When Simon and Schuster asked me if they could send me The Light Between Oceans, the debut novel by M.L. Stedman, I agreed. After all they told me that since it’s July 2012 release it had become a Heather’s Pick, a GoodReads Mover & Shaker, a NYT bestseller, and a Walmart Read of the Month. The plot intrigued me so I decided to give it a try even though I always worry that I won’t like a book nearly as much as everyone else does.
The Light Between Oceans tells the story of Tom Sherbourne, who, after serving 4 years on the Western Front, returns to Australia to serve as lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, an isolated island a half a day’s distance from the coast. During one of his leaves Tom meets Isabel and before you know it the two are married and Isabel joins Tom on Janus Rock. The two have a loving and honest relationship until a series of tragedies lead up to a decision that will change both their lives forever. I know that you can read more about the plot of this book on other sites like Goodreads, but I always prefer to leave you with knowing less about the plot and more about how I felt about the book, so I’m not going to give you any more specifics than this. I feel that when you read the book yourself you are more able to fully feel the impact of the decisions made if you’re unaware going in.
This book, while a captivating and heartbreaking story, started out a bit slow for me, although now that I’m done I realize that there was a purpose for such detail. By the time I reached second half of the book I could not put it down and finished it in one sitting, while tears streamed down my face. I was literally doing the ugly cry at 2am in my bed, unable to put the book down, not even sure I knew what I wanted to happen. This is the story of impossible choices and the ramifications that come from those. When you think you want one outcome, the author presents another point of view and then you’re torn again. By the end of the book I didn’t know what I wanted to happen, and I loved that the author thoroughly presented each and every character’s point of view so that there was no absolute ‘right’ decision. The Light Between Oceans is a thought provoking and emotional read that will stay with you long after you’ve finished it. Definitely worth picking up.
I give The Light Between Oceans 4 out of 5 daisies.
Simon and Schuster sent me a copy of The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley in January and as I was unfamiliar with the author I wasn’t dying to read it, so I put it on my ‘to be read’ pile. Thankfully I decided to pick it up shortly after because I absolutely loved this book and can’t say enough good things about it.
The Firebird is a companion piece to Kearsley’s The Winter Sea, which I haven’t read but will be picking up soon given how much I loved The Firebird. The book is about a young woman named Nicola Marter, who possesses a psychic talent that she wishes she didn’t. Sometimes when Nicola touches an object she can see it’s history – who has owned it and how it came to be. Nicola works at an art gallery where a woman brings an old family heirloom – The Firebird – in for appraisal. Since the owner of the gallery can’t authenticate The Firebird he has no choice but to turn the woman away, disappointed. However, Nicola held the carving and saw that it did indeed belong to Russia’s Empress Catherine as the owner thought, and decides that she must help this woman however she can.
Nicola can’t do it alone however, so she turns to Rob McMorran, a former flame who’s own psychic abilities are even more powerful than Nicola’s. Together they embark on a journey through the past to prove the origin and worth of The Firebird, and throughout their journey learn a thing or two about themselves.
Their journey to discover the origins of the carving have them following a young girl from the past named Anna as she travels from Scotland to Belgium and on into Russia. Anna’s story is just as captivating and intriguing as Nicola and Rob’s and at times I couldn’t decide who I wanted to read more about!
This book captured my attention from the very first page, and made it very hard for me to put down. This is the kind of book that makes me absolutely envious of authors and their incredible ability to bring their words to life. I found myself up until the wee hours of the night on more than one occasion completely immersed in this book. It has adventure and mystery and romance and is simply a beautifully told story. I honestly can’t say enough good things about it. Read it!!!
I give The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley 5 daisies out of 5 (go get this book!)
I have delayed writing this book review for a long time because I’m still not sure what I want to tell you. Because I liked this book, a lot, but I also didn’t like it. See, even I confuse myself sometimes.
Life After Life tells the story of Ursula Todd, a young woman born to wealthy parents in 1910 England. The book follows Ursula as she lives her life over and over again as her country finds itself on the edge of the Second World War. Ursula dies many times over the course of the book, only to be reborn with some kind of innate sense that she must change the direction of her life in order to impact her future. Sometimes those changes will affect only her, sometimes those she loves.
