Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: On a Beautiful Day


Life can change in an instant. It's something we all know but tend not to keep at the forefront of our minds as we go about our day to day business. In Lucy Diamond's latest book, On a Beautiful Day, four friends watch a terrible car crash right in front of them and it makes each woman reevaluate where her life is heading. While the novel isn't groundbreaking, it's a sweet story of friends who try to deal with their issues alone and end up realizing they're so much stronger when they're together. 

Here's the synopsis:
It’s a beautiful day in Manchester and four friends are meeting for a birthday lunch. But then they witness a shocking accident just metres away which acts as a catalyst for each of them.
For Laura, it’s a wake-up call to heed the ticking of her biological clock. Sensible Jo finds herself throwing caution to the wind in a new relationship. Eve, who has been trying to ignore the worrying lump in her breast, feels helpless and out of control. And happy-go-lucky India is drawn to one of the victims of the accident, causing long-buried secrets to rise to the surface.
This is a novel about the startling and unexpected turns life can take. It’s about luck—good and bad—and about finding bravery and resilience when your world is in turmoil. Above all, On a Beautiful Day is about friendship, togetherness and hope.
As I alluded to at the start, each woman - Jo, Laura, India, and Eve - spins off into her own private battle after the accident. I don't think this is a spoiler, as anyone who  has female friends will know this, but no woman is an island. You can't handle everything on your own and it's ok to rely on your literal or figurative sisters if you're having trouble. 

The women in this book have to deal with a lot of things on their own but they kind of forget to allow their friends in. From a story perspective, I could understand that. From a structure perspective, I found that even though the women were supposed to be so close and such strong friends, I didn't really get that feeling except for a tiny bit at the start and then at the end when everything had been, for the most part, resolved. 

I sometimes struggle with stories that are told from multiple perspectives like this, with each chapter focusing on another friend. I was able to let that issue go for the most part but there were times when I wish the stories didn't seem quite so disjointed.

The women were interesting enough to read about though. They each had a distinct personality (though I bet their personalities could have shone more had there not been so many threads throughout the novel) and different family circumstances. Their dramas were similar (average issues for white females in their late thirties and early forties) but they each had a distinct problem to deal with, which kept things from being boring. 

While the details of this story will probably fade with time, the overall message Diamond wanted to get across will (hopefully) stick with me. It is important to seize the day because you never know when it might be your last. You should always trust those closest to you. They are there to help you when you need it and celebrate with you when you deserve it. Your close friends and romantic partners were chosen by you for a reason and you should know you can lean on them when times get tough. Do something you love every day. Let your friends know you're thinking of them even if you're not able to coordinate schedules to get together in person. Be kind to one another.

On a Beautiful Day was my second Lucy Diamond novel and, even though I wasn't super thrilled with it, I don't think it will be my last. She wrote a lovely story with a message that goes much deeper than the cover might suggest (side note: I'm so over the a woman's back on a cover aesthetic...especially when it's one woman and the story is about four...). This is one to pick up if you love stories about female friendships.

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Review: The Good Liar


I've been reading Catherine McKenzie's books for years. I've enjoyed all of them but her last couple weren't as high up on my "really good" books list as I would have expected. But then I read her newest, The Good Liar. And it's fantastic.

Here's the synopsis:
Can you hide a secret with the whole world watching?
When an explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered.
A year later, Cecily is in mourning. She was supposed to be in the building that day. Instead, she stood on the street and witnessed it going down, with her husband and best friend inside. Kate, now living thousands of miles away, fled the disaster and is hoping that her past won’t catch up with her. And Franny, a young woman in search of her birth mother, watched the horror unfold on the morning news, knowing that the woman she was so desperate to reconnect with was in the building.
Now, despite the marks left by the tragedy, they all seem safe. But as its anniversary dominates the media, the memories of that terrifying morning become dangerous triggers. All these women are guarding important secrets. Just how far will they go to keep them?
I'm finding the whole twisted story told by an unreliable female character trope getting a wee bit old. But then a novel like The Good Liar comes along and reminds me that there are a lot of really great stories being told in that genre (whatever we're calling that genre these days). I wouldn't really say this book is a psychological thriller because it's not quite a thriller - but it's definitely a psychological story. It's also a bit deceptive because you may think you know how all of the twisted threads will be unraveled. But, let me assure you, you will not know. Not at all. And I loved that!

McKenzie starts dropping little clues to something being not quite right early on in the story. Some of them start to make sense quickly but others led to a complete shock for me. It's almost not until the last third of the novel that I start wondering who I should be trusting. Cecily seems fairly trustworthy but you know she's hiding something and when that's revealed first, you wonder what else she could be hiding. Kate's motivations seem simple enough on the surface but are they? And what about Franny?

