[772]: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Tiffy Moore has had some recent upheavals in her life. Her boyfriend just broke up with her, she needs to move out of his flat, and what’s worse, she finds out later that he’s engaged. In desperate need of a place, and soon, she answered an ad for a flat share — a time share of sorts, in which she would have a roommate but they’ll never see each other. He works at night, she works days. And in the weekends, she has free rein of the place. They sleep in the same bed, but not together. It’s quite ingenious, actually. And one that could be financially beneficial for them both.

Through missives left on post it notes, Leo and Tiff develop a friendship. One that will be cultivated as they get to know each other very well. On paper, they have nothing in common. But as the days go by, and through their interactions, they realize that their connection is more than they’d ever experienced in any other partners they’d each had in the past — which complicate things as Leo is with someone and Tiff is trying to get on with her life.

This was a wonderful contemporary romance that had more heart and seriousness that what was let on. I enjoyed it very much as I’m a fan of romances with a little more depth. I just don’t want a meet-cute, then an adorable story about two people and their relationship. I mean, don’t get me wrong, The Flatshare is THAT but it also gave me more. I especially looked forward to them actually meeting face to face for the first time. The excitement it brought was more pronounced somehow just because their relationship was already developing into something more even before meeting in person.

The Flatshare also contained heft in plot by way of a few story lines: i.e. Tiff’s obsessive ex, Leo’s search for a veteran whose friend had very little time to live; and Leo’s incarcerated brother who was wrongfully convicted. I felt like Ms. O’Leary made sure that there were complexities in the plot that would not at all feel contrived.

Over all, Ms. O’Leary’s debut novel hit all the right spots for romance and contemporary fiction for me. I enjoyed the humour, the innate chemistry between Leo and Tiff, and the subtle emotions the novel made me feel. It’s quirky and just an all-around feel good story about two people connecting in the most unusual of ways.

Continue Reading

[747]: Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

A fascinating study of an eclectic group of people held together by a quirky matriarch, magic, and her predecessor.


Matchmaking for Beginners
by Maddie Dawson

Everything about this book screams, Rom-Com; from its Tiffany-blue jacket with a couple drawn animatedly on the front, to the quirky synopsis about a divine connection between two unsuspecting, quirkily similar women. Truthfully, it was what drew me to this book. It started out great. Unfortunately, the more I got to know the heroine, the less I was inclined to continue. But I persisted because there’s nothing I love more than reading about an eclectic commune of people tentatively finding their footing in their own ways.

Luckily for you, dear readers, Blix might endear you (as she had, me). As well, the group of humans living in a brownstone building that Blix haplessly saved from the clutches of eternal discontent. There was Lola, a geriatric who was too afraid to start over but have learned through Blix’s manipulations urgings that life starts only when you realized you only have one to live. There was Jessica and Sammy, a mother and son tandem. Then, there’s the recluse who lives in the basement – a former artist disfigured from a fire accident.  This eclectic group acted as a balm from everything else that made this novel frustrating.

There are also characters here that might drive you to drink. The good for nothing, two-week husband who has no balls and no brains; his entire snooty-nosed clan who has more greed that can fit in their pretentious mansion; and worst yet, Marnie McGraw, who was a train wreck and a basket full of bad decisions rolled into one. Unfortunate, considering she shares the top billing in this novel. Marnie was perfectly imperfect. But I can’t, for the life of me, reconcile myself to actually like this girl. Even if she redeemed herself in the end, the damage was done. [spoiler]You can’t make a man marry you. You also can’t hurt another man twice in his lifetime. Cheating is never acceptable. It’s an unforgivable sin in my book. [End of spoiler]. So yeah, Marnie tried my patience.

Never fear, this book has its moments as well. When Marnie is not being her self-absorbed, woe-is-me, self, she was unintentionally funny. She truly cared for the well-being of the people in her building and was truly sentimental on forging ahead with Blix’s unfinished businesses. And if you’re into magic and things of that nature, this book also has an air of mystical quality reminiscent of Practical Magic minus the darkness and only loads funnier.