Life After Life is one of those books that left me truly awed by the end. Kate Atkinson does a magnificent job of painting such a vivid picture with words that you can’t help but be drawn in by her characters. Every time Ursula would die, I would be left wondering what she would change the next time she lived, and what impact that change would have on the rest of her life. Sometimes it changed her life for the better, and sometimes for the worse. There were times I found the story confusing as it jumped around a lot. I found myself having to flip back to find out what year the story was taking place in to try and figure out what had happened already, and whether Ursula’s rebirth was before a certain event or after.
I devoured the first half of this book, even finding myself staying up to all hours one night unable to put it down, but by the end I wasn’t as enamored. Life After Life is an amazingly written, complex story of a young woman who has the ability to keep living until she gets it right, but I didn’t love it. I appreciated how well it was written and the painstaking effort that went in to creating such a rich story full of so many characters, but by the end I found myself drained. I wanted more for Ursula and was often frustrated at how her rebirth would impact her future.
Life After Life is wonderfully written and a complex story, but a light read it is not. This is the first Kate Atkinson novel I have read and I’m eager to read more, but I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. Like I said, I really loved this book, but the ending left me a bit flat. I give this book 3.5 daisies out of 5.
Back in December I received a preview of a new novel called S.E.C.R.E.T from Random House that basically promised a highly charged erotic piece of fiction that would be Canada’s answer to 50 Shades of Grey. Obviously I was intrigued and read the sneak preview quickly and enjoyed it – but anxiously waited for the rest of the novel,
First of all let me answer the question of whether S.E.C.R.E.T is the next 50 Shades of Grey – no, it isn’t. Simply because if you enjoyed the sheer erotica of 50 you might be disappointed in S.E.C.R.E.T. S.E.C.R.E.T relies more on subtle erotica than 50′s more graphic and detailed sex scenes.
In S.E.C.R.E.T, Cassie Robichaud is a young widowed waitress who works in a cafe in New Orleans. Five years after the death of her husband, Cassie finds herself lonely and celibate. While working one day at the cafe she discovers a notebook left behind by one of her favourite customers. Cassie of course can’t resist taking a peek, and discovers this woman has written down all some pretty steamy stuff. It turns out the notebook is this woman’s journal detailing her involvement with a secret society aptly named S.E.C.R.E.T.
Before she knows it Cassie is recruited by a mysterious woman to join S.E.C.R.E.T – a secret society dedicated to helping women discover their inner sexuality. Cassie must reveal her inner sexual fantasies to S.E.C.R.E.T and in turn, they will make them come to life, helping Cassie become more confident and aware of herself.
I loved the premise of this book, a lot. A book that follows a young woman who becomes more empowered and discovers her inner strength through fulfilling her sexual fantasies – I mean who wouldn’t enjoy that?! But I couldn’t shake the feeling as I was reading that there could be more. This was the first erotic novel for L. Marie Adeline (the pen name for Canadian author Lisa Gabriele) and you can tell that she wasn’t completely comfortable writing some of the sex scenes. The erotic scenes were quite tame, which is great if you thought 50 Shades of Grey or Bared to You was too much for you, but I think the publishers did this book a disservice by trying to market it as the next 50 Shades of Grey. These set my expectations a little higher on the ‘erotica’ scale when I started reading and I honestly expected more sex. I would have enjoyed it a bit more if the author gave us more erotica instead of feeling a bit short changed after each encounter. My reaction, more often than not, was ‘that’s it?!’
The book was a quick read, and maybe a little too quick. For each fantasy, Cassie had accept a different ‘step’ and as I was reading I felt like each step was a bit rushed. Since agreeing to the steps were what led to Cassie’s self discovery, more time spent on them would have helped develop the character more, making me develop more of a relationship with her. At the end I didn’t really know if I liked Cassie or if I was just indifferent to her. I can’t even talk about the ending, because without providing any spoilers I honestly found myself shaking my head, wondering what just happened!
S.E.C.R.E.T is a fun, quick read, but if you were expecting erotic scenes that would rival 50 or Bared to You, you might be disappointed. It does hold promise though, and if it becomes a series, my hope is that Adeline will break out of her shell a bit and give us more in the erotica department. After all, what good is having a S.E.C.R.E.T if it isn’t perfectly scandalous?
I give S.E.C.R.E.T 3.5 daisies out of 5.
Wild Girls by Mary Stewart Atwell
4 daisies out of 5
Random House Canada recently sent me Wild Girls, the debut novel by Mary Stewart Atwell. I can’t really explain the thrill I get when I receive a book from a publisher that I’ve never heard of. I get super excited to read it but I also get a little bit nervous that I won’t like it and then I stress about what I will write since while I might not like it someone else might love it and I always hate to write negatively about any book. Fortunately Wild Girls was a very pleasant surprise.
