Tag Archives: Novels

How to do YOU choose a book?

We have all been there, you start reading a book that you were excited about, only to find it difficult to get into and not what you were expecting. It’s even worse when you have paid full price for that book. I can honestly say this fear of book failure has kept me from purchasing many books. If I am not at least 90% sure I will like a book, I will put it back on the shelf, go to my computer when I get home and order it from the library.

So how do you pick out of all of the books on the shelves and tables when you walk into your local bookstore? Do you look for the guided headings first, such as “Recommended” or “New and Hot”? Or do you first look at the covers and titles to see what catches you eye? When reviewing books online, the most important impressions to a publisher are how much you liked the cover, the summary and the author. Did you choose a book because it had an interesting synopsis or because it had a catchy cover page?

Do you often stick with the same genres? I like to think I have a wide range of genres that I read from until I look at my reading logs. I occasionally have to intentionally choose a book outside of my favourite genres to mix things up. My husband recently asked me to read one of the books he was required to read for his Master studies, hardest read ever. There is nothing like HAVING to read something versus wanting to read it. If I had picked it up myself off the bookshelf, I probably would have read it in a few hours. Instead, its been MONTHS and I am still only a few chapters in. I almost dare you to try this out first hand….I would recommend starting with say, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Let me know how quickly you get through one of the most read books in history.

Whether doing book reviews or just reading my latest pick from the library bookshelf, I find myself in the same predicament. I feel obligated to give a book reading my best shot, even if it means reading just one or two chapters at a time just to get through it. I must have some irrational fear of a dnf (did not finish). My most recent experience with this dilemma was reading a new novel The Hot Year by Anne Piper. I have included my review below. I just found this novel so difficult to keep plowing through and wanted to quit after just a few pages. I would recommend not wasting your hard-earned money (or time) on this book….I did that on your behalf, you’re welcome.

There are also some books that just seem too good to be true. I was definitely excited when I was approved to read a pre-publication copy of The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll. The synopsis was intriguing and the cover has that wow factor. The author has published other novels with excellent reviews so I had high hopes for this one. Alas, the most I could give this novel was a generous 3 out of 5 rating. I have included my review below….you might want to give this one a chance, you will either love it or hate it.

And finally, I want to end with a book that you may just really appreciate, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. The cover is nostalgic, the story is intriguing and overall, I think many people will enjoy this book. If there was a heading at the book store, this novel would be under something like “Best Overlooked Books”. The Washington Post was one of many to praise Robin Sloan’s novel, saying Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is “smart, hip and witty, like the shiny surface of a new iPhone.” In addition, the book won many awards including one for its cover (which does indeed glow in the dark).

If you are going to spend $ on books this year, you should make this one of them. The story itself is not life-changing, but it is upbeat, fun and uniquely modern.

The Hot YearThe Hot Year by Anne Piper

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

From my opinion, there are too many gaps in the narrative of this story and I almost quit reading well before the half way mark. The storyline is very difficult to follow and often there are jumps in narrative that are never explained. Why does Lucy love Miles? That was never explained. Who is Lucy, what is her background and where does she come from?

Lucy writes a newspaper article which seems a pivotal moment and yet the article itself is never properly introduced; Chapter 14 just begins with her newspaper article being published. Who knew Lucy could write or even wanted to write an article? Things like this were too confusing and made it difficult to continue reading until the end.

Lucy is flighty and an unreliable character. At times Lucy is ambitious and adventurous and other times she wants to be rescued and acts like a child. The dialogue between Lucy and Steve is difficult to follow and Miles is just horrible altogether. The reader is given no reason why Lucy fell in love with Miles in the first place.

I appreciated getting the chance to read this novel and want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for an ebook copy to read and review.

View all my reviews

The Favourite SisterThe Favourite Sister by Jessica Knoll

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What you can expect: mystery, backstabbing, glamour and drama.

I could best categorize The Favourite Sister by Jessica Knoll as a women’s fiction novel. The theme is a reality show similar to “The Housewives of” except that all but one of the women are not mothers and are portrayed as successful YOUNG women. Once a woman reaches the dreaded age of 34 she will be let go from the show.

The point of view switches from present, to past and from character to character. I think this is what makes the novel so difficult to get through. It is hard to know which point of view you are in when you put down the novel and come back to it.

The characters themselves are complex and each have a very distinctive personality. As readers we find out at the very beginning that one of the “Housewives” has been killed and then the plot goes through the events of the past to reconstruct what happened. I do sort of wish we were given just slightly more information about the death at the beginning, just something more to hold onto as the novel goes on. In the middle of the story the plot drags on a bit to the point where as a reader you might even second guess that someone is really going to die at the end. As a reader I wanted to be more engaged in the mystery than in the drama and glamour of each woman.

As many other reviewers have mentioned, the conclusion is very abrupt. After a lengthy novel that takes a while to plough through, I felt somewhat letdown by the ending.

Overall I have given The Favorite Sister a 3 out of 5. I think some people will just enjoy the drama and glamour of the women’s lives and not be too concerned about the mystery in the plot. For myself I wouldn’t pick it up to re-read it again.