WHERE TO BUY: Indigo | Amazon Canada | Amazon.com


About Maddie Dawson:
Maddie Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers. Her various careers as a substitute English teacher, department-store clerk, medical-records typist, waitress, cat sitter, wedding-invitation-company receptionist, nanny, day care worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco maker were made bearable by thinking up stories as she worked. Today she lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of five previous novels: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal.

G   I   V   E   A   W   A   Y

The winner will receive 1 copy of Matchmaking for Beginners (HC) by Maddie Dawson!
Giveaway Details:
– Canada Only (full rules found in the T&C on Rafflecopter)
– Giveaway ends on July 13th at 11:59 pm EST
– Winner will be drawn randomly through Rafflecopter, contacted via email & will have 48 hours to claim their prize

Rafflecopter embed link:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Continue Reading

[631]: Twenty Questions for Gloria by Martyn Bedford

FullSizeRender-5


Twenty Questions for Gloria

by Martyn Bedford


Gloria is a 15-year-old girl suffering from an early onslaught of ennui from life. Her parents didn’t seem to care one way or another about her. And though they would protest otherwise, their actions speak to the contrary.  Some days, Gloria didn’t care. But lately, she’s been having a difficult time ignoring the resounding loneliness that echoed in the hallways of their home.

Then Uman showed up; a mysterious specimen of a boy. Tall, lanky, and handsome in an effeminate way. Intelligent with charisma that puts everyone in some sort of spell. It just so happens that he seemed to have taken an interest in her as well. For days he hounded her until he inexplicably lost interest. Arbitrarily, that’s when Gloria’s fascination with him grew, and their friendship took a new form. When Uman suggested leaving everything behind, Gloria didn’t even flinch. With a tent, a few quids, and a deck of cards to guide their way, Gloria and Uman embarked on a journey to free themselves from their shackles: Uman, to a tremulous past. And Gloria, to an unremarkable existence.

Twenty Questions for Gloria throws you into a shroud of secrets and mysteries right from the get-go. When Uman walked into the picture, my thoughts quickly veered towards paranormal persuasion because his charm and wit were unusual for his age. It doesn’t help that he can’t seem to say a single truth about himself, and has an uncanny ability to  persuade everyone around him to do his bidding. It was as if everyone was under a spell. But as you delve deeper into  the story, you’ll learn why he is what he is.

The storytelling followed the questions being asked by the detective inspector in charge of investigating the disappearance of Uman. There was some British colloquialism used but they barely impede the rhythm of the story. When Gloria came back (relatively in one piece), she knew that she’ll never be the same person she once was. Throughout the exposition, Gloria and her mother would face some home truths about each other and their family as a whole. While Uman was judged as the instigator in the beginning, some light would be shed as to just how much involvement Gloria contributed to the events that happened in days that they disappeared. Each question is answered in a form of revelation; exposing the parts of Gloria and Uman no one knew – not even themselves.

There are so many reasons why this book had me in its trance. Uman is a very charming character. He was fascinating in such a way that one would be fascinated by a sociopath. I also needed to know where he ended up, and how Gloria found her way back home. The life of a vagabond is full of strife. Even more so if you’re only 15.

Continue Reading

[626]: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

22752127
Tundra Books | March 8th, 2016
Hardcover | 384 pp.
Young Adult | Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
GOODREADS | AMAZON | CHAPTERS


This book caught me unawares. The cover led me to believe that there was going to be a man who somehow has the power to control all types of snakes or someone with an ability to turn into a snake for whatever reason, but I was way off.In truth, this book made me cry; like full on, shoulder-shaking, snot-dripping cry. I was not prepared for it at all.

The Serpent King is a book about growing up in a place that doesn’t really offer much hope for the future. And in this town is a trio of friends who has their own struggles, misgivings and misfortunes. It is a coming of age story that  teaches us the fragility of life; the friendships that give us courage, people’s different ideologies and faith, and the importance of familial love –  blood kinship or otherwise.

