Review | Me Before You | JoJo Moyes

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Me Before You

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They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?


This is my kind of romance: love and sappy feelings without the tendency to poor writing and editing. I recently tried to read a romance that was so cheesy and so poorly edited that I couldn’t even get fifty pages in. I had to put it down and call it a day. It seriously irked me.

Anyways, while JoJo Moyes is an excellent writer, it did take me a very long time to get into this book (about five months). The first half of the book really drags on, and there’s a hint of the romance that you know is going to happen, but nothing to heavily suggest or solidify it. Then, once you get to the middle, everything picks up. It took me five months to get through the first half, and four days to get through the last half. And boy was that last half good. It’s heavy and deep, and also very high stakes. I knew that somebody was going to get their heart broken and so it was hard to watch that unfold, but it also kept me on the edge of my seat. Needless to say, I was not at all disappointed with this novel overall and just wish it had hooked me sooner.

I loved the cast of characters. Lou’s family is complicated but also really loving and tight-knit. At the end of the novel, dynamics with her mother shift and I’m eager to read the next one to see how that plays out; this was to be expected given the moral questions that arise from assisted suicide! I also ended up really liking Will’s parents even though they are at first presented as icy and cold from Lou’s perspective. I came to see that his mom was super fragile, and his dad was sort of lost. They were also two very brave individuals, putting up with what they were. Lou and Will are complete opposites that, to be honest, I don’t think would have ever ended up together had Will not been confined to a wheelchair. They even point that out in the book. But these two characters who started out as two blocks of wood grinding uncomfortably against each other soon became complimentary. However, we don’t actually learn a lot about Will’s past except that he was ambitious and adventurous. I wonder if we’ll learn more in the sequel(s)? We do learn about something dark that happened to Lou which I absolutely did not see coming and which is one of my favourite aspects of the book; I loved how it was written into the story, how Lou came to terms with it, and how Will reacted. I think this is a really great talking piece for any book club because it shows that both Lou and Will are damaged, in arguably equal but different ways, but the effects are totally opposite; Lou shines brighter because of her experience while Will’s life has lost meaning.

I would recommend reading this and bear in mind that you have to get to the middle! It might help if you watch the movie first; I don’t know, as I haven’t seen it. But I will be now for sure!


Buy Links

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Review | The Winter Crown | Elizabeth Chadwick

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The Winter Crown

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It is the winter of 1154 and Eleanor, Queen of England, is biding her time. While her husband King Henry II battles for land across the channel, Eleanor fulfils her duty as acting ruler and bearer of royal children. But she wants to be more than this – if only Henry would let her.

Instead, Henry belittles and excludes her, falling for a young mistress and leaving Eleanor side-lined and angry. And as her sons become young men, frustrated at Henry’s hoarding of power, Eleanor is forced into a rebellion of devastating consequences. She knows how much Henry needs her, but does Henry know himself?

Overflowing with scandal, politics, sex, triumphs and tragedies, The Winter Crown is the much-awaited new novel in this trilogy and a rich, compelling story in its own right.


Every now and then I am lucky enough to come across a true gem in my reading pile that makes me feel as if, until that moment where I turn to the next page and realize I’m immersed in something really special, I have been plagued by mediocre stories and sub-par reading material. The Winter Crown is one of the books that did that for me.

How do you “review” a book that you loved and basically inhaled? You don’t. You talk about it instead. I’m sitting here racking my brain, trying to come up with anything negative to say, and there’s nothing. My brain becomes a blank. Everything about this book was enjoyable and well worth the $15 I spent on it.

For those of you who don’t know the history: Eleanor of Aquitaine was first married to Louis VII of France at a very young age; she bore him two daughters, but no sons. Eventually their marriage was annulled based on the fact that they were deemed to be too closely related (everyone married their cousins back then!) and Henry II of England asked for her hand in marriage, which would secure England Aquitaine through marriage only–one of Eleanor’s many conditions to her marriage to Henry was that she would maintain sole rule of Aquitaine. She also had to give up all communication of her two daughters and basically act like they never existed at all. And here this novel begins.

