Review | Watermelon | Marian Keyes

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Watermelon

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A hilarious and bittersweet tale of baby-blues and fruitless men.

At twenty-nine, fun-loving, good-natured Claire has everything she ever wanted: a husband she adores, a great apartment, a good job. Then, on the day she gives birth to her first baby, James visits her in the recovery room to tell her that he’s leaving her. Claire is left with a beautiful newborn daughter, a broken heart, and a body that she can hardly bear to look at in the mirror. So, in the absence of any better offers, Claire decides to go home to her family in Dublin. To her gorgeous man-eating sister Helen, her soap-watching mother, her bewildered father. And there, sheltered by the love of her (albeit quirky) family, she gets better. A lot better. In fact, so much better that when James slithers back into her life, he’s in for a bit of a surprise.


Think Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Gilmore Girls with a dash of Kristen Wigg from Bridesmaids; that’s what you get when you enter into Claire’s head the day her daughter is born and her husband leaves her for another woman. Marian Keyes uses something akin to stream-of-consciousness writing to turn something really tragic into something also heartwarming and hilarious. I felt the plight of Claire’s broken heart while also laughing out loud at the ways she deals with it. I’m sure anyone can understand why she would spend the next month or so rotating through the motions of sleeping, drinking, feeding her baby, forgetting to bathe, and refusing to change out of her mom’s neck-to-toe nightdress—but then she climbs onto the stationary bike in said nightdress at three in the morning and I couldn’t help but smile imagining it.

Anyone who’s grown up with sisters will also love Claire’s family dynamic when she returns home to Ireland to live with her parents at the very beginning of the book, after her husband has left her and she has a newborn daughter to care for. Helen is absolutely hilarious—and awful in the best way—and I can’t wait to read the novel that is from her perspective. I’m sure we’ve all met someone that one of the characters in this novel will remind you of. Hopefully one of those people is Adam! Oh, Adam. So handsome and wonderful, and another one of the aspects that makes this novel hilarious. I related so hard to the way Claire felt around him, and the difficulty she had in trusting another man since her husband left her! I think any romance fans will love that thread of the novel.

My one and only complaint is that, when we finally do meet James (the adulterer husband), I can’t understand what Claire ever saw in him in the first place. He is downright awful! He honestly triggered so much anger and anxiety in me that I couldn’t wait for him to disappear from the novel again. This character could have been killed off and I would have thought, “Right. Good riddance.” Anyone who reads it will know what I mean. He is abusive and manipulative and everything I have worked so hard in my romantic life to avoid that I wanted to throw the book at the wall whenever this character opened his mouth. Little Kate, you are better without him!

I am now reading the next in the Walsh family series, which is Rachel’s Holiday, though I have taken a break to read a holiday story, The Afterlife of Holly Chase (Rachel’s Holiday is way better, though). What novels do you all like to read around the holidays?


Links

Goodreads     Amazon.ca     Indigo.ca

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The Stranger Things Book Tag | Biblio Nyan

Hi everyone! One of the things that I love just as much as reading is binge-watching my favourite shows, and right now Stranger Things is in the #1 spot on my list of all-time favourites! I’ve been getting back into book tags and when I saw that the Stranger Things book tag existed, I knew I had to do it. I saw it on Biblio Nyan’s Youtube channel, so check out the video and let’s get started!

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1. Epic Intro

The opening sequence of Stranger Things is amazing and really grabs your attention. Name a book that grabbed your attention from the first page.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter on audiobook did just that for me. Amy Shiels is an amazing narrator and I love her Irish accent! (Review to come!)

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2. Dungeons & Dragons

Name a (literary) fantasy world you would like to experience yourself.

I’m going to go for the non-obvious and say The Night Circus! I’d love to experience that world just for one night…

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3. Squad Goals

When Eleven met Mike, Dustin and Lucas it was a *mostly* perfect team. Name your favourite bookish group of friends.

Aargh, why is this tag so hard!? I’m going to have to say Rory, Stephen, Callum, and Jazz from Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series.

