Friday, December 25, 2015

Review: Christmas on Primrose Hill

Given the number of books Karen Swan has written and my preference for the types of novels she writes, it's surprising that Christmas on Primrose Hill was only the second book by Swan I've read. I quite enjoyed it!

Here's the synopsis:
On Primrose Hill...
Twinkling lights brighten London's Primrose Hill as Christmas nears - but for Nettie Watson, it's not parties and presents that she wants.
Promises are made
For Nettie, Christmas only serves as a stark reminder of the life she used to have...One day she made a promise to never leave home, and so far she's stayed true to her word.
Promises are broken
Under the glaring spotlight of the world's media, Nettie is unexpectedly caught up in a 21st century storm...Her exploits have made her a global name and attracted the attention of one of the world's most eligible men - famous front man, Jamie Westlake. But now she has his attention, does she want to keep it?
Fairly early on the reader can figure out there's a secret about Nettie's mother...but you don't know what it is and it takes forever for it to be revealed. It. Drove. Me. Crazy. Not only that, but I really couldn't understand why she didn't want anyone to know about what had happened. I suppose I could to a point but...I would think it'd be something she'd want to share with someone she was becoming close with. One of my good friends, and fellow blogger, Natalie of Browsing Bookshelves, enjoyed the suspense though so it's all a matter of personal preference.

I got a huge amount of enjoyment out of the social media/viral video storyline. It was fun to listen to them report how things were going and how much money they were raising. I almost wished the Blue Bunny was real because it'd be pretty amusing to watch the antics Nettie and her team got up to. Social media and the Internet move quickly so the story (sort of...see above paragraph) moved quickly too. The viral marketing part of the story almost went too fast, which was odd considering other parts of the story dragged. I couldn't really keep track of time because everything was happening at a rapid pace.

Time to talk about the romance! While I almost wanted something else to happen (because I'm a sucker for those types of stories), in the end I'm glad it didn't. (Yep. That's vague. But I can't tell you more than that otherwise I'll start spoiling the story.) Average girl meets famous guy is always a fun storyline and I enjoyed reading as Nettie and Jamie's relationship evolved. 

While the novel doesn't have too much to do with Christmas itself, you get the gear up/hype of the holiday season as well as some Christmas magic (not literal's not that kind of story). The holiday hints were subtle - markets, ice skating, tree decorating - but perfectly paired with the overall novel. It's one of those Christmas stories that should leave you with many warm fuzzies when you've finished it.

I'm quite happy I have more Karen Swan books to catch up on because I don't want Christmas on Primrose Hill to be my last. Swan writes engaging, sweet, emotional, and funny stories. You may be done with your Christmas reading now but I think you should still pick this one up and carry on the festive spirit for just a few more days.

Merry Christmas!

*An ARC of this novel was provided by Publishers Group Canada in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review: Christmas at Lilac Cottage

I love when two of my favourite things come together - like British chick lit and Christmas stories. I was really excited to read Holly Martin's Christmas at Lilac Cottage because it sounded really sweet and full of the holiday spirit. I was right, for the most part, and enjoyed reading this book. And look at that sweet cover!

Here's the synopsis:
Welcome to the charming seaside town of White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air…
Penny Meadows loves her home – a cosy cottage decorated with pretty twinkling fairy lights and stunning views over the town of White Cliff Bay. She also loves her job as an ice-carver, creating breathtaking sculptures. Yet her personal life seems frozen.
When Henry and daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage to rent the annex, Penny is determined to make them feel welcome. But while Daisy is friendly, Henry seems guarded.
As Penny gets to know Henry, she realises there is more to him than meets the eye. And the connection between them is too strong to ignore…
While the spirit of the season sprinkles its magic over the seaside town and preparations for the ice sculpting competition and Christmas eve ball are in full swing, can Penny melt the ice and allow love in her heart? And will this finally be the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of?
Like a creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, you won’t want to put this deliciously heartwarming novel down.
Spend the perfect Christmas in White Cliff Bay this year. Snowflakes on Silver Cove coming very soon.
My one main issue with this book is that there was a lot of repetitiveness and unnecessary information. I cannot count the number of times Penny mentioned her ex-boyfriend or Henry talked about his ex-girlfriends. I just couldn't understand why they kept bringing up the exact same thing. Nothing new was revealed and it didn't move the plot along at all. This was my only issue and, while it really did drive me bonkers, it wasn't too hard to move past.