I also want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher MacMillan for the opportunity to read an ebook copy of The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll.

View all my reviews

Some other books I have read for my READ50 2018:

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman

A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/10332816

 

Thank-you for joining me on my reading adventures.

Happy Reading 📚

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2017 Reading Log and Looking Ahead to 2018

Happy New Year! It is officially January 1, 2018. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas Season and I am sure many of you are diligently trying to make a New Years Resolution for the year ahead. For those of you who have followed along with me, I have challenged myself to READ50 books each year. Every year I set the goal at 50 with hopes to well surpass that goal. In addition, I also set a general goal for myself to improve the literature I chose as well as what I do with the information gained once I have read each book. See below for my READ list from 2017, 60 books in total. Feel free to also follow me on Goodreads if you want to see what I am currently reading or find a review on many of the books I read in 2017. https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/38629860-adrienne-b

2017 was the first year I joined NetGalley and delved into the world of online reading and reviewing ARC books (Advanced Reader Copies). The draw of free pre-publication books was compelling but with the free ebooks also comes a sense of obligation to give an “honest” but well written review. For me this has been a challenge for sure. Some books are just not well written or full of unnecessary plot complications. With NetGalley your review (good or bad) goes right to the Publisher and if they want they can also contact you back. The thought of a publisher reading my review can be intimidating to me. However, the feedback I have received in the process has been complimentary and usually just an attempt from the Publisher or Author to have to spread the word as much as you can about their upcoming novel. If you are interested in the book reviewing side of the great world of books, you can join NetGalley here: https://www.netgalley.com Amongst hundreds of Auto-Approved books, there are also books that have to be requested. Join prepared to be declined as well. Some publishers will only approve those who have a large blog following and/or can prove they have more than several thousand followers. 

If you are more of a quick, casual book reviewer, I would recommend starting with GoodReads, Amazon and/or Chapters/Indigo’s websites first. Chapters/Indigo even gives you plum points for every review you provide which is a great incentive to post on their website. 

One of my lofty goals for 2018 is to convince my 10 year old son to start recording some of the books he is reading. I might even get him to include a quick review or jot down some thoughts on how he liked or disliked the books he is reading. He loves the The 39 Clues Series and is on to the 2nd Series The 39 Clues: Cahills Vs. Vespers. He is also into the Bone Series books by Jeff Smith right now too. Fingers crossed that on my next post you will hear a bit about what my son has been reading in 2018 too!!

My READ50 + List 2017

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Happy Reading in 2018!

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Fall Reading and New Releases

If you need a few book recommendations, here are a few new books that are my most recent reads:

Glass Houses by Louise Penny 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35197712-glass-houses

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The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor 

Release Date August 01, 2017

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32600721-the-cottingley-secret?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

“Because the world was still at war, we needed to believe in something better. In that moment, and perhaps for much longer, it seemed to me that the possibility of believing in fairies was more important that one little girl telling the truth.” – The Cottingley Secret, Hazel Gaynor

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The Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon

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UPDATE: Now that I have read the entire novel, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book this Fall. It is fun and energetic. You will warm to Bridget’s character quickly and her emotions feel authentic. Definitely a must read!

Original Post: So far so good! I have only read the Prologue and the first three chapters but I am left wanting more! I hope Bridget’s story continues along the path of being exciting and fun with hint of romance. There is a small chance that the plot of this novel will be predictable but as it is my first time reading a novel by Paige Toon I cannot say for sure one way or the other. I can say that so far the first three chapters are entertaining, convincing and witty and that Paige Toon’s novel has drawn me in. I can’t wait to read The Last Piece of My Heart in its entirety. Thank-you also to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read a pre-release teaser of the novel. https://read50.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/light-summer-reading-and-spring-2017-new-releases

In the Midst of WinterIn the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Expected Publication October 31, 2017
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Richard, Lucia and Evelyn’s lives collide and intertwine in a way that none of them could have predicted. Richard, a man who struggling with his own inner demons is forced into a situation where he needs to react, make decisions and take control of his own happiness. Lucia is a feisty woman who is originally from Chile but has carved a life out for herself in Brooklyn, NY. Lucia is an optimist who is always able to help those around her but when it comes to making decisions for herself she is unusually hesitant. Evelyn is a young woman from Guatemala who has struggled and been forced to see and experience things that no one should ever have to endure. An unexpected accident thrusts these three individuals together into a journey it seems only lifetime could have prepared them for.

I really appreciated Isabel Allende’s newest novel In the Midst of Winter. She dug deep into the hearts of what would otherwise be unremarkable people. She took an underpaid young house maid and gave her a history that is unimaginable but real at the same time.

Allende also explores some BIG, real social and political events in Latin American history. I might argue that one of these events would be enough for the novel. In the Midst of Winter tackles three characters each with very different and very tragic lives. At times some of the political events got lost in transition for me. I found myself stopping to think about which thread was being described, which country and which character.

The beginning of the novel was very good in my opinion. It drew me in and kept my attention. Once the action began for the conflict I was reading quickly and cared less about how Richard, Evelyn and Lucia resolved their situation. The climax seemed rushed, almost like you could see the author writing and someone over their shoulder saying, “alright, now resolve and finish this novel in 5 pages or less”.

