mighty difficult, let me tell you. I've put my thinking cap on, consulted Goodreads (you can see my full year in books here if you're interested), and come up with a list of books I fell head over heels in love with this year. Because choosing this list was hard enough, I ranked them based on when I read them. And also because choosing them was hard, I have a list of honourable mentions - these are books that I really liked but didn't quite crack the top ten. All of these books are wonderful and there's something for everyone.

Shrewed - Elizabeth Renzetti (review in Niagara Life - page 62)
This was an amazing collection of essays and every woman (and man) should read them. Renzetti is an excellent writer and makes so many great points in this book. I also love that she's Canadian so she's feeling the same way the rest of us are in our country.

The Wedding Date/The Proposal - Jasmine Guillory
I think romcoms are FINALLY making a comeback (meaning they're finally getting recognized in popular culture again) and Jasmine Guillory is a big reason why. Her books are fantastic - full of heart and laughs and they're diverse. They're definitely needed on your bookshelf. I can't wait for her next book.

The Good Liar - Catherine McKenzie (review)
I've been reading (and loving) McKenzie's books for years and they're all great. The last few were ever so slightly less great. The Good Liar though? Holy man. Amazing. It's a twisty, well told tale with characters who are so interesting.

Still Water - Amy Stuart (review)
I didn't read Still Mine, the first book in the series Stuart is writing, and I really wish I had. You don't need to to really enjoy Still Water (since I really liked it) but I'd recommend it. Read them back to back and get sucked into the really intriguing world Stuart has come up with.

The Alice Network - Kate Quinn
This was a book club pick and I'm so glad it was. I had heard of it when it published back in 2017 but didn't pay a whole lot of attention and thought it would be a different type of story than it was. I don't know what that story was but the one I got? It was ah-mazing.

The Simple Wild - K.A. Tucker (review)
I'm pretty sure I say it every time I read a new Tucker book but this one is now my all time favourite of hers (and there are a lot to choose from). Calla is very different than the other characters Tucker has written and I loved that. It was mostly set in Alaska, which was great, but there were some scenes set in Toronto. I'm so glad to see my country (and a neighbouring city) show up in more and more contemporary novels.

Dear Mrs. Bird - A.J. Pearce (review)
For a book that takes place during the Blitz, Pearce has written a really entertaining story. I found myself laughing out loud often. Of course, she also wrote a lot of heartwrenching scenes. There's just so much to love about this story.

Ayesha at Last - Uzma Jalaluddin
I never did get around to reviewing this one and wish I did because I don't think I can properly give this book justice in this little blurb. Plus, I want to tell everyone and their sister about this book and if I talk about it more, more people will buy it and also love it. It's well-written with wonderful characters. Jalaluddin has put a Muslim twist on Pride & Prejudice and it's set in Toronto (I think technically it's Scarborough but I can't recall those specifics at the moment). Come for the loose Jane Austen adaptation, stay for the amazing storytelling.

Beartown/Us Against You - Fredrik Backman
This was another book club pick, thank goodness. Once again, I'm not sure what I thought Beartown would be like but holy hell. This book. It's heavy and heartbreaking and so freaking good. It was so good that I immediately put the second book on hold at the library. Also so freaking good. Ugh. Read them and discuss them with me, please.

The Gown - Jennifer Robson
My review of this book isn't up yet, since it only publishes next week, but just know - IT IS WONDERFUL. It's mostly historical but there's a present-day character as well. And it is 1000% a book for anyone who enjoyed The Crown. If you've never read Robson's novels, you're seriously missing out. She's so well educated and writes insanely entertaining and riveting stories.

Honourable Mentions:
Things to Do When It's Raining - Marissa Stapley (review)
Tides of Honour/Come from Away - Genevieve Graham (review of Come From Away)
The Dutch Wife - Ellen Keith (review in Niagara Life - page 62)
Full Disclosure - Beverley McLachlin (review in Niagara Life - page 62)
Bridal Girl - Meredith Schorr (review)
Goodnight from London - Jennifer Robson
The Wild Heir - Karina Halle (review)
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart - Holly Ringland (review)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows (pro tip: listen to the audiobook of this one)
Save the Date - Morgan Matson (review)
The Life Lucy Knew - Karma Brown
Counting on You - Laura Chapman (review)
Roomies - Christina Lauren
Open Look - Jay Triano (review in Niagara Life - page 70)
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart Turton (review in Niagara Life - page 70)
The Christmas Sisters - Sarah Morgan (review)
Marilla of Green Gables - Sarah McCoy (review)
The Winters - Lisa Gabriele (review will be up soon)
Half Spent Was the Night - Ami McKay (review will be up soon)
Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield (review will be up soon)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Review: Lone Star Christmas

My copy of Lone Star Christmas arrived way back in September but I held off reading it until I was feeling a bit more festive. I love Christmas and all but even I have a hard time diving into a December set book when it's still warm and sunny outside and I'm not ready to face summer coming to an end. So, fast forward to November and I finally decided to dive into Delores Fossen's latest novel. I haven't read her books before so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Would it be a completely delightful and festive romance or would it fall flat?

Here's the synopsis:
A family crisis brings him home…
Just in time for Christmas
Cattleman Callen Laramie has no intention of returning to his hometown of Coldwater, Texas, until a Christmas wedding and a family secret convince him he has no choice. And when he’s reunited with his childhood crush, the girl who’d always been off-limits, Callen knows leaving might not be so easy this time.
Shelby McCall is as pretty as a Christmas snowfall, and Callen wants to kiss her under the mistletoe…and the Christmas tree…and the stars. But once Shelby knows the whole truth behind this homecoming, will their holiday fling come to an abrupt end? Or will she accept the gift of his heart?
I always say I love Christmas romances but every year I'm finding them less and less...enjoyable, I guess. That's true of a lot of romances, to be honest, so I'm wondering if my expectations of the genre have changed. I also think I'm really tired of the loosely connected series. You know, when the first story is about one character, and then the next is about the sister or brother or cousin or small business owner in town who's also a single parent or the local cop. Or any and all of the above. I find a lot of them spend so much time making sure all the players in the series are known that the actual story of the book I'm trying to read is lost. I think that's what happened with Lone Star Christmas. There were so many characters being named and showing up that Callen and Shelby weren't nearly as fleshed out as they could have been.

