Blog Tour — The Party — Robyn Harding

9 Jun

 

I am so freaking HAPPY to be a part of this blog tour! Robyn was sweet enough to answer some questions, and below our interview you’ll find my review of The Party.

Hi Robyn! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog and answering some questions. 🙂

Lavender Lines: Coffee or tea?

Robyn: Coffee. 1.5 cups with honey and milk.

LL: Do you have any writing rituals? (Fave place, certain music you listen to, etc.)

R: I have a cheerful, sunny little office in my home that I rarely use. Despite having had a professional ergonomic assessment of my workspace, my neck and shoulders seize up when I sit at my desk. Now I am mostly on the couch with my laptop, but I just bought a cardboard standup desk. I am hoping for the best!

I am most creative in the morning. After my husband and kids leave for work/school, I pour my coffee, grab my laptop, and start writing. I don’t shower, dress, brush my teeth… I pity anyone who comes to my door before 10:00 A.M.

LL: Some of the main characters in The Party are, well, not really nice people. Was it hard to write unlikeable characters in a way that would keep readers interested?

R: It was fun! I had never written such odious characters before. I love reading books about nasty people. I don’t need to like the characters, I just need to be interested in them. In The Party, everyone has secrets, everyone has issues, everyone has a motive…. I hope this will keep readers’ attention, even if they hate every character.

LL: Where did the idea for The Party come from?

R: I have two teenaged kids, so underage drinking is a relevant issue in my life. I talked to other parents of teens and found wildly differing opinions on substance use. Some parents are zero tolerance, while other take the “they’re going to drink anyway, I’d rather they do it at home” approach. This made me imagine the worst-case scenario of kids partying at home, and how parents would really deal with that fall out. I also thought it would be fun to have this happen to strict parents who are truly blindsided.

LL: Can you tell us about anything you’re working on now?

R: I’m writing a novel inspired by Canada’s most notorious serial killer, Karla Homolka. She has served her time and is now free, a mother of three, and living a normal family life in Quebec. With this book, I’m confronting some hard questions: Can people really change? Do they deserve a second chance? And can you ever outrun your past?

LL: Again, thanks so much for popping by!

R: And thank you so much for the interview!

 

 

 

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Released: June 6th, 2017
Genre: Mystery, literature
Source: ARC from publisher

 

Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?

But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to come apart. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are revealed in the Sanders’ marriage, and the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah, is exposed.

Harkening to Herman Koch’s The Dinner, Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, The Party takes us behind the façade of the picture-perfect family, exposing the lies, betrayals, and moral lapses that neighbors don’t see—and the secrets that children and parents keep from themselves and each other.

From Goodreads

Holy Hell, fellow book nerds! This book was a super great read, but I am afeared it will be hard to review, because the thing I like the best about it is the ending and I sure as heck don’t want to give that away. All I will say about the ending is that it is one of the most surprising and OMG endings I’ve read in a long, long time and I absolutely love it.

The second thing I love the most about this book is something I can talk about, and that’s the fact that pretty much every character in the book, in one way or another, is a douchenozzle. I am not one of those readers that has to like main characters in order to enjoy and like the book, nope. This was a favorite read for me, but my God I definitely wouldn’t want to meet any of these characters.

Writing a riveting book with unlikable characters is a hard hard thing to do, I imagine, and Harding does it wonderfully. I read this book in two sittings and when I was done I spent some time thinking about the characters and their motivations behind what they did. Even now, writing the review weeks after I read it, I can’t help but think back on it and wonder not only about their actions in the book, but also what their actions would be AFTER the book.

If you are looking for an engaging, make-you-think read, you can’t go wrong with The Party.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Blog Tour

22 Mar

 

As soon as I saw “Tea Girl” in the title, I knew I had to review this book. I am a HUGE tea drinker with around one hundred kinds of tea in my personal collection. And I am also a tea leaf reader. So yeah, this was bound to be right up my alley.