If you know me and my reading tastes, you'll know I love small town stories. This novel shows the sweet side of small towns, and the ugly side. I appreciated that because too often only the positives of a teeny town is written about. Granted, the downside of this particular small town was pretty ugly - vindictive women, nose in everyone's business gossips, and the like - but at least Martin acknowledged it. Of course, she also showed how amazing small towns can be when they come together to make sure the town's favourite Christmas event, the ball, went on in the face of impending disaster. Yay communities pulling together!

There was a lot going on in this book (actually, almost too much) but all the storylines kept me turning the pages to find out what happened next. Martin does a nice job of weaving everything together.

I really wanted Penny and Henry to have a Happily Ever After. Like, desperately wanted it. Right away I could sense they both deserved to find that perfect person (for them) and I hated all the stupid little things that got in the way of the two of them finally getting together. But (slight spoiler but it's a holiday chick can't be too surprised) when they eventually do get together, it's just the sweetest. They both have a lot to learn about being together but I loved reading as they learned those things.

Overall, Christmas at Lilac Cottage was really sweet. Author Holly Martin has written a lovely Christmas themed story that focuses more on the characters and their journey (romantic and otherwise) than the holiday itself, but that's ok. If you like English contemporary/chick lit novels, check this one out.

*An eARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I'm a very bad blogger. I should have had Marie Landry's book read last year before Christmas, instead of in January. Not only that but I should have written the review right away so it'd be ready to go for this holiday season because I should have known there would be issues and I'd have a broken laptop to contend with! Alas, here we are a few days before Christmas and I'm finally reviewing a few of the holiday themed books I've read this year. I may be delayed but I'm still going to tell you that you must read The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. I loved it! It's a novella so you definitely have time to read it before the big day. Plus, it's just 99 cents so you really can't say no to that.

Here's the synopsis:
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, right? At least that’s what twenty-year-old Ginny Bailey’s grandmother always told her, and Ginny believed it until Grama died. She even put on a brave face the following two Christmases, carrying on Grama’s traditions and decorating her house and cafĂ© with Grama’s favorite decorations.
But Ginny can’t pretend any longer. When she finds out she’s going to be alone for the holidays this year, her Christmas spirit goes out the window, along with her luck. Everything that can go wrong does, and Ginny just wants to spend the holidays hiding under the covers...until Dean Riley comes back into her life. With their shared past, old feelings begin to resurface almost immediately, and Ginny thinks Dean might just be the Christmas miracle she’s been waiting for to help her remember why Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year.
Unlike some books that take place at Christmastime, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year really does centre around the holiday. The magic of Christmas, not just the day, is really present, which I adore. As hard as it is for Ginny to celebrate the holiday without her Grama, she still goes all out and celebrates the holiday as her Grama would have wanted. Plus, the whole town is full of Christmas cheer - a little bit like Stars Hallow, in fact. Yay, small towns!

My heart hurt for Ginny. On top of having to spend yet another Christmas without her Grama, her parents (who were never really parents to her, having had her when they were just 18), decide to leave on a last minute vacation. That's what not to do when you've already abandoned your child once, fyi. I knew Ginny was strong but I worried that she'd struggle with the holiday even more. I really wanted to reach through the pages and give her a big hug!

I love Christmas books and I love second chance romances. Put the two together and you have one happy reader. I adored Ginny and Dean together and couldn't wait for them to figure out they needed to give a relationship another try. Their relationship is just so sweet and I loved reading as they figured out their rekindled feelings for each other.

I also love books where the heroine owns her own business. I'm not sure why (today's not the day for a psych analysis) but I do. Perhaps it's because she (usually) immediately comes across as a put together woman who is doing what she loves. That's not always the case but Ginny (who technically doesn't own the cafe yet) thrives in the cafe and has big dreams for it. When I first read about her plans to expand, I immediately wanted to hop into the pages of the book so I could help her reach her dreams.

Finally, can we just talk about this cover for a moment? I may have swooned the first time I saw it and I'm still in love with it today. The image is just so very pretty!

Like I said, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is a novella so it won't take you very long to read. Go buy it for your ereader right now and you'll have it done before you open your stockings. Marie Landry is so talented! I really need to read more of her books, like, immediately!

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Christmas List

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature.