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4. ABC’s & Christmas Lights

Joyce Byers goes mad with grief after Will goes missing. Name your favourite mentally unhinged character.

(I don’t think Joyce Byers goes crazy at all and she’s awesome but whatever.) Hmm. I’d probably have to say Sloane from This Is Not a Test by Courteney Summers. But can you blame her, really?

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5. The Upside Down

Name a book that was the opposite of what you expected.

Appropriately, The Snow Rose by Lulu Taylor which I just reviewed here.

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6. Mad Scientists

Dr. Brenner likes to get freaky with humanity. Name the freakiest dystopian government you can think of.

For sure the government that ends up getting created by the Governor in The Walking Dead, as seen in The Walking Dead: Road to Woodbury. (Yes I know Negan is worse but he killed off my favourite character so I stopped watching it and won’t talk about it k bye.)

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7. Demogorgon

Name a scary bookish creature that you would not want to come through your walls.

It would be great if the zombies from the previously mentioned series never become a thing.

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8. Cliffhanger Ending

Name a book that left you wanting more.

Definitely The Sin Eater’s Daughter! (Check back Sunday for this review!!)


Thanks for joining me for this book tag, everyone! I hope you enjoyed it and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments! 🙂

I tag…

My friend Ambur @ Burning.x.Impossibly.x.Bright

Sarena @ The Writing Duo

Review | The Snow Rose | Lulu Taylor

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The Snow Rose

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The Snow Rose is the gripping story of a woman on the run from her past by Lulu Taylor, author of The Winter Folly.

I suppose Rory and I will divorce at some point, when I’ve got the time to think about it and the strength to tackle the dreary admin it will involve. The house. The division of money and belongings. What will happen to Heather.

He’s not taking her away from me. It’s what he wants. It’s what they all want.

I know they think I’m not fit to look after her. My mother thinks it. That’s why I won’t see her either, or my sister. They’re in cahoots with Rory, all of them scheming how to get her away from me. That’s why I have to escape them while I can, while I still have the opportunity . . .

Kate is on the run with her daughter, her identity hidden and her destination unknown to her husband and family. She’s found a place where she and Heather can be alone and safe, a huge old house full of empty rooms. But it turns out she’s not alone. There are the strange old ladies in the cottage next door, Matty and her blind sister Sissy. How long can Kate hide Heather’s presence from them? And then the newcomers arrive, the band of eccentrics led by the charming and charismatic Archer. Kate begins to realize that she is involved in something strange and dangerous, and the past she’s so desperate to escape is about to find her . . .


The Snow Rose poses as a traditional English ghost story…until it’s not. Kate has a secret tragic past and flees with her daughter to a rundown English estate that she has signed on, using an alias and hiding the presence of her daughter, to be the caretaker of. As they begin to settle in to life at the estate, they are interrupted by two elderly sisters who live in a cottage behind the garden; one is overly nosy and makes Kate feel uncomfortable, and the other seems able to see more than she should be able to considering she is blind. Then noises begin sounding from the basement, and Kate is sure someone is locked away in the cellar that she’s been instructed very strictly not to go into.

Just when things start unravelling for Kate, the plot shifts back in time nearly one hundred years to the previous owners of Paradise House: three sisters, one of which is a raving religious fanatic enraptured by the prophecies of a man known as The Beloved. The elder sister has declared her mad, but soon the youngest, Lettice, is enthralled as well and Paradise House becomes a commune for The Beloved and his followers, mainly female. The plot soon begins to shift back and forth between Lettice and Kate, then Kate’s friend Caz, as parallels in their storylines begin to emerge and it’s revealed that this is not a ghost story at all, but a tale of madness and fanatic belief in the face of the disappointment of life.

I finished this novel wondering what on Earth I had just read. It was enjoyable…but much more so when I believed I was reading a ghost story. The introduction of Lettice and the religious fanaticism plot line confused the story’s rhythm and from that point onwards, the novel felt like the two different stories were constantly interrupting each other. On its own, Lettice’s plot was actually the more enjoyable one. Kate’s story became weird and muddled when her past trauma is revealed. It became hard for me to keep reading the book, but I wanted to know what happened to Lettice. Disappointingly, her storyline isn’t satisfactorily resolved–instead it’s sort of left hanging and the loose ends are wrapped up during a conversation with Matty, Sissy, and Kate at the end of the novel. This novel was all right but it just wasn’t for me.