However, there are too many good elements to this story for me to give it less than a four. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to my friends and I think it would be excellent for a book club.
***I also want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for the chance to read a pre-release copy of this book.

View all my reviews

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The Challenges of Summer Reading

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Do you find that making time for reading in the summer can be a challenge? There are so many outside things to do: go on hikes, take your kids to cool off at the pool or splash pad and BBQ’s with friends.

However, as busy as we are in the summer, my kids have seemed to be enticed by the chance to win prizes through our local library’s Summer Reading Program. Each week they record time spent reading (or being read to for my smallest child) and get entries into draws for prizes for every one hour read. The program has offered my kids a lot of incentive to sit down and read a book during their down time instead of staring at the TV.

For those adults who love to read AND win stuff, there are also Adult Summer Reading Programs too. Check out your local library to see if they are offering one; often the adult prizes are pretty nice!

There are so many benefits to reading, not just for children but also for developing adult minds as well. I found this article examining the “Science-Backed” health benefits of reading.

  1. Reading increases intelligence
  2. Reading boosts your brain power
  3. Reading makes you more empathetic
  4. Flipping pages of a book helps with your understanding and comprehension skills
  5. Regular reading has been linked to decreasing your chances of developing Alzheimers disease
  6. Reading helps you relax and overcome stress
  7. Reading before bedtime can help you fall asleep faster
  8. Reading out loud to your children inspires your children to want to read more

And finally, how is your 2017 Reading Challenge progressing? I am currently at 45 books for this year, but I will admit that the last month or two I have slowed down a bit. A few of my most recent reads and/or reviews are:

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the WaterInto the Water by Paula Hawkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get into this book. I appreciated the multiple points of view and it kept the storyline interesting. My biggest critique is I felt there was a bit too much back and forth for my liking. I would have preferred fewer points of view in favour of a more in-depth characterization. I have to say I liked Girl on the Train more than Into the Water but I would definitely still recommend this book and enjoyed it. Give it a try!

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict (Expected Release Date January 01, 2018)

Carnegie's MaidCarnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sudden death on a trans-Atlantic journey opens up a future far different than Clara Kelley could have ever imagined. As an immigrant to America from Ireland, Clara is expecting nothing more than some steady low paying employment so she could help support her family back home. A tragic accident upon the vessel Envoy has left one Clara Kelley deceased and given the other a chance at a future far better than was anticipated. A caller is waiting for the Clara Kelley who has been offered employment as a highly desirable ladies maid for one of the richest families in America and Clara jumps in the carriage. Clara has only a second to choose her fate and decides to carve out a future for herself.

Clara is transported to Philadelphia where she meets the wealthy and innovative Carnegie family. She learns how to pretend to be something she is not and eventually finds a friend in the eldest son of the Carnegie family, Andrew Carnegie.

Carnegie’s Maid is a historical fiction about class differentiation, industrialization and the many forms that love can take. This story reveals how not just the drive for success, but also love for ones family can at times cloud our judgement and affect our morality. Clara and her master Andrew Carnegie share a special understanding of ideals and both want to provide financially for their families. In a way they both help each other succeed.

I really enjoyed Carnegie’s Maid and would definitely recommend it. I appreciated the author’s writing style and felt like it was a well written, captivating story. (view spoiler) Furthermore, I could have also used more of Andrew’s point of view; his characterization wasn’t developed enough for me. The beginning of the story gives the reader a little taste of who Andrew is but otherwise the story is entirely from Clara’s point of view. I feel as though more insight into the thoughts of Andrew Carnegie would have helped the overall success of the story.

I want to thank NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the opportunity to read and review Carnegie’s Maid.

The Ways of the World (The Wide World Trilogy #1) by Robert Goddard

The Ways of the World (The Wide World Trilogy #1)

Short for Chameleon by Vicki Grant

Short for ChameleonShort for Chameleon by Vicki Grant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am pleasantly surprised at how much I liked Short For Chameleon and how hilarious it is at times. Vicki Grant keeps the story short and sweet and adds just the right amount of quirkiness to each character. The main character Cam works for his Father’s business “Almost Family Surrogate Agency”. The business employs people to pretend to be relatives of clients who are willing to pay to have fake relatives for social obligations. As a result, Cam is constantly finding himself in unusual situations. I think teens and young adults would find this novel engaging, funny and entertaining. I only hope that there is more to come from Cam and his new friend Raylene.

I also want to thank GoodReads, Vicki Grant and the publisher HarperTrophyCanada for a free copy of this book.

View all my reviews

 

~ Happy Summer Reading ~

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Light Summer Reading and Spring 2017 New Releases

Sunset in Leduc copy

Spring has come and I am excited to get to spend more time outdoors. Gardening, going for walks or just stopping to take pictures of the beautiful Spring scenery has taken up more of my time than reading/blogging. However, I do want to give you some new (and a few old) release books that you may want to check out. I will be honest in saying that my reviews are not always positive and sometimes I just simply don’t engage with the plot or style of writing. BUT I have done some of the leg work for you which might help you decide between what new release books you may or may not want to pickup for your next camping weekend.

