Tag Archives: Canadian author

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.

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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.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl — Mona Awad

1 Dec

13ways

 

Publisher: Penguin Pulse
Released: February 23rd, 2016
Genre: Adult, Literary
Source: Ebook purchased

 

Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks—even though her best friend Mel says she’s the pretty one. She starts dating guys online, but she’s afraid to send pictures, even when her skinny friend China does her makeup: she knows no one would want her if they could really see her. So she starts to lose. With punishing drive, she counts almonds consumed, miles logged, pounds dropped. She fights her way into coveted dresses. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?

In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform. As caustically funny as it is heartbreaking, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl introduces a vital new voice in fiction.

From Goodreads

OMG this book! I’m not even sure how to go forward with this review. This is by far one of my favourite reads of the year. The plot, the characters, the writing. It’s all so amazing and perfect for this book that it hurt me when it was over.

Lizzie is one of the most sympathetic, grating, relatable and unlikeable characters I’ve read in a long time. I have a lot of mixed emotions about her, as you can see. As someone who has spent most of her life struggling with her weight (and still currently struggling) this was a tough read for me at times. But it’s supposed to be. This isn’t the type of book that you pick up because you’re looking for a fun, light read.

I love the way this story is told. It isn’t 100% linear and it isn’t strictly from Lizzie first person POV. All of the chapters were about Lizzie, but some where told from other POVs which really really works and helps to get a better insight into her character. These were also the sections that are the most heartbreaking.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is definitely going to stick with me for a long, long time. I can’t recommend it enough.

 

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.

Small Bones — Vicki Grant

8 Mar

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

 

 

 

There’s nothing to stop a small person from dreaming big.

Dot, whose name reflects her stature, has always had big dreams—she wants to be a dress designer like Mary Quant—but her dreams have to be put on hold while she searches for the truth about her parents. She gets a job as a seamstress at a lakeside resort in rural Ontario and falls hard for Eddie, a charming local boy who is equal parts helpful and distracting as Dot investigates her past. Searching for answers to questions about her birth, Dot learns more than she ever wanted to about the terrible effects of war, the legacy of deceit—and the enduring nature of love.

From Goodreads.

I have to give Orca, this book and Vicki a big THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. This was the first book I read in the Secrets series and it made me realize that I really kinda did historical fiction. At least set in the time that the books are set, the mid sixties.

This book was a super combination of mystery and fun. I didn’t find it laugh out loud funny as with Vicki’s other books, but I actually loved that. Mostly because that wouldn’t have done the story justice at all. But Vicki has such a fresh and breezy writing style and it fit in perfectly with Dot’s character and her story. I also loved that the mystery wasn’t something that was easy to figure out and had many layers to it(and that’s all I’ll say because SPOILERS!).

I’m not a huge, huge fan or romance, but I find that when it’s done well, I actually do enjoy it! And I liked that there was an element of romance in Small Bones, but that it really wasn’t the main focus.

This book has some messages in it about war, family and love, but it didn’t hit you over the head with it. They were an integral part of the story, so it didn’t come off as preachy at all.

Small Bones was a great read and I highly recommend it.

It Should Have Been a #GoodDay blog tour

25 Feb

goodday

 

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!