I also really liked that it was a balance of a mystery with a family drama. I mean, it's all tied together really but both parts of the story were told so well. Cecily is trying to find out what really happened the day her husband and her best friend (along with 500 other people) died. But at the same time she's raising two teenagers. And trying to start a new job. And maybe start dating? All the different facets of the story were balanced and told so well.

The women are front and centre in this book. The men all play a secondary role to the females, which I thought was great. Even Teo, who is trying to weave his own narrative for his documentary, is never in the forefront of the story. 

I'm really excited for everyone to read The Good Liar. Catherine McKenzie is still one of my favourite authors and she's written an amazing novel. Can you do me a favour though? Once you finish it can you let me know so we can talk about that ending?

*An egalley was provided by the author via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Blog Tour: The Swedish Prince


I love Karina Halle and all of her contemporary stories. But here’s the thing. I could not find myself loving The Swedish Prince. It was good, don’t get me wrong. I rated it 3 stars on Goodreads because I simply expected more from Halle. Maybe some people might find that unfair but sometimes even your favourite authors won't hit the highest note for you. All that aside, if you’re a romance lover and/or a royal lover, this is definitely a book you’ll like.

Here's the synopsis:
I never believed in fairy-tales.

Never held out for Prince Charming.

Growing up poor in small-town California as the oldest of six siblings, I knew I would never ride off into the sunset with anyone. That was even more apparent when a senseless tragedy took the lives of my parents, forcing me to become the sole guardian of our dysfunctional household at the mere age of twenty-three.

Then a fateful encounter literally brought Prince Charming to my dusty doorstep.

At first I thought Viktor was just your average businessman passing through, albeit obscenely handsome, six-foot-five, blue-eyed, and mysteriously rich.

But soon I discovered the truth behind Viktor’s façade.

Beneath his quiet, enigmatic gaze and cocky charm, is a man who is running away from who he really is. A role he’d rather not fulfill.

He is Viktor of House Nordin, His Royal Highness, The Crown Prince of Sweden.

Yet uncovering Viktor’s secret was only the first step.

I didn’t expect to fall in love with him.

I didn’t expect to have my whole life turned upside down.

When you’re from two different worlds, can your hearts meet somewhere in the middle?

Or do happily-ever-afters only exist in fairy-tales?

The Swedish Prince is a standalone romance inspired by Roman Holiday.
There were times when I think I found this book too angsty. You see how the synopsis is all chopped up in quick sentences that are sort of meant to hit you right in the feels? I love a good angsty story as much as the next girl but this one sometimes delved too much into the characters’ feelings and it was choppy sometimes just like the synopsis. It's a really hard thing to explain but something didn't flow for me in this regard.

I also think the light-hearted nature of the royal-meets-commoner story didn’t quite jive with some of the really serious tones of the rest of the story. I don’t know why it didn’t work for me because Halle usually does that balance so very well.

Like I said, this was still a good book. The story was engaging and I kept turning the pages. I liked Viktor and Maggie – but didn’t love them. Maybe I didn’t really connect with them. They were lovely but I really didn't have much of a connection which is something I expect with Halle's books.

I’ll also admit I may not have been in the best place when starting this book. The ARC came in late and really close to the pub date, I wasn't really sure how it was going to relate to Roman Holiday, and I was leaving one job and starting a new one. Hello, lots going on. I really don’t think that had much of an impact on my feeling on the actual story and I've been doing the reviewing thing for a long time so I'm usually pretty good at realizing what could affect my reading. There is a teeny chance it affected me more than I thought so I decided it was worth a mention.

It totally sucks when a book doesn't meet your high expectations but that happens. I still think The Swedish Prince was a good story. It just wasn't a great one. It won't deter me from picking up Karina Halle's next contemporary read though and it shouldn't deter you from buying The Swedish Prince if you're at all interested.

*An eARC was provided by Social Butterfly PR in exchange for a review for the blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Thursday, March 22, 2018

New Release: The Swedish Prince


Swedish Prince AMAZON

The day is finally here! The Swedish Prince, an all-new emotional standalone by Karina Halle is now published! It's been a hell of a time getting it here with ARCs coming in late, as well as promo pieces, and some asshat who decided it'd be cool to upload part of the copy they were beta-reading to iBooks. Not to mention trying to get this post formatted and the book read while starting a new job this week! Phew! I always love having a new Karina Halle book to read but you'll have to check back next week to see what I thought of The Swedish Prince. For now, here's all the info you need to know about this brand new book.
I never believed in fairy-tales.
Never held out for Prince Charming.
Growing up poor in small-town California as the oldest of six siblings, I knew I would never ride off into the sunset with anyone. That was even more apparent when a senseless tragedy took the lives of my parents, forcing me to become the sole guardian of our dysfunctional household at the mere age of twenty-three.
Then a fateful encounter literally brought Prince Charming to my dusty doorstep.
At first I thought Viktor was just your average businessman passing through, albeit obscenely handsome, six-foot-five, blue-eyed, and mysteriously rich.
But soon I discovered the truth behind Viktor’s façade.
Beneath his quiet, enigmatic gaze and cocky charm, is a man who is running away from who he really is. A role he’d rather not fulfill.
He is Viktor of House Nordin, His Royal Highness, The Crown Prince of Sweden.
Yet uncovering Viktor’s secret was only the first step.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with him.
I didn’t expect to have my whole life turned upside down.
When you’re from two different worlds, can your hearts meet somewhere in the middle?
Or do happily-ever-afters only exist in fairy-tales?
The Swedish Prince is a standalone romance inspired by Roman Holiday.


