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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struggles with wanting to honour her parents and the Akha way but also recognizing that some of the traditions are outdated.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.

It Should Have Been a #GoodDay blog tour

25 Feb

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Full disclosure time, folks: One of my other personalities — Savvy Fox — was the main developmental editor on It Should Have Been a #GoodDay and I also organized this blog tour. 😀

Since it would be kinda weird if I posted a review (although I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book and think you should all read it!) I did want to take part so Natalie agreed to do a Q&A.

Coffee or tea?

Tea, definitely. I can’t even stand the smell of coffee … though my chemical pick me up of choice is diet Coke.

Sweat pants or yoga pants?

Sweats, though yoga pants have a close second. Either really. So long as they’re stretchy.

Music while writing or silence?

Silence. I wish I could write with music, but it’s too distracting!

Do you have any writing rituals? (Certain pen, certain time, certain stack food, those kinds of thing?)

I write at my ‘Me Station’ – the desk where I do things that are only for me, not for the kids or the house or the husband… I love to snack on small bite things like M&Ms or crackers, though it’s not a necessity. Diet Coke is often present, and my desk lamp is on, even if it’s sunny or the overhead light is on as well. It’s like turning on the desk light turns on my focus on my keyboard.

What’s the last book that you read that completely blew you away?

Oh so hard. Probably either “I’ll Give you the Sun” or “Life After Life” Both were incredible, magical and untouchable. Books like that both inspire me to write more and remind me I’ll never write like that… a strange dichotomy of emotion.

Henry has some very specific things that he does to deal with stress and life in general. Do you have any coping mechanisms that you rely on when things get a bit harried?

All the bad stuff. I bite my nails, terribly and painfully! I eat to relieve stress. To cope, sometimes I’ll write To Do lists to itemize and solidify what is going on. I make sure to include items I’ve already done so I can check them off.

Not all of the characters in your books are nice. How hard is it to write unlikeable characters?

It’s not so hard to write unlikeable characters – what I find hard it to make sure they’r not pure awful. I tend to lean towards black and white, bad and good characters but a story is more interesting if everyone has shades of grey – some good and some bad all mixed together, or if their bad actions have good intentions. I find that challenging because it forces me to find a different perspective – what I would consider an unlikeable action or opinion may not come from ignorance or hate or meanness. I was heartsick when an editor called one of my favourite characters a ‘cad’. I saw him as a good guy locked in an impossible situation wherein he made a brave and selfless choice… he saw him as a manipulative cad, a coward who ran away… In the end I had to accept that each reader will go away with a different opinion of my characters and that’s what makes it interesting, but I had hurt feelings on behalf of my character, that someone didn’t LIKE him.

Thanks so much to Natalie for stopping by!

It Should Have Been a #GoodDay is out this Sunday, February 28th, and we holding an official launch party in Halifax!

 

Blog Tour — Transferral — Kate Blair

21 Nov

transferral

Publisher: Dancing Cat Books
Released: October 24th, 2015
Genre: YA dystopian
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

 

London, England, present day. This is the world as we know it, but with one key difference: medical science has found a way to remove diseases from the sick. The catch? They can only transfer the diseases into other living humans. The government now uses the technology to cure the innocent by infecting criminals.
It is into this world that Talia Hale is born. Now sixteen and the daughter of a prime ministerial candidate, she discovers that the effort to ensure that bad things happen only to bad people has turned a once-thriving community into a slum, and has made life perilous for two new friends.

When Talia’s father makes an election promise to send in the police to crack down on this community, Talia can only think of how much worse things will be for her friends. Will she defy her father to protect them, even if it means costing him the election?

Transferral , the debut from Kate Blair, is a chilling look at a world gone wrong because of its efforts to do right.

From Goodreads.

 

Giving our illnesses to criminals as punishment? Kinda brilliant and creepy and evil all at the same time. Which make the basic premise of this book so fascinating to read about. I mean, there are clear advantages and disadvantages to this kind of criminal justice, and Blair tackles all of the issues while weaving a story about one girl trying to undo the harm she did.

This is my favourite kind of dystopia: the kind that makes the reader think about our current society. The parallels between between how this society treats its poor and criminals isn’t too far off from how we tend to deal with them. The stigma attached to having been arrested, the tendency for the poor to be arrested and given stiffer sentences than the rich and the privileged wanting to keep the “criminal element” in its place are all things that our current justice system and society have in common with the world that Blair paints so vividly.

The main character, Talia, is an interesting character. I never fell in love with her but I didn’t despise her either. She’s a poor little rich girl who genuinely wants to make things better and I enjoyed watching her thoughts on just what “better” means changing throughout the book. She definitely isn’t a static character.

The only issue I had was that to me the ending felt a little rushed. I would have liked to have seen a bit more after the climax.

This was a quick read for me and I devoured most of the book in one sitting. The story and the writing style kept me turning pages until the end.

Dark Seed Blog Tour

22 Apr

darkseedbanner2

Hey everybody! I’m very happy to feature a spotlight today for the Dark Seed blog tour. This sounds like an AWESOME read and has been added to my TBR pile. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

A disillusioned journalist and the grieving daughter of a murdered scientist uncover an immoral and destructive global plot by the largest developer of genetically engineered seed and its parent pharmaceutical conglomerate.