There was also just a lot happening in this book and most of it didn't feel super connected. You'd think with that much going on I might remember more of it but, honestly, the plot is such a blur now, not even a month after reading this book. Obviously it didn't resonate with me.

As for the Christmassyness of the novel, I'd probably give it 3.5 out of 5 Christmas trees. Maybe 4. The wedding overtakes the holiday ever so slightly but that wasn't really problematic because the wedding, like Christmas, was all about bringing family together so everything still felt really warm and fuzzy. There was also a lot of fun with Callen and Shelby, and others, trying to figure out Christmas gifts. Cheesy and a bit ridiculous, yes, but fun.

Lone Star Christmas isn't a bad book at all. But it left me wanting a whole lot more once I finished it. It's fine if you're looking for a really quick, easy to finish story over the holidays but I don't think you'll find me revisiting Coldwater Texas or any more of Delores Fossen's novels. Too many books, too little time!

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Review: Born Into It

I'm not a Habs fan. The area I grew up bleeds the blue of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the city I live in now isn't much different (though being so close to the American border, there are a fair number of Buffalo Sabres fans around). I actually probably wouldn't even say I'm really a hockey fan. I'll watch a game if it's on and I am Canadian (yeah, that's kind of a true stereotype), and someone who pays attention to the sportsing world in general, so I'm sure know much more about hockey than the average person. I'm also always up for an entertaining memoir so I looked forward to diving into Born Into It by Jay Baruchel (yes, the actor Jay Baruchel). It did not disappoint.

Here's what this book is all about:
In The Game meets Goon, Montreal Canadiens superfan Jay Baruchel tells us why he loves the Habs no matter what
It’s no secret that Jay Baruchel is a die-hard fan of the Montreal Canadiens. He talks about the team at every opportunity, wears their gear proudly in interviews and on the street, appeared in a series of videos promoting the team, and was once named honorary captain by owner Geoff Molson and Habs tough guy Chris Nilan. As he has said publicly, “I was raised both Catholic and Jewish, but really more than anything just a Habs fan.”
In Born Into It, Baruchel’s lifelong memories as a Canadiens’ fan explode on the page in a collection of hilarious, heartfelt and nostalgic stories that draw on his childhood experiences as a homer living in Montreal and the enemy living in the Maple Leaf stronghold of Oshawa, Ontario. Knuckles drawn, and with the rouge, bleu et blanc emblazoned on just about every piece of clothing he owns, Baruchel shares all in the same spirit with which he laid his soul bare in his hugely popular Goon movies. Born Into It is a memoir unlike any other, and a book not to be missed.
I've known who Jay Baruchel is for a long time. (Hello, Popular Mechanics for Kids.) I probably could have also told you he's a Canadiens fan. I knew loves hockey, having seen Goon (note to self: get around to watching the second movie). So hearing he had written a book about being a Habs fan wasn't really all that surprising. What was surprising was how much I enjoyed it.

As I mentioned, I do like many sports and I therefore understand the dynamic of being an athlete and a fan of professional sports. I knew where Baruchel was coming from when he talked about how much he loved his team and the constant heartbreak he feels when they come up short every single season. There's just something about the world of sports fandom that is pretty much impossible to explain to anyone who doesn't watch or play any sport. There's a (ridiculous) emotional feeling and investment into your team. And because I get that, I had goosebumps often while reading this book.

I also wasn't really expecting to learn that Baruchel is basically a nerdy stoner. He talked often about smoking pot but also how he much he read growing up. It might be judgey of me but it was such a jarring (and amusing) image at first. This translated into some really amusing stories and many well-told ones. Not only does Baruchel get being a sports fan, he also understands how to weave a story which resulted in a really good read.

I do think you need to have at least some understanding of hockey if you're going to dive into this book. You'll get so much more out of it if you know the good ol' hockey game. Nowhere is this more evident when Baruchel writes a play by play of what's referred to as the Good Friday Massacre. I had never heard of it, having not been born yet and not being a Habs fan, so it was a new story for me. But because I have a sense of how hockey is played, I could totally follow along as Baruchel laid out exactly what happened in that ridiculously violent game. I'm not saying you can't read this if you're not a fan of hockey but know going in that some things might get a bit lost in translation.

Being the season of gift giving, I would wholeheartedly recommend Born Into It for the sports fan in your life. They don't need to be a Canadiens fan or even hugely into hockey to enjoy this one. I would tread lightly, however, if you plan to wrap it up for a die-hard Leafs or Bruins fan! (But seriously. It's a great gift idea.)

I laughed throughout reading Born Into It and I was glad to be a sports fan as well. Jay Baruchel has written a really great book about being a Montreal Canadiens fan and I think it's one worth reading for almost anyone.

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, HarperCollins Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Review: Dangerous Exes

I love a good romance. I won't shame anyone for reading those types of novels because they can be so rewarding and so much fun. Sooo, it's a bit disappointing when a book isn't so fun. I read Rachel Van Dyken's Dirty Exes earlier this year (you can check out my review here in case you missed it) and found it enjoyable enough. I decided to give the sequel, Dangerous Exes, a try - if nothing else to see what Blaire, Isla, Colin, and Jessie were up to since the last book wrapped. It was a fine book but it wasn't anything special, unfortunately.

