Thursday, September 6, 2018

Review: How to Keep a Secret

I've been reading Sarah Morgan's romances for a long time now and they're always so enjoyable. Like many romance authors in recent years, Morgan has just published a women's fiction novel, How to Keep a Secret. Personally, I think there's a lot of cross-over between the genres and the different marketing sometimes really frustrates me because they (publishers) really only do it because some idiots people turn their noses up at romance novels. *breathes* But that's a rant for another day. Today I will gush about the loveliness that is Morgan's latest book!

Here's the synopsis:
When three generations of women are brought together by crisis, they learn over the course of one hot summer the power of family to support, nourish and surprise
Lauren has the perfect life...if she ignores the fact it's a fragile house of cards, and that her daughter Mack has just had a teenage personality transplant.
Jenna is desperate to start a family with her husband, but it's... Just. Not. Happening. Her heart is breaking, but she's determined to keep her trademark smile on her face.
Nancy knows she hasn't been the best mother, but how can she ever tell Lauren and Jenna the reason why?
Then life changes in an instant, and Lauren, Mack, Jenna and Nancy are thrown together for a summer on Martha's Vineyard. Somehow, these very different women must relearn how to be a family. And while unraveling their secrets might be their biggest challenge, the rewards could be infinite...
Heartwarming and fresh, Sarah Morgan's brilliant new novel is a witty and deeply uplifting look at the power of a family of women. 
I do have to talk about the difference between this book and Morgan's usual romances (not rant-y, I promise). How to Keep a Secret isn't so much about the love stories (there are three of them) but more about the four Stewart women and their relationships with each other. The familial relationships are way more complicated and problematic than the romantic ones and I appreciated the balance between the two. It was actually quite refreshing because I haven't read a book like this in a little while and it was so well done.

The only thing I didn't really like was, funnily enough, the secrets that were being kept. I had a feeling I knew what Lauren and Jenna were keeping from their mother, and vice versa, but the girls' reasoning just didn't sit well with me. It was a sound reason at 11 and 8 ish but once they grew older? Not so much. I guess I just didn't understand why they wouldn't try to work past it. Maybe they thought the relationships were too damaged to try and repair them. This secret also caused a blow-up between Jenna and her husband that didn't seem very realistic but I think it was more a "last straw" than the actual problem. (Yeah, that's vague but spoilers must be avoided!)

I was worried that the story might get a bit confusing with all the points of view but Morgan managed to keep everything together well. I do think I wanted more time with/background of/interactions between the characters but it's hard to do in a story like this sometimes. I liked all the different viewpoints and how you could see as the story went on how the women were starting to trust each other more and become closer.

Oh my gosh. And the setting? I could totally picture The Captain's House and the lovely scenery Morgan painted for the reader. Made me crave a beach vacation or perhaps a visit to my hometown on Georgian Bay.

Finally, I have to share how exciting it was to see a character with the same name as me! She was minor (so minor she's only mentioned in passing) but I've only encountered this in two other books and twice in real life (the actress doesn't count).

How to Keep a Secret may not be a traditional Sarah Morgan romance but it has all the things readers look for when picking up one of her books - and more. Someone looking for a really light-hearted story would be disappointed (my recommendation is change your viewpoint/expectation and read it anyway) but anyone who wants a great story about family and love will be so pleased with Morgan's latest book.

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

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review: One More Moment

One More Moment is the latest book in Samantha Chase's "Band on the Run" series. I haven't read any of the other books featuring the guys from the band Shaughnessy but I knew this was one of those series where I could hop in anywhere and enjoy the ride. This romance was fun and sweet and I enjoyed it.

Here's the synopsis:
Julian Grayson is taking a break
...from his cheating fiancée
...from his band
...from his life in the spotlight
Charlotte Clark is devoted to her work save the world help the homeless get a broken man back on his feet
When Charlotte Clark offers to pay for Julian Grayson's coffee, the world-famous drummer assumes she wants something from him. But Charlotte has no idea who he is, and Julian can't resist keeping up the charade—being incognito is a novelty and a relief. He'll have to tell her...eventually. But as Charlotte cheerfully undertakes to transform his life, Julian realizes there's something about her that gives him what he hasn't felt in years: hope.
I have to admit that, even though I really enjoyed the romance between Julian and Charlotte, I wasn't feeling at all swoony towards Julian - and I think that really impacted my overall feelings with this book. Warranted? Who knows, but that's what I think. I found him to be somewhat arrogant, completely clueless, and unwilling to accept his part in his predicament (terrible last relationship, blow out at the wedding that wasn't, everything with the band). What saved this story for me was Charlotte. She was having none of that nonsense and was trying to get him to see that he needed to fix himself and his life and everything else would sort of fall into place.

I think my favourite thing about this book was actually Julian realizing how great it felt to give back to the community. Sure, he started doing it for Charlotte but you could tell he was eventually doing it for himself. He realized how he could take all the money and fame he'd worked hard for and use it for something good. I think a lot of people need to realize that they have a lot of themselves to give to causes (something I need to remember myself). A small amount of your time or money can go so far in the right place.

While this book is mostly a romance, there's a lot more to it. In fact, Julian (especially) and Charlotte both had to work on themselves before a relationship could move forward. Charlotte needed to realize that, as noble as it is, she can't save the world. Not on her own and especially not when she's not looking after herself. I liked that Julian helped her realize she needed to slow down a little bit and relinquish some control (even if I felt that he was being an asshat about it sometimes. Charlotte's not going to quit working just because you have a lot of money, you knob. Hm. I think I have more problems with Julian than I realized.) Julian, for all his faults, did eventually realize them and tried to work on himself.

One More Moment was a romance with a lot of heart and characters who will draw you in (for better or for worse). Samantha Chase will be going on my list of authors to keep an eye on - especially when I need a fun and sweet romance to get lost in.

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Blog Tour: Counting on You

I will read anything Laura Chapman writes. And *checks Goodreads* so far I have read everything she's written. Her books are always fun, sweet, a little sexy, realistic, and so well-written. Counting on You (just released today!) was no exception and I just loved it.