Here's where you can find The Swedish Prince (and, psst, it's free with Kindle Unlimited.)
 


Connect with Karina Halle:

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.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Teaser: The Swedish Prince


It's that time again...when I flail about having a new Karina Halle novel to read! I'm so excited to get my copy of The Swedish Prince - which will be out next week. In the meantime, please enjoy today's teaser post!
I never believed in fairy-tales.
Never held out for Prince Charming.
Growing up poor in small-town California as the oldest of six siblings, I knew I would never ride off into the sunset with anyone. That was even more apparent when a senseless tragedy took the lives of my parents, forcing me to become the sole guardian of our dysfunctional household at the mere age of twenty-three.

Then a fateful encounter literally brought Prince Charming to my dusty doorstep.
At first I thought Viktor was just your average businessman passing through, albeit obscenely handsome, six-foot-five, blue-eyed, and mysteriously rich.
But soon I discovered the truth behind Viktor’s façade.
Beneath his quiet, enigmatic gaze and cocky charm, is a man who is running away from who he really is. A role he’d rather not fulfill.
He is Viktor of House Nordin, His Royal Highness, The Crown Prince of Sweden.
Yet uncovering Viktor’s secret was only the first step.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with him.
I didn’t expect to have my whole life turned upside down.
When you’re from two different worlds, can your hearts meet somewhere in the middle?
Or do happily-ever-afters only exist in fairy-tales?
The Swedish Prince is a standalone romance inspired by Roman Holiday.


Be on the look out on iBooks and Nook for Pre-Order to go live on March 20th.

Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2FU5oBC

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Review: My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York


It's not often I get to read a book that's set in the area close to where I live (even if the story did take place almost 150 years ago and, technically, in a different country). I've been in the Niagara region for six years now and have worked right in Niagara Falls in the office of a souvenir shop for the past three. To me Niagara Falls means lots of tourists, high prices, and a job. But every once and awhile, say when I read a book set in Niagara Falls, I remember that I'm pretty lucky to live so close to such an amazing sight. Reading Amanda Barratt's novel My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York was a really enjoyable experience. I decided to read it because of the setting and I kept reading it because I was interested and invested in the characters' story.

Here's the synopsis:
Journey now to Niagara Falls, New York, of 1870 where...
She avoids danger at all costs. He makes his living by rushing headlong into it.
Outwardly, Adele Linley’s trip to visit her American cousins is nothing more than a summer vacation. In reality, she’s the daughter of an English aristocrat with barely a penny to her name seeking a rich American husband.
Having grown up in an overcrowded orphanage, Drew Dawson is determined to make a name for himself. He’ll take any honest job to provide for his sister—even crossing Niagara Falls by tightrope.
On a sightseeing trip to the Falls, Adele meets several eligible suitors. Incredibly wealthy and pompous, Franklin Conway takes an immediate fancy to her. But Adele would truly like to marry for love. When she encounters the mysterious Drew in the garden, Adele is confused by her feelings for someone who is everything she is NOT looking for. Will they both stay the course they have chosen for themselves?
Adele and Drew were both very interesting characters. I was drawn into their stories and desperately wanted the best for them. I thought Adele had a lot of growing up to do (even with all of her "my life hasn't been easy and I missed out on the end of my childhood" talk). Nowhere is that most evident than the scheme she comes up with to keep Drew from walking over the Falls again and to set her brother on a better path. I. Was. Furious. But that's all I'll say. (No spoilers here, baby.)

Even though Adele was a tad frustrating at times, I still liked her. And Drew. And Hope (his sister). It was fun to read as they flirted (Drew and Adele, obviously...him flirting with his sister would be weird, duh. But the siblings' relationship was the sweetest and so heartwarming) and got to know each other. They were both smart and fairly aware of their situation and limitations. You couldn't help but root for them. 