Here's the synopsis:
Isla made one teeny little mistake. Now she and her PI company, Dirty Exes, are being targeted by one seriously angry and furiously sexy ex-quarterback. Jessie freakin’ Beckett. But there’s no way some NFL superhunk is going to take her business away. If only he didn’t make her so hot—and bothered.
Jessie wants payback for a ruined reputation. His plan? Top secret. His hard-to-hide arousal for Isla? Not so much. Especially when they let down their guards and sneak a kiss. Like any juicy scandal, it goes so viral, so fast, that only a good lie can combat the bad press. Mortal enemies in a fling? No way. Um…this is love!
Actually…could it be?
Isla’s not faking it. Jessie can’t. As the game of let’s pretend gets real, Jessie forgets all about revenge. That’s the problem. His plan is already out of his control. Now it could undo everything they’ve been trying to build. Coming clean may be the only thing that can save it.
I had a few issues with the way the first book in the Liars Inc. series was written but it wasn't a deal-breaker. While reading the second, though? It bugged me a bit more. It was sometimes too stream-of-consciousness and choppy which made it look poorly written, when I don't actually think Van Dyken is a bad writer. I'm sure it's really hard to find that balance of getting in the characters' heads and relaying what they're thinking and having a well structured novel. I love first person, and don't mind when points of view alternate as in these books, but something about the way these books are written just didn't work for me.

I also had a really hard time understanding what was happening and who was lying to who. I don't think I really understood why Jessie was trying to destroy Isla's PI business especially when his best friend, Colin, was dating the other partner, Blair, who, coincidentally, was Jessie's ex. It just made Jessie seem like the world's largest asshole and so I struggled with understanding how Isla could fall for him.

A note: I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority with not loving (or even liking) this book as Dangerous Exes has over a 4 star rating on Goodreads. So do with that what you will :)

There's not really a whole lot else I can (or care to) say about Dangerous Exes. Rachel Van Dyken's book was a very "meh" for me and, all in all, will probably be forgotten sooner rather than later. Too bad because I think I could like her stories a lot more than I have so far.

*A copy of this novel was provided by the Canadian distributor, Thomas Allen & Son. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Review: The Plus One

The Plus One, the debut novel from Sophia Money-Coutts, was an absolutely delightful, laugh out loud rom com for my generation. We're the ones who were a bit too young for Bridget Jones and Becky Bloomwood when each series started but read them anyway. Polly Spencer, Money-Coutts' heroine, is also English and gets herself in almost as many scraps as Bridget and Becky did. The result? A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Here's the synopsis:
The Plus One [n] informal a person who accompanies an invited person to a wedding or a reminder of being single, alone and absolutely plus none
Polly’s not looking for ‘the one’, just the plus one…
Polly Spencer is fine. She’s single, turning thirty and only managed to have sex twice last year (both times with a Swedish banker called Fred), but seriously, she’s fine. Even if she’s still stuck at Posh! magazine writing about royal babies and the chances of finding a plus one to her best friend’s summer wedding are looking worryingly slim.
But it’s a New Year, a new leaf and all that. Polly’s determined that over the next 365 days she’ll remember to shave her legs, drink less wine and generally get her s**t together. Her latest piece is on the infamous Jasper, Marquess of Milton, undoubtedly neither a plus one nor ‘the one’. She’s heard the stories, there’s no way she’ll succumb to his charms…
I read this book in one day and the majority of it was read on a train on the way to and from a book event. Normally my train ride isn't too bad but I knew it would be longer than usual due to construction (ugh..the worst). I barely noticed. I was that engrossed in this story. 

Now, all that gushing aside, this is not the world's best book. The story is solid but there were times where I felt Money-Coutts rushed through scenes. For example, Polly and Jasper head to the country for a weekend. There were two significant and fleshed out scenes but the rest of the weekend was entirely skipped over. It was like, Arrival. Scene 1. Scene 2. Departure. With no mention of the in-between. It's a hard thing to explain and you probably can't totally understand but basically, the writing wasn't super smooth.

Polly was really unsure about her best friend's boyfriend from the start so, the reader was also unsure of him. But after the engagement it was like he wasn't an issue any longer (which I suppose I can understand because most people wouldn't say anything negative about a fiancé as the relationship then is a wee bit more permanent) and Polly stopped being wary of him and the relationship. It was odd and sort of unresolved in the end. 

As I said at the start, Polly and her life reminded me a lot of the good ol' days of chick lit. She had a lot in common with Bridget Jones which I really enjoyed. Probably because a lot of women have a lot more in common with Bridget than we think. Polly is smart and realizing her life has become a bit...stuck. She's not unhappy but she's pretty sure she could be happier. Somehow. And she's also a hot mess of a 30 year old and really enjoying getting pissed with her friends, even if the hangovers are way worse than when she was 20 (I'm also speaking from experience here...). She's close with her mum, which I loved, and has a really solid group of friends. But her life is missing some romance - which is the whole point of this story.

So. The romance. I thought I knew where Money-Coutts was going with it. Then I wasn't sure. I flipped back to the original thinking but then she change things up again. I loved it. I'm really glad the Happily Ever After wasn't completely obvious from the outset because it allowed me to be surprised right alongside Polly. I'm also thrilled with how it all ended up!

Chick lit fans need to read The Plus One. Sophia Money-Coutts has written a really enjoyable, fun, and smart rom-com, one which will really appeal to older Millennials like me. I'm looking forward to seeing what Money-Coutts' second novel is like.

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

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Review: Until the Last Star Fades

I already knew Jacquelyn Middleton is wonderfully skilled at creating characters and stories that can find their way into your heart and stick there. I loved her London series (London Belongs to Me is the first and London Can You Wait?, which I reviewed here, is the second) and wondered if she could create even more characters I would fall in love with. Short answer? Oh, yes. She definitely could. Until the Last Star Fades is just wonderful.

