Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Blog Tour: Hidden by Catherine McKenzie & Author Interview

 Well I was honoured to meet Catherine McKenzie a few months ago at my local Chapters.  We got to chatting about how I have read a few of her books for review and she asked me about my blog.  She then asked me to participate in the holiday blog tour for this book. I posted my review for this wonderful book yesterday so check that out too. 

Now we have a Q & A with the author.  I hope you enjoy and I hope you go out and check out this author because she has some incredible stories for you to read.

1. Where did you come up with the inspiration for this story?

It was a lot of things, really. I've been thinking about the things we leave behind these days - how our electronic footprints might reveal things about us that people didn't know, or want to know. And then there was that mine disaster when those miners were trapped and it turned out that one of the miners had both a wife and a girlfriend, and part of me started wondering how the girlfriend would've ever found out that he was in trouble if not for the publicity. Add a few other things, shake, stir and presto: idea for book.

2. Did you know how the story would end when you started writing it?

If you're referring to the epilogue, I actually went back and forth on that throughout the drafting process. But I feel like I landed where it needed to.
3. What are your go-to feel good holiday movies? 

I'm not a big fan of "traditional" holiday movies (bah humbug!), but I enjoy watching Love, Actually, which always seems to be on this time of year.
4. You are currently doing a challenge on Goodreads to read 52 bestsellers in 52 weeks.  What books have been your favourites this year? 

I've read some great books this year, for sure. The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Myers, The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan, Z. A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Walsh and The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison to name a few.
5. What are your bookish pet-peeves? 

People asking me how I have time to write. I get asked that question A LOT, and while I get while people ask it, it always makes me feel like they think I'm a freak or something. Probably in my head.
6. Any big plans for the holiday season? 
Relaxing. Writing. Hanging with family. The best plans.

A great big thank you to Catherine McKenzie for popping by the blog today!  Happy Reading!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: Hidden by Catherine McKenzie

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publishing Date: June 18th, 2013
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Pages: 366 pgs
ISBN: 9781443411905
Source: Bought from Chapters

Summary from Goodreads:
When a married man suffers a sudden fatal accident, two women are shattered—his wife and someone else's—and past secrets, desires and regrets are brought to light

While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Not one but two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son and contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother—her ex-boyfriend—Tim.

With Tish’s co-workers in the dark about her connection to Jeff outside the workplace, she volunteers to attend the funeral on the company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life. Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, our personal choices and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.

My Review: 

I have loved every one of McKenzie's novels thus far so when I saw that there was a new one out in June, I had to rush to the store to pick it up.  All of Catherine's stories have had premises that are unlike any others that I have read. That says a lot considering the amount of novels I read in a year. Hidden is about a man named Jeff who is killed in a car accident.  Jeff leaves behind his wife, a son, his brother and a woman named Tish who may or may not be his mistress. The book is told in the perspectives of Jeff's wife Claire, Tish and Jeff himself. I really liked hearing from all three perspectives throughout the story. I especially liked Jeff's perspective because for a majority of the novel he is dead.  It is not told in a weird ghost-like narration but the story weaves between the past and the present. 
This story is heartbreaking and you find yourself feeling something for each the characters you're introduced to.  A story with a cheating element can be polarizing but I found that I didn't dislike anyone involved in the triangle. The whole novel is almost like a mystery because you are never quite sure if Jeff cheated on his wife or not. I really enjoyed how McKenzie writes and keeps up the suspense throughout the entire story.
I couldn't get enough of this novel and I as soon as I was done with the story I feel like I truly was in a book hangover.  The last line of the novel really stuck with me and I couldn't stop thinking of  how McKenzie tied everything all together.  She kept me guessing right til the end. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who doesn't mind getting a little teary eyed every once in a while. Overall another great story from a great author. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's edition is here to showcase our winter TBRs and boy is mine sky high! Here goes nothing.

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale- This book has a lot of hype and I just recently started it.  Thus far I am loving the quirky narrator and I can't wait to finish it.

Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook- I really enjoyed Cook's previous novel The Almost Truth and I'm looking forward to reading this one.

 The Treatment by Suzanne Young- I really enjoyed The Program and I'm excited to see what happens in the second novel.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge- A re-telling of Beauty and the Beast? Yes, please! Plus look at this cover!

Panic by Lauren Oliver- I quite enjoyed the Delirium series and I am looking forward to seeing what Oliver does next.

Four Seconds to Lose by KA Tucker- I binge read Tucker's previous 2 novels so I'm looking forward to seeing this one. 

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov- Well since I read Tampa by Alyssa Nutting I've wanted to read this one.  Tampa is compared to this classic and I'm curious to see if the comparison is a good one.

We Are Water by Wally Lamb- Lamb is one of my favourite authors and I'm excited to see what he has come up with this time.

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens- I first heard about this book during an ARC Party from Epic Reads during the summer. I can't wait to get into this one.

Be With Me by J Lynn (a.k.a. Jennifer L. Armentrout)- I have been on a bit of a NA kick lately so this one looks just fine to me :)

Well there you have it. My Winter TBR. I can't wait to see what's on yours.

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 9, 2013

ARC Review: The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publishing Date: December 31st, 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 384 pgs
ISBN: 9780062279484
Source: Received for review via Edelweiss

Summary from Goodreads:
Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.

