Thursday, March 8, 2018

Things to Do When It's Raining: A review

From Goodreads: When secrets tear love apart, can the truth mend it?

Mae Summers and Gabriel Broadbent grew up together in the idyllic Summers’ Inn, perched at the edge the St. Lawrence river. Mae was orphaned at the age of six and Gabe needed protection from his alcoholic father, so both were raised under one roof by Mae’s grandparents, Lilly and George. A childhood friendship quickly developed into a first love—a love that was suddenly broken by Gabe’s unexpected departure. Mae grew up, got over her heartbreak, and started a life for herself in New York City.

After more than a decade, Mae and Gabe find themselves pulled back to Alexandria Bay. Hoping to find solace within the Summers’ Inn, Mae instead finds her grandparents in the midst of decline and their past unravelling around her. A lifetime of secrets stand in the way of this unconventional family’s happiness. Will they be able to reclaim the past and come together, or will they remain separate islands?

My thoughts: I had a hard time with this one. I was really intrigued by the synopsis, title, and cover image, but it just fell short for me. Characters are integral to me, and I like a good flawed character, but I didn't like any of these characters. They all seemed to ruminate for years over things they did, or things that were done to them. So much so that it completely affected every aspect of their lives. I had a hard time connecting to anyone in the story, which is important to me as a reader.  

I was really confused for the first few chapters, too, because so many characters were introduced at once. I often forgot whose perspective I was reading from. There were two characters with names that started with 'V', and I kept confusing the two. 

I did really like the setting. The river played a big part and definitely felt like a character at times. The cover leads you to believe the story will be optimistic and sunny, but in reality it was kind of dark and dreary. I like when the atmosphere interacts with characters and becomes one itself. 

I ended up rating this 3 out of 5. It was a decent story, but just not the right one for me. I still think it's worth a read, though. I really wanted to like this one more than I did. 

A free digital copy of this book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Keep Her Safe by K.A Tucker: A Review

From Goodreads
Noah Marshall has known a privileged and comfortable life thanks to his mother, the highly decorated chief of the Austin Police Department. But all that changes the night she reveals a skeleton that's been rattling in her closet for years, and succumbs to the guilt of destroying an innocent family's life. Reeling with grief, Noah is forced to carry the burden of this shocking secret.

Gracie Richards wasn't born in a trailer park, but after fourteen years of learning how to survive in The Hollow, it's all she knows anymore. At least here people don't care that her dad was a corrupt Austin cop, murdered in a drug deal gone wrong. Here, she and her mother are just another family struggling to survive...until a man who clearly doesn't belong shows up on her doorstep.

Despite their differences, Noah and Gracie are searching for answers to the same questions, and together, they set out to uncover the truth about the Austin Police Department's dark and messy past. But the scandal that emerges is bigger than they bargained for, and goes far higher up than they ever imagined.

My thoughts: I'm a fairly recent fan of K.A Tucker (loved Until It Fades so much), so I was so excited when the opportunity to review this one came up. One of the things that I love so much about Tucker's books are the characters. They're always so real, relatable, and at times, unlikable. I don't know about you, but I like characters who aren't perfect specimens. Nothing is more frustrating than reading about perfect people who never so much as have a strand of hair out of place. Noah and Gracie were endearing because they struggled, and were far from perfect.

There were a few mysteries in this book, and they're all woven together to tell the complete story. I liked how each different mystery told a different part of the main story. There are 4 points of view (Gracie, Noah, Abe, and Jackie), and I really liked how you got a glimpse of the past in between the present. It allowed me to try and figure out the mystery with the little clues that were sprinkled in the past and present chapters. 

There was a romance in this, but it's sweet and not overwhelming. I love a good romance, and I love a good thriller/mystery, but I like them separate. The romance in this worked well, and didn't take anything away from the other plots. 

Tucker is Canadian, and I really wish that her stories would take place in Canada. That is my only complaint. There are so many US eccentric books, and I'd love some more mainstream Canadian located stories. 

I gave this one a 4 out of 5 stars based on Goodreads rating system.

A free copy of this book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for a review. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It's All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World's Family Tree by A.J. Jacobs

From the publisher: A.J. Jacobs has received some strange emails over the years, but this note was perhaps the strangest: “You don’t know me, but I’m your eighth cousin. And we have over 80,000 relatives of yours in our database.”