It’s important for you–my audience–to know that I didn’t read the prequel to this novel, nor did I need to. As the Goodreads description says, this novel is a perfectly good story in its own right, separate from its trilogy, but now that I’ve read it I do want to go back and read the first one, and then eventually get my hands on the third. In addition to reading everything else by Elizabeth Chadwick, of course! Oh, her writing is so good. This single novel covers twenty years of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s life but it never feels rushed. At first, when you’re not even halfway through the book and Eleanor has birthed five children, it might feel a bit fast, but upon reflection I feel that Chadwick gave each detail the appropriate amount of time to tell the story interestingly and successfully. Condensing the twenty or so years that Eleanor was married to Henry II into one novel in fact serves to strengthen the image of Eleanor as one of the strongest queens in English history, and a role model for myself. She accomplished so much during her time as queen! When I look at the size of the novel and think about all that it contains, I’m astounded that Chadwick was able to fit so much history, personality, and regality onto such few pages. Truly, truly remarkable–and here I refer to both Eleanor and the author.

One of the aspects of Chadwick’s writing that I found most interesting was that she actually never delves too far into any character’s headspace–meaning we don’t hear much of Eleanor’s day-to-day thoughts–but simultaneously manages to write vivid, complex, and surprising characters. I’d always thought that it was necessary to constantly be deep inside a character’s head to truly get to know them but Chadwick has taught me that isn’t the case. It’s very hard to describe the way in which Chadwick writes the characters and their descriptions…without quoting directly entire pages from the novel as an example. But let me say that it was something both odd, because I wasn’t used to that form of character building, but also insanely interesting. There was a reason I kept reading, everybody!

I can’t believe I’m finished reading it already. I really enjoyed my time with this book. Something I would also enjoy would be if the author went back and wrote more books that took particular moments in history from within this novel and wrote them in lengthier detail. Not necessarily from Eleanor’s perspective because that might feel redundant, but perhaps from Eleanor’s best friend Isabel’s perspective, or even Henry’s. Luckily Chadwick has dozens of novels for me to dive into when I need to quench my thirst for historical fiction!


Buy Links

Indigo.ca          Amazon.ca          B&N

Top 5 Books That Changed My Life

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Since finishing The Book Thief last winter, I’ve struggled to find a book that gave me the same feeling of wholeness. The other morning I reflected on that feeling and thought back to the books that marked a special place in my heart. I want to share that list with you, and hopefully these titles can give you the same happiness I had when I read them!

book thiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book struck such a chord with me that I have never found the words to review it. For me, it’s perfect. I can’t believe there was once a time where I picked it up in the bookstore, read the first page and thought, “Nah, this isn’t for me.” I suppose certain books find me at the right time in my life, and this is one of them.

Read it in the winter. Especially if you live somewhere where it gets cold and grey–this story really encapsulates that atmosphere. A sad story, yes, but one full of hope and promise that I couldn’t help walking away from it feeling glad and inspired.

 

moth diariesThe Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein

This book was an important part of growing up and branching out in terms of my reading selections. It’s a very dark story, and one that I wouldn’t introduce to someone at too young an age (I was 13 when I read it), but it taught me important lessons about sex, consent, mental illness, and LGBT+ relationships. I was engrossed with this book when I read it, despite how disturbing it could be, and I will always remember being sucked into these pages like falling through the door to Narnia.

 

 

 

bamboozledBamboozled by David Legge

It was while my grandparents read us Bamboozled that I fell in love with storytelling and the wild adventures that fiction can take us on. If you’ve never read it, or have kids of your own, I highly recommend adding it to your collection.

 

 

mockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The first classic I ever read, in the eighth grade I didn’t understand a lot of what was being said in this story about race but I identified with Scout and Jem’s adventures, their fear of their neighbour Boo Radley, and the admiration they had for their father. I was enraptured by the legal issues woven throughout the story despite not quite understanding them and remember the duration of reading as yet another time when I was oblivious to the world around me and instead existed in a haze of To Kill a Mockingbird‘s words.

 

 

 

rose for the crownA Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith

This book was, by far, one of the biggest literary undertakings I’ve ever faced. There are no chapters–instead the reader faces straight prose for 700 pages. But that prose! I was in love with this book in the way you fall in love and get lost in a painting or sunset. In changed my opinion on King Richard III and inspired me to get a B.A. in history.

I have since tried to read more by this author, but all of her prose is the same lengthy endeavour and I haven’t had the time necessary to commit to her stories properly. If you do, though, I’m telling you that it is so worth it!

 

 

What books changed your life? Tell me in the comments below! 🙂

Review | So You Think You’re a Millennial? | Jo Hoare

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So You Think You’re a Millennial?