Here's the synopsis:
Is love worth the risk?
Math teacher Haleigh Parde has no desire to change her single status until she receives an invitation to her high school reunion. With her ex spreading rumors she needs a date and fast. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Haleigh finds herself meeting a blind date at a neighborhood bar called Amarillo Sour . . .
After watching Haleigh crash and burn, app developer Ian Henning makes her a proposition. If she'll provide honest feedback on his new dating app, he'll guarantee her a date to knock the socks off her former classmates. Even better, he—and the other Amarillo Sour regulars—will help her navigate the rocky road of dating.
Through setups ranging from awkward to absurd, Haleigh discovers her matchmaker might just be better than the matches. And Ian wonders if she's the answer to everything he's worked for professionally. Or is she something much, much more . . . 
Counting on You is the first book in a new series by Chapman which is excellent because she's created a really fun world at Amarillo Sour (which, incidentally, sounds like a bar I would totally have a beer or three at). The next book will feature another character but Haleigh and Ian will make an appearance so I can find out what they're up to now.

One of my favourite things about Chapman's books is she always creates characters I could be friends with and their worlds could easily be mine. This means I'm that much more invested in those characters and their lives. I know we, as readers, should try to read outside our comfort zone every once and awhile - and I try to do that - but I just really enjoy stories where I can connect and/or identify with the characters. Haleigh, like all of us, has her struggles and getting to know her as the book goes on, and as Ian also gets to know her, was so  great. I think I fell a little bit in love with her too.

I read this book immediately after finishing The Kiss Quotient and I realized there were a lot of similarities. Not enough to be boring or be considered exact carbon copies of each other but the basic storyline had a lot of similarities: a woman who's not great at dating using a stranger to help her date. Stella (from The Kiss Quotient) has Aspberger's and Haleigh has anxiety problems which also parallels. This comparison is a good thing, trust me. If you loved The Kiss Quotient (like I and every other rom-com lover out there), you must pick up Counting on You.

Reading as Haleigh went on so many (terrible, failed) dates was hilariously cringe-worthy. She was determined though and I loved that about her. Ian, as you might expect, took his job as coach and protector pretty seriously and it was fun to read as they slowly started to realize the feelings they had for each other. I don't think I really loved how things eventually blew up between them - it felt a tad too forced and/or convenient - but it was a minor thing. I was rooting for them the whole way through the novel and was really hoping for a Happily Ever After.

I would keep writing about Counting on You but I'll either give something away or flail nonsensically. Laura Chapman continues to be one of my favourite writers and you should definitely give her books a shot if you haven't yet. I can't wait for the next book in the Amarillo Sour series!

For you lucky readers in the US, there's a Rafflecopter giveaway happening for the duration of the tour (until September 2). Sorry to my fellow Canadians :(

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author
Laura Chapman is the author of sweet and sexy romantic comedies. A born and raised Nebraska girl, she loves watching football, traveling, crafting, and baking. When she isn’t writing her next story, she is probably working at a museum by day and binge-watching Netflix with her cats Jane and Bingley at night. So, basically, she’s living large.

You can find and contact Laura Chapman here:

You can buy Counting on You here:
* Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * Google Play * iTunes *

*An eARC of this novel was provided by the author and Lola's Blog Tours for the purposes of a blog tour in exchange for a review. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Review: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

I was looking forward to reading The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Holly Ringland's debut novel, the second I found out it was set in Australia. I've visited Australia twice now over the last 4ish years and it's one of my favourite places. This novel totally lived up to my expectations because the settings were magical and played such an important part in this great book.

Here's the synopsis:
An enchanting and captivating novel about how our untold stories haunt us — and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.
After her family suffers a tragedy, nine-year-old Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak.
Under the watchful eye of June and the women who run the farm, Alice settles, but grows up increasingly frustrated by how little she knows of her family’s story. In her early twenties, Alice’s life is thrown into upheaval again when she suffers devastating betrayal and loss. Desperate to outrun grief, Alice flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. In this otherworldly landscape Alice thinks she has found solace, until she meets a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.
Spanning two decades, set between sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart follows Alice’s unforgettable journey, as she learns that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.
As I said, the settings of this book were incredibly important to the overall story. It reminded me a lot of Anne of Green Gables and Lucy Maud Montgomery's other books. Anne and PEI are intertwined - you can't think of one without picturing the other - and her imagination and way she viewed the natural world around her are a huge reason the series is so delightful. Ringland does something similar with her novel and Alice. Plus, not only are the settings at the heart of each story but Alice and Anne have a lot in common. They're both orphans and neither had an ideal upbringing. Then, when they're still quite young, they're wrenched from the world and home they knew and brought somewhere completely different. And, coincidentally, red earth ends up being important to both women. (For Anne that's the dirt of PEI but you'll have to read Ringland's book to fully understand the importance to Alice.)

Plus, as a special added bonus, I'm fairly certain I've been in the areas Ringland imagined up for Alice. She notes in her Author's note that she made up the towns and National Park Alice visits later in the novel. But, based on the description of where Alice grew up and then moved to as well as where Ringland herself grew up, I was pretty sure the story took place somewhere near the Gold or Sunshine Coasts. Then, when I read the "In Gratitude" section, Ringland notes that she grew up on the land of the Bundjalung people. That's the area of of Australia I've been to and, like I said, I absolutely adore it. How can you not:

A photo I took the last time I was at Point Danger
Speaking of the Bundjalung people...I'm really glad Ringland made the stories of Australia's Aboriginal people of such high importance. I feel like their stories are continuously glossed over or completely erased and I hate it. (This is a fact in Australia and in Canada, where I live. We're getting better but we have so much more to do.) When I first went to Australia I climbed Mount Warning. It was an almost 9 kilometre (5.5 mile) round trip at an elevation of 1,159 m (3,802 ft). I wanted to throw up and/or cry while doing it (OK, I'm pretty sure I did actually cry) but I climbed the thing. The view was stunning:

A photo my boyfriend took on his second trip to Australia
But how does this relate to the book? Well, when I was planning for my last trip back in November, I thought that I'd give the climb another try. I was working out regularly and was pretty sure I would be able to make it up without shedding any tears. I wanted to check out the details to send to my friend who was coming with us when I started doing more reading. I had forgotten/not paid enough attention the last time that Mount Warning's original name, given to it by the Bundjalung people, is Wollumbin. It is considered a sacred space and they do not want people climbing it. I immediately knew I couldn't climb it again. The thought of knowingly ignoring the wishes of the people whose land had been taken away from them made me almost as nauseous as when I tried to climb the mountain (karma?). I appreciated that Ringland told the stories of the Aboriginal people (even though she made up the Park and tribe) and how they did not want people picking flowers or taking dirt from the park. It might seem trivial but it's really not. And, again, I'm so glad Ringland put focus on it.

Now that I've gushed about the natural setting of the novel, how about the rest of it? It was delightful in a heart-wrenching, family drama kind of way. Alice is a character who will completely get under your skin and you won't be able to rest until you find out how her story ends. Which I really want to talk about but that would be a spoiler so I have so many thoughts I need to hold in. Bah.