Here's the synopsis:
Touching, heartfelt and passionate, UNTIL THE LAST STAR FADES blurs the line between slow-burn romance and women's fiction, and is a must-read for hopeful romantics, devoted daughters, and the moms they cherish.
In her senior year at NYU, Riley Hope appears to be on top of the world. With a loving mother who makes Lorelai Gilmore look like a parenting slacker, ride-or-die friends, and a long-time boyfriend destined for the National Hockey League, she puts on a smile for the world. But behind it, she’s drowning. Racked with fears for the future, she battles to stay afloat amid life in the shadows of a heartbreaking illness.
And then, Ben Fagan comes crashing into her life. Twenty-three-years-old, British, and alone in the Big Apple after a disastrous pilot season in LA, the struggling actor is looking for an escape: booze, mischief, sex—minimum commitment, maximum fun—anything to avoid returning across the pond.
As they form an unlikely bond, Riley keeps her reality from Ben so that he remains a happy refuge. But how long can she hold back the truth…and is Ben keeping his own secrets, too?
From the award-winning author of LONDON BELONGS TO ME and LONDON, CAN YOU WAIT?, comes a bittersweet story about love, loss, sacrifice, and the life-changing decisions we make.
I'm going to start with the one (and basically only) thing I didn't like about the book. I didn't like that Riley was dating someone else at the start of it. I don't care that she wasn't happy and wasn't (exactly) crushing on Ben when she first met him. It just left me with a bit of an icky feeling since I knew she'd somehow be ending up with Ben (that's not a spoiler - you know how a contemporary story like this is going to end from the get go) and I wasn't sure how it was going to go. Did everything go the way it was meant to? Yes, but that doesn't change how not-ok I felt knowing what would have to happen to get the soulmates together. Is it a deal-breaker? Absolutely not. It may even be a really personal thing but it's a thing I didn't love and I needed to mention it.

BUT. The rest of it? Oh so lovely.

Middleton really shone a light on depression in this book and I am so here for it. It's a necessary thing to talk about in real life and to read about in novels. I know some people got frustrated with Alex's anxiety in her other books which, in turn, frustrates me. We read, in part, to see things from other people's perspectives. And reading books where the main character has a mental health issue is so important.

To build on the above, I love that Middleton is able to create characters who are so real and are dealing with real issues. Until the Last Star Fades isn't a super lighthearted read - the synopsis doesn't mention one of the most heartbreaking parts of the story so I won't mention it either - but it manages to have so much love and hope that you can endure the really hard moments. None of the characters she created is having an especially easy time of it (quite the opposite, really) but they have each other. But oh my word. The emotional gut punches Middleton throws at you will have you reaching for your favourite people for a huge hug.

I wouldn't call this book a romance even though a major plot point in the story is Riley and Ben realizing that they've been stupid and should stop fighting their feelings because they totally belong together. (Ahem. I might feel strongly about this.) This book is about so much more than their love story. Both Riley and Ben had to figure out their own shit problems before they were going to be any good to each other and I think that's why the slow burn of their relationship totally works. They couldn't have hopped right into a relationship because it would have failed. Seeing the two of them evolve and grow as people is almost more satisfying than a romantic Happily Ever After. Almost. (I love me some romance.)

Bonus: those who have read Middleton's other novels will love that Mark and Alex make a cameo in this novel!

Until the Last Star Fades is one of those books that my review just won't do it justice. I recommend picking up Jacquelyn Middleton's latest novel - just out today! - and diving into a story that will pull all your heartstrings and leave you thinking about it long after you finish it. It will make you laugh, swoon, and probably cry but that's ok. The best books are those that make you feel all the feels and Middleton's latest is no exception.

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

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Review: Whiskey in a Teacup

If you had told me 17 years ago if the woman on screen playing a sorority girl turned law student would write a book I would then read, I would probably doubt you. But Reese Witherspoon has done it. Whiskey in a Teacup is a lifestyle book that celebrates her Southern roots and gives readers a glimpse into her life.

Here's the description of the book:
Academy award-winning actress, producer, and entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon invites you into her world, where she infuses the southern style, parties, and traditions she loves with contemporary flair and charm.
Reese Witherspoon’s grandmother Dorothea always said that a combination of beauty and strength made southern women “whiskey in a teacup.” We may be delicate and ornamental on the outside, she said, but inside we’re strong and fiery.
Reese’s southern heritage informs her whole life, and she loves sharing the joys of southern living with practically everyone she meets. She takes the South wherever she goes with bluegrass, big holiday parties, and plenty of Dorothea’s fried chicken. It’s reflected in how she entertains, decorates her home, and makes holidays special for her kids—not to mention how she talks, dances, and does her hair (in these pages, you will learn Reese’s fail-proof, only slightly insane hot-roller technique). Reese loves sharing Dorothea’s most delicious recipes as well as her favourite southern traditions, from midnight barn parties to backyard bridal showers, magical Christmas mornings to rollicking honky-tonks.
It’s easy to bring a little bit of Reese’s world into your home, no matter where you live. After all, there’s a southern side to every place in the world, right?
I feel the need to start by saying I am a Reese Witherspoon fan. I enjoy her movies (Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama are two movies that I will have to sit and watch if I happen to come across them on TV) and think she's a decent person from what I can tell from my perch as a normal human (compared to her celebrity status). This book is very clearly going to be for people who like her and her work as I think the charm of the book would be totally lost on someone who doesn't know much about her or care about her and her work.

You have to wonder why, exactly, it was decided that Witherspoon needed to write a book. The really cynical part of me knows it's simply to make money. Witherspoon is having a bit of a comeback after her early acting success. She has a retail brand (Draper James), a production company (Hello Sunshine), and a kick-ass book club (most of her picks are great and varied) so she has a strong brand to make a lifestyle book a success. Plus, she's adorably Southern and proud to be so which seems to be a bit different than most of the Hollywood stars these days.