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Discover how the life of the Millennial is a non-stop mix of selfies and startups, Kardashians and kale, kombucha and crowdfunding, anxiety and activism, experiences and entitlement.
Do you feel as nervous about your life prospects as you are about securing the last available table at your favorite brunch spot? Are you equally outraged by the myriad injustices in the world as you are by changes to Instagram meaning your selfies won’t be seen by your followers? If the answer is yes, then chances are you are a Millennial. So what exactly is that? If you were born between the early 1980s and the turn of the century (give or take), then it’s you. This hilarious guide, which features profiles and observations of this most self-interested of generations, plus a series of fun quizzes, will reveal exactly what it is that makes a Millennial tick, from freaking out about rent prices to checking out the latest BuzzFeed listicle.


This little book was such a joy to read! Honestly, I don’t know how it hasn’t been all over social media or Buzzfeed given its pure, unadulterated and hilarious attack on the millennial generation. Full disclosure, I am part of that generation, and reading this book was so much fun. The profiles in this book are of course exaggerated, but I was able to see little bits of myself in every profile, and was even able to peg my friends (but don’t tell them that!)

So what are some of the things you’ll find in this book? Apart from the wonderful illustrations, you’ve got such profiles as The Wellness Addict, The Perpetual Intern (that was me for a loooooong time), The Basic, The Mean Geek (my boyfriend), The Brunch Obsessive (me now), The Armchair Activist, The Fitspo Bore, The Crafter, The Makeup Obsessive, and so many more! I loved them all.

It’s clear Jo is a people-watcher, and also not a millennial. Otherwise these pages would also be dotted with her tears.

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Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own and in no way reflect those of my professional associations and affiliations. 

Review | Magic for Sale | Carrie Clickard & John Shelley

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Magic for Sale

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A young boy tracks down an elusive ghost in the hidden rooms of a fantastical magic shop.


This book is so cute and fun! While the syntax is not always right, the rhymes are witty and enjoyable for all ages. Adults who loved Harry Potter will get a kick out of the illustrations, which very much feel like a search-and-discover game. Easter eggs abound!

There is one minor plot hole towards the end regarding a large pink monster–where did it come from? Why has it suddenly shown up? Otherwise, a wonderful little picture book!

*I obtained a BLAD of this book as Sales, Marketing & Publicity Assistant for Thomas Allen & Son, the distributor of this book in Canada. Canadian librarians and booksellers can order their copies here.

 

Release date: July 25, 2017

Review | A Little Something Different | Sandy Hall

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A Little Something Different

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The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.  But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together….


Here’s the thing: this romance is super cute and the way the story is told really is “a little something different.” But I would go so far as to say that the story is TOO cute. There’s not much substance here, to be honest. For example, two of the viewpoints come from a squirrel and a bench, and it’s kind of ridiculous in a roll-your-eyes way. Then you have the fact that all these different characters are basically the same: they talk the same ways, they think the same things, they feel the same about stuff. Even the one character, Victor, who is supposed to hate Gabe and Lea (our couple) doesn’t actually hate them. (The author tells us over and over that he does but then he’s as obsessed with them as everyone else and it makes no sense.) It’s a prime example of telling, but not showing, and it is–quite frankly–weak writing. 

I would argue that Hillary has the potential to be one of the most unique characters and yet her parts are very short, AND Sandy Hall does her a HUGE injustice by slotting her into the “blonde bimbo” trope. I mean, COME ON.

In second place is Danny (yeah for LGBTQIA!) but he has the least amount of sections (boo!), and again, he is slotted into a few stereotypical “gay college boy” tropes.

In third place is Charlotte, who starts off as a character I could like but then turns into all the other characters (they are honestly the same–take away their names and you wouldn’t know the difference). AND everyone’s obsession with this couple for sure crosses into creepy. My frustration for this book bubbleith over.

Not to mention that there’s nothing about Gabe or Lea that is particularly likeable. Not that there was anything wrong with them; I liked them both just fine. But they are tertiary character material at most. While everyone is going gaga over their supposed romance, I’m sitting here as the reader going, “But why?” Honestly, they’re so boring! And everything that happens between them is SO. BORING. Another prime example of the author going, “Oh, they’re so cute, they look great together, we love them” and providing zero actual substance for these assertions. The author was shoving this down my throat and I was choking on it going, “BUT YOU ACTUALLY HAVEN’T PROVEN ANY OF THESE THINGS!”

So much potential. So do not recommend.