Also, next to come on my READ50 list for this year is The Last Neanderthal by Clair Cameron – I’ll let you know what I think when I am done!!

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore (Release date March 2, 2017)

An Emotional and Tension Filled Glimpse of Life in Bristol During the French Revolution

Birdcage Walk

Baroque is the word that comes to mind after finishing Birdcage Walk . Drama, tension and poetic influence is how I would describe the book. I cannot say that I loved this new novel by Helen Dunmore. I felt the plot was missing some key climatic elements. I did not care for the heroine Lizzy, I was hoping for her to rise above her situation and so many times she let me down. Diner was very unlikable and controlling but yet Lizzy would throw herself into his arms again and again. Lizzy doubted herself so many times I struggle to call her the heroine. Lizzy’s half-brother seemed to be the best thing that happened to her in the entire novel, and yet when it came to a decision between her brother and her husband, she chooses her husband.

What I do feel Helen Dunmore excelled at was her descriptions and settings in the novel. She vividly captures what life was like in Bristol at that time in history. Her writing is poetic and sensual as she attempts to depict what emotional trials people might have faced during the French Revolution. However, Dunmore’s repeated insertion of political discussion into the dialogue felt forced and did not really add anything to the development of the characters or the narrative.

I would recommend this book to my friends but I am not sure I would reread it.

I do want to give my appreciation to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for a free ARC copy of Birdcage Walk . Thanks again.

Island Girls by Nancy Thayer (Also available as an audio book)

Island Girls

Island Girls was a fun read and the characters all had unique personalities. The plot kept along at a good pace and I think it would be a perfect summer read. However, this novel is not deep nor has overly complex character development.

As a stipulation to their deceased father’s will, three very different women find themselves stuck sharing their father’s Nantucket home for an entire summer. Arden, Meg and Jenny all begin the summer with their own agendas while trying to survive just a few months together as a blended family. Rory Randell was handsome and wealthy but left behind a mess of emotional drama between his three daughters, two ex-wives and latest wife. Rory’s three daughters have one summer to fix the drama and grievances they have with each other in order for them to inherit the family home. This is an enjoyable read but do not expect deep insights or believability. I liked it, but some things are just too good to be true in my opinion.

A Suitable Affair by Erica Taylor (Expected Publication June 6, 2017)

A Suitable Affair
You won’t be disappointed!

A Suitable Affair is a light-hearted and entertaining read. Lady Susanna Macallistar, the heroine of the story, finds herself with a large dowry but she is falling short in her search for eligible suitors. The one gentleman who has offered to court her is too compliant and boring, a stark contrast to her own vibrant and adventurous personality. After a random and potentially dangerous encounter with a stranger in Hyde park, Susanna finds herself drawn to the newcomer, Ian Carlisle, the handsome Earl of Westcott. Ian has trouble ignoring the magnetism between Susanna and himself but his affection is clouded by his troubled past and his quest to bring a murderer to justice. Susanna turns out to have a few secrets of her own as she struggles between society’s expectations of a Lady and her own ambitions.

The writing style at the beginning of A Suitable Affair is verbose in my opinion. The author uses too many words in the characters dialogue and some of the sentences and descriptions are awkward. Susanna does not need to describe in length her motivation behind everything and she often repeats the same thing in two different ways in one conversation. After the first few chapters the writing style becomes less forced and the characters conversations flow more smoothly. The plot is entertaining from the beginning with the murder mystery keeping the storyline complex and engaging. And of course the romance isn’t too bad either! I appreciate that Susanna’s character is not just adventurous and witty but she is also brave and intelligent. The more the plot progresses the more interesting and developed Susanna’s character becomes.

I would not hesitate to recommend A Suitable Affair to my friends and I think if some of the wordiness in the first few chapters could be edited out I would definitely rate it 5 out of 5.

I also want to thank Amberjack Publishing and NetGalley for a chance to read an advanced copy of A Suitable Affair .

The Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon (Release Date May 18, 2017)

The Last Piece of My Heart

So far so good! I have only read the Prologue and the first three chapters but I am left wanting more! I hope Bridget’s story continues along the path of being exciting and fun with hint of romance. There is a small chance that the plot of this novel will be predictable but as it is my first time reading a novel by Paige Toon I cannot say for sure one way or the other. I can say that so far the first three chapters are entertaining, convincing and witty and that Paige Toon’s novel has drawn me in. I can’t wait to read The Last Piece of My Heart in its entirety.

Thank-you also to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read a pre-release teaser of the novel.

And last but not least…..have YOU read Into the Water by Paula Hawkins and what did YOU think of it? And which do YOU prefer, The Girl on The Train or Into the Water

Happy Reading

~ Adrienne

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Mystery and Intrigue in London in the 1800s

Just a quick book review if you are looking for a recommendation for some light reading this April! A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain is a time-shift historical fiction available April 11, 2017.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30334200-a-twist-in-time?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

A Twist in Time is chock-full of mystery and secrecy in upper class British society. The novel which takes place against the backdrop of London in the 1800s is a surprisingly good read! When I read the description I was expecting it to be a bit like Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict but this book was far better!