Oh, and I just loved how each chapter started with a line drawing, name, meaning, and description of Australian flowers.

This flower has particular significance to the story. 
The novel is well-written though I sometimes found the intentional vagueness irritating. Ringland doesn't exactly say when the novel takes place but I think it starts in the past when Alice is 9 and then she's 26 in present day. I can see why she wouldn't want to make it specific because then the story will have a more timeless quality but it was actually really distracting for me. So was not knowing where the book was taking place but that was my own personal thing :) Other than that tiny annoyance, I thought the story flowed well considering it starts when Alice is 9, has a brief stop when she's 17ish, and then ends at 26. The story wasn't overly flowery (ha...pun intended) and, though it may seem contradictory to how much I swooned over the descriptions of the scenery, it wasn't bogged down in descriptive language. And yet I could still perfectly picture the settings and characters Ringland created.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is unique and, other than Anne, I can't think of any other book like it. Holly Ringland's debut novel is a page-turner that will reach deep into your soul and have you completely engrossed in the story. I think Alice is a character everyone should meet and her story is one that will stick with you long after you've turned the last page.

*An Advance Reading Copy was provided by the publisher, House of Anansi Press, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Review: The Simple Wild

I've been reading K.A. Tucker's books for...well, years. I've been lucky enough to meet her a handful of times and she's a wonderful person on top of being an excellent writer. I love every book of hers I've read. But this last one? The Simple Wild is, hands down, my favourite of all of her books. It may even be one of my favourite books of the year.

Here's the synopsis:
Calla Fletcher wasn't even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren’s days may be numbered, she knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.
She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah—the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.
Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago. It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.
I'm usually the type of reader who likes to read about characters who could be my friend - particularly when reading contemporary novels. It's a narrow viewpoint to have, I know, but I just love it when I can tell I'd be BFFs with the heroine. I don't think Calla and I would be immediate friends - we're quite different. But that was ok. I was wary of her - just like everyone in Alaska was - but eventually I realized she is more than her appearance and had a heart of gold is tucked under all the Instagram filters and expensive clothes. I am so with her on roughing it though. I would not have been impressed with missing suitcases or being stranded in a cabin for awhile without running water. I don't even like camping! But I digress. Calla is a wonderfully layered character who I fell in love with in the end.

And, as much as Calla was the heroine in this story, she didn't get all the focus. Every other character you meet is important - even if it's just a fleeting passing moment at the grocery store (I choose that character to reference in particular because her name was Kayley and I maintain Tucker should have dropped that middle 'y'). Jonah, Wren (Calla's dad), Agnes, and Mabel add so much depth to the story and I can't imagine the novel without them or the other supporting characters. I do find it interesting that I got more of a feel for Simon, Calla's step-father, than I did of her mom. I don't know if it was intentional. Her mom was the reason they left Alaska after all when Calla was so young. I also wonder if there was more of a comparison to be made between Simon and Wren that made way for an eventual acceptance that both men can be father figures to Calla.

I found The Simple Wild to be a much more emotional book than Tucker has written in the past. I finished the last part of the book at work on my lunch break even though I knew I was going to be hit with a few emotional gut punches. Yes, I could have waited to finish it at home where I could actually allow myself to shed a few tears but I couldn't wait that long to see how Calla's story finished off. I was so tangled up in the stories and emotions Tucker had written that I needed to know how it was resolved even though I knew it was going to break my heart. I was so invested in this book and found myself thinking of it often throughout the day when I wasn't reading it. I was so into it that it actually helped me get my butt out of bed at 5am to be in Toronto for 9am because I knew I'd have an hour-ish train ride to read Calla's story. I am not a morning person so this was a hella powerful book.

Speaking of Toronto, this is the first of Tucker's books to be set (partially) in Canada, where both she and I live. There aren't enough contemporary novels set in Canada so I'm always thrilled when I find one that is. I especially love when it's set somewhere that I recognize. In the first few pages, Calla is heading home on the TTC - which is what the Toronto public transit system is called. I don't live in Toronto but I've been on the subway enough (and a streetcar a time or two) that I could see and feel exactly what Calla was seeing and feeling. I also giggled when I realized the two giant raccoons that were terrorizing Calla's Toronto home were most likely named Tim and Sid after two sports talk show hosts.

And that cover? Sa-woon.

I don't know what else I can really say about The Simple Wild. I loved it so much and it left a serious imprint on my heart. If you've never read any of K.A. Tucker's books (seriously, what are you waiting for?) I highly encourage you to pick this one up if you can afford it or borrow it from your library. It's wonderful and well written and just...great. And once you read it can we please talk about it? Because I'm not ready to let Calla, Jonah, and Wren go.

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

Friday, August 3, 2018

Mini Reviews: Contemporary YA Edition

Raise your hand if you have a library card. And raise the other if you use it frequently. *looks around* Good. Glad to see many of you using your library. I, like many voracious readers, don't have the funds to buy all the books I'd like to read. Enter my public library. I use it a lot for book club books and any of the YA titles I want to read but don't get for review. This summer I read two wonderful contemporary YA novels that I really wanted to talk (read: flail) about on the blog.

My YA reading is pretty much restricted to contemporary YA books these days and even then it's only a certain few authors that I make the time for (so many books, so little time). I put Morgan Matson's Save the Date on hold as soon as it was available and was anxiously waiting for it to come in. I honestly didn't even know what the book was about (but you can read the synopsis here) but Matson has become an autoread author for me in recent years. I had the chance to go to a meet and greet before her first ever Canadian tour date where my blogger friend Tiff - from Mostly YA Lit - interviewed her. But...I have a new job and only so much wiggle room on asking for time off plus I'm not super close to where the event was happening. *sobs*

This book was pretty much impossible for me to put down and I had it finished in a weekend. It was smart, funny, and genuine - things I look for in almost every book I read. I was completely sucked into Charlie's life and, as is usual when I read YA books these days, I found myself wanting to play the big sister to Charlie and help her figure out her life. I'm the eldest in real life anyway, plus I'm so much older than the teens I'm reading about now, so it's inevitable that I'll start feeling protective of these girls. Even though I wanted to swoop in and tell her what I thought she should do, I knew she had a great head on her shoulders and she'd figure out on her own what the best path for her would be. That's what being a teenager is all about, isn't it? Making your mistakes, learning from them, and growing as a person.