The book isn't super well written but it's more conversational so you don't really notice that it's not the best writing you've ever seen. (Of course, I may be a pot calling a kettle black because I'm sure as hell not the best writer sometimes.) I also have to admit that when I think to myself, "Why did she think she could write a book?" I have an image of Elle Woods saying, "What? Like it's hard?"

This book is very much like a perfectly curated Instagram account. Everything is so shiny and picture-perfect. For example, I, like many others of my generation, know that Witherspoon was married to Ryan Phillippe and it....didn't end well. I also know she had a bunch of films that also didn't do well (during the same time period. I doubt that's a coincidence). But all of that is glossed over in the book. The only time she references anything that was less than perfect was when she was discussing her wedding and mentions how, "real talk" she's had two. Does it matter that the book is shinier than real life really is? No, I don't think so. I don't read books like this because I think it perfectly represents real life. We like seeing pretty things and focusing on the good in life and reading this book was a fun little escape for me.

My favourite part? When Witherspoon discussed her love of books and her book club. I really think she's helping bring the stories I love into the spotlight and helping many authors get some much-deserved recognition. What can I say? I have a soft spot for my fellow bookworms. I also think I'll be investigating the book club recipes a bit more closely than some of the other recipes in the book. (And yes, I'm aware the below aren't really "recipes" but they're most excellent components for a great book club meeting. I'm also not a fan of cooking so easy = key!)

Whiskey in a Teacup was a fun escape and a glimpse into the life of a Hollywood starlet. Reese Witherspoon has written and compiled a book that allows her Southern charm and personality to shine. Her fans will love flipping through the pages and learning more about her.

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Cover Reveal: Be the Girl

If you're a long time reader of this blog (thanks!), you'll know K.A. Tucker is one of my all time favourite authors. I've read almost all of her 17 novels and have met her on several occasions (the most recent being a couple of weekends ago that saw me driving over two and a half hours to a lunch and event with her and a few other equally wonderful authors...I take my book obsession seriously). She's a lovely person on top of being a fantastic writer. Seriously/ Her last book, A Simple Wild, is one of my top books of 2018. (You can read my review here in case you missed it.)

Tucker started out self-publishing her books and that was how Ten Tiny Breaths got noticed by her traditional publisher (Simon & Schuster Canada and Atria Books) many years ago. She's had a ton of success being publishing traditionally (which isn't something that happens for everyone) but she has had a story she's needed to tell for awhile now and has decided to go back to the self-publishing route so the world will be able to read Be the Girl.

Here's what the novel, which is to be published January 21, 2019, is all about:
From the national bestselling author of the Ten Tiny Breaths series and The Simple Wild comes a poignant story about a girl trying to change her future while evading her past.Almost-sixteen-year-old Aria Jones is starting over. New postal code, new last name, new rules. But she doesn’t mind, because it means she can leave her painful regrets behind. In the bustling town of Eastmonte, she can become someone else. Someone better.
With the Hartford family living next door, it seems she will succeed. Sure, Cassie Hartford may be the epitome of social awkwardness thanks to her autism, but she also offers an innocent and sincere friendship that Aria learns to appreciate. And Cassie’s older brother, Emmett—a popular Junior A hockey player with a bright future—well … Aria wishes that friendship could lead to something more. If he didn’t already have a girlfriend, maybe it would.
But Aria soon finds herself in a dicey moral predicament that could derail her attempt at a fresh start. It is her loyalty to Cassie and her growing crush on Emmett that leads her to make a risky move, one that earns her a vindictive enemy who is determined to splinter her happy new world.
Doesn't that just sound spectacular?

Now, if you follow Tucker or any of her fans, you've probably already seen the gorgeous cover. But since I already had a cover reveal going up yesterday (how does that happen all at once?), I'm sharing it with you a day later.

Ready for it?

I just adore the colours. So beautiful. I also shouldn't be surprised that I love it. It's designed by Hang Le who's done the majority of Karina Halle's recent covers, which have all been stunning.

The book will be available in e-book format (pre-order links are below for you eager beavers), paperback the day after release at online retailers, and will eventually be released as an audiobook as well.

Here are the pre-order details - and you'll want to pay attention because Be the Girl will be available for a special pre-order price of only $2.99 for the e-book and the price will increase shortly after release (which, again, is January 21, 2019). (That's $2.99 for all you Americans. For my Canadian friends, it looks like it's $3.90)

Amazon * iBooks * Kobo * Nook

And don't forget to add it to your Goodreads

Author Bio
K.A. Tucker writes captivating stories with an edge.

She is the USA Today bestselling author of 17 books, including the Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water series, He Will Be My Ruin, Until It Fades, Keep Her Safe, and The Simple Wild. Her books have been featured in national publications including USA Today, Globe & Mail, Suspense Magazine, and Publisher's Weekly. Ten Tiny Breaths was a finalist in the 2013 Goodreads Choice Awards.

K.A. Tucker currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her family.

Author Social Media Links 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Cover Reveal: At the Mountain's Edge

It seems like I've been gushing over Genevieve Graham's books for ages but I've only been reading her novels since July 2017 (when I posted my review of Promises to Keep). But since then I've also read Tides of Honour (which was published back in 2015) and Come from Away (I reviewed that one too) and Graham has found herself firmly on my "must-read" list. She writes these stunning historical novels that are just amazing. She tells such a good story and shares pieces of Canadian history that a lot of us have either forgotten (due to not paying attention in booooring history class) or never known. It's a remarkable talent and I urge all of you to check out her books.

But why am I gushing about her now? Because she has a new book coming out in April 2019 *flails* At the Mountain's Edge is her first novel to be set outside of Nova Scotia and I'm really looking forward to experiencing another part of Canada's history through Graham's characters.