Wild Girls tells the story of Kate Riordan, a young teen girl living in the small Appalachian town of Swan River. Swan River isn’t your typical backwoods town though – it’s home to the Wild Girls. The Wild Girls are what young girls between the ages of 16 and 18 who can mystically throw fire from their hands and who wreak destruction and commit murder wherever they go are called. No one knows why or how a girl mysteriously turns into Wild Girl, but Kate lives in constant fear that one day she’ll become one herself.
Kate attends the posh Swan River Academy (because her mom works there) and none of the wealthy girls who attend the school worry about turning into a Wild Girl. In fact, for most of them, the Wild Girls are nothing more than urban legends and stories told around campfires, but Kate knows better. Kate lives in a constant state of fear and paranoia because she knows some of the girls who have turned into Wild Girls and knows the stories are true. The book tells a very clever and creative tale of growing up where things aren’t always as simple as they appear. This book is basically a kind of coming of age story mixed with a supernatural thriller. Because growing up and being a teenage girl isn’t hard enough without worrying if you’re going to turn into a crazed murderer who sets people on fire.
Wild Girls really surprised me with how much I liked it. Atwell is a very talented writer in that she paints an incredible picture with her words. Previous to reading Wild Girls I read another YA/Supernatural style book called Swoon, and my main complaint about that book was the lack of character development. The main characters are much more developed in Wild Girls – I had a very clear picture in my head of what I thought the entire story looked like as well. My one complaint would be that I would have liked Atwell to go more into the story of the actual Wild Girls. I felt that the climax of the story was told a bit too quickly and was too vague and without giving anything away I felt like there was more to the story that should have been told. However I always respect an author’s right to tell the story they want to tell and if we’re left asking questions that’s always a good thing. If you like the YA genre and books with a supernatural flair I think you’ll really enjoy reading Wild Girls. I give Wild Girls 4 daisies out of 5.
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
4 daisies out of 5
A few weeks ago Simon & Schuster Canada contacted me to see if they could send me a copy of a new novel they described as ’50 Shades meets Twilight’. Well clearly if you know me at all you know I jumped all over that opportunity, but when Beautiful Disaster arrived and I started reading, I really didn’t see any similarities to ’50 Shades’ nor to ‘Twilight’. In fact I think that they might be doing this book a disservice by trying to market it as such, because Beautiful Disaster is a great book that while may appeal to the same audiences that 50 Shades and Twilight does, that’s kind of where the similarities end.
I returned home from my family vacation late last week find Beautiful Disaster waiting for me in my mailbox and even though I was exhausted that night I decided to start reading. I ended up reading over 230 pages until well past 2 am because I just couldn’t put the story down. I finished the book the next day, ignoring my kids while I camped out on my couch completely consumed by the story. I love a book that I can’t put down!
Beautiful Disaster tells the story of Abby Abernathy – an 18 year old college student who meets her campus’s resident badboy/womanizer Travis Maddox when her best friend America brings her to an underground fighting ring where Travis is the main attraction. Travis is instantly attracted to Abby and does everything he can to spend time with her, while Abby does everything in her power to keep Travis at a distance, with no intentions of being another notch on his bedpost. At its surface this is a very basic ‘boy meets girl/ girl plays hard to get out of fear of getting hurt’ story. Author Jamie McGuire is so talented at depicting both these characters pros and cons that you find yourself completely engulfed in the story and changing your mind about what you want to happen as much as the characters do.
Without giving you any spoilers, because it really is a great book and I don’t want to give any of the plot points away, Beautiful Disaster is just the kind of book that you can’t put down. I guess for me it was similar in that way to 50 Shades and Twilight where I found myself very much invested in the main characters that I couldn’t wait to see how their relationship would develop. But trust me that is where the similarities end (definitely no red room of pain in this book:) ) I’ve read a lot of books this summer and there’s even a few that I’m still struggling to get through, but Beautiful Disaster was definitely one of those books worth the investment of my time. I have a feeling that once you’ve read it you’ll pass it along to your girlfriends so they can read it too.