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Released: March 21st, 2017
Genre: contemporary
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

I have to admit I’ve never had straight up Pu’er tea before. I’ve had flavoured Pu’er tea, but that’s not really the same. So of course I went to David’s Tea and picked up some Silken Pu’er from Yunnan and am drinking it as I write this review. I usually take cream in my tea but I’m having it without and I’m really enjoying it. The scent is very earthy to me and the taste is very grounding. I am definitely a fan!

Okay, now on to the book.  The first thing is reading this made me realize how white-washed my reading is. Most of the books I read take place within my own cultural knowledge and feature white characters. I really need to start diversifying my reading list. A LOT. I really enjoyed reading about the Akha and their traditions and culture. See writes about it in beautiful detail and quite vividly. Reading through the lens of my experience I did find some of their practices heartbreaking and during the first part of the book had to remind myself that I wasn’t actually reading an historical novel, but one that took place between the late 80s and late 90s.

Li-yan’s struggles with wanting to honour her parents and the Akha way but also recognizing that some of the traditions are outdated. She strives to balance living in a modern world with not completely forgetting her culture. This is something I know nothing about, but I imagine it’s a common struggle, especially as Western civilization encroaches more and more on other cultures.  See doesn’t hit readers over the head with any moral message about this, but the description of the changes taking place and the internal struggle Li-yan faces is clear and at times uncomfortable, making for a riveting read.

The structure of the novel was unexpected but perfect. I was expecting it to be written from Li-yan and Haley’s POV but Haley’s sections are presented in a creative way that still lets the readers in on her life. For me it really helped to make clear the difference in their lives.

I LOVED all the details about tea: growing it, picking it, processing it, brewing it, and drinking it. As I said already I’m a huge tea fan, but more of the drinking rather than the learning. But after reading The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane I know want to know ALL about tea. (There may be some book purchases in the near future!)

To me the core of the story isn’t just relationships, but female relationships. Li-yan’s mother is a surprising character and I really enjoyed watching their relationship evolve. All of the relationships were complex and believable and all of the character were fleshed out.

I really really liked this book and loved the fact that it opened my eyes to a part of the world and a group of people I wasn’t aware of before. This will definitely lead to me varying what I read in the future.

The Woman in Cabin 10 blog tour

9 Jan

woman-in-cabin-10-blog-tour

 

Today I am super excited to be hosting Ruth Ware for her The Woman in Cabin 10 blog tour! My review will be posted below, but first, here’s my Q&A with Ruth.

Lavender Lines: First of all, thank you so much for joining me on the blog today. I’m a super big fan of your books. 🙂

Ruth: Thank you for having me – it’s great to be here!

LL: Do you listen to music when you write?

R: No! In fact I find it incredibly distracting. I used to be able to write while watching TV, but that was years ago. The older I get, the more intolerant I get to interruptions, and now I find I work best in complete silence. In fact my neighbours have building work going on right now (as in, literally, I can hear hammering while I type this) and even that is annoying me, but music gets into my head in a really infuriating way. I find it drowns out what my characters are trying to say. I’m definitely not a writing in coffee shops type person.

LL: Tea or coffee?

R: Definitely coffee! None of my characters are very autobiographical, but that’s the one trait of myself that I put into Nora as a straight cut and paste. I am a coffee addict and find a week without coffee (or even just a week without my preferred type of coffee) really hard work.

LL: Who is your favourite mystery writer?

R: Oooh, this is hard! I have too many, and it changes all the time. I tend to say Agatha Christie just because I really admire her plots and because I think she’s critically very under-rated. But today I’m going to say… Dorothy L Sayers. Strong Poison is probably the crime mystery that I have read and re-read the most number of times.

LL: Your books have the most delicious twists and turns. How do you come up with them?

R: I have no idea! Sometimes they are plotted from the outset but more often they just arise naturally as I write. The final page of The Woman in Cabin 10 (people who’ve read it will know the bit I mean) was a complete surprise to me, and I had to go back and re-write quite a few bits to make it work.

LL: If you weren’t an author you would be _________(and the skies the limit)?