Jeff Zentner perfectly captured the ambiance of a Southern town entrenched in fanatic religious beliefs. A town that qualifies the worship of God and snakes, and where drinking venom equates to ordination should you survive. But don’t be alarmed, this book is not heavy on the scriptures if you’re allergic. I think Mr. Zenter was very effective in conveying the religious thematics in moderation. It is every bit your stereotypical Southern community. Some are small-minded and judgemental who held Dill’s father’s sins against him. He was a pastor who got caught with kiddie porn and who tried to get Dill to cover for him by asking him to lie under oath. And when he didn’t, his mother also held him somewhat responsible for his dad’s imprisonment.

Dill feels trapped by his responsibilities and guilt. He thinks the only future he has is working at the grocery store and helping out pay his father’s legal fees forever. But Lydia will do everything in her power to convince him otherwise. Lydia’s upbringing couldn’t be more different than Dill’s or their friend, Travis. She grew up in a progressive household who gave her everything she needed – and not just the material things but love, support and liberties. In the meantime, Travis used to live a loving environment until his older brother got killed while serving the country. After that, he’s taken the brunt of his father’s anger at the world.

The Serpent King is a welcome surprise in a short line of recent contemporary underdogs. It has a lot of heart that will appeal even to those with cynical discernable taste.

Continue Reading

[574]: Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

DSC00465


Night Owls / Jenn Bennett


Alternate title: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart

If I could write a 400-word review consisting only of heart emojis, I would. Because this book is so beautiful and lovely in every way that matters to me. It has unforgettable characters, witty dialogues and a romance that will make you melt in a puddle of first love goo.  Break open your smelling salts, girls! Jack is bound to invoke swooning you’ve never experienced in your life before. Gah-huh. This boy.

Jonas and Taylor, scoot over and make room for Jack and Bex. 

This book is about a couple of kids who are both young, but wise in their years. He’s a graffiti artist armed with a spray can of artistic menace. He goes around painting San Francisco with words that are both inspiring and sad when you figure out their meaning. She – on the other hand – draws body parts. Not abstract, mind you. Real, throbbing body parts (okay, mostly dead body parts). They met one night while Jack was on his way to leave his mark somewhere in the city. The attraction was instantaneous. There was a lot of flirting and witty banter. The night was magical! In a series of hide and seek, these two crazy kids got together and form a connection so sweet, they could possibly be my new favourite couple in YA. 

For all his easy going swagger, Jack hides a lonely, sad boy whose love for his twin sibling knows no bounds. Bex, to her credit, is a very responsible (except when she sneaks out), sensible teen who knows what she needed to do to better hers and her family’s life. I couldn’t have asked for the perfect couple! There was a sense of foreboding about Jack’s life of petty crime. Also twinges of nervous anxiety over Bex’s little acts of rebellion. Truthfully, they’re what made the book (and their romance) all the more exciting!

May cause insomnia and heart palpitations.

It’s been such a long time since a book have induced such reactions. I miss that feeling. From the very first time Jack and Bex met, I was grinning like a fool for almost the entirety of the novel. It was funny, candid, unexpected and sublime.

I’m a first time reader of Jenn Bennett’s work, and though her other novels are not really the type of books I usually go for, I’m curious enough to see if she offers the same type of titillating romance. Night Owls is easily one of the best book I’ve read this year (maybe even, ever). Jenn Bennett gave me something that I didn’t think I’ve been missing out on all this time. If this is your first attempt at YA, Ms. Bennett, I suggest you go back to your writing cave and shake those plot bunnies awake.