Buy Links

Indigo.ca     Amazon.ca

 

October Wrap-up & November Preview

Hi everyone! I’m diverting from my previous wrap-up post style because it didn’t give me much room for discussion. Sorry if you really liked it! I’m going to try to come up with a more expanded, artistic post format for wrap-ups soon.

I published 6 posts in October. I was so excited to receive a review copy of There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins from Penguin Random House Canada and I really enjoyed it! You can check out my 4-star review here, and bear in mind that 4 stars are very high for me! I also finally finished Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, which I also gave 4 stars to, and I did a special review + excerpt post for one of my company’s books, Pumpkin Spice Secrets.
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I was super excited to do my first book tag in a long time, which was The Fall Book Tag by Bionic Book Worm, and I’ve loved reading others’ tags! I’m definitely going to make tagging a monthly thing. And, finally, I announced my giveaway (happening on Instagram) of the “A Free Elf” bookish candle from From the Page! Follow me on Insta if you want to take part.

What can everyone look forward to in November? Certainly another book tag, though I’m not sure which one to do yet! (Suggestions below please! :D) I’ll be posting reviews of The Snow Rose by Lulu Taylor, The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, and maaayybbee First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen, though I really didn’t like this book so I might skip it.

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Please feel free to recommend my next book tag in the comments below, and link me to your October wrap-ups!

Review | Leia, Princess of Alderaan | Claudia Gray

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Leia, Princess of Alderaan

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The never-before-told story of how young Leia Organa comes to join the rebellion against the evil Empire, from best-selling author Claudia Gray.

Find it on Goodreads.


As I wrote on Goodreads, it is my opinion that Claudia Gray doesn’t understand Leia’s character as we see it in the Star Wars movie franchise. Leia, as I have come to understand her since I watched A New Hope when I was two, is a head-strong, rebellious, ambitious, independent, and good-hearted person with a resilience of steel. She is not the type of person to easily fall in love, not because she’s been heartbroken before but because, in her eyes, the rebellion comes first and love is just a distraction. She is the type of person who accepts loss as part of the fight against the empire and doesn’t let her emotions get in the way (when Alderaan is blown up with her entire family and all of her people on it, she doesn’t shed a tear). She is also the type of person to call it like she sees it, telling Han Solo when she thinks he’s being an idiot or shaming cowardice in crisis situations.

In Leia, Princess of Alderaan, we are given an entirely different character. With only two years (or less) between this novel and A New Hope, we see instead a petulant child who can’t understand why her parents aren’t doting on her; a girl who falls head over heels for the most obvious guy who is also the complete opposite of Han Solo, the man who will become the love of her life; a princess who values her crown and her role as leader of Alderaan too much for it to make sense that she would resist getting emotional over the destruction of her planet; and a person too soft to yell at someone for putting the lives of the rest of the rebels at risk (as we see her do in the movies). And, at the conclusion of the novel, there is no indication that this petty, frivolous, and immature girl will change to become the Leia we know in the movies.

Those complaints aside, Gray’s writing of the secondary and tertiary characters also falls short. The characterization and writing was actually laughable! Until about halfway through, every character is Jar-Jar Binks-esque; all are caricatures of who I think Gray intended them to be but failed to make them become. You have the male love interest who is your classic good-guy to the extent of being annoying and knowing he’s going to get killed because he’s way too soft, not to mention the fact that he is a monotone, blank page; there is nothing interesting about him at all and I wanted to slap Leia for falling for him. Then you have the hippie-chick who is a female humanoid version of Jar-Jar Binks in her entirety. You have the snarky bad guy who is “bad” because he’s snarky…and that’s it. You have a snake-like alien creature who is just kind of hovering in the periphery and contributing nothing to the story. And, of course, you have Bale and Breha, but an extremely opaque version of them. They are weak and pitiable–a stark contrast to the way Bale is characterized in the movies and other Star Wars Universe books.