Nick Barnes and Morgan Elles learn that the goal of the man behind these organizations is the complete control of human existence. He eliminates opposition and interference without hesitation or remorse.

The couple quickly find themselves fighting for their lives. And yours.

Grad hold for a wild ride with this exciting, high concept thriller that tackles one of the big issues of our time.

Dark Seed cover

 

 

About the author:

Head shot 1Lawrence Verigin’s goal is to entertain readers while delving into socially relevant subjects that need more attention brought to them. Since 1999 Lawrence has spent a considerable amount of time and effort learning the writing craft.

In his spare time Lawrence enjoys cooking good food, rich red wine, travel, running, reading and numerous rounds of golf.

Lawrence and his wife, Diana, live in beautiful North Vancouver, Canada.

 

 

Cauchemar — Alexandra Grigorescu — Blog Tour

7 Mar

cauchemar blog tourPublisher: ECW Press
Released: March 17th, 2015
Genre: Southern gothic mystery
Source: paperback review copy from publisher

Gripping, fast-paced, gorgeously written, and with unforgettable characters, Cauchemar tells the story of 20-year-old Hannah, who finds herself living alone on the edge of a Louisianan swamp after her adopted mother and protector dies. Hannah falls in love with Callum, an easy-going boat captain and part-time musician, but after her mysterious birth mother, outcast as a witch and rumoured to commune with the dead, comes back into Hannah’s life, she must confront what she’s been hiding from — the deadly spirits that haunt the swamp, the dark secrets of her past, and the nascent gift she possesses.

Like the nightmares that plague Hannah, Cauchemar lingers and haunts.

From Goodreads

 

While there were elements of Cauchemar that I really, really loved, there were other things that just didn’t do it for me. But here’s the thing: the things I had issues with actually added to the layering of the story and the unbalanced feeling from what was going on, so it didn’t take away from the story and my enjoyment, but actually added to it. Weird huh?

Here, let me try to explain. The two things that I had issues with were the pacing and progression of Hannah and Callum’s relationship. They met and things moved quite quickly. A lot of their earlier interaction left me feeling confused, like I was trying to catch up to what was happening. But this wasn’t a bad thing, nope. This is such an eery and creepy and scary story that my discomfort with how their relationship developed added a layer to my “What the hell is going on?” mentality that I maintained for a large part of the book. Which is also good, since the mystery of what is happening to Hannah is one of the core plot points.

Grigorescu’s descriptions of the swamp where Hannah lives made me feel like I was there. Not that I would want to be. Because there’s some pretty weird crap happening. And I loved that it wasn’t always clear if the mystical things were good or bad. For example, Hannah’s mom. You get the feeling she’s an evil witch (literally) but then at other times the author makes you wonder if maybe she’s actually good and trying to help Hannah.

This was definitely a different read than my normal fare, but I enjoyed it. The tone was perfect for a gothic novel and I think I’ll be delving into the genre some more.

Robbed of Soul — Lois D. Brown — Blog Tour

3 Mar

robbedofsoul

Released: January 1st, 2015
Genre: Mystery
Source: eBook for review from author

 

 

 

Rescued but psychologically damaged from a failed mission, ex-CIA officer Maria Branson takes the job of police chief in the quiet town of Kanab, Utah. Rest and relaxation are the doctor’s orders. She gets neither. Instead, a missing mayor, the spirit of a dead Aztec warrior, and the over-confident-yet-attractive head of Search and Rescue await her in a town whose past has almost as many secrets as her own. As Maria investigates a modern-day murder, she disturbs a world of ancient legends and deadly curses. Yet most lethal of all is Maria’s fear someone will discover just how empty her soul really is.

Whether you’re interested in the treasures of Montezuma, enjoy squeaky clean mysteries, or have a soft spot for light romance and suspense, Robbed of Soul fits the bill.

From Goodreads

OMG guys, so you know how I’m not a super fan of romance and sometimes I don’t read a book because I have a sneaking suspicion that the level of romance will make me all cranky and such? When I agreed to review Robbed of Soul, I knew that it was technically a romantic suspense. Or romantic mystery. Anyhoo, I knew that there was romance in it. But I LOVED the cover and the premise and thought “Hey, let’s give it a try.” And I am so happy that I did. Because this was an awesome read and it was super light on the romance. There was just enough of the boy-girl stuff to make the characters more rounded and believable but not enough that it took over from the main story.

And the main story? Well, there are technically two: the missing mayor and the search years ago for Montezuma’s treasure. I really liked how these two stories were running parallel to each other and how they were interconnected. It didn’t seem forced at all and really upped the element of mystery and suspense in the book.

As did Maria’s past. We are slowly let in on what happened on her failed mission and why she ended up so damaged. I spent a lot of the book trying to figure out on my own what had happened to her. I love mystery books where I really don’t know the full story and I’m left wondering for a while. I also like when the reveal finally happens and it totally makes sense.

I really liked Maria as a character. She was definitely damaged, but she didn’t come of as weak or whiny. I also really liked Rod, although he didn’t seem nearly as overbearing or overconfident as Maria thought he was. I would have liked to have seen more interaction with Beth. She seemed like a really interesting character, but we don’t see her a lot.

I loved this book and was a bit bummed when it ended. I wanted more!  If you are a fan of interesting mysteries with just the teensiest bit of romance, then I think you’re going to want to pick this one up.