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Simon & Schuster | Paperback, 291 pp. | August 13th, 2015 | Young Adult | Romance | Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

 

Continue Reading

[564]: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

DSC00408


All the Bright Places / Jennifer Niven


Back when I started seeing reviews for My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga, I was incensed at the fact that YA books seemed to be finding dangerous ways to make light of something as serious as teen suicide. I said that I will never read this book because reading about one suicidal teen is bad enough, but reading about two of them will make me feel even more helpless. Hopeless. I cannot grapple with the fact that kids around the world are probably making such a pact with each other. Days later, this happened in my hometown. Shit just got real.

I have no idea what I was in for when I finally decided to read this book. I knew it made a lot of people cry. I also knew the characters met on a ledge with suicide in their minds. I’ve never given much thought as to how it would end, so I didn’t have any warning when I got to that part. My heart was beaten to a bloody pulp; slivered into a million pieces. This is the kind of book that  inspires poetry. Unfortunately, I don’t quite have the words for it.

People saw Finch and they only saw a freak. Because he said the oddest of things and he did what he wanted to do. He dressed like a how he felt, and did things that made him, “Finch”. But when Violet looked at him, she saw a brilliant boy. A boy whose mind raced at its own speed that it seemed like every other part of him struggled to keep up. No one saw that side of Finch, however. No one saw the terrifyingly manic boy. The one who couldn’t seem to sit still. Most of the time, the world seemed to be too small to contain him. Everyone saw a different Finch. The one who struggled to breathe day in and day out was never in attendance. Violet was the only who saw him for what he was. And that’s because they’re kindred spirits in some ways.

Violet has her demons to slay. It seems so cruel for these two kids to meet at that place. And at the same time, righfully providential. How could one broken person mend another when they’re barely pieced together themselves? 

This book wasn’t written in the prettiest of proses. It was meant to speak at a level that could resonate with readers who needed it the most.  Because of this book, I’ve recanted my aversion to My Heart and Other Black Holes. Perhaps more for understanding as to how kids so young can feel like there’s nothing to look forward to in their futures.


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Knopf | 386 pp. | January 6th, 2015 | Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


 

 

Continue Reading

[544]: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

DSC00264


GOODREADS SUMMARY | HarperTeen | June 23rd, 2015 | Hardcover, 352 pp. | Young Adult | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


Emmy & Oliver is a story that we sadly have become very familiar with nowadays. Ripped from the headlines, it’s about a boy kidnapped by his own father when he was very little. He grew up knowing that his mother had abandoned him; and his childhood was not normal by any standards. He was home schooled, and pretty much friend-less. But despite this irregular upbringing, he was well-loved. His father taught him everything a boy should know. His childhood was not a nightmare. He grew up protected, and contented.

Ten years later, news came to Emmy that he’s finally found. Emmy has kept fervour hope that he will eventually come home. But when he did, Oliver was not the same boy she once knew. Their reunion was not what she imagined it would be. Not so much as strained, but awkward in all sense of the word.

Robin Benway captured some of the challenges a person like Oliver would encounter. Someone who was kept from the world and who now must learn how to navigate it. It is difficult to see him adjust, especially with the spotlight being on him.  He also grappled with the  question of how a person he loves like his father could do such a thing. I found it sad, and somehow, I understood why he did what he did.

One of the best things about this book is the lack of teen dramas in a high school setting. No Mean Girls mentality, no hot girls vying for Oliver’s attention/affection. I also liked that it featured one of Emmy’s best friends in a boy/boy romance. And her other best friend,  a neurotic sprite who may or may not be a bit OCD.

But this book is not without its flaws. When you peel the serious layers of this novel, it is, above all things, a story about teens in high school. About two kids who were best of friends growing up. The amount of time that separated them did not diminish their connection. Because of that, we’re to accept their immediate and mutual declaration of love. Unfortunately, I found it awkward. I also found their romance a bit anaemic. There was no spark, and didn’t really sense any real attraction between them.

Fans of contemporary fiction in the vein of Sarah Dessen might find it lacking. But if you’re looking for a fun teen novel with a dash of seriousness, Emmy & Oliver will fit the bill. Though I wish there was less light heartedness and more of the seriousness.

 

Continue Reading