Here's what the novel will be about:
From bestselling author Genevieve Graham comes a sweeping new historical novel of love, tragedy, and redemption set during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.
In 1897, the discovery of gold in the desolate reaches of the Yukon has the world abuzz with excitement, and thousands of prospectors swarm to the north seeking riches the likes of which have never been seen before.
For Liza Peterson and her family, the gold rush is a chance for them to make a fortune by moving their general store business from Vancouver to Dawson City, the only established town in the Yukon. For Constable Ben Turner, a recent recruit of the North-West Mounted Police, upholding the law in a place overrun with guns, liquor, prostitutes, and thieves is an opportunity to escape a dark past and become the man of integrity he has always wanted to be. But the long, difficult journey over icy mountain passes and whitewater rapids is much more treacherous than Liza or Ben imagined, and neither is completely prepared for the forbidding north.
As Liza’s family nears the mountain’s peak, a catastrophe strikes with fatal consequences, and not even the NWMP can help. Alone and desperate, Liza finally reaches Dawson City, only to find herself in a different kind of peril. Meanwhile, Ben, wracked with guilt over the accident on the trail, sees the chance to make things right. But just as love begins to grow, new dangers arise, threatening to separate the couple forever.
Inspired by history as rich as the Klondike’s gold, At the Mountain’s Edge is an epic tale of romance and adventure about two people who must let go of the past not only to be together, but also to survive.
Does that not sound delightful? Except for the whole "catastrophe" part. That doesn't sound so delightful. But the rest of it? Oh, it'll be so good.

Are you ready for the whole reason of this post? To share the gorgeousness that is the cover? Thought so.

Pretty stunning, isn't it? The mountains are definitely both majestic and dangerous.

What I (and Graham) love is that the cover designers are sticking with a similar theme with her books. They all have the same feel and look but they're all quite different as well. You'll notice either uniforms and/or the background to showcase the unique characters and nature of each book.

I don't know about you but I'll be counting down the days until this one is released. And if you want to preorder or find the book and Graham around the interwebs, I've got you covered.

Find details on Simon & Schuster Canada's site and check out Graham's shiny new website as well.

If you haven't picked up Genevieve Graham's books, do it. You have plenty of time to work your way through her backlist before At the Mountain's Edge releases in April.

Happy reading!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Review: A Brand New Ending

Like most romance readers, I have tropes I enjoy and tropes I don't. A Brand New Ending, the second book in Jennifer Probst's Stay series, hit so many of the tropes I love and I so enjoyed my time spent reading it.

Here's the synopsis:
Ophelia Bishop was a lovestruck teenage girl when she and Kyle Kimpton chased their dreams to Hollywood. Kyle’s dreams came true. Ophelia’s did not. When Kyle chose his career over their relationship, Ophelia returned home to rural New York to run the family’s B & B—wiser, and more guarded against foolish fantasies. Now Kyle has come crashing back into her life, and all her defenses are down.
Kyle can’t think of a better place to write his latest screenplay than his hometown. After all, that was where he met the heart of his inspiration—his first love. He knows the damage he’s caused Ophelia, and he wants a chance to mend their relationship. If anyone can prove to Ophelia that happy ever afters aren’t only for the movies, it should be him.
As much as Ophelia’s changed, she still has feelings for Kyle. But her heart has been broken before, and she knows that Kyle could run back to Hollywood at any time. She gave up her dreams once, but maybe she can dare to change her own love story…one last time.
I have two favourite tropes and I can't decide between the two which I love more. Luckily, Probst gave them both to me. Small town and second-chance romances are my jam so it's no surprise I adored Ophelia and Kyle's story. These are also cliches that can, well, become just that if they're not done well. I already knew Probst would nail the small-town charm because I fell in love with the Robin's Nest B&B in the first book of the series, The Start of Something Good (you can check out my full review here if you missed it). Part of what made the setting so delightful in the first book was Ophelia's charm, which came through even though the first book was about her brother. In her story, you realize how big her heart really is. Sometimes those kinds of characters can be a pushover but Ophelia has spunk and I adored her. (It's also why her brother, Ethan, calls her Tinkerbell - she has the same sass as the fairy.) She's just such a wonderful person - and kudos to Probst for writing such great characters - that you cannot help but root for her and hope she gets the Happily Ever After she deserves.

And Kyle? Definitely deserves her. I would say he was mostly to blame for their relationship imploding (not to say Ophelia was innocent but he was in the wrong) but Probst, again, wrote him so well that you couldn't hate him. He had his reasons and they make sense when you remember he was a 20 year old guy trying to make a name for himself in Hollywood. That's not an easy thing to do. (I assume. Since I've never been a 20 year old guy nor have I even been to California.) Another thing that's not easy? Realizing when you're in the wrong and working your ass off to fix the problems you created. Kyle takes a little while to figure out why Ophelia was so hurt and why she left him but once he does? He works hard to make sure she realizes he's sorry and refuses to fall into the same trap again. Plus I just loved that he's a writer. (A third trope I enjoy!)

Kyle and Ophelia really fought their attraction. Actually. That's not strictly true. Ophelia fought it. Kyle was pretty open with his plan to seduce her. (Another thing I loved? He didn't push her in a skeezy way. He respects her so much.) But once she realized she still had some sort of feelings for him? Hoo boy. Fireworks. Probst knows how to write sweet and sexy. My favourite.

A Brand New Ending, which just published this week, was such a lovely read. Jennifer Probst has written a story full of heart, heat, and hope. It's the perfect book to pick up when you need a pick-me-up and will have you swooning and falling in love, just like the characters in this story.

