Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

Title: The Girls in the Garden
Author: Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria Books
Format: ARC
Source: Simon & Schuster Canada
On Sale Date: June 7, 2016
Rating







Synopsis from the publisher's website:
Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Review:
When this book was pitched to me by the publisher, I was immediately drawn in. The first few pages are a flash forward of an event that will make any parent feel uneasy. As you flip through following the pages you can't help but try to solve the whodunnit mystery.

The Girls in the Garden introduces us to a group of teenagers who grow up and bond in a park hidden behind their homes. Together, they stay out late, have fun and get into trouble. The build up to the mystery intensifies as the day of the neighbourhood party nears.

I enjoyed many aspects of this book. My favourite being the character development. Jewell does an amazing job pulling the reader into the lives of her characters. You can't help but feel invested in their every move and questioning each of their decisions.

The Girls in the Garden takes you on a ride through the lives of ordinary teenagers who live in an extraordinary community. Part family drama, part psychological thriller. The story will pull you in and you won't want to stop until you put the mystery to rest.

For even more details on the book, check out the trailer below.




Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader copy of The Girls in the Garden from Simon & Schuster Canada. All opinions are my own.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger

Title: Soft in the Head
Author: Marie-Sabine Roger
Translator: Frank Wynne
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Gift
On Sale Date: June 28, 2016 (Originally published in 2008)
Rating





Synopsis from Goodreads:
A humorous, heartwarming story follows the intellectually dim-witted 45-year-old Germain as he meets and slowly gets to know 85-year-old Margueritte, who sits in the park every day watching the pigeons and reading. She speaks to him as an equal, something his friends rarely do, and reads to him, sparking in him a previously undiscovered interest in books and reading. When she reveals to Germain that she is starting to lose her eyesight to macular degeneration, he is inspired for the first time in his life to work at reading so that he can read fluently to his new friend.

Review
I received a copy of Soft in the Head from Janet Joy Wilson following our Mad Miss Mimic afternoon tea event. Janet Joy has yet to steer me wrong with her book recommendations. I love, Love, LOVED this book!

As I was reading, the book made me stop and think about my relationships with those close to me and made me re-evaluate how I treat others who are not. Its uplifting story shows even the slightest bit of kindness and compassion can make a huge difference in a person's life.

Germain was treated with such disrespect especially by the ones closest to him - his friends and his mother.
"When people are always cutting you down, you don't get a chance to grow." p61 
"People say names will never hurt you. But they're wrong, names hurt just as much as sticks and stones. They just break your bones more slowly." p108
All Margueritte did was treat him like an equal. She did not look down on him or treat him like less of a person because of his lack of comprehension. Germain embraced her attention. He craved the knowledge he was gaining from the books Margueritte introduced him to. They inspired him so much that for the first time in his life, he put effort into reading. This need to explore the world through books was elevated when Germain discovered that Margueritte would eventually lose her eyesight.
"The bloody disease, macular matriculation or whatever it was, would keep going until it had done its job and Margueritte was blind.
And that thought made me as sad as a lump of lead. When you love someone, that one person being unhappy can cause you more pain than all the people you hate put together if they tried to screw up your whole life." p170 
What I loved most about Soft in the Head was that it was a book, about characters who bond through books. As a lover of books, it doesn't get any better than that!
"Books should not be loved selfishly. Neither books nor anything else, in fact. We are here on this earth merely to pass things on... To learn to share our toys, that is perhaps the most important lesson to remember in this life..." p74
I dare you not to fall in love with these two characters! Their relationship is so pure and perfect because they compliment each other so well. I was so sad when I got to the last few pages because it meant my journey with them was coming to an end. I can't recommend this book enough!



Monday, August 8, 2016

Awe-inspiring Audiobooks in August - What will you be listening to?

A conversation with Janet Joy Wilson and her blog post about Awe-inspiring Audiobooks in August inspired me to finally give an audio book a try. I signed up for an account on Audible.com to take advantage of their trial offer - 2 free books for the first 30 days.

It took me a while to finally choose my first book, kind of like when you want to watch something on Netflix and you spend 10+ minutes flipping through the catalogue. Eventually, I decided on Janet Joy's recommendation: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I really don't know why I thought I would choose anything different...


I have listened to a few hours of Me Before You and here are my first impressions of the audiobook experience:
  • Paying attention to the book and its storylines isn't as difficult as I thought it would be when multitasking. I found myself perking up when an interesting passage was being read, but I was able to go right back into what I was doing.
  • Taking notes and highlighting my favourite sections/passages is going to be a tad difficult. I plan on figuring out a way to do this via the app on my phone. 
  • Writing an audiobook review will be interesting. Not only will I be reviewing the content of the story, but I'll likely have a few words about the narrator(s).
I am curious about how many audiobook listeners there are out there. Have you tried them? Feel free to leave me some recommendations on which books to listen to next and stay tuned for my review on Me Before You and my first audiobook experience.