R: Well, I used to work in PR so I guess the prosaic answer is that I would probably still be doing that! Alternatively, I have always really loved numbers (I very nearly did maths at university) and I find accounts and figures very satisfying, so maybe I would retrain and become an accountant? Sorry, I realise those are not very “the sky’s the limit” type answers!

LL: Thank you again so much!

R: Thanks for having me!

 

REVIEW

Okay, I loved this book. Lately I have been reading some awesome mysteries with unreliable narrators and enough twists and turns to pull a muscle and The Woman in Cabin 10 is one of the coolest.

Through most of the book I had no freaking idea what the hell was going on and I often stopped reading to try to puzzle things out. And just when I thought I had it figured out the author threw something else in that made me once again not know what the frig was happening.

The timeline was somewhat wonky and that only added to the WTF feeling I had through most of the book. But it wasn’t so wonky that I was so confused I was frustrated. Nope, this was the best kind of puzzle to try to figure out.

Most of this book takes place on a ship and I’m also starting to love the whole mystery where no one can leave thing. Ware also did this in In a Dark, Dark Wood and once again it works perfectly for the story.

The characters were very believable and I never felt 100% like I had a solid grip on them. Once again, as in all the great mysteries, the good guys and the bad guys weren’t clear at all.

This was a well written, well thought out mystery and Ware is fast becoming one of my favourite mystery writers.

The Twilight Wife — A.J. Banner

22 Dec

twilight

 

Publisher: Touchstone
Released: Dec 27th, 2016
Genre: Mystery, suspence
Source: ARC from publisher

 

Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.

But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends.

As Kyra races to uncover her past, the truth becomes a terrifying nightmare. A twisty, immersive thriller, The Twilight Wife will keep readers enthralled through the final, shocking twist.

From Goodreads

Ahhhhh a mystery with an unreliable narrator. My favourite! I like a mystery where I feel off-kilter, not really sure if I can believe what I’m reading. And I definitely got that with this book. When the narrator’s memory is touch and go, how can you trust what she’s saying?

Trying to piece together what was real and what was imaginary as Krya was doing the same thing really made for a delicious read. And when I kind of figured out what was going on before she did? It’s like when you watch a horror movie and you know the heroine shouldn’t open the door and you’re yelling “DON’T!!!!” It was that kind of thing. I felt super anxious for Kyra because she was still clueless but I had all the clues lined up.

I can’t really go into much more without giving anything away. This was a quick read for me that really drew me right in.

I really enjoyed The Twilight Wife. It’s an awesome mystery and I definitely recommend it.

 

Field Notes — Sara Jewell

20 Dec

field

 

Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Released: September 30th, 2016
Genre: Memoir, essays
Source: ARC from publisher

 

“When my husband told me he didn’t want to be married any longer, I didn’t call a lawyer, talk to my minister, or even tell my best friend. My first thought—and only plan—was go to Pugwash.”
So begins Sara Jewell’s tender and heartfelt collection of essays. After a childhood of idyllic summers on Canada’s east coast, Sara knew the only place she could begin to rebuild her life—to find her heart and home—was amid the salty air and red dirt roads of Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.

Part humorous observation and part honest self-reflection, Sara deftly explores the people, creatures, landscapes, and experiences that make her life in rural Nova Scotia so different from the big-city one she’d grown accustomed to.

They say you can never go back. But they are wrong.

From Goodreads

Delightful. That’s the word that kept popping into my head as I read Field Notes: A City Girl’s Search for Heart and Home in Rural Nova Scotia. 

As a former suburban chick who bought a 100 year old farmhouse and 37 acres of land with her hubby seven years ago, there’s a lot that I could identify with in Jewell’s essays. From her obsession with chickens (I have them also) to her desire for more farm animals (I also gave in to a desire for pet goats) I was nodding my head quite a bit while reading.

I am not a social person, so I really enjoyed reading about how Sara found herself welcomed into the community and all the connections she made. She really embraced the country life and I think that’s awesome. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that Christina Martin, one of my favourite singers and an acquaintance of mine, is a neighbour of Jewell’s. Even reading a book about the Maritimes can result in that game of “I know them too!”

