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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.

Vengeful Hank and Other Shortweird Stories — Marcel St. Pierre

8 Dec

hank

 

Publisher: Mkz Press
Released: April 23rd, 2016
Genre: Short stories, comedy, flash fiction
Source: Review copy from author

 

Canadian comedian, actor and television writer Marcel St. Pierre brings his years writing sketch comedy and advertising copy – where brevity is key – to bear in this, his first book of short stories. St. Pierre’s playfully accessible writing style complements an ability to conjure unique characters and situations as universally ridiculous as a Gary Larson ‘Far Side’ cartoon. The stories are fast-paced, quick-witted – some laugh-out-loud and some even poignant and sweet. If you like the absurdity of Steve Martin’s ‘Pure Drivel’ but haven’t the time, commitment or attention span to stick with any printed word much longer than the length of several text messages or a Facebook post, this is the perfect book for the cottage or your daily commute. “(An) offbeat linguistic romp – delightful twists – sketches of a sunshine mind making leaps of logic into the absurd…” – Sheree Fitch, author, Kiss The Joy As it Flies, Stephen Leacock Literary Humour Award-shortlist “Never has a title of a book so correctly advertised what is between the covers… I laughed, ate a sandwich, worried about Marcel for a while, then laughed again. Read!” – Colin Mochrie, comedian, author ..”. funny, charming, surprising, whimsical – a delight… an imaginative gem where what’s real is redefined and the absurd has become the new normal. I couldn’t stop smiling from the moment I picked them up.” – Don Ferguson, Royal Canadian Air Farce “I take a deep breath and read nine stories. They’re very clever… and weird. Like Marcel” – Peter Wildman, The Frantics.

From Goodreads

This book is weird. And funny. But yeah, a whole lot of weird. But I like that about it. I think it knows it’s weird and it embraces its weirdness. And I can get behind that.

A lot of these stories are a page or less, making for a quick read. It’s also super easy to pick up and set down. Although once I started reading it, I didn’t set it down a lot. I kept flipping through story after story, wondering just how weird things were going to get. And I was never disappointed.

Some of the stories are laugh-out-loud funny while others kind of just left me scratching my head and wondering about the sanity of the author. But it worked. The writing is tight but also airy and whimsical.

While this book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, those who enjoy their humour very very odd or are looking for a different kind of read will definitely love this book.

 

Movers — Meagan MacIsaac

17 Nov

movers

 

Publisher: Tundra
Released: February 2nd, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, dystopia
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

The world is dying, overcrowded and polluted. Storms rage over the immensely tall tower blocks, attracted to Movers.

Movers are connected to people in the future, their Shadows. And moving your Shadow is highly illegal.

Patrick knows all too well what happens if you break the law: his father has been in the Shelves ever since he moved his Shadow. And now Patrick and his family are in danger again.

Following a catastrophic event at their school, Patrick must go on the run. Through filthy, teeming markets, forebrawler matches, a labyrinth of underground tunnels and beyond, he’ll need his wits and courage to escape the forces that want to take everything he loves.

From Goodreads

What an action-packed exciting read! The premise of Movers grabbed me instantly and was very different from any other dystopian YA novel I’ve read. I pretty much flew through the book, eager to find out what the heck was going on.

I have to chat a bit about Movers and their Shadows. What a cool/creepy concept. And I love the fact that not all was as it seemed and that Patrick is never quite sure wha’s going on. He’s really feeling off balanced and that was so well written that as a reader I feel off balanced also.

I also think it’s interesting that Movers are looked down on and in some cases ostracized.

I really like that Patrick was thrown into the situation and has to form alliances with people that he isn’t 100% sure he could trust. I’m all about the group dynamics and love when different personalities are thrown together and have to deal with crap.

The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I can’t wait to read the next in the series.

The Witches of New York — Ami Mckay

31 Oct

witches

 

Publisher: Knopf Canada
Released: October 25th, 2016
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (‘Moth’ from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and “gardien de sorts” (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients.

All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind?

Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches’ tug-of-war over what’s best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they’re confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

From Goodreads

There is so much that I love about this book it’s hard to know where to start. Do I start with the fact that the two main characters own a freaking tea shop? Or that Eleanor has a pet raven? Or that I got to spend more time with Moth? Or the Dearlies? Or the strong feminist undertones throughout? Or the amazing, beautiful prose? I mean, really. I ooohed and awed by way through The Witches of New York and the only thing I didn’t like about it was that it ended.

Ami presents such amazing and flawed characters that I fell in love with each and every one of them, like I always do with her books. I felt invested in their lives and genuinely cared about what happened to them. Also, I kinda wanted a time machine to take me to their fictional world so I could have a cup of tea with them and just chat about things. I found them fascinating and also very relatable.