While I enjoyed reading about Drew and Adele, I really liked that it was set in Niagara Falls (even if it was Niagara Falls, New York, not Ontario, Canada where I am). As this book illustrates, there is a long, long tradition of tourists flocking to see the wonder. These days there's a very distinct difference between the attractions on Clifton Hill and the natural beauty of the falls themselves. I definitely giggled when I read the description of Drew and Adele's date to the falls. Keep in mind the book is set in the late 1800s as you read this passage:
The outing had been her idea and, he grimaced to think of it, her treat. An afternoon to renew their friendship and see a part of the Falls she hadn't yet viewed. Of course, Drew could never have afforded such a trip for the two of them - the fare for the public horse car service and the entrance fees at the Falls. A hundred years ago, the view before them would've cost no more than the effort required to get to it. Today, no sight of the Falls was free. There might as well have been dollar bills floating down the rapids instead of water.
Things have not changed much since 1870, let me tell you. Even though there's a fair number of cheesy destinations on the streets surrounding the Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Parks and various other organizations have done a pretty stellar job of keeping as much of the natural beauty intact as they can. I'd like to see more done because it's pretty jarring to be staring into the falls and a few minutes later end up in a loud, even more crowded spot. Of course, everyone has their own tastes and a lot of other people love that kind of stuff. I just want the natural wonder of Niagara Falls stay,  you know, natural.

Speaking of personal tastes, I have to mention that this novel would be classified as Christian fiction. I didn't realize that going in and even though I probably would have still read it had I known...there's a small part of me that would have considered, well, not reading it. It's not a bad thing, necessarily, it's just...a thing. And something I feel like I should bring up because everyone has their own reading tastes.

It's absolutely insane to think that people used to cross Niagara Falls by walking across on a rope. While I don't believe Drew was a real person, he had to have been based off some of the young men who braved the Falls. I read some articles on the history of "funambulists". There's one from the Smithsonian Magazine on Charles Blondin, probably the most famous tightrope walker. History also has a list of various daredevils - I had no idea people went over the Falls as late as 1995. And back in 2012, Nik Wallenda crossed the Horseshoe Falls (well, very close to it) and it was televised around the world (you can watch a video on YouTube that shows the last bit of his crossing). I'm not surprised that Barratt would have been inspired to write about a young daredevil.

Considering Niagara Falls is such a huge tourist attraction, there aren't an awful lot of books set here. In fact, I can only think of two, both are historical, and one is the book this review is about. The other is The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Buchanan which I really should get around to reading. And, actually, rereading the synopsis of that one makes me realize these two books are fairly similar. Interesting. My point is, I'm wondering why there aren't more books set in tourist destinations such as Niagara Falls. Maybe because it's not a place you would uproot your life and move to, not like places such as Paris or London or New York City. Am I just thinking too much about this? I might be. 

It still still sometimes shocks me that this is 20 minutes from my house.
My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York was a sweet, intriguing story. Amanda Barratt wove a story of history and romance that historical fiction lovers will really enjoy.

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: Surprise Me


I love Sophie Kinsella and have been reading her for years. Her 2017 release, My Not So Perfect Life was one of my favourites of last year (you can read my review here if you missed it). Because I adored it so much, I had really high expectations for Surprise Me, which was released last week. I don't know if it was my high expectations, my mood (it wasn't great when I was reading it), or the book itself but...I did not like this book. 

Here's the synopsis:
After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other's sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected "until death do us part" to mean seven decades.
In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.
Obviously I'm a big reader and I read quickly. Otherwise I wouldn't have a blog nor would I make it through almost 100 books every year. Surprise Me though? Took me over a week to get through because I just didn't feel like getting back to it. I wasn't invested. Not a good thing for the book but I persevered because it was Kinsella.

I think my big problem with the book was I was bored. The story got itself set up and then...boredom. It just seemed like the same sort of things were happening. Sylvie and Dan tried to surprise each other and it went totally wrong. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. There was nothing new being added and it seemed like it was, dare I say it, sloppy storytelling.

I was also really frustrated with Sylvie and Dan. It reminded me of how I'd get annoyed with Becky in the Shopaholic series (and why I stopped reading them awhile back). I love chick lit and contemporary stories so humourous and awkward scenarios are common. Maybe it's just me but it drives me up the wall when the character is just so incredibly clueless and can't see what she's doing is totally bonkers.

That's not to say I disliked Sylvie and Dan. I really did like them. I'd love to have Sylvie as a friend and Dan seemed fantastic. But I just couldn't see why I was reading about them. They were just another couple facing a little bump in the road of marriage.

I did finally get interested at about 80% of the way through the story. Finally things were actually happening and Sylvie was becoming the woman I was sure she could be. Did the interest I had in the last part of the book make up for the boredom during the rest of it? No, not really. I'm happy with the way the story ended, I can say that much.

I'm so bummed I didn't love Sophie Kinsella's new book but my dislike of Surprise Me won't dissuade me from reading her books in the future. Have you read Kinsella's latest? What'd you think? I'd love to hear that other people disagree with me!

*An advanced copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, Penguin Random House, via NetGalley. All opinions are honest and my own.*