Jewell’s writing style is lush and descriptive and draws you right into the scene. She’s writes deep without being flowery and sometimes her essays take you to unexpected but beautiful places.

Honest and interesting, anyone who enjoys memoirs will love this book.

For the Love of Mary — Christopher Meades

15 Dec

love

 

Publisher: ECW Press
Released: June 14th, 2016
Genre: YA
Source: eARC from publisher

 

A hilarious coming-of-age novel about the pain of young love, family secrets, and sick ferrets

Fifteen-year-old Jacob feels almost on the inside: almost smart, almost funny, almost good-looking, almost worthy of falling in love. His sister is too busy dating guys in Whitesnake jackets to notice, and his best friend is occupied with his own painful pubescent crisis. Jacob’s mother has just started a curious (and rather un-Christian) holy war with the church across the street, while his father has secretly moved into the garage.

Everything changes when Jacob meets Mary. Jacob thinks Mary is the most beautiful girl in the world. If only Mary’s father wasn’t the minister at the enormous rival church. If only she wasn’t dating a youth pastor with pristine white teeth and impeccably trimmed hair. If only Jacob could work up the courage to tell Mary how he feels . . .

As the conflict between the churches escalates, a peeping Tom prowls the neighbourhood, a bearded lady terrorizes unsuspecting Dairy Queen customers, a beautiful young girl entices Jacob into a carnal romp in a car wash, and the church parishioners prepare their annual re-enactment of Operation Desert Storm.

For the Love of Mary is sidesplitting satire with a surprising amount of heart.

From Goodreads

Do you remember The Best Christmas Pageant ever? It’s a book but was also turned into a TV movie.  For the Love of Mary reminds me a bit of it. The whole fighting between the churches, both sides trying to one up the other, just has the same feel to it. And I LOVE it. This is a quirky book and quirky is very hard to nail. But Meades does it beautifully.

I love how weird and imperfect all the characters were. So so relatable. Every single character is a bit nutso, and really, isn’t that how life is? Their actions and dialogue are so believable even if the situations in the book seem a bit over the top. But because of how believable the characters are, it actually makes those over the top plot points seem believable.

This is humorous satirical writing at its best. But it’s not all about getting the laughs. There’s a real story here about friendship, first loves and tolerance.

I have to take a moment to talk about Jacob’s best friend, Moss Murphy. First of all, how great is that name? And the fact that he’s always referred to as Moss Murphy, not just Moss, is AWESOME. Like there’s the possibility that Jacob knows someone else by the name of Moss. And Moss Murphy is a character well-deserving of the name, let me tell you. He’s one of my favourite parts of the book.

My only issue is with the ending. Not necessarily the way it ended, but how abrupt it seems. I am all for open endings (and I actually prefer them) but the quickness of the ending caught me a bit off guard. This could in part be due to the fact that I really liked the book and didn’t want it to end.

I can’t recommend For the Love of Mary enough. If you like believable, quirky YA, then this is right up your alley.

What Light — Jay Asher

13 Dec

whatlight

 

Publisher: Razorbill
Released: Oct 18th, 2016
Genre: YA
Source: ARC from publisher

 

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

What Light is a love story that’s moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

From Goodreads

This is the PERFECT December read if you are into YA love stories that are just awesome. It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of romance books but love stories, if done well, just suck me right in. I sat down with What Light and didn’t get up until I finished it. Folks, I’m talking no pee breaks. I read it all at once and was kind of sad when it was over.

I love that the plot wasn’t overly complicated or overly done, and it drew me right in. Asher doesn’t need a whole lot of bells and whistles. His writing is on point and the plot believable. My test of whether or not a love story is believable is if I roll my eyes at all while reading. And I didn’t. I really cared about Sierra and Caleb and their relationship. I felt invested in their story and whether or not they’d make it. They were believable characters, both flawed in their own way.

And as I already mentioned, the writing is awesome. I was so into it that I had to make myself slow down so that I was really reading the words, not just skimming. And to me, this is always the sign of awesome writing.