It’s hard for me to tell you why I loved the book so much. I didn’t particularly love either of the main characters all the time and I definitely had moments where I actually disliked them. But both were written so well that even though I loved them and hated them and struggled with the decisions they made throughout the novel I found myself invested in the decisions they did make and couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. I loved the supporting characters more, with both Abby’s best friend America and her boyfriend Shepley, who was also Travis’s cousin being some of the most well developed supporting characters I’ve seen in a long time.
Beautiful Disaster is the perfect end of summer read – a book that you’ll devour in a days because you’ll be unable to put it down. I also checked out author Jamie McGuire’s website and discovered that she’s working on a new book titled Walking Disaster which tells the same story but from Travis’s point of view. Can’t wait to read that too!
Beautiful Disaster is available from Simon and Schuster Canada today, August 14th. If you pick it up please let me know what you think.
When Penguin Canada first contacted me to see if they could send me a copy of Bared To You they told me to be prepared for something #fiftyshadeshotter. I am a huge fan of the Fifty Shades trilogy and had a hard time picturing anything that could be #fiftyshadeshotter than that trio of books! But I was wrong because Bared To You definitely had me blushing while turning the pages (very, very quickly).
At first glance Bared To You looks a whole lot like Fifty Shades of Grey. I mean, even the names of the lead characters are similar – instead of Christian Grey, Bared To You gives us Gideon Cross, and instead of Anastasia Steele we have Eva Tramell. And while both books tell the stories of impossibly good looking young, uber-wealthy men with control issues, it’s who they fall for that sets the two apart.
Bared To You tells the story of young professional Eva Tramell who’s chance meeting with the uber sexy, young and powerful Gideon Cross turns into a very hot and steamy relationship that plays out beautifully and erotically on the pages. So while the premise of Bared and Fifty Shades is very similar, the main difference is the lead female character. While Ana Steele was a young, inexperienced woman lacking any kind of scandal in her life, Eva Tramell is the opposite. Which makes you kind of like her but not at the same time.
Eva is just as young and beautiful as Gideon Cross. She’s wealthy and confident and successful but she’s not without her own issues, which are alluded to from the onset of the book and finally revealed as Eva and Gideon’s relationship heats up. And heat up it does. If you thought Fifty was graphic in its sex scenes, Bared is downright explicit. Which, let’s be clear, I’m totally ok with, but even I was somewhat shocked during some of scenes. And while the relationship between Eva and Gideon is very different from Christian and Ana’s, the formula seems to be very similar – be prepared to see a lot of similarities between Bared and Fifty.
With that being said I still enjoyed Bared To You a lot. It was a fun, erotic beach read that I whipped through in less than two days. The sequel, Deeper Into You is due out in October (the cover art was revealed today on Sylvia Day’s facebook page) with a third installment due next year. And make no mistake I will read them, oh yes I will. Because I loved Fifty Shades of Grey and I loved Bared To You. And even though they are similar I’m looking forward to seeing Gideon and Eva’s relationship develop, and how the author will have it play out. Fifty Shades is a highly successful trilogy and I wonder if Bared will follow the formula or if books 2 and 3 will bring us something different. I just started reading erotic novels this year and I’m not gonna lie, I can’t get enough! And while these books have their critics, I’m not one of them.
So if you’re sad that you’ve finished the Fifty Shades trilogy and are looking for what could possibly follow them up I would definitely suggest picking up Bared To You. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed. And make sure you come back and tell me what you think. I’ll also have an interview with the author of Bared To You, Sylvia Day, to post soon. Looking forward to it!
Insurgent by Veronica Roth – A Book Review
3 daisies out of 5
Caution – This review may contain spoilers.
Last week I rushed down to my local Chapters to pick up my copy of Insurgent the morning it came out. A twitter friend had recommended that I read Divergent a few months ago, after finishing The Hunger Games, and after starting out a bit slow I couldn’t put it down. Needless to say I couldn’t wait for its sequel, Insurgent to be released.
I didn’t love Insurgent like I loved Divergent. But that’s not to say that I didn’t like it, I just found myself a bit confused by it. Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off (my review of Divergent is here), with Tris and Tobias dealing with the aftermath of the uprising arranged by the Erudite and Dauntless leaders. In fact the entire book dealt with the aftermath of the uprising and how they were going to proceed. Too much for my liking.
I found Insurgent to be a lot like Mockingjay for me – in that it wasn’t that it wasn’t a good story, it was just that it was more detail than I felt that I needed to know. Too much narrative, not enough action. So much of what we learned in Insurgent didn’t seem to be relevant to the story and I kind of wanted Veronica Roth to get on with it. But, I realize that this is Roth’s story to tell, and not mine, so I get it. Just because I didn’t want to know about it doesn’t mean it isn’t important to know. But it kind of lost me in some places.