My Review: 

I was excited when Harper posted this novel on Edelweiss and I was able to download it to read before it's release.  To begin, let's discuss the cover appeal alone of this. I love the font. I love the stance the guy is making in his old man sweater with the elbow patches.  I love the look on the girl's face and I also love the hint of sunshine peaking in through the trees. I am a bit of a cover whore and will often forget the titles of novels but I never forget a cover. 
I have to say that I had high hopes for this novel based on the cover appeal alone and I have to admit that while I found the story to be cute, I didn't find it exceptional. 
The story is told in two different points of view and while I usually like this for some reason I didn't quite like it as much this time around.  Wren is a girl who doesn't quite know where she fits in with her family, her friends and in school. Grayson is a bit of a bad boy who wants to turn his life around and he thinks that Wren may just be his second chance.  
I think that my problem with this novel is that I wasn't a huge fan of Grayson.  He is a bit of a downer and never fully takes responsibility for his actions. He admits to the things he has done wrong but that is mostly because he is caught with his hand in the cookie jar so to speak. 
I did really like reading Wren's sections. She is tenacious and has a good moral compass.  She is also trying to find herself and make her voice heard.  She often falls in the background and throughout the novel she seems to find her voice.  
I found myself laughing at some of the shenanigans that happen in the book. Some of them seemed a little far fetched but they were still amusing to read.  Overall I would say this book is cute.  It is a fun read but it doesn't necessarily stick with you after reading it. I would recommend it if you need to read something a little lighter. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Cover Redesigns

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This weeks edition is Top Ten Covers I Wish I Could Redesign.  There are so many books that fall under this category and it was difficult to narrow it down but here we go:

The Vampire Academy Series: I may not be popular after this but these covers are not good.  They are a tiny bit cheesebag and I'd love to resign them into something more hip.
The Anne of Green Gables series: These books still have covers that resemble what they did when they were first published in the early 1900s.  I think it's time for an upgrade. 

The Mortal Instruments Series: Again, I may not be in the majority for this but I hate that the heads are cut off and there is a giant half naked man in the background.  We are getting close to the corniness that is old romance covers.  Think, Fabio.
The Stephanie Plum Series:  The covers for this series remind me of the 90s.  Even the new covers stick true to the original.  Please update.

Shine by Jeri Smith-Ready: Well this is the third book in a series and they redesigned the cover for the last book.  I have to say that I really dislike what they did with them.  I think this may be part of the reason I haven't picked this book up despite having read the other 2.
Under my Skin by Charles de Lint: I wouldn't normally pick this book up based on the cover but the story is so great.  I think that if there was a cover redesign that more people might read this novel.

Starters by Lissa Price: I don't know what it is about this cover. I quite enjoyed the story but this cover feels more like MG than YA.  I know they have since been redesigned but I'm not a fan of that cover either.  What can I? I'm picky.
The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling: I just think this is too plain.  It could be a bit more exciting. I do like the cover for the soft cover though.

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin: I LOVE this book. I would say that it is in my top 3 for the year.  That being said, if I saw this cover in the store I don't think I'd necessarily pick it up.
Wait for You by J. Lynn (Jennifer L. Armentrout): I quite enjoyed this New Adult pick but the cover is slightly embarrassing to cart around in public.  We don't need to be quite so obvious.

Well there you have it.  Do you agree or disagree? Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Publisher: William Morrow Books
Publishing Date: June 18th, 2013
Genre: Adult, Fiction, Sci-Fi, Paranormal
Pages: 181 pgs
ISBN: 9780062255655
Source: Won at the Ontario Blog Squad Event

Summary from Goodreads:
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

My Review: 

Well I have to admit to something.  As a book nerd, I have only ever read one other Neil Gaiman book and that book was Coraline.  Gaiman is a legend in writing circles and I was a little red faced to say that I hadn't really read any of this novels.  That being said, last weekend at the Ontario blogger meetup I was lucky enough to win a signed ARC of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  I mean a signed copy!  What luck! As soon as I finished my current read, I dove head first into this story.  It is a magical work involving alternate worlds, monsters and enchanted kittens.  I really enjoyed this story and since it is so short I pretty much read it in a day.  The characters are so enticing and you can't help but fall in love with them.  I especially loved Lettie Hempstock.  She is a precocious, wise beyond her years, 11 year old who takes the narrator on a journey that is beyond his imagination.  Her mother and grandmother are also a part of the story but it seems that the two are often interchangeable.  In fact, Lettie seems to fall into this interchangeable category as well.  Since magic is at play and the book was full of metaphor, I had to wonder if all three were really the same person but from different eras or times of their lives.  The three hold a tremendous amount of power in the novel and come to be the saviours for the young protagonist.  
The book is cleverly written and the idea of memory is often brought up.  How accurate are our memories and how do they shift and change over time?  It is fascinating to think that what we remember of one event may not be how someone else remembers.  It is also interesting to think that our perception of what occurred may change as we age.  This story explores that through the lens of magic.  
Overall, I quite enjoyed this novel.  The only thing that bothered me a bit was the fact that at times it was slightly confusing.  Different situations would pop up that were out of the norm and as a reader I was expected to piece together what was going on.  I think that with a little bit more explanation/background information that the story would have been bang on.  While it was quirky, it was unique and I would definitely recommend this to others.  Great work Gaiman! I will have to pick up your other novels now to add to my ever growing TBR pile. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Creepy Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish

This week's edition is creepy covers.  I'm just going to post the covers because they speak for themselves. 

And there they are.  I'm looking forward to seeing yours.  Happy reading and Happy Halloween!