Julie McElwain gives us a vivid view of life in 1815. Kendra Donovan the heroine of the series struggles to accept that she has been dropped somehow in 1815 and is thrown into a series of murder investigations. The literary is style engaging and Kendra’s character is confident and adventurous. The plot of “A Twist in Time” keeps up a good pace moving from scene to scene and I didn’t feel like there were any long and drawn out sections. Some time-shift novels have an heightened sense of implausibility but because Kendra has chose to trust the Duke of Aldridge and his nephew Alec with her secret, it somehow makes her presence in the 1800s more plausible. I also appreciated the author changing the point-of-view intermittingly from Kendra to some of the other characters to allow for differing perspectives. Kendra Donovan is an intelligent, solid and delightful heroine and I cannot wait to read more about her adventures.

I also want to thank NetGalley and Pegasus Books for a pre-release copy of the book to read and review.

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Book Review: Miss You by Kate Eberlen

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26594969-miss-you?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

Miss You is a delightful read which manages to capture the essence of fate. The story is told by Tess and Gus, two people whose lives intertwine occasionally but who have only ever spoken a few words to each other. Will fate eventually intervene to save these two lost souls from themselves?

Tess is unexpectedly thrust into a life she never dreamed of for herself. She gives up everything including her university acceptance to take care of her little sister Hope when nobody else has stepped in to help. Tess struggles to find herself and her own ambitions in the life she passing through. She is almost a spectator, often refusing to make any decisions regarding her own needs or desires. Tess has a giant heart though and loves Hope to the same degree as a mother would love their child. Tess let’s romance into her life but never gives herself over completely, like she is waiting for some feeling that she can’t quite understand.

Gus is a smart and intelligent young adult who regularly acts on impulse. He is criticizes himself for not acting in the moment and yet most of events that happen in his life are because of impromptu actions. Gus graduates university and finds a steady girlfriend named Lucy; his relationship with Lucy seems to point to an advantageous match. Yet so,etching is still missing and Gus can’t even bring himself to be full open and honest with Lucy. Instead Gus turns to Charlotte who fulfills he sexual desire but leaves a lot to be desired in the relationship department. With two rocky relationships on the go at once and trying to figure out his career ambitions it seems like Gus’ life can go nowhere but down hill.

Miss You is a story about life, fate and relationships. I feel as though fate is like a seed in this book, being blown around but never landing in the soil. So many times Tess and Gus almost meet or do actually meet only with no remembrance and recognition. The story’s motto “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” basically happens again and again. Do Gus and Tess really just have one moment where their lives reach a drastic turning point? I don’t think so. In my opinion, it happens again and again which makes the story more realistic.

A few turnoffs for me were for starters the length of the novel; it really is quite long with 433 pages. I think it can be trimmed down and some filler taken out. I really don’t need to know about every dinner date or job that Tess or Gus had during the 16 years of the story. I also would have liked Gus and Tess’s lives to converge more, there was such a long time in the plot where it was just their own individual stories. And finally, the ending (I won’t offer a spoiler) BUT it could have been more believable and more developed throughout the story so that it fit with the rest of the plot.

Thanks for reading my review and I’d like to thank Harper Collins Canada (HCC First Look program) for an advanced copy of the book! And I love the cover, it is very eye catching.

Happy Reading!

~Adrienne

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And then I’m sharing some quick book reviews

It has been a while since I have posted some actual book reviews and I am super excited to share what I have been reading so far in 2017! I have recently joined a couple of book reviewing companies and have received enough material to give me a huge head start on my READ50 challenge. Although my reviews are posted on Goodreads, Chapters/Indigo and Amazon, I also wanted to share them with my fellow bloggers. One of my goals for 2017 is to try to post at least once a week on this READ50 blog. Several of the books you will find here are soon to be published; watch for them upcoming if you need a book recommendation!

Two books I am looking forward to reading this year in particular are A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn (Pub. 10 January 2017) and The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal (Expected Publication 08 August 2017).

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner (Expected Publication 14 March 2017)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31625062-a-bridge-across-the-ocean?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

A Bridge Across the Ocean is a refreshing and intriguing read. Historical Fiction books can often have predictable plots but Susan Meissner’s newest book is far from traditional WWII fiction. The story has strong believable heroines and has a hint of the supernatural.

Brette Caslake is a just a regular woman who tries hard to hide her ability to see ghosts and “Drifters”. Brette’s journey leads her to the RMS Queen Mary ship which instigates a hunt to discover the truth on a death which occurred on one sailing of War Brides to the United States. Simone Deveraux and Annaliese Lange both struggle to survive their own horrors as they live through WWII and find themselves both onboard the same voyage of the RMS Queen Mary to the United States. Brette tried to unravel the truth behind Simone and Annaliese’s voyage across the ocean and help her elusive “Drifter” find peace.

A Bridge Across the Ocean is a complex tale of survival and it can be powerful and emotional at times. I would highly recommend this book to those who love complex historical and WWII fiction novels.