That’s enough family members to fill Madison Square Garden four times over. Who are these people, A.J. wondered, and how do I find them? So began Jacobs’s three-year adventure to help build the biggest family tree in history.

Jacobs’s journey would take him to all seven continents. He drank beer with a US president, found himself singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and unearthed genetic links to Hollywood actresses and real-life scoundrels. After all, we can choose our friends, but not our family.

“Whether he’s posing as a celebrity, outsourcing his chores, or adhering strictly to the Bible, we love reading about the wacky lifestyle experiments of author A.J. Jacobs” (Entertainment Weekly). Now Jacobs upends, in ways both meaningful and hilarious, our understanding of genetics and genealogy, tradition and tribalism, identity and connection. It’s All Relative is a fascinating look at the bonds that connect us all.

My thoughts: This was a really fun non-fiction read. I don't read a lot of non-fiction, though I always say I'm going to, but my favourites are the ones that read like fiction. I want to learn something, but I don't want a lot of technical jargon thrown my way. Jacobs has a fantastic writing style that made me want to keep reading because I was enjoying it so much. He's actually quite funny, too. This was an easy to read book that really kept my attention and kept me intrigued.

Learning about your relatives and genes has really blown up over the past few years, and with good reason. We all want to know where we came from. Jacobs explores how we are all technically related, which is a fun thought when you really think about it. The book talks about his plans to throw the biggest family reunion, ever, which was really fun to read about. I do wish there were more details about the actual event. There was the big lead up to it, but I wanted to read more about it. The day probably went by way too fast to really record details.

The book had a lot of fun information about families and genes and how certain factors affect families. I really enjoyed and I definitely want to check out more of Jacobs writing.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

I have a weird relationship with Colleen Hoover’s books. On one hand, I usually enjoy them because they’re very compelling and readable, however, on the other hand, there can be problematic elements in them that make me question why I keep reading these books. I didn’t find Without Merit as compelling as I hoped I would, and it left a bit to be desired.
Merit is kissed by a boy who shakes her whole world, unfortunately, she’s pretty sure he’s the boyfriend of her twin. The twin she’s really not that close with. She’s not very close with anyone in her family because of something that occurred when she was a bit younger. There is a lot of build-up to the ‘event’ with her family, and it takes a while to find out why Merit and her family do not mesh very well. It’s a disturbing revelation when it’s finally revealed, too.
I found it hard to like any of the characters, and I didn’t connect to any of them, which is important to me. They were all either shallow, selfish, inconsiderate, or all three. They didn’t treat each other like a family should, and it bothered me when suddenly they were able to resolve all their issues.   There were a lot of issues in this book, but none of them were handled or resolved very well. This book tries to deal with divorce, suicide, incest, abuse, and that’s only a few of them. It just seemed like there was too much going on. I didn’t understand the addition of Luck, either. He didn’t add anything to the story. Can we please talk about the names in this book, too? Merit, Honor, Luck, Sagan, and Utah. It’s silly, but the names bothered me.
I will probably keep reading Hoover’s books, but this one fell short for me.  I read It Ends With Us recently by Hoover, and really enjoyed that one.
A copy of this book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada, but as always opinions remain my own.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Review: The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti

From the publisher:
“Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…

Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.”

In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.

Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life.

And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate.

Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.

My thoughts: This was the perfect book to read this time of year. Kind of creepy, kind of atmospheric, and definitely intriguing. I haven't read Moretti's previous bestselling The Vanishing Year, so I was able to go into this novel without any expectations. This novel is told from four points of view, Nate (the accused), Alecia (Nate's wife), Bridget (Nate and Alecia's friend, and also Nate's co-worker), and Lucia (the missing teen), which means it is very character-driven. Personally, I love character-driven books. I love being able to get inside a character's head, and try to figure out why they act the way they do. I think it allows a unique perspective into the plot, as well.