*A copy of this novel was provided by the Canadian distributor, Thomas Allen & Son, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Review: Marilla of Green Gables

Like most Canadian girls, I love Anne of Green Gables. I've read the books (multiple times), watched the Megan Follows movies (multiple times), and have been watching Anne with an E, the newest TV adaptation, as well. So when I heard Sarah McCoy had written a novel about Marilla, I was excited. Cautious but excited. I try to go into adaptations and the like with an open mind but of course I'm always a little worried about what a new person (whether it be an author, actor, director) will do to the original work. Marilla of Green Gables isn't perfect - because nothing can be perfect - but it was enjoyable and, I think, a worthy addition to the world of Anne.

Here's the (extremely long) synopsis (which I didn't even bother reading before requesting this book because I knew I'd want to read it no matter what):
A bold, heartfelt tale of life at Green Gables . . . before Anne: A marvelously entertaining and moving historical novel, set in rural Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth century, that imagines the young life of spinster Marilla Cuthbert, and the choices that will open her life to the possibility of heartbreak—and unimaginable greatness
Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother has dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh.
In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth “Izzy” Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world.
Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America. Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables.
McCoy does a wonderful job of capturing the essence of Green Gables and Avonlea. Her Marilla was quite similar to Montgomery's Anne (not too surprising since the novel starts with Marilla at about the same age as Anne was when she first came to Green Gables) which, for the most part, was lovely and seemed true to the Marilla we all know and love. I did find myself sometimes wondering if she really would have been that imaginative or outspoken. It was hard to reconcile younger Marilla with older Marilla. She became a bit more recognizable after a heartbreaking event (which I did see coming but that doesn't make it any less devastating) because she loses her innocence. As she gets older, though, she finishes her schooling and stays up to date with politics - even voicing her opinion at a town hall. That didn't really feel familiar but it was enjoyable to read nonetheless.

Speaking of the politics, those parts of the story are really what made me recognize that this wasn't a Green Gables story written by Montgomery. Further, that this wasn't a book written during the 1800s. It's a historical novel written in the present day and reads as such. I don't recall Montgomery ever really noting what was happening in Canada or the world as Anne was growing up. There may have been passing mention of a Prime Minister or something of that nature, but Marilla was very clearly living and engaging in her time. This wasn't a bad's just a thing that makes it a McCoy novel instead of anything else. Does that make sense? Related to the history - I was amused when it was revealed that Izzy, Marilla's aunt, lived in St. Catharines because that's where I live. It wasn't until much later that you realize the importance of this.

I did really like that McCoy peppered the story with familiar names and faces. Meeting a young Rachel Lynde (née White) was way more fun than I thought it would be. It's hard to relate to Rachel in Anne of Green Gables but I think I like her even more now. In any other prequel, I think it would have been odd to have the same families show up but this is Avonlea after all. Most people never leave so of course the same names (Andrews, Sloan, Barry, just to name a few) would carry on from Marilla's youth to Anne's.

McCoy notes in her Author's Note that the book all started when she couldn't stop thinking about a line from Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 37 (emphasis is McCoy's):
"What a nice-looking fellow he is," said Marilla absently. "I saw him in church last Sunday and he seemed so tall and manly. He looks a lot like his father did at the same age. John Blythe was a nice boy. We used to be real good friends, he and I. People called him my beau."
Anne looked up with swift interest.
"Oh, Marilla - and what happened?"
I'm sure I thought the same as Anne and McCoy throughout the years but the difference between me and McCoy is she had to do something about it. Marilla of Green Gables is her answer to Anne's question. What did happen between Marilla and John Blythe? I think this is where McCoy shone. She tells the story of young love so wonderfully that my heart was full and aching through the entire book because I, of course, knew how things turned out for Marilla and John.

Finally, I have to share a quote from page 159 that Anne fans will love because it really shows the connection between Marilla and Anne plus how well McCoy knows and understands Montgomery's work:
Never mind today, she thought. There was no undoing the mistakes in it. But tomorrow was new with time a-plenty to make things right.
Love love love.

I could probably discuss and pick apart this novel until the Cuthberts' cows came home to Green Gables but I won't. I'll simply say this: Anne of Green Gables fans should be thrilled with Sarah McCoy's Marilla of Green Gables. It captures the heart of Marilla and Green Gables and should find it's way to every Anne lover's bookshelf.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter

Kate Morton is a wonderful storyteller. She can take two (or more) time periods and characters within them and weave an incredible story. The Clockmaker's Daughter showcased her talents once again. But...I didn't completely fall in love with it as I had hoped to. It's a great novel, don't get me wrong, but I think I expected more.

Here's the synopsis:
My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing, and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.
Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing a drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.
Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?
Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love, and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter.
I can't quite put my finger on what it was about this novel that prevented me from loving it. It might have been the number of points of view (there are so many that I honestly couldn't tell you all of them). Or it could have been that Part One only had two POVs and switching to others in the following parts made me miss Elodie. She played such a huge part in Part One and barely showed up in the whole rest of the book.

I also wasn't a huge fan of how the book ended. I was reading along and knew it would be done soon because I could tell things were being wrapped up and all the little clues and hints were coming together into an almost satisfying conclusion. Then I realized I only had about 35 pages left of the book. How could it all come together in a great ending in only 35 pages? Turns out it couldn't. Not totally. That being said, there is resolution. And we, as the reader, do know the full story (and I do kind of appreciate Morton assumes intelligence of the reader and allows us to make some final connections). I think I just wanted (needed) to see all the characters finally realizing the full story too. (Wow, it's hard to write about the final pages of a novel without giving anything away.)

Even if I wished the ending had played out a bit differently for the characters, I was reminded how great Morton is at bringing seemingly unconnected threads together to form a full picture. I never know exactly how things are going to be connected but I trust that Morton has a wonderful story in store for me. There's nothing better than exclaiming "Ohhhhh!" as you realize how something that seemed insignificant earlier on was actually the key all along.