The Canadians in the crowd will definitely understand me when I say the cartoon Charlie's mom drew totally reminded me of For Better or For Worse, a strip by Lynn Johnston that I was obsessed with growing up (seriously, I still have the book collections). Charlie's mom's strip Grant Central Station, like FBorFW, shows the characters aging in real time. Plus, there were older siblings and a much younger sibling (or siblings) in both, and a dog. I clearly was on the right track because this came up during the event I missed and Tiff, with her amazing recap, mentioned it. LOVE.

Finally, I loved that this book was about Charlie and her family (as well as a little bit about her friends). The boy troubles were totally realistic because, hello, she's 18 and interested in boys so of course they're going to come up in her life. But they weren't the point of the story. She very much was figuring out herself and her place in her family and the world in general. The love story was secondary (but no less welcome).

   *   *   *   

I also try to make time for really great books I wouldn't necessarily read when bloggers I trust can't stop talking about them. This time it was Ginger (of GReads!) flailing about Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian. (Synopsis is here on Goodreads) I wholeheartedly trust Ginger's opinion so on the reserve list it went and I happily dived in when it arrived. And oh - how sweet it was!

These novels were actually quite similar (which is kind of fun/odd because the two authors are friends). Both stories featured smart, funny, sort of shy girls who had just finished or were finishing high school and were looking forward to their next step - college. Every summer I always find myself thinking of the year I was getting ready to go to university and how much of a big deal that summer was. I had some major changes that year, just like Amelia and Charlie. I finished high school, was finishing my final summer at the library where I had worked all through high school (and wanted to work at since I was little, just like Amelia with the ice cream shop), and I started dating someone new even though he was staying behind for another semester and I was moving 2+ hours away. (Spoiler alert: we're still together 13 years later.) That summer between high school and university/college is just so magical and I really, really love reading stories set during that time - especially when they're so amazing. Stay Sweet was great and I am SO GLAD I made the time to read it.

I'm a big ice cream fan (Revelation: I don't know if I can fully trust anyone who isn't...) but I also try to make sure I only eat really good ice cream. I could totally identify with the popularity of Meade Creamery and found myself constantly comparing it to a local ice cream shop I was introduced to a year or so after moving to the area I'm in now - Avondale Dairy Bar. Not only do they both have the family run business feel but I pretty much only see teenagers working at Avondale and most of them are girls, just like at Meade Creamery. I adored that only girls were allowed to work at the ice cream shop and couldn't get enough of Amelia describing how they all helped each other out and the older girls were like another set of older sisters for the newbies. It was also feminist AF and I loved one scene where Grady says Amelia is being bossy and she totally calls him out on it and tells him he's being rude. He immediately apologizes. (Also - I'm writing this almost a month after reading it so I'm kinda paraphrasing.)

I really loved Amelia - probably because she reminded me a lot of myself at that age. Only she's way more confident than I was and had a better sense of her future than I did. (Hell, than I do now at 31.)

Overall, these two books are MUST. READS. for your summer. Or fall. Or holiday. Just read them. And gift them to all the teens in your life because every reader needs to meet Charlie and Amelia because they are absolutely amazing characters. And suddenly I'm craving ice cream...but what else is new?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Cover Reveal: Until the Last Star Fades

I've read Jacquelyn Middleton's London novels (my review of London Belongs to Me is here and London, Can You Wait? is here) and adored them. Because I liked them so much, I'm really excited for her upcoming novel, Until the Last Star Fades. It sounds amazing and I get to share the cover with you today! Plus, a little bit of info about the novel. Enjoy!

From Jacquelyn Middleton, the award-winning author of London Belongs to Me and London, Can You Wait?, comes Until the Last Star Fades, a friends-to-lovers contemporary romance set in New York City. Until the Last Star Fades features plenty of angst and sexy times, but it also tells the tale of an unbreakable bond between a mother and her daughter.

Here's the synopsis:
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 romance about love, loss, sacrifice, and the life-changing decisions we make. UNTIL THE LAST STAR FADES will be released by Kirkwall Books in paperback and ebook on November 8, 2018. 
Ready for the cover?

Whee! I'm so excited.

Now that you've seen the cover and read what it's all about, you should add it to your Goodreads TBR list. And don't worry - pre-order links will be coming soon enough.

I don't want to wish the summer away but I sure am looking forward to the release of this novel in November! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Review: The Start of Something Good

I'm a broken record when it comes to talking about romance novels. I've said time and time again that I love reading really good romances and don't care that I know the basic formula of the plot going in. I argue that many romance readers read them specifically because they know they're going to get a satisfying ending. A lot of us read to "escape" our lives for a little while and if a sweet, sexy, fun Happily Ever After novel isn't a good escape, I don't know what is. My point? I just read The Start of Something Good by Jennifer Probst which I was downright thrilled to read even if it wasn't the best book I've ever read in my life. I read it because I wanted to see a couple fall in love and ride off into the sunset and Probst gave me that. And for that, I say I really enjoyed the book.

Here's the synopsis:
When Ethan Bishop returns to the Hudson Valley, his body and spirit are a little worse for wear. As a former Special Forces paratrooper, he saw his fair share of conflict, and he came home with wounds, inside and out. At his sisters’ B & B and farm, he can keep all his pain at a safe distance. But quiet time isn’t easy when a fiery woman explodes into his life…
It’s business—not pleasure—that brings Manhattan PR agent Mia Thrush reluctantly to the farm. Tightly wound and quick tempered, Mia clashes immediately with the brooding Ethan. Everything about him is irritating—from his lean muscles and piercing blue eyes to his scent of sweat and musk.
But as the summer unfolds and temperatures rise, Ethan and Mia discover how much they have in common: their guarded histories, an uncontrollable desire, and a passion for the future that could heal two broken hearts. But will their pasts threaten their fragile chance at a brand-new future?
Of course, as much as I enjoyed my time reading this book there were a few things that sort of drove me bananas. The first was Mia's job. Well, not the job itself as, spoiler alert, I actually work in PR myself and am just a year older than Mia is. Our differences is Mia started her working life in PR whereas I've only recently jumped into the field. Even though my position is very different (I'm a bottom rung of the ladder, grunt work kind of girl right now), I can still see what it would be like for Mia in an organization such as the firm I work for. Sort of. I find novels, romances in particular, tend to stereotype jobs a little bit and I found Probst did that with Mia and PR. Even though Ethan eventually realizes his assumptions about her were totally off  (once she set him straight), I just found the shiny veneer on Mia's job kind of...fake and unsettling. I guess my problem is with the romance genre in general making PR professionals only work in the big city and that it's "giving up" if they do the same work in a smaller town. OK. Ending my nonsensical rant about PR in romance now. (Maybe there's a potential for a bigger story there though...)