Thursday, August 4, 2016

Kanye West: God and Monster by Mark Beaumont

Title: Kanye West: God and Monster
Author: Mark Beaumont
Publisher: The Overlook Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Purchased
On sale date: August 11, 2015
Rating:







Synopsis from Goodreads:
Kanye West is undoubtedly one of pop culture’s most divisive and fascinating characters. Alongside his multimillion selling albums, Kanye has also launched record labels and clothing lines and in the process, become one of the most respected, creative and influential artists in music today.

The most in-depth look at West’s life and career to date, Mark Beaumont’s new book lifts the mask to expose the man behind the endless myths. Featuring quotes from all of the major players in West’s life, Kanye West: God and Monster traces his life from the suburbs of Chicago through art school and rap apprenticeships to recording in the coolest studios of New York and Hawaii with the biggest names in music, revolutionizing hip-hop at every step of the way. Beaumont documents every rumor and revelation, details the wildest extravagances and biggest ego blow-ups of this true rap original.

Review:
I made a list of books to read while on vacation in May. I took a trip to my local Indigo and grabbed the titles I wanted. As I was walking to the cash register, I passed the Employee Picks section and saw this book. I picked it up as an impulse buy given that both my husband and I are fans of Kanye's music. I'm a little more College Dropout era and JG is still going strong. I packed this book along with all the others on vacation and this was the only one that came back read.

As a fan of Kanye's music, I never really got into the nitty gritty of his journey to the top, then the bottom...then the top again. This book does just that! Kanye is always portrayed in media as an outspoken and extremely arrogant individual, which he is. What the author does with this book is gives readers insights as to why that is. Mark Beaumont's title for his book "God and Monster" is aptly named when put into the context of Kanye's life.
"Along the way Kanye became the most loved, hated, admired, ridiculed, celebrated, lampooned and consistently unignorable force in rap. A self-proclaimed God and a motherf***in' monster." p10 
I took away a few learnings about Kanye's rise to the top and the hardships he overcame to get there. His perfectionist nature and need to be recognized is felt throughout the pages. It also sparked a few "Did you know?" questions directed to my husband while I was reading. For the most part he did know... My favourite tidbit from the book was how another famous musician got his stage name from Kanye and poet J. Ivy:
"Kanye repeatedly played Ivy a track Stephens was singing on and Ivy was blown away by how refreshingly soulful his voice was. When Stephens arrived at the studio an hour later, Ivy accosted him - "I heard your music," he enthused, "it's so amazing, it sounds so old school. Man, you sound like one of the legends. You're a legend. Matter of fact, that's what I'm going to call you from now on: The Legend". When Stephens walked into another session several days later, Ivy shouted at him "John Legend!" and Kanye backed him up, saying "you're John Legend from now on, that's your name". And it was." p105 
Overall, I enjoyed the behind the scenes looks into Kanye's career. I will warn you though, if you're not well versed in hip hop history, you may need to Google a few names to understand who they are and why their presence in this book and/or their work is significant to Kanye West's life.

The next book I have on my "learn more about Kanye West" journey is Kanye West Owes Me $300: And Other True Stories from a White Rapper Who Almost Made It Big by Jensen Karp. Just because I need a little humour in my life. On to the next one...




Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Teaser Tuesday #27: Unbecoming by Rebecca Sherm


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Jenn at Books and a Beat. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:


  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page (some times you need more than two for it to make sense).
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

Title: Unbecoming
Author: Rebecca Scherm
Publisher: Penguin Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Publishing Date: December 1, 2015 (First published: January 22, 2015)
Number of Pages: 320

I was introduced to this book through The Morning Show Book Club back in April/May and just had the chance to start reading the book this week. I'm only a couple chapters in and the mystery and intrigue have already set in. Here are a couple teasers:

"The first lie Grace had told Hanna was her name."(p3)

"When you'd known someone this long, she had often thought betfore, you could rarely see what they looked like at any present moment. Riley's face was a composite of every face it had been since she'd met him. Only every now and then did his face become singular." (p189)


Since I've been out of the blogging game for a few months, I'd love to see what everyone is reading. Leave me your teasers in the comments or a link to your post and I'll be sure to check it out!

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Title: The Nest
Author: Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Purchased
On Sale Date: March 22, 2016
Rating






Synopsis from the publisher's website:

A wickedly smart, funny and deeply felt debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of their long depended-upon family inheritance

On a wintry afternoon in New York City, Melody, Beatrice and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, who has just been released from rehab. Leo’s bad behavior before entering rehab, culminating in a car crash while under the influence—a nineteen-year-old waitress beside him—has left the Plumbs’ joint trust fund—“The Nest,” as they’ve taken to calling it—endangered. All four siblings, at very different places in their lives, believe that this money will solve a host of self-inflicted problems and their consequences. And until Leo’s accident, they’d been mere months away from receiving it.