I would also like to thank NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for an advanced reading of this book.

The Queen’s Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal (Maggie Hope Mystery, #6)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28503798-the-queen-s-accomplice?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

This recent installment of the Maggie Hope Series is packed full of drama, tensions and dangers. The setting is War time London and we get a glimpse of how scary and dark London could be for women at that time. On one hand women were given freedoms during this time in history that they otherwise were not privy to but on the other hand there were still those fighting for normalcy and traditional beliefs that a woman’s place is in the home. Maggie Hope shines in this novel, bursting with feminine determination. She does not want to let her gender or career path hold her back and at every turn she asserts her authority. My personal hope for the next book in the series The Paris Spy is that Maggie has some time to relax so she is not consumed by the darkness and death going on around her; at some point I hope her luck with relationships changes.

The May Queen by Helen Irene Young (Expected publication April 25, 2017)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32960279-the-may-queen?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

May is a unique, spirited and adventurous heroine. She comes across as not being afraid of anything. This is a story of a young May discovering herself amidst the death and destruction happening in the world around her. I found the writing style very hard to engage in for at least the first half of the book. By the time the War was raging around her, May seemed to become more real and the story became easier to translate. Through her War efforts, May is able to develop relationships, discover her individuality and begin to form her own opinions of the world. The May Queen is not an easy read but I will definitely remember the story and its quirkiness. From my critical opinion, I think the ambiguity and abstract writing found in the first half of the book might lead people to give up on the story before its completion.

I want to thank NetGalley and Crooked Cat Publishing for an advanced copy reading of this book.

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30821598-my-not-so-perfect-life?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

Sophie Kinsella has created another quirky and out of the box heroine. Katie is definitely different from many of the other characters in Kinsella’s other novels; she is not quite as wild, eccentric and clumsy as the others. In addition, Katie doesn’t seem to “fall” into things by chance but deliberately goes out to make a name for herself, wanting to climb the social and business ladders that she knows exist. I will say that I did miss some of the self depreciating humour that is so evident in Kinsella’s other novels. I wished Katie was a bit more embarrassing, had a few more BIG mistakes and at least one or two “I can’t imagine how humiliating that would be” moments. On the other hand, she IS different and I can appreciate the value in not creating the same type of characters over and over again.

The one character in who did disappoint me was Alex. At first I love his spontaneous and fun vibe but he sort of lost that as the story went on and in the end came across as just needing to be constantly uplifted emotionally.

There were too many gaps in the romance for me to make me give it a 5 star for that alone, but I enjoyed the book so much that overall I think it deserves a 5. It was a super fun read and I would definitely recommend it!

Beneath the Cypress Tree by Margaret Pemberton (Expected Publication 23 March 2017)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32860666-beneath-the-cypress-tree?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

Beneath the Cypress Tree is a story of three young British women desiring adventure and to make a name for themselves in the world of Archeology. I love the concept behind this book but it has too many flaws for me to give it better than a 2 star out of 5. For the first half we really don’t get to the heart of each of the three main heroines (Ella, Kate and Daphne) and most of what the reader does learn is second-hand information. Kate writes letters to Daphne discussing Ella’s budding relationship with a Greek national and Ella writes letters to Daphne giving hints at Kate’s secret interest in the Archeological dig director Lewis. I love the information about the archeological digs but as a reader I am still not sure what was the central conflict; is the basis of the novel supposed to be the characters’ romances, the archeological digs or something else?

From my opinion this novel should be two separate stories; it is long enough to be cut down on pages but also there is a division in the plot between what happens before and after the war. Just when it feels like the conflicts should be coming to some sort of resolution and end, instead the story takes a huge 360 degree turn and focuses on the war and politics etc. I do not understand how the war fits in with the first half of the novel at all. The second half of the book also gets confusing really quickly. There are so many things going on it is a hard to keep track of where people are and who they are with. I still do not really understand how most of the characters manage to survive through the German attack on Crete and find each other again. Neither are some of the coincidences very believable. Ella’s ex-fiance, Sam, really doesn’t need to come to Crete and somehow see Kate and he doesn’t add anything more to the story.

All in all, I wanted to like this book but I lost interest half way through when I was expecting some sort of conclusion.

I appreciate being given the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book and want to thank the publisher Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for the opportunity.

The Worthington Wife by Sharon Page 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29095431-the-worthington-wife?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

The Worthington Wife past expectations for me. I was expecting a fluffy historical romance but it was more than that with mystery and suspense. Julia Hazelton, the heroine, is energetic, kind-hearted but also a risk taker. As the new Earl of Worthington, Cal Carstairs defiant character also fit naturally into the story but he did brood a bit too much about his past mistakes. Julia and Cal struggle to see eye to eye. Julia wants Cal to take on his new role as Earl and make some much-needed changes to his estates and tenants. Cal wants to sell off the estate and pay back his relatives for the poor treatment he received growing up. Between their very different personalities and upbringings, Julia and Cal struggle with their obvious chemistry, each trying to win out their own agenda for the other person. The book was longer than I was anticipating but it kept me engaged and had a good pace. I did wish Zoe was in the plot a bit more as she connects the reader to the last book An American Duchess . Julia’s desire to help widows by funding small business was admirable but could have been developed throughout the plot in more detail. I give it a 5 star because I was captivated throughout the entire novel and didn’t find any major faults. I would definitely recommend this book!