I also found that I sometimes wanted more showing instead of telling. Ethan and Mia have to have a big conversation at some point but...I didn't get to "listen in" on it. Mia recapped it and I felt a bit jilted. And bored. It happened a few times throughout the novel and it was weirdly difficult to tell how quickly (or slowly) time was going.

But overall? I totally loved the story and the idea behind it, even if it wasn't always executed as well as I thought it should have been. I really liked diving into Mia and Ethan's story and found it hard to leave both when I was reading and had to put the book down and then especially as I finished it.

I think what made this book so special for me wasn't even the romance. It was actually how Mia and Ethan both took Chloe under their wings, in different ways, to help her realize she is wanted and she is smart and talented. It was just so amazing to see how everyone at the farm pulled together to help Chloe, Mia, and Ethan realize what they really needed in their lives.

Which brings me to my next point...I'm so glad this is the first book in a series. I wasn't sure if I'd want to read the next ones because from a "is this book actually good?" perspective I was hesitant. But from a "is this story really good?" perspective, I cannot wait for book two. (I feel like that comparison will only make sense to voracious readers like myself!) Ophelia's story, A Brand New Ending, is being published in October.

Also - when can I book my stay at Robin's Nest B&B? I need some of Ophelia's scones.

I know this review is all over the place but here's what you really need to know: if you enjoy romances, you should definitely read The Start of Something Good by Jennifer Probst. The characters are fantastic (Mia is wicked smart and feisty), the setting is delightful (those who love small town tropes, like me, will fall in love), and the love story is so sweet and real.

*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, July 10, 2018

Review: Dear Mrs. Bird

Dear Mrs. Bird is in turn both heartwarming and humorous. AJ Pearce's debut (I still can't believe it's her first published novel) presents a heroine who will stay with me for a long time and a story that is equally as memorable. This novel was such a delight to read and I couldn't bear to put it down or see it end.

Here's the synopsis:
London, 1940. Emmeline Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent suddenly seem achievable. But the job turns out to be working as a typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.
Mrs. Bird is very clear: letters containing any Unpleasantness must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant notes from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write back to the readers who have poured out their troubles.
Prepare to fall head over heels for Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are gutsy and spirited, even in the face of a terrible blow. The irrepressible Emmy keeps writing letters in this hilarious and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.
I've realized recently that, while I don't read a great deal of historical fiction, the ones I read the most of tend to take place somewhere between 1900 and 1950. Basically, a lot of stories set during or around two major wars. You'd think it would get dreary but I've been lucky in finding stories that are practically perfect and are utterly absorbing. Dear Mrs. Bird is another example of a World War II set novel I've read in recent months that I absolutely adored. For your interest and further reading, the others include Jennifer Robson's Goodnight from London, Kate Quinn's The Alice Network, Ellen Keith's The Dutch Wife, and Genevieve Graham's Come from Away. (I just did a count and I've read 8 historical novels in 2018. 5 of them take place during or just after WWII and another was set in WWI.) It actually felt like Pearce had written this book in 1940 because the phrases she uses and the scenes she set felt so incredibly realistic. Of course I don't know what it was like to be in London during WWII but I feel like I've read enough books and watched enough movies set in that time to get a sense when something doesn't feel right.

I've been seeing Dear Mrs. Bird compared to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (which, incidentally, I've only just recently read and loved to bits. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend the audiobook.) and I think that comparison needs some clarity. Both novels take place in and around London in the 1940s. Mrs. Bird occurs in 1940, right in the thick of the Blitz, and Guernsey takes place in 1946, after WWII is over. Both novels have absolutely delightful heroines who have a wonderful group of colleagues and friends. But where things get tricky is when readers are led to expect in Mrs. Bird the kind of letter writing Guernsey gave us. It's so not the case. I wasn't expecting that so I wasn't surprised or let down but I know other people have been. Such is the danger of comparing books - especially when one is so well known for something special (like Guernsey is with it being such a perfect example of an epistolary novel).

But let's talk about Emmy. She was an absolute gem. She was sweet and funny and sometimes horribly awkward and a bit misguided. But I really thought her heart was in the right place throughout. And what a heart she had! She was such a kind person - I don't know how anyone could think otherwise - and so desperately wanted to do her bit for the war efforts. I loved that she had spunk and I worried about what her life would be like after the war when women would start to be forced back into the home. Her friendship with Bunty is so precious and Pearce did such a wonderful job of writing about it that I really wanted to be friends with them too.

One thing that blows me away with novels such as this is the reinforcement of the "keep calm and carry on" mentality people in London had during the war. I am constantly amazed when reading these stories that the people were able to persevere and go about their lives as normally as possible during months of nightly (or near-nightly) bombings. I know there's not much else to do but buck up and go about your business I'm not sure how easily I would have been able to carry on with my daily life.

The actual narrative of the novel is a good one but, I've realized this while writing my review, it's not what's going to make Dear Mrs. Bird memorable for me. I loved that it gave me a glimpse into the lighter side of a period of time that we so often think of only in terms of how awful it was (don't get me wrong, a world war is hella awful). This novel was more than the plot for me, even if it was really well written and had a good pace (until the end...I do feel the end was a tad rushed).

I could go on and on about Dear Mrs. Bird - about how it will tug at your heartstrings while also making you laugh out loud, about the wonderful characters, and more - but I really want you to find out how wonderful AJ Pearce's debut novel is for yourself. Buy it or borrow it from a friend or the library but get your hands on a copy if you're a historical fiction fan. I really don't think you'll be disappointed.

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

Friday, July 6, 2018

Review: Dirty Exes

What you see (or read) is what you get with Dirty Exes by Rachel Van Dyken. Which, depending on your mood, could be good or bad. It was great for me because I was in the mood for a romance with some humour and heart and Dirty Exes, the first book in a new series, totally delivered.

Here's the synopsis:
Blaire has never quite gotten over Jessie Beckett, the ex–NFL star whose kisses were hot enough to ignite the entire Eastern Seaboard. When he chose work over her, Blaire was left brokenhearted. Why else would she have married a skeezy two-timer, just to divorce him less than a year later?
Now Blaire is getting even by becoming one half of Dirty Exes, a PI firm fully committed to humiliating cheating jerks. If only the new jerk she’s been hired to uncover wasn’t Jessie Beckett himself.
Exposing Jessie isn’t going to be easy, especially when she still daydreams about his sexy smile. Further complicating matters is Colin, Jessie’s best friend. He’s gorgeous, a little bit cunning, and willing to help Blaire get the inside scoop on Jessie—for a price.
Now caught between two men—one totally right and the other totally wrong—Blaire will need to decide just how much she’s willing to risk…and whom she’s willing to risk it for.
Was Dirty Exes the best rom com I've ever read? No. But did it give me exactly what I hoped it would (which was some swoons and some laughs)? Yes, absolutely. I love romance novels because I know just what I'm going to get with the story but I especially love the ones that are really well written and provide a great story line along the way to the Happily Ever After.