I also found that, same as Divergent, there was a lot to take in and keep straight. In Divergent I kept having to refer back to distinguish between the different factions and in Insurgent I kept having to refer back to distinguish between the characters. There were lots of new characters in Insurgent to keep straight, when all I really cared about was Tris and Tobias. And that worries me, knowing that there’s going to be about a year wait for the third installment – that I won’t remember who is who once it finally comes out.
There were also a few inconsistencies in the story – like parts where Tris doesn’t have a gun because she can’t bring herself to hold one again after Will, but then she’s shooting doors open, with a gun, that she’s doesn’t have. I honestly read the same passage about 10 times trying to figure out where I missed her getting a gun. This happened more than once.
I did like that Roth tried to give more dimension to the main characters, with both Tris and Tobias acting and reacting the way that should, and not necessarily the way that you wanted them to. But I was surprised at home often I found myself not liking them which in turn made me not like the direction of the story.
So while I didn’t love Insurgent as much as I did Divergent, I am looking forward to the third book, and I do realize that this is Roth’s story to tell and that story won’t necessarily please everyone. The book ended with enough (was it enough – not sure) of a cliff hanger to get me to hang on until book 3 is released, but I would have appreciated a bit more clarity in the writing. I give Insurgent 3 out of 5.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
4 daisies out of 5
I have decided that I am going to introduce a new book review section to my blog since so many of us are always looking for something good to read. I’m new to this whole reading for pleasure thing, which I know sounds odd, but when you have 4 small children finding the time to pick up a book is a bit of rarity. I had heard people raving about The Hunger Games trilogy so I bought them for myself for Christmas and devoured all three of them in less than a week. After reading them I searched for my next addiction, and after reading four other books that were good (but not Hunger Games good) a twitter friend suggested I pick up Divergent. Thankfully I did. And yes, I know I’m late to this game but I wanted to give you my review in case you haven’t read it yet.
Divergent is the story of Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior – a 16 year old girl who is living in a futuristic Dystopian Chicago that sees society divided into 5 factions. There is Abnegation – the selfless society, Candor – the brutally honest society, Amity – the peaceful, Erudite – the incredibly intelligent, and Dauntless – the brave. Upon turning 16 each person is assessed to tell them what their ideal faction is. They are then given the choice to change factions or remain in the faction that they were born into.
The story follows Beatrice as she makes her faction choice and the training that she has to go through as well as the initiation rites (each faction – regardless of whether you’re born into it or choose has an initiation ritual that all initiates must go through) she must endure. But in the midst of the initiation is also the typical teenage angst that even those growing up in a Dystopian society can’t get away from. There’s a boy and a new best friend and glimpses of typical teenager-dom but there’s also inner conflict and sacrifice and teenagers forced to grow up too fast. Without giving too much away the story then follows what happens when you segregate society and try to force people to fit into a specific faction.
The book started a bit slow for me – it took me a while to get to the point where I couldn’t put it down, but once I got there I had to pace myself because I knew that the sequel, Insurgent, isn’t out until May. I don’t want to wait until May to find out what happens next. Roth was only 22 when she wrote Divergent and I think that you can see a bit of in her writing style. Parts of the description were a bit choppy for me like the factions and how they were described. I found myself in critical parts of the book having to look back so refresh my memory on what faction had what trait. The same went for her description of Beatrice. I found myself not feeling like I understood her motives or why she made the decisions she made – almost like Roth skipped over giving us enough back story.
Obviously there are inevitable comparisons to The Hunger Games given that both are stories of young girls who face unbelievable events in their lives and have to basically fight for their survival. But Beatrice Prior is not Katniss Everdeen. I actually think I might like Beatrice Prior a bit more than Katniss. Beatrice, like Katniss, understands that while what happens to her isn’t fair she there is no time to sulk and she must make hard choices. Mind you we’re only one book in and my opinion could change depending on how the story unfolds. I think I liked Katniss a lot more in The Hunger Games than I did in Mockingjay.
So while I found Divergent slow to start it finished as a page turner. I can’t wait to see what happens in Insurgent, although I’m already dreading the wait between reading Insurgent and then the final chapter which will be released God knows when. I give Divergent 4 daisies out of 5.