Giving this book three stars was generous of me, and mostly contributed to the fact that the audiobook reader was pretty good and made the experience of listening to my first audiobook pretty enjoyable. Still, I would have preferred a reader with a deeper voice to closer resemble Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Leia.

At the end of the day, I can’t believe anyone would give this book 5 stars, and I am certainly not reading other Claudia Gray books in future. 

Review & Excerpt | Pumpkin Spice Secrets | Hillary Homzie

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Pumpkin Spice Secrets

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Just as Maddie picks up her favorite pumpkin spice drink from the coffee shop counter, she spills it all over the cute guy standing behind her! Luckily, her embarrassment evaporates into a crush when she starts chatting with him — his name is Jacob, and he’s just starting in her grade at her middle school.

But before Maddie can tell her best friend Jana about him at lunch the next day, Jana announces her huge new crush — on the same guy! Maddie doesn’t want to cause trouble, so she keeps her feelings hidden. Jana will get over her crush soon, right?

Add major school stress to Maddie’s secret, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Can she keep her cool and work things out with both Jacob and Jana before it all turns into a total mess?


I received this ARC through Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review. Continue reading for an excerpt from Peppermint Cocoa Crushes, Swirl #2, and my favourite hot drink recipe!

This is such a cute MG novel! I had to get into the headspace of a middle grade girl in order to properly enjoy it, but once I did I was less judgemental of the girls’ actions and was able to be entertained by this sweet story of loyalty and friendship between young girls discovering first crushes.

The novel lost a star because very little action occurs, I thought that certain parts of the novel were over-dramatic given what actually happens, and I had hoped that cafes/coffee shops would feature more heavily in the story but aside from the opening scene and Maddie’s introduction to Jacob, the “pumpkin spice” theme sort of drops off, and this was disappointing. However, after reading the excerpt (below) from Peppermint Cocoa Crushes, I know the rest of the series, which features different characters, will be super cute!

Here’s my favourite hot drink recipe:

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Exclusive excerpt from Peppermint Cocoa Crushes:

“I stood center stage, facing the rows of empty seats. I took off my coat, pulled out my phone and earbuds, and scrolled through my music until I found the song I wanted.

As the music flowed into my ears, I pliéed deeply. Keeping my shoulders back and my stomach tight, I turned . . . one, two, three pirouettes. I opened my arms and bent forward. Rising up, I turned my head stage right and then leapt across the stage.

I didn’t think about what I was going to do next. I just danced. Free from worries and fears and what-ifs. Feeling the music, my body moved fast and slow, high and low through the space.

Then the song ended. I pulled out my earbuds and sat down on the stage, breathing deeply. In thirty days, I will be here, I thought. Right here. With Kevin and Karly and a packed audience. The lights will shine on us. The music will play. We will perform. And somewhere out there, the director of the Summer Academy will be deciding who will be given a scholarship.

When I stood up, I felt dizzy, like I’d done a turn without spotting. But I knew it wasn’t from dancing. It was excitement. The Holidaze Spectacular would be the start of my dreams coming true.

But first I needed to survive Thanksgiving.”

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Thank you to Sky Pony Press for the excerpt!


Buy Links for Pumpkin Spice Secrets

Indigo.ca     Amazon.ca     B&N


Check it out on Goodreads

*Giveaway Alert*

Reminder that I am hosting a giveaway–follow me on Instagram before Dec. 1 to be entered! International entires allowed!

Bookish Giveaway!

Candle Giveaway

That’s right! I’m hosting a bookish candle giveaway to celebrate the holiday season! I have to reach 200 Instagram followers for the giveaway to occur, so make sure to follow me @victoria.loder to make sure the giveaway happens AND to be entered to win! (And yes, the giveaway is INTERNATIONAL!)

Comment below if you’re excited for this giveaway! I’d love to do more in future. 🙂