I absolutely loved all the magical elements to the book and how they were interspersed with historical elements of the time. This book was more witchy that Ami’s first two books, but I just love the natural progression. As a witchy gal myself (I’m a tea leaf reader and delving into oracle cards) I just felt a strong connection to the magic side of the book. And I mean, Perdu, the raven? I’ve have pet crows in the past and my husband had a raven before we met, so this part of the book just made me beyond happy.

The way female friendship is represented in the book also made my heart all warm and tingly. It was just so honest and beautiful. They helped each other and looked out for each and quarreled but you knew they loved one another.

Ami writes with such beautiful prose, flowery but never over flowery and I am always in awe of how well she can write several different plots and weave them together. Almost magically, dare I say? Her writing drew me in effortlessly and never lost me at any point.

I really can’t recommend The Witches of New York enough and I can’t wait for the next offering from Ami. She is one of only a handful of authors that I know I will always fall in love with each and every one of her books.

An Irregular Marriage — Margaret A. Westlie

25 Mar

marriage

 

Publisher: Selkirk Stories
Released: March 26th, 2016
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher

 

 

Isle of Skye, Scotland, 1803: Annie MacPhail is 18 years old and on her own. She has defied her parents and refused to follow them to Prince Edward Island. She is waiting for her sweetheart, Alistair, to marry her—but he is nowhere to be found. She has no home.

Belle, Alistair’s mother, takes her in as an apprentice. Belle says she is a wise women. The community says she is a witch. Under Belle’s guidance, Annie learns to be a midwife and a healer, but she also learns how to read the future in a crystal gazing ball.

Belle tries to disabuse Annie about Alistair. He is not very reliable and he may not even want to marry her. But Annie still believes in her sweetheart—until he returns and she learns the secret that Belle has been keeping from both of them.

Follow Annie and Alistair on their journey to Prince Edward Island after a very irregular marriage. Join the community of Prince Edward Island. Read An Irregular Marriage and other novels by Margaret A. Westlie.

From Goodreads

I’ve mentioned this recently in another review, but it seems that I like historical fiction! I tend to shy away from the genre, but anytime I do read an hist-fic novel I really, really enjoy it. Such was the case with An Irregular Marriage.

I really loved watching the relationship between Annie and Belle bloom. Annie was lost in so many ways when she went to live with Belle and Belle really helped her to grow and come into her own. I love reading about female relationships where there is no back-stabbing and such. Where women actually help each other. And that was the case with Annie and Belle. They both helped each other in their own way and their closeness was wonderful to witness.

On the flip side, I didn’t enjoy the relationship between Annie and Alistair. It’s actually the only thing that I really didn’t like in the book. I think it would have been a stronger novel either without Alistair or if aspects of his story had been changed.

Because Bell is teaching Annie to be a healer, there were a lot of descriptions and mentions of natural medicines, which I really, really loved.  It was cool to read about the usage of different flowers and herbs. It’s something that I have an interest in, so it was nice to read about it.

Something else that was cool to read about was the food exchange and sharing that happened within the community. When Belle healed or brought a baby into the world, she was pretty much always paid with food or something else that she could use. I just loved the sense of community that was throughout the book, even though most thought Belle was a witch.

Westlie’s way with descriptions was just phenomenal. She painted great detail into her telling and I always felt like I was right there with Annie, sitting at the table have a cuppa. The dialogue was also spot on, the word choice and timbre really bringing the words of the characters alive.

I really enjoyed An Irregular Marriage and Westlie’s writing style. I look forward to reading more of her novels.

Innocent — Eric Walters

15 Mar

innocent

 

Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher

 

Sometimes you have to look back in order to move forward.

After the orphanage she lives in is destroyed by fire, Betty, an innocent and trusting teen, takes a job as a maid in Kingston, Ontario. Welcomed into the household of the wealthy Remington clan, Betty makes friends with the staff at the house and soon discovers that her mother had also been a maid there—and that her father is in a nearby jail, convicted of murdering her mother. When she meets her father, she is taken aback by his claims of innocence, and she decides to try to uncover the truth about her mother’s murder and her father’s conviction. A friendly young policeman assists her in her investigation (and shows an interest in Betty that is more romantic than professional). But all is not well in the Remington household, and someone doesn’t want Betty to learn the truth.

From Goodreads

Although this book is set in 1964, it has a bit of a gothic feel to it, which I love. The whole young-girl-goes-to-work-at-a-mansion-while-working-to-uncover-a-mystery thing, and it works quite well. Betty is an outsider who is welcomed into the Remington household but almost straight off the bat you get the feeling that things are a bit wonky.

While the other girls are all searching to discover who their parents are, Betty finds out during the course of the book and then her focus switches to finding out what really happened to her mother. As with all the best mysteries, her search is anything but easy and it isn’t always clear who’s on her side. That’s what I love about a well-told mystery: like the protagonist, you aren’t always sure who is good and who is bad.

The mystery is also very well-crafted, which isn’t always a given with the genre. The plot wasn’t convuluted and the ending wasn’t easy to figure out, although there were some well placed hints along the way.

This was one of my favourite plots of all the Secrets books and I highly recommend it.