Unrequited Alice by Sarah Louise Smith (Estimated Publication 16 March 2017)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34001754-unrequited-alice?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

Unrequited Alice is a fun and lighthearted book, a great summer great. I will admit it took me a good while to get into this book and I thought the first 3-5 pages spent too much time on Alice’s love for best friend’s fiancé. Overall the tone of the book is the same throughout and the conflict doesn’t seem to change either.

Alice is heartbroken that her best friend Hannah is marrying Ed, a man who Alice also happens to be in love with. On a last girls weekend away in Niagara Falls, CA, Alice and her friends meet a group of 4 guys who they immediately connect with. Alice feels like she is not ready for any new relationships until she can get Ed out of her thoughts but then finds herself drawn to Toby, one of the men she meets in Niagara Falls. Toby also went on holidays with his own baggage and he and Alice earn each other’s respect but find themselves struggling to keep their relationship just at the friendship level.

I feel like this story has been told before in many varieties so I give it a 3 out 5 stars. If I had any major judgement of it, it would be that the novel could be half the length it is and still tell the same story. However, Unrequited Alice was an enjoyable and lighthearted read and would be a great book to pickup to take on holidays or to the beach.

I also want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher Crooked Cat for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of the book.

A Wish Come True by Kolet Janssen (Expected Publication 13 June 2017)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32073202-a-wish-come-true?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

I thought this book was awesome. Mark is a child whose life is different from many other children but the author is able to keep the story light-hearted and fun. Mark does consider wishing for things like ice cream etc. which would be the natural answer of any young child but he is able to see past his own satisfaction and wish for something that would help others. I did like how the story doesn’t focus too strongly on Mark’s illness and allows Mark to dream big. Many children dream of being firemen or policemen when they grow up and I think the story would be relatable and exciting for children. I saw the importance of having the Make-A-Wish information at the end; people are able to learn more about the foundation and know how to support it if they can. I wouldn’t hesitate to read this book to my children.

I also want to thank the publisher Clavis and NetGalley for the opportunity to have a free advanced reading of this book.

Princess Lila Builds a Tower by Anne Paradis (Expected Publication 16 May 2017)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31863716-princess-lila-builds-a-tower?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

Princess Lila is an excited and energetic princess who dreams big. She has everything needs but Lila is still not happy. She is forbidden to enter the forest and so she decides to build a tower that is taller than not only the castle but also the forest.

I read this story to my 5-year-old daughter who was interested in the story right away because of the wonderful drawings and the hopes of discovering a new princess that she has not heard of before. My daughter loved the story but did begin to be distracted and uninterested about half way through the book. The lull in the middle part of the book however did not distract her completely and by the end of the story she was still waiting for more pages!

Any children’s book which can entertain my 5-year-old from start to finish deserves at least a 4 star in my opinion. If I have any advice to the publisher/author it would be to somehow put some sort of conflict in the middle of the story to keep the attention of young kids but otherwise it was a good read!

Also, I’d like to thank NetGalley and Chouette Publishing-CrackBoom for a free Kindle edition of the book to review.

Thanks for following my READ50 and Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

 

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Progress! January Reads

My READ50 for 2017 is off to a good start. Some months I find I have more time and interest in reading than others and January has been a busy reading month for me. So far I have read 7 books for my reading challenge this year. My list of to-read books is getting shorter though so if anyone has any recommendations for me please feel free to comment and suggest some!

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-8-53-04-am

Some of my thoughts on a few of my January reads:

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams & Lauren Willig 

3 stars out of 5

This book is worth giving a consideration. With romance, a historical home and three women from one family lineage, The Forgotten Room is an engaging historical fiction. The story moves between three different women but if you pay attention it is not difficult to follow the diverging plots. It is even more interesting when you realize that it was written by three different authors all working together and taking turns at different parts of the plot. The story itself is a bit unbelievable but sometimes that is what we hope for in a novel, that it will take us somewhere other than real life. I didn’t think it was outstanding but definitely worth a 3 star rating in my opinion.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary (Maggie Hope Mystery, #1) by Susan Elia MacNeal

4 stars out of 5

Despite receiving some bad reviews on GoodReads, I actually really enjoyed this book and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another novel in the series. It is really not as bad as some reviewers make it out to be. Yes Maggie, the heroine, was a little naive but women in general were not given a lot of responsibility during that period in history. I appreciated the author’s notes at the end of the book where she describes her conversations and correspondences with real war time secretaries. One lady interviewed mentioned that in real life their secretarial responsibilities were definitely not exciting or glamorous and they certainly did not have time for romance. Obviously a fictional novel wouldn’t be as exciting or fun to read if the author only wrote about the lonely and dark lives of the secretaries during war times. All in all I liked it and give it 4 out of 5.