It's almost Christmas! And while I know everyone who is buying me gifts will have already bought my presents and no one tends to buy me actual books anyway (anyone else prefer that? I have so many books anyway that I'd really rather buy my own!), it was still fun to come up with a list of books that I wouldn't mind finding under the Christmas tree. What books are you hoping for this holiday season?

Carry On - Rainbow Rowell
Can you believe I still haven't read this one?

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
I don't actually own a hard copy of the full novel and I absolutely adore the Rifle Paper Co. cover.

Almost all of Lindsey Kelk's books
I have a few of her I Heart series but I'd also really love to have the books in her newer A Girl series.

Jane Austen: A Life - Carol Shields
There are many Jane Austen biographies out there but I've heard this one's supposed to be really well done.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Newt Scamander (aka JK Rowling)
I have my sister's old copy of Quidditch Through the Ages that she gave me after she was gifted a lovely set of the two books. And I figure with the movie coming out sooner rather than later, I should have a copy of this one, too.

In Her Wake - KA Tucker
I hadn't really wanted to read this prequel (would you call this a prequel even though you should read Ten Tiny Breaths first?) but since Tucker has quickly become one of my all time favourite authors, I feel like I should have this book, too. Also, I should probably own Ten Tiny Breaths and Five Ways to Fall, come to think of it. I have all of the other ones!

Leave Your Mark - Aliza Licht
I'd love to read more girl power, Millennial focused books and this one, about social media and landing your dream job, seems like the perfect fit for me.

Infinity - Sarah Dessen
I call myself a huge Sarah Dessen fan and yet I've never read this short story. I don't even know if you can buy it anywhere but I want it.

Put a Ring on It - Beth Kendrick
I've read the other Black Dog Bay novels so I really want to get back to the small town to see what everyone is up to!

Just One Night - Gayle Forman
I freaking loved the other books in this series and I need need need to know what happens in this one.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Review: Plan Bea

One of my least favourite things is having to say I didn't love a book so when I say that Plan Bea was a book I expected to like (if not love) and didn't, know it's as hard for me to write as it is for the author to read. Hilary Grossman's second novel isn't bad, don't get me wrong. I did find enjoyment in some parts but I just didn't connect with it in the way I should have.

Here's the synopsis:
Could falling in love allow a cold, stubborn, and selfish women to open her heart back up to her family?
Beatrice Buchanan has spent more years than she can remember distancing herself from everyone close to her. She has no relationship with her grandchildren and the only time she speaks to her daughter is during her weekly fifteen-minute commute to the nail salon. When Bea meets Walter on a cruise she realizes there may be more to life than designer clothes and impressing the ladies at her country club.
We live our entire lives thinking we know those closest to us. But do we ever really?
On the outside, Annabel O’Conner has it all – the perfect husband, two adorable children, and an amazing job. The only thing missing is her mother’s love. When Bea begs her daughter to help plan her wedding, Annabel reluctantly agrees. Little does she know the impact of her decision or the surprise that is in store for her!
This emotional and honest women’s contemporary fiction novel will tug at your heartstrings and the twist ending will shock you.
The core of the story was an intriguing and gripping one. My heart hurt for both Anna and Bea. I couldn't imagine having such a strained relationship with my mom. I loved seeing them attempt to repair their relationship and Anna encourage a relationship between her mom and her children.

It takes awhile to learn exactly why Anna and Bea's relationship is so awful and almost non-existent. I can't say why, since that's part of the plot twist, but I will say that I had it figured out. And because of this, I found myself reorganizing the storyline to make it "better" (in my opinion, of course). The revelations could have been in a different order and still would have packed a punch. Plus, I wouldn't have been waiting and waiting for the big reveal to occur. It was so anticlimactic for me. That was a big flow issue for me but there were other ones as well. The way Anna and Bea revealed information to each other was so stilted, even allowing for their strained relationship. There was also a piece of info Bea gave Anna that I didn't see how she could know. There were some recalling of conversations that were so awkward. For example, after a dinner out with the whole family (which we don't get to read about), Anna and her husband are getting ready for bed and are talking about how funny their daughter was that evening. I assume most parents would laugh and move on but they quote, verbatim we're to assume, exactly what she said. It just didn't feel natural to me.