The story is told from three perspectives - Blaire, Colin, and Jessie - and each is first person. I liked how that worked because you got a sense of what each character was really thinking and feeling. This was especially useful in this story because there were so many secrets between the three of them that it would have been really hard to figure out Colin and Jessie's motives had the story only been told from Blaire's perspective.

The first person narrative also created a very informal, conversational type of storytelling. Lines and thoughts were sometimes choppy which can be a bit weird to read but if you think of it more as though you're following along with the character's train of thought it usually works. For example, this little excerpt shows how Blaire is working through a revelation about Jessie (it's not a spoiler because you learn these details early on through Jessie's POV):
Vanessa was living with him.
Living. With. Him.
And he was flirting with me. With his wife still under his roof.
My phone buzzed again.
I grabbed it and checked my messages.
You see what I mean? It's odd to see that all written out but it's exactly as you would be saying it either to a friend or inwardly as you worked out the issue.

I had a hard time really getting to know Blaire because she had so many walls up. I couldn't really see how she fell for Jessie the first time and why she was so crushed when he left. I also didn't see any glimpse of the woman who would have run straight into the arms of a "nice guy" who ended up being an ass who also broke her heart. She was angry and bitter and I really needed to see her let those feelings go. She was a complicated character whose layers weren't quite as fleshed out as I would have hoped for.

I really wasn't sure how the Happily Ever After was going to work out. I hadn't reread the synopsis before diving in so I had forgotten that I wasn't supposed to be sure who Blaire would end up with. I was sure it would be Jessie but then I realized she was starting to fall for Colin too but, wait, does she actually still love Jessie more? It was a back and forth that kept me on my toes.

All in all, Dirty Exes was a fun read for me. I liked meeting all the characters Rachel Van Dyken created and I'd definitely like to catch up with some - or all - of them in the next book, Dangerous Exes.

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Blog Tour: Matchmaking for Beginners

You need to suspend your beliefs ever so slightly when reading Maddie Dawson's new novel, Matchmaking for Beginners. If you can do that, accept the magic of matchmaking, and open your heart to some quirky characters...well, you'll probably fall in love with this story or, at the very least, find yourself being charmed and entertained throughout.

Here's the synopsis:
Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.
When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.
And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.
This book was, in a word, delightful. It isn't perfect but it still found its way into my heart and my head. I found it hard to put down and would think about it when I was supposed to be busy doing other things. 

I loved Marnie. I felt like I really identified with her, even though I don't think we're that much alike. Maybe she's just one of those people that you can't help but be drawn to and want to be friends with. She's adorably unsure of herself and determined to get the life she thinks she wants. Problem is - that life isn't exactly what she needs. Blix knows what Marnie needs and works her particular brand of magic to make sure it works out - even once Blix is in the after-life. 

The magic I speak of isn't really magic. I wouldn't really call this book magic realism but there's a hint of supernatural in Blix and Marnie's matchmaking capabilities. Blix had a few "spells" she worked on people. It was like she could pass on love and good feelings to anyone she wanted to. Marnie saw sparkles when she was matchmaking and I kind of wished I could see them too. 

This book would not be what it is without the cast of supporting characters. They are the most eclectic bunch of wonderful oddballs and I loved them all. It was no wonder Blix and Marnie did too. Jessica was the perfect best friend for Marnie and I'm so glad they had each other. Sammy, Jessica's son, was too cute and my heart broke for him because he just wanted his parents to get back together. I loved reading as Marnie slowly - and awkwardly - brought Patrick out of his shell. And Lola, Blix's best friend, was a hoot. They really brought so much colour and life to the whole story and I had so much fun meeting all of them.

And that cover! I adored it. Though, if I have to find a fault, I'd say it's with the dog. He just doesn't fit. I was also very concerned there wouldn't even be a dog but, after finishing the book, I can see why he was put on the stoop with the couple. But I just love the colours and the art so much. 

If you're feeling down, Maddie Dawson's Matchmaking for Beginners is sure to bring a smile or three to your face. It was a quick read for me that was perfect for reading on the park bench on my lunch break.

Psst - I have some good news! Thomas Allen & Son is giving away a hardcover copy of Matchmaking for Beginners to a lucky Canadian reader. Fill out the Rafflecopter below and they'll notify the winner via email when the giveaway ends on July 13th at 11:59 pm EST. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Maddie Dawson
Maddie Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers. Her various careers as a substitute English teacher, department-store clerk, medical-records typist, waitress, cat sitter, wedding-invitation-company receptionist, nanny, day care worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco maker were made bearable by thinking up stories as she worked. Today she lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of five previous novels: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal.

Follow Maddie
Website * Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads  

*A copy of this novel was provided by the distributor, Thomas Allan & Son, in exchange for a review for the purpose of a blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: Golden Hour

It seemed like I had been waiting forever for the next book in Chantel Guertin's Pippa Greene series. But now that Golden Hour is finally here, I'm a bit sad. It's the fourth and final book in the series and I'm not sure I'm ready to say goodbye to Pippa.

Here's the synopsis:
It’s senior year, and the college countdown is on. But instead of getting accepted to Tisch’s photography program, Pippa’s been waitlisted. Without a backup plan, and with the pressure from everyone around her to live up to her father’s legacy, Pippa sets out to prove herself worthy of the program by doing the opposite of everything she did to try to get in. But when she runs into her ex, and first love, Dylan McCutter, Pippa has to finally decide if she should follow her head or her heart.
Written with the same humor and heart that made Chantel Guertin’s first three Pippa Greene novels instant favorites, Golden Hour offers a fresh and charming perspective on friendships, family, and first love.
The book had a bit of a Jenny Han feeling to it. I think it reminded me a lot of Always and Forever, Lara Jean because Pippa and Lara Jean aren't too different in character. Also, both of the final books in each series had the main characters figuring out what life after high school was going to look like. So, basically, what I'm saying is: if you like Lara Jean and Jenny Han's books, you'll also like Pippa.

Pippa is a smart girl but she's still a teenager so she makes some questionable choices. I put myself into a mindset of a grade 12 student (a senior for you Americans) and went along for the ride. She knows what she should be doing but that doesn't necessarily mean that's what she wants to be doing. Pippa figured out a lot about life in this one and how being true to yourself is going to make for such a better life than trying to be someone or something you think you should be.