The Whistler by John Grisham

3 out of 5 stars

I think time for big expectations and hype with John Grisham novels has come and gone. I enjoyed reading The Whistler but it fell short in some ways. There were moments when it captivates you and others when you just want to skip a few pages of lengthy detail. Lucy, the heroine, works for the Florida Bureau of Judicial Conduct and she and her partner Hugo are asked to investigate the fraud of a long serving and influential judge. The fraud involves large sums of offshore money, unexplained murders and a Casino run on Native American lands. There are some unexpected twists in the plot but for the most part the narrative is smooth and somewhat predictable. Furthermore, the end of the book feels rushed and anti-climactic. Grisham neatly wraps up all loose ends in the conclusion by foregoing narrative and just recaps the events so you can end the book. The ending feels rushed and unfulfilling. I would still recommend this book but I will definitely have lower expectations for any new John Grisham books that might be published.

Death of An Avid Reader by Frances Brody

3 stars out of 5

I took a chance on trying to find a new mystery novel series with a female heroine. Death of An Avid Reader was harder to get into than I was hoping. In the first few chapters I couldn’t figure out what story thread I was trying to follow as Kate Shackelton, the main character, was jumping all over the U.K. After the third chapter I couldn’t figure out what was going on and almost gave up. I kept plodding through and eventually the story started to make sense and I began to recognize the characters. I think there were just too many unintroduced characters in this novel to make it successful. It was difficult to follow and more than a few times I was completely lost to who a character was when a name was mentioned. By the end of the book I enjoyed the main thread of the story and I would pickup a second book in the series just to see if some of those characterization and plot problems have been worked out in subsequent books.

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28-32

Well, with it being the end of summer and now the first week of back to school, my reading list has been pretty light. Most of the books I have chosen to read lately have been for my enjoyment only and I have not tackled any challenging topics. Sooooo if you are looking for some easy reading, check out Carol K Carr’s Madam of Espionage series – as I read all 4 with a break for Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende in the middle.

Up next on my Read 50 list I have: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn,  Orphan Number Eight by Kim van Alkemade, What Angels Fear by C. S. Harris and If I Could Turn Back Time by Elizabeth M. Harbison.

30, 31, 32 ~ India Black and the Widow of Windsor; Indian Black and the Shadows of Anarchy; India Black and the Gentleman Thief all by Carol K Carr

I  found myself enjoying the Madam of Espionage books more than I thought I would. I was expecting a romance series with a hint of mystery but in fact this series leans more towards a mystery with a strong heroine playing secret agent. Some of the long-winded descriptions found in the first book, India Black, got shorter as the series went on.

To briefly condense the premise of the series, there is a strong-willed heroine, India, who is recruited to help the Prime Minister of Britain (Dizzy) with political conspiracies that need to go away without the public knowing. India is often paired up with the dashing male hero and secret agent, French. Vincent is their sidekick and he plays the role of lackey and messenger but regularly finds himself in the role of unlikely hero. The author Carol K Carr does an excellent job of describing London and making the reader feel like they know what it would have been like to walk the streets of London in the 1800s. The themes all revolve around threats to the government which place India and French in immediate danger throughout the stories.

That being said….what you WONT find in these books is a compelling romance (despite what the covers may depict). India and French’s relationship is pretty stagnant and gives little hope that it will ever go past the hint of romantic interest to a more well-rounded relationship. After 4 books India and French are about as close to beginning a relationship as they were the moment they met in the first book of the series.

All in all I would recommend this series. The books have easy and enjoyable storylines and will keep you interested. By the end of the series I was hoping there was more to India Black but I will just have to wait!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10653263-india-black-and-the-widow-of-windsor?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15724975-india-black-and-the-shadows-of-anarchy?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18114092-india-black-and-the-gentleman-thief?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

 

29 ~ Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

I will admit, this novel took me a while to finish. I could only read a bit at a time as it felt like there wasn’t enough action in the plot to keep me wanting to come back to it. The plot was a bit repetitive at times, the same events happened over and over with only slight differences.  I DID however enjoy the descriptions of life during the slave trade in Haiti and how the author integrated religious beliefs into the plot. I couldn’t help my inability to understand the mindset of Valmorain, the plantation owner. I just can’t grasp how people were able to devalue human life the way they did during the slave trade. I have read many books on the slave trade, but this book did not give me that warm feeling like everything was going to be ok in the end. Zarité had trial after trial throughout her life and her optimism to keep going seemed a little strained for me to relate with. If you like this sort of fiction I would recommend The Book of Negroes first before recommending Island Beneath the Sea.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7005479-island-beneath-the-sea

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2238.Isabel_Allende

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38629860-adrienne-b

28 ~ India Black (Madam of Espionage, Book 1), by Carol K. Carr

Historical fiction is my favourite genre but I found India Black a little harder to get through than other novels in the same category. I found the political descriptions too lengthy and skipped paragraphs at a time that were adding nothing to the plot. Overall I enjoyed the story and love French’s character. India Black was good enough for me that I have ordered the next few in the series to try out.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8665427-india-black?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4143142.Carol_K_Carr

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38629860-adrienne-b

 

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