Never being in Anna's situation myself (though I have a non-existant relationship with my dad so I can kind of see where she'd be coming from), I can't say for certain what I would do in her place. But that shouldn't matter...I should be able to understand why a character is acting the way she is (this is women's fiction, not a thriller, you know?) and I just didn't get why Anna was so hellbent on catering to her mother's every request when Bea had been so so horrible to her. It just didn't quite make sense to me.

Like I said, I wanted Plan Bea to be a winner for me. I know so many other chick lit and women's fiction fans adore Hilary Grossman's books but it doesn't seem to be in the cards for me. Would I tell you not to read it? No, of course not. Read it if the story speaks to you! But maybe it doesn't need to be tops on your TBR list.

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature.

It's the end of the year which means "best of" lists are everywhere. This week's Top Ten Tuesday has us throwing our lists into the ring with our ten favourite books of the year. Not an easy feat, let me tell you! As of right now I've read 106 books (I'm hoping to make it to 110 by the end of the year!). So, as you can imagine, picking 10 out of over 100 is tough! The titles are linked to Goodreads and I've included review links where applicable. Also - these books aren't really in any particular order. What were your favourite books of 2015?

The Royal We - Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (review)
I've been recommending this book to everyone this year! I couldn't get enough of it when I read it. And I'm so excited that Lauren Graham and Mae Whitman are both attached to the film adaptation!

Chasing River - K.A. Tucker
It was hard to pick just one of Tucker's books for this list (I read five of her books this year) but Chasing River edges out its competition for a couple of reasons. It's an amazing story and it takes place in Ireland. Kind of makes me wish I had listened to the audiobook!

First & Goal - Laura Chapman
I read two of Laura's novels this year (plus two short stories and one manuscript) and it was really hard to choose between First & Goal and The Marrying Type (review). They're both amazing!

The Lake House - Kate Morton (review)
I was obsessed with this book when I was reading it, which was good because it was a massive novel! Morton writes fantastic stories that weave historical, contemporary, and mystery all in one lovely package.

We'll Always Have Summer - Jenny Han
Can you believe I only just finally read Han's Summer series? I actually read them in the summer and it was a perfect idea. I loved them all but this one just stuck with me a little bit more than the others.

Anne of the Island - Lucy Maud Montgomery
I've reread most of the Anne books this year and it's reminded me how much I adore them. (It's been 13-15 years since I first read them!) Of all the ones I've read so far, I really loved Anne of the Island. I think it's because it has a New Adult feel since she's at college in this story.

Saint Anything - Sarah Dessen
A year when there's a new Sarah Dessen novel is a happy happy year for me. I was so very pleased with her latest book. It's a bit darker than her other books which I loved.

99 Days - Kate Cotugno
I hadn't read Cotugno's first book, How to Love, though I had heard of it. Once I saw Jamie of The Perpetual Page-Turner (and The Broke and the Bookish) raving about 99 Days, I knew I had to give it a read. I was totally obsessed and will recommend it to any contemporary YA fan.

Where Sea Meets Sky - Karina Halle
This was the first Halle book I read and I've read two others by her this year as well. I loved this one just a wee bit more because the main male character was Canadian and the majority of the book took place in New Zealand. Apparently travel novels were the way to my heart in 2015.

At the Water's Edge - Sara Gruen (review)
This was another fabulous historical fiction novel I read this year. I really loved Water for Elephants so I was looking forward to the new one by Gruen. While I wish Scotland played a bit more of a role, it ended up being a book I couldn't put down.

Bonus Book
Novelista Girl - Meredith Schorr
I'm including this novel as a bonus because it's not yet published. It is the sequel to one of my all time favourite books, Blogger Girl, and it's just as amazing as the first book. I can't wait for all of you to read it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature.

It's always so much fun to find new-to-you authors. Especially if they've been writing for awhile and have an extensive backlist for you to become obsessed with. The list of new to me in 2015 authors is a mix of debut and more established authors, with quite the Canadian contingent. What authors did you discover this year?

Sally Christie (The Sisters of Versailles)
I read Christie's debut novel, the first in a trilogy, earlier this year and reviewed it for Niagara Life magazine. I was also lucky enough to meet her at the Ontario Blog Squad Meetup in July. She is so nice and the book was so addictive. I cannot wait for the second book to be released. (The Rivals of Versailles is out in April!)

Marissa Campbell (Avelynn)
Campbell's debut novel is another I reviewed for Niagara Life. And, once again, I was obsessed with it. Rumour is this historical fiction novel will have a sequel and I am thrilled! She's another of the Canadians on the list.