Can Leo get the Plumbs out of this mess, as he’s always been able to do for himself before? Or will the Plumb siblings have to do without the money and the future lives they’ve envisioned? As the siblings grapple with family tensions, old histories, and the significant emotional and financial cost of the accident, Sweeney introduces an unforgettable cast of supporting characters: Leo’s stalwart ex-girlfriend who now thinks that maybe, just maybe, he is capable of change; the waitress whose life was shattered in the accident; the Iraqi war veteran who falls in love with her; and a retired, grieving firefighter with a very big secret.

Tender, funny and deftly written, The Nest explores what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of our lives, and the fraught but unbreakable ties we have with our families.

Review
Prior to being released, I noticed advertisements and reviews for The Nest almost everywhere I went. There was so much buzz and hype around it. I read the synopsis and was really intrigued by the premise and just couldn't wait for the book to finally come. I read the book immediately after buying it. After three nights of reading, I put the book down and sad to say, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

I'm giving the book three stars because I did enjoy the writing. It was an easy read that clearly expressed the writers vision. Where it all went downhill for me were the characters. Each one of the Plumb siblings and their mother were self absorbed and nauseatingly shallow. I could not find a way to emotionally relate to any of them. Each time I tried they would do something that just made my skin crawl. Most of my feelings towards these characters are likely the way they are because I come from a large, tight knit family. I can't even imagine what it would be like to have one of the Plumbs be a part of it.

Though my dislike for these characters is clear, the one lesson learned that I will take with me from this book is to not promise a lump sum of money to my children while I am still alive...this of course is assuming I'll have a lump sum to leave them. In the Plumb's case, knowing that their father's money would be there "one day" lead to each one of their downfalls.

The Nest appears to still have some hype circulating around it. If you're a foodie, a recent Toronto Star article lists a few restaurant recommendations, inspired by the book, located around the city.

My final thought: If readers can get over the mental hump of disliking the characters, then, The Nest will provide them with an entertaining read about one of the most dysfunctional families out there.

It took me over four months to finish this review and now, I'm really curious to hear about what other readers thought. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know!






Saturday, July 30, 2016

Tea Time with the Petit Four

As some of my readers may know, I've tried to follow along with The Morning Show Book Club lead by Janet Joy Wilson over the past year. Janet Joy's recommendations have never let me down and Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra was another hit in my books. You can read my full review and check out the book trailer here.

As part of the March selection, The Old Mill also graciously sponsored the perfect contest to along with the book. The grand prize was tea for two with Janet Joy and Sarah Henstra.

I'll give you one guess as to who won the contest...


It took a few months to co-ordinate schedules, but we finally made it happen last Sunday. There was so much for me to be excited for: an outing with a friend I rarely get to see, a person I've never met but often connect with via social media, the author of a book I still can't stop raving about and tea time at one of my favourite places in Toronto.

The tea and all of its accompaniments were delicious. My favourite items were the scones with Devonshire cream and the lemon meringue tartlet. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my phone so you'll just have to imagine how beautiful each of the little items were. Or, you can just check out the Old Mill's Afternoon Tea menu here.

The four of us shared in some really great conversations about life, new adventures and parenthood. We also managed to reign our conversation into official book club business and discussed Leo's adventure with Sarah.

One of the burning questions that we all had for Sarah was how she decided on using mimicry as Leo's distinguishing feature and it revealed an interesting tidbit. Sarah responded by telling us that her original idea for Leonora was for her to have been a forgery master. Having the ability to copy documents to a tee. However and thankfully... Sarah decided that forgery would be hard to explain and visualize in the book.

Another item that came up during our conversations was the Author's Note at the back. It explains some of the history behind the opium problem in the 1870's and leaves readers with her sources for additional reading.

Sarah also revealed some news on her latest book and a couple new skills that she's working on. But I'll leave that for you to discover on your own.

Overall, a fantastic afternoon with great food and even better company. Janet Joy also made sure we did not leave empty handed. Giving each of us a cute tote bag from Quirk Books. (If you know me even a little, you'll understand why it makes me chuckle every time I see it. A copy of Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger. A beautiful story of an unlikely pair...review coming soon! And last but not least, a journal to log all of the books I've read. It'll definitely come in handy as I start to organize all my thoughts for upcoming posts.



Of course, the day would not be complete without a group selfie...

Both Sarah and Janet Joy can be found on various places online. Feel free to click around to learn more about them and the amazing work that they do.

Sarah Henstra: Instagram | Twitter
Janet Joy Wilson: http://janetjoywilson.ca/ | Instagram | Twitter
The Morning Show Book Club: http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/programs/tms-book-club

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