I kind of laughed at myself when I realized I was questioning the motivations of the adults and wondering where the hell they were when they didn't realize that Pippa had only applied to one college. But then I remembered that I'm supposed to be an "adult" and I probably would have trusted Pippa too and moved on to worrying about my own life. But, seriously, Pippa? One school?

I almost wish Dylan hadn't reappeared because I wanted Pippa to focus on her own life and figuring her stuff out. I know that's not what life is like sometimes (hello, I started dating someone two weeks before graduation and decided to try the long distance thing so clearly I was doing both the romance and life figuring out at the same time. We're still together, btw.) but I do wish that novels didn't always have to have some sort of love story. Is it really necessary to sell books?

All in all, I liked Golden Hour. I adore Pippa and kind of really want to find out what she'd be like as an adult because I'm pretty sure we'd be friends. I'm looking forward to whatever Chantel Guertin writes next even though I'll be missing Pippa for awhile. Now that the whole series is out, it's a perfect time to read all of them back to back. And they'd make a great gift for any teen readers in your life for a summer reading project!

PS Definitely check out my friend Jess' review of this book as well over on her blog, The Paper-Trail Diary. She has a lot of the same thoughts I did and puts them together much better than I think I did.

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

Monday, June 11, 2018

HarperCollins Meet and Greet: Joanna Goodman and Ellen Keith

Last month I had the chance to attend a meet and greet event at the new HarperCollins Canada offices in downtown Toronto. I live outside of the city so I can't often make it in to evening events on a weekday. However, I have a new job and we have a Toronto office so I made plans to work there for the day so I could walk a few blocks over to the event after work. Win all around!

I was excited for the event for all sorts of reasons. One was that I hadn't seen the new HarperCollins offices yet. A few fellow YA bloggers had been to a Frenzy event and I was a bit envious of the views they had. I settled myself into a window seat at the event, not really thinking about my fear of heights. Probably not the wisest decision as this was the view:

Pretty incredible though, right? I just kept telling myself not to look all the way down (after I had snapped this shot, of course) which was easier said than done as the windows were floor to ceiling. Amazing but a bit fear inducing for me!

The authors being featured at this event (which took place on May 2) were Joanna Goodman and Ellen Keith. Both women had recently published historical fiction novels. Joanna's, The Home for Unwanted Girls, released on April 17th and Ellen's, The Dutch Wife, on April 24th. The books were new but I had read both for Niagara Life, a magazine I review for. I really enjoyed both of them so I jumped at the chance to hear them speak and get signed copies of both books.

Check out the synopsis of each book on Goodreads:
The Home for Unwanted Girls
The Dutch Wife

I wasn't the only one who enjoyed these books either. Both women debuted on The Globe and Mail bestseller lists. Joanna at number 1 the week her book came out and Ellen, a week later, at number 2. How amazing is that?

I believe this is actually as Kaiti announced Ellen debuting on
the bestseller list. I love seeing how happy Joanna is for her.
One of the best things I learned from the talk was that both women fell down a bit of a research rabbit hole while working on their books. Joanna knew she wanted to tell a story of a woman giving up her baby in 1950s Quebec and Ellen wanted to give a Nazi a chance to tell their perspective of WWII. Ellen had done some traveling in Germany and wondered how they were being taught the history of the war compared to what we may be told over here in North America. Both women's vague ideas were made so much richer by the research they found. Joanna's research led her to Duplessis Orphans (check out Wikipedia for a brief overview). Ellen learned about what happened in Argentina during the Dirty War plus about the brothels at prison and labour camps during WWII.

Joanna said that she'd been working on this book for "half her life" and found it very difficult to find first-hand accounts of the orphans. She said it wasn't surprising because the children would not have received a formal education so their literacy would be limited. She did find one instance where a child had put together her story and talked to a journalist who, in turn, published an article. Joanna said that it was so helpful finding that book because it confirmed the perspective she had of the orphans.

Ellen answering a question either from Kaiti (right) or the audience.
The women were asked if there was a pressure to tell their historical stories "correctly" and they both responded with a strong yes. Ellen said she was terrified that someone would come and tell her that she got it all wrong. Joanna agreed. Joanna was less concerned with the factual errors or inconsistencies than with the emotional ones. She just didn't know exactly how the orphans would have felt. Ellen has a history degree and found herself getting too focused on getting every little detail right and she didn't know how to handle the gaps in the research. In the end she learned that the novel should be more about the heart and essence of what you're trying to communicate than cold, hard facts.

The authors also went into more detail on how, exactly, the first seeds of their story were planted. Joanna's novel was kind of her mother's story and Maggie was written almost entirely as her mother (apart from the giving up a baby part of the novel). It was bittersweet for Joanna as her mom passed away before the book was published. Ellen wanted to write an homage to her grandparents who lived in the Netherlands during the war. While Marijka is spunky just like Ellen's grandmother was, Ellen's heroine is not really based on anyone in particular.

As is inevitable at events such as this, someone asked what advice the women would give to aspiring authors. Ellen said to never, ever give up. She also suggests finding other people who love reading and writing and have them read your work. That really helped keep her going. Joanna absolutely agreed and added that you need to have a thick skin as you'll have to learn to ignore every rejection. She also said that writing workshops have been the best thing for her career. Both women shared stories that showed how finding people you trust can be the best thing for your writing as they have more distance from the work itself and can sometimes provide a better perspective.

The authors graciously signed all of our copies.
It was a wonderful evening and I'm very thankful HarperCollins Canada allowed me to take part in the event. We all got a copy of each book and had the chance to have them signed by Ellen and Joanna. It was nice to have a quick moment to chat with each other where I could tell them I really enjoyed their novels. Joanna also let me know, once she learned where I was from, that she should have a couple of events in Niagara in the fall so I'm looking forward to that!

Two more signed books to add to my collection.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: The Wild Heir

The Wild Heir AMAZON (1)

About two months ago I read Karina Halle's The Swedish Prince (you can read my review here in case you missed it). It was a lovely addition to royal fiction and I enjoyed it. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the book she was planning next, The Wild Heir, which was going to feature Magnus, the Prince of Norway (not the real prince...all her royals are fictional). Don't tell Prince Viktor but...I loved Magnus and his story so much more. It was really enjoyable - and timely since Royal Wedding coverage was everywhere as I was reading it.