The setting of this novel was absolutely magical. It's no wonder Elodie, as her mother before her, was entranced by the fairy story and the house in the country. I could easily picture the house and the landscape as I was reading - and definitely wanted to visit even if the house is likely haunted.

The art nerd in me loved the art history aspect of the story too. It was really neat to read as Morton imagined what it would have been like for artists at the time gallivanting off to make art and how they worried about making pieces to satisfy those wealthy folks who were paying them.

While The Clockmaker's Daughter wasn't as amazing as I wanted it to be, I was still hooked and completely invested in Kate Morton's newest novel. It's mysterious, historical and contemporary, and really well written. It's also a beast at 400+ pages so make sure you have the time to commit once you start because you likely won't want to stop.

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

Friday, October 12, 2018

Cover Reveal: The Last Resort

There are a few authors I've read over the years who immediately go on my "must read" list no matter what they write. Some of them I've been lucky enough to meet in person and it only confirms my desire to support them in everything they do. Marissa Stapley is one of those authors for me. She's a fantastic author and an even better human. She revealed the cover of her new book, The Last Resort, yesterday and, because I find it so damn swoonworthy, I asked her if I could feature it on my blog so all of you could swoon over it too!

Here's what her new book - which is out June 4 in Canada and June 18 in the US - is all about:
From bestselling author Marissa Stapley comes a gripping novel about marriage, loyalty, and the deadly secrets that unravel over the course of a two-week couples’ therapy retreat in Mexico.
Miles Markell is missing, and everyone is a suspect.
To the guests at The Harmony Resort, Doctors Miles and Grace Markell appear to be a perfect power couple. They run a couples’ therapy retreat in a luxurious resort in the Mayan Riviera where they help spouses deal with their marriage struggles.
Johanna and Ben’s relationship looks great on the surface, but in reality, they don’t know each other at all. Shell and Colin fight constantly—Colin is a workaholic, and Shell always comes second.But what has really torn them apart is too devastating to talk about. When both couples begin Harmony’s intensive therapy program, it becomes clear that Harmony is not all that it seems—and neither are Miles and Grace. What are they hiding, and what price will these couples pay for finding out their secrets?
As a powerful hurricane descends on the coast, trapping both the hosts and their guests, confidences are revealed, loyalties are tested, and not one single person—or marriage—will ever be the same.
A gripping exploration of relationships and trust, The Last Resort is a propulsive read about all the big truths we hide, even from ourselves.
You're intrigued, aren't you? Good.

Ready for the stunning cover?

Isn't it gorgeous? Even though you can see the hurricane coming to shore. I think it perfectly captures the essence of the story with beauty but underlying menace.

Head to Marissa's website to find all the pre-order links so you can get a copy of your own from your favourite retailer.

If you're really interested in Marissa and what she's written before (check out my reviews of Mating for Life and Things to Do When It's Raining) and are in GTA-ish area next weekend, make sure you check out the event being held at the L.E. Shore Memorial Library in Thornbury. And bonus: KA Tucker, Joanna Goodman, and Ruth Marshall will be there too! (So will I and I'm SO EXCITED.)

Happy reading (and pre-ordering), everyone!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review: The Witch of Willow Hall

As much as I adore the Harry Potter novels, I usually like my witch stories to be a little more historical (think The Witches of New York) and/or feature more discreet magic (think Practical Magic - the book, not the movie). I was intrigued by The Witch of Willow Hall, Hester Fox's debut novel because it seemed like it would tie into the Salem Witch Trials and feature magic that was more, for lack of a better word, realistic than wand-waving. The magic that did show up was just what I wanted but I needed a lot more of it.

Here's the synopsis:
Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well.
New Oldbury, 1821
In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall.
The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.
All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…
While I know some readers absolutely adored this novel, there was something was a little lacking for me. And I think it was the witchcraft - or lack thereof. Lydia has no idea what's happening to her. She doesn't know why she's seeing things that shouldn't be there or why things seem to happen without her meaning them to. She doesn't recognize it as magic and she fights it for the majority of the novel which means there really isn't much witchcraft in the book. It reads more like a Gothic ghost story than a story about a witch.

While there was a lack of witchcraft, there was an abundance of sibling rivalry. The drama between Lydia and her older sister, Catherine, took over the story. This would be fine if it hadn't been for the expectation that the story would be more about witches than two sisters sniping at each other for 300+ pages. 

The girls (I say girls but they were actually, I think, young ladies. Lydia is mentioned as being 19 and Catherine was older but I definitely wasn't sure and kept thinking of them as much younger for some reason) were also competing for the attention of a young (maybe he wasn't young? I apparently didn't do well on paying attention to the ages of these characters) man. Catherine had a reason (completely and totally messed up but a reason nonetheless) to snag herself a husband and she wasn't being picky. Lydia, on the other hand, was experiencing love that she was certain was unrequited. For a storyline that wasn't mentioned in the synopsis, these romantic (and not so romantic) entanglements take up a lot of the novel. (I'm sorry for all the brackets.)

As hard as I may be on the story, mostly for lacking the witchcraft I really wanted, the story was a good one. I was invested and needed to keep reading to find out how things would end up for Lydia. I felt the ups and downs and whatever else she was feeling right alongside her and hoped she would find a Happily Ever After, or as happy as it could be considering the circumstances.

In reading the author bio at the back of the book, I learned Fox had a background in history and worked as a collections maintenance technician at a museum. That love of history came through as I really felt like I was in 1821. Sometimes historical novels can seem too much like a history textbook but Fox sets the scene without making it seem like she's trying to teach the reader anything. You're completely absorbed in the world she creates.

The Witch of Willow Hall was a good book to read on a Fall weekend (even though we had unseasonably warm temperatures this past Thanksgiving weekend). Even though I wish Hester Fox had given readers more witches and fewer ghosts, I think this is a perfectly Gothic novel to read in the lead up to Halloween.

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