I found some of the characters hard to like and trust. Nate came across as unintentionally pompous. He had to be liked by absolutely everybody, despite their feelings towards him. Alecia was a bit hard to like, too, but I was able to sympathize with her more than Nate. She didn't know what to believe, which I understood. How easy would it be to deny that your husband is capable of something so horrible? At the same time, how easy would it be to believe once you start finding what you think is undeniable evidence? It's not as easy as one would assume.

Lucia was easy to sympathize with, especially the more you got to know her. She was a teen with typical teen problems, but she also had a difficult home life. She was my favourite character, and I wish we had more from her perspective. I loved her journal entries, and think she was very intelligent. She is accused of being a witch, and you can certainly understand why as you read the novel.

There was a lot going on in this novel, but it all fits together by the end and I loved that you never really knew who to trust. The ending was not what I expected, but I was happy with it. I rated this one 3.5 out of 5 stars, and would highly recommend it to people who love character-driven mysteries.

A copy of this book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada, but as always, opinions are my own.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
From the publisher: Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website called, which features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.

Meanwhile, miles away at the state college, Eve’s son Brendan—a jock and aspiring frat boy—discovers that his new campus isn’t nearly as welcoming to his hard-partying lifestyle as he had imagined. Only a few weeks into his freshman year, Brendan is floundering in a college environment that challenges his white-dude privilege and shames him for his outmoded, chauvinistic ideas of sex. As the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.

My thoughts: Mrs. Fletcher is my first Perrotta book, and I'm not sure how I felt about it. Eve is struggling with her identity as a recent 'empty nester', and after getting the 'U R my MILF' text ends up on a porn site. I thought it was interesting how the text and site led her on such a sexual identity journey. There is definitely some satire in this novel, but it manages to be up to date on current social headlines. I thought there was a lot going on with Eve's character. Discovering your sexual identity is not a linear thing, but I think there was just too much going on. I also did not connect with her, and I know that's not important to some readers, but it is to me.

Brendan made me very angry. He was so privileged and spoiled and he had no idea. He did not treat women well, and once he's finally called out on it, he goes running back to his mom. I don't know if it's because I'm a mom to a son myself (mind you, he's one so not the same) but I was very frustrated by most of Brendan's behaviour and I found his chapters difficult to read.

In the end I rated this 3 out of 5 stars. It definitely wasn't horrible, and I liked the way it made me question some of my own ideas, but it wasn't my favourite. I was a fan of the side characters more than the two Fletchers, and wanted more of their stories.

Good read, but not my favourite.

I received a copy of this book for free from Simon and Schuster Canada, but as always, opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reckless Years: A Diary of Love and Madness by Heather Chaplin

Synopsis: Trapped in a dissatisfying marriage for nearly a decade, New York journalist Heather Chaplin finally summons the courage to leave. On her own, she finds herself intoxicatingly free, pursuing adventure, and juggling romance on two continents in multiple cities. She contemplates the meaning of life; she falls for a handsome Irishman.

But as the adventures progress, Chaplin’s own reckless choices send her spiraling downward—and toward a reckoning she’s avoided all her life. Pulled from Chaplin’s own diaries, Reckless Years is a raw, propulsive debut: unfailingly profound and impossible to put down.  

My Thoughts: I have a hard time reviewing memoirs. I really enjoy reading them, but when it comes time to review them, I always hesitate. Who am I to comment on someone else's reality? Especially a reality that includes some dark times. I love Heather's voice; the way she writes is so descriptive that you actually feel like you're sitting next to her. The book is comprised of actual journal entries, so what you get is so raw, vulnerable, and at times, completely relatable. You'll laugh with her, cry with her, and definitely root for her while reading this book.

I loved watching Chaplin try to regain her life and herself. She definitely didn't always make the best choices, but really, who does? She lived in the moment and I was really impressed (and jealous) with her ability to just up and head to Dublin to see her brother. Also, I really want to know which band her brother was touring with, but that's just me being nosey.

Chaplin's eventual downward spiral can be hard to read because it's so raw, but I loved it because since it's a memoir, you already know how it ends. Chaplin is now the founder of a journalism and design program at The New School. I'm sure she's still dealing with some things, but knowing she ends up successful (and I hope even more, happy) leaves the story with a real sense of hope.

Pick this one up if you're looking for a unique voice and a raw, hopeful story.

A copy of this book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada, but as always, opinions are my own.