Karina Halle (Where Sea Meets Sky, Racing the Sun, The Pact)
I had been hearing of Halle's work for awhile, particularly because I knew K.A. Tucker (one of my favourite authors) is a friend and fan of Halle. I don't think I'll read all of Halle's backlist (she's written a lot more darker romantic suspense than I think I'd enjoy) but I will definitely check out all of the contemporary novels she publishes. Plus, Halle is the third of four Canadians on this list.

Taylor Jenkins Reid (Maybe in Another Life)
I know, I know. I received an ARC of her first novel - you know, Forever, Interrupted that so many people lost their minds over? - early on but I just never got around to reading it. I know now that I've been missing out because I thoroughly enjoyed her 2015 release.

Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (The Royal We)
I reviewed this book for Novel Escapes and it's probably one of my favourites of the year! I can't wait to see what they write next.

This was a novel that really surprised me. I wasn't expecting to be as sucked in as I was! Wilbanks' debut novel is worth a read if you like time travel stories.

Kate Beaton (Step Aside, Pops)
Can you believe 2015 was the first time I had read Kate Beaton? I had heard of the Canadian's work but just never checked out her site, Hark! A Vagrant, or her first collection of the same name before reviewing her latest for Niagara Life.

Colleen Hoover (November 9)
Yep. I've met Hoover twice and this was the first book I've read by her! I know others have said it's not her best but I really enjoyed it. I'm excited to read the two other (signed!) books I have by her at home and find copies of all the rest if I continue to enjoy them.

Abbi Glines (Twisted Perfection, Simple Perfection, Until Friday Night, While It Lasts )
I've met Glines twice as well but I just never got around to reading my copies of Twisted Perfection and Simple Perfection. I finally read them this spring and, hoo boy, did I get addicted. I read one on a Saturday and the next on Sunday - each in one sitting!

Raina Telgemeier (Drama )
A friend of mine knew I wanted to start reading more graphic novels so she suggested one of Telgemeier's. I adored Drama! The story, the art, everything! Definitely need to check out more of her work.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Review: Dangerous Lies

I hadn't read any of Becca Fitzpatrick's novel before Dangerous Lies ...not any of the Hush, Hush series or Black Ice. I don't know if I would have picked up her newly released novel on my own so I am super thankful Simon & Schuster Canada thought I might enjoy it and sent me an ARC. Enjoy it, I did. I read it in one day while on vacation because I simply could not put it down.

Here's the synopsis:
Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.
After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.
But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.
As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks…
Like I said, I finished Dangerous Lies in one day (multiple sittings even though I would have loved to have sat out in the sun on the cruise ship all day reading it!). I was hooked from the very first page. A teenage girl mentioning how she could be in danger of ending up in a river with cement shoes will do that. Fitzpatrick drew me in with danger - plus a sense that all was not as it seemed - and kept me invested with intriguing characters.

Stella is in an impossibly hard situation. Almost 18 and going into the Witness Protection Program? Not only that but what about what she witnessed that made WITSEC necessary? That's not something anyone should have to deal with.    

I really loved Stella. She was a bit of a... contradiction, shall we say. What we first learn about her - her mom's a drug addict, she witnessed a murder, and more - causes the reader (or maybe just me) to make some assumptions about Stella's background. I liked that Fitzpatrick played with stereotypes a little bit because it was another instance that separated it from similar stories.

There was A LOT of tension in this novel but Fitzpatrick made it work. She knew when to add another roadblock or complication to further heighten the drama. You might think this story would be over the top but it all comes together in a fantastic heart pounding, gut wrenching way.

After I finished the book I figured out another reason I probably enjoyed it so much - it reminded me of a K.A. Tucker novel. This is high praise from me because I absolutely adore her and her books. Tucker's novels are New Adult so I'm thrilled to have found a Young Adult comparison I could recommend to the younger crowd (or those who, for some reason, still won't read New Adult).

Dangerous Lies will definitely be on my recommend list for this year. Becca Fitzpatrick has written a suspenseful novel that is one hell of a mystery. It also has characters that grab hold of your heart and just won't let go. If you like suspense and mystery novels - or even if you don't and you find yourself intrigued by this book - read Dangerous Lies. And PLEASE let me know what you think. I need to talk about it with someone and find out if they figured out the twists or not!

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