Here's the synopsis:
At first glance I probably seem like any good-looking guy in their late twenties. I have an obscene amount of confidence, a tattooed body sculpted by the Nordic gods, and I love the ladies as much as they love me.
If I’m not BASE jumping or car racing, I’m chasing other devious thrills with the woman of the week. And that’s fine if you’re the average single guy.
But I'm not the average single guy.
I’m Crown Prince Magnus of Norway and my latest scandal just landed my entire royal family in hot water.
Now the only way the monarchy can save face is for me to smarten up – publicly. If I don’t, I’ll no longer be heir apparent to the throne. So it’s either I abdicate my future role as King or… I get married.
To a blue-blooded stranger.
Enter Princess Isabella of the tiny country of Liechtenstein.
Quiet, intelligent, and uniquely beautiful, Ella doesn’t like this arrangement any more than I do and she’s not afraid to show it. She says I’m a womanizer, that I don’t take anything seriously, that my ego should be taken down a few pegs, and I think she aims to make me miserable for the rest of my life.
But even as our arranged marriage becomes a war of wit and words, I’m determined to break through Ella’s prim and proper façade to find the wild, sexual and risk-taking woman underneath. I want to uncover the Queen inside her.
The only question is – will she let me?
Like many of Halle's books (actually, I think it might be all of them but can't say for certain), the story is told from two perspectives. In the case of The Wild Heir, readers hear from both Magnus and Ella. I like having both main characters represented because the story always feels so much more in depth and richer for it. I also like that it doesn't always alternate evenly. A chapter may end with Ella but instead of automatically switching back to Magnus, Halle might stay with Ella because her thoughts and part of that story isn't finished yet. Halle knows how to tell her characters' stories so well which is one of the reasons I love her books.

Halle is always very clear that her books are standalones even if they play off each other. I'm a pretty big series purist so I always recommend reading all the previous books before because then you won't be spoiled or missing out on any particular storylines. But this one? Totally can stand on its own. Viktor shows up for one fun weekend plot point but Maggie is really only mentioned in passing. So, if you want a royal marriage, pick this one up, dive in, and don't worry about feeling left out. 

I had an idea of Magnus in my head after reading The Swedish Prince and it was not unlike what Ella thought of Magnus before she got to know him. It was a lesson to both of us (and I'm sure many other readers as well) that you should never assume you know what someone is really like, especially when they're in the public eye. I know Ella was happy with the man she got to know over the course of the novel and I was too. Magnus also really grew as a man which was really great to see and I liked that Halle didn't make it too obvious. She never veered away from his true character. I would really like to read another book about Ella and Magnus in part because I'd like to see how Ella grew and evolved after their marriage. And I just really want to read more about them!

The slow burn of their relationship was perfection. The whole arranged marriage thing could have been done so badly but Halle did it well. I loved reading as Ella and Magnus slowly (oh so slowly) got to know each other. Ella seemed like a skittish colt but she was a strong woman who wasn't about to get pushed around by some brutish prince. 

The Wild Heir was a delight to read - it was funny, deep, and sexy - three things I always look for in my romances. I'm fairly certain you're going to fall in love with Magnus and Ella once you read their story. So what are you waiting for? Get your own copy and discover Norwegian royalty for yourself!

*An eARC of this novel was provided by Social Butterfly PR in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

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Meet Karina
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, Love, in English, The Artists Trilogy, Dirty Angels and over 20 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.
Halle is represented by the Root Literary and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Review: Still Water

I had heard of Amy Stuart's novel Still Mine when it was released back in 2016 but never did get around to reading it. (So many books, so little time.) But when I heard Still Water was being published I thought I should give it a try. And am I ever glad I did. I didn't want to put this book down and I'm sure you won't either.

Here's the synopsis:
How do you find the truth in a town full of secrets?
Clare has to find them.
Sally Proulx and her young boy have mysteriously disappeared in the stormy town of High River. Clare is hired to track them down, hoping against all odds to find them alive. But High River isn’t your typical town. It’s a place where women run to—women who want to escape their past. They run to Helen Haines, a matriarch who offers them safe haven and anonymity. Pretending to be Sally’s long-lost friend, Clare turns up and starts asking questions, but nothing prepares her for the swirl of deception and the depth of the lies.
Did Sally drown? Did her son? Was it an accident, or is their disappearance part of something bigger?
In a town where secrets are crucial to survival, everyone is hiding something. Detectives Somers and Rourke clearly have an ulterior motive beyond solving the case. Malcolm Boon, who hired Clare, knows more about her than he reveals. And Helen is concealing a tragic family history of her own. As the truth surges through High River, Clare must face the very thing she has so desperately been running from, even if it comes at a devastating cost. Compulsively gripping and twisty, Still Water is a deep dive of a thriller that will leave you breathless.
As I hadn't read the first book about Clare, I was especially paying attention to how Stuart would recap (or not) Still Mine. I think she did a great job of giving background information a new reader would need but that I don't think would bore a reader who already knows Clare's history. I definitely think you can dive into Still Water (er, no pun intended) without having read Still Mine but I think you'll have an even richer reading experience if you read both.

I was pretty much addicted to this story. It's really fast paced with all sorts of twists and turns. I found myself thinking of it often when I wasn't reading it and couldn't wait to see how it would all turn out. I really had no idea how Stuart was going to have things end up. I loved that.

There were a lot of secrets in this novel. As I said, I wasn't sure how the story would end because I really wasn't sure who to trust and who was telling even part of a truth. No one was who they seemed which made fitting the puzzle pieces together so difficult. Once I neared the end of the book I realized how easily it all came together which I think is a sign of a great mystery.

Clare was a really interesting character. I had only met her well after she had run away from her husband so I'm not totally sure of what kinds of abuse she really suffered. What I do know is that many people are and were doubting her because of her past history with drugs. It was so frustrating that so many people - including a close friend - had this bias. Almost like they thought that because she did drugs, she deserved what she got.That she wasn't totally lucid and should have been so she could fight back. And then there's the fact that her husband is telling a totally different story. It's terrifying to think that women are in these situations all the time and face so many issues when they try to tell the truth and get help.

But back to Clare. She's a smart woman who has a whole boatload of problems she's never been able to deal with properly. I think in this book she's realizing how she can take control and is sort of facing her demons head on. She still has a lot of work to do so I'm really hoping Stuart is working on another story for Clare. I'm totally invested now.

I'm hoping Still Water is a book we'll see everywhere this summer because it's so good. I was a little bit obsessed with it and Amy Stuart's writing. Pick this one up the next time you're in a bookstore or download it to your e-reader. Seriously. It's a well-told, gripping thriller that I think so many other people will love.

*An Advanced Reader Copy of this novel was sent by the publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*