Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Batch Reviews #6

Shimmy Bang Sparkle by Nicola Rendell - (✮✮✮✮✮ - 5/5 stars)
Publishing Date: August 21, 2018
Publisher: Amazon Publishing - Montlake Romance
Pages: 320

My Review: This cover and the title of the book *heart emojis all around* - This story follows the leader of master jewel thieves, Stella of the Shimmy Shimmy Bangs, and Nick Norton, who has recently been released from jail. Nick wants to stay on the straight and narrow road, but finds himself drawn to Stella. Stella also is planning a heist that will set her and her team up for life, but with her team out of commission, she has to turn to Nick. I loved seeing them fall in love with another and seeing the risks they were willing to take for each other. Nick is totally alpha male and seeing him put everything on the line for Stella was so, so, sweet! A very cute dog also makes a special appearance in the book so I was all for that. This book was so much fun, it had lots of laugh out loud moments, and ton of moments that had me swooning. This is my first time reading anything by Nicola Rendell, and she officially has a fan for life!

Available for purchase at:
Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Kindle, and Book Depository
Disclaimer: I received an advanced readers copy of this book from Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

International Guy: Paris, New York, Copenhagen (International Guy #1-3) by Audrey Carlin -  (✮✮✮ - 3/5)
Publishing Date: July 10, 2018
Publisher: Amazon Publishing - Montlake Romance
Pages: 400

My Review: So this is a collection of novellas that Carlin has put together. The series is actually quite big spanning 12 novellas. I was interested in the premise because each novella takes place in a different city, and of course, with my strong love with Paris and New York, I was sold. Unfortunately, the story definitely fell short for me. I found a lot of moments cringe worthy and hard for me to suspend my disbelief. I just couldn't get on board with Parker. There are sexy moments, but something about him definitely bugged me. I also was disappointed to learn that as the novellas went on, the focus remained on Parker, and didn't really focus on the other two guys in the business as well. It's definitely readable and I read this pretty quickly, but I'm not sure if I'll pick up the next novellas in the series.

Available for purchase: 
Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, and Kindle
Disclaimer: I received an advanced readers copy of this book from Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Hot Asset (21 Wall Street #1) by Lauren Layne (✮✮✮✮✮ - 5/5 stars)
Publishing Date: May 22, 2018
Publisher: Amazon Publishing - Montlake Romance
Pages: 270

My Review: I've always loved a good business man/CEO type male lead in romance stories. I haven't read a book that takes place on Wall Street though, so I was immediately drawn to this one. I absolutely LOVED this book. I couldn't put it down. It follows Ian Bradley who exudes the Wall Street persona and an investigator, Lara, who is investigating him on a tip of insider trading. Lara is the first to not fall for Ian's charms and I just loved seeing their interactions going toe-to-toe, but also finding it hard to deny their attraction to one another. I loved seeing them fall for each other, but I think what I loved most is all the secondary characters in the book as well. Ian has two best friends who he works with, there's also his old friend Sabrina, and of course, their awesome assistant who manages their day to day life. I feel like the next few stories will focus on the other people in his life which is nice. It reminds me of the large friend group that is reminiscent of Christina Lauren's books. I loved Ian and Lara's story and I can't wait to read the others in the series to see everyone else's HEA.

Available for purchase at:
Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Kindle, and Book Depository
Disclaimer: I received an advanced readers copy of this book from Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Burning Up by Jennifer Blackwood (✮✮✮✮ - 4/5 stars)
Publishing Date: May 8, 2018
Publisher: Amazon Publishing - Montlake Romance
Pages: 256

My Review: I've read a firefighter romance a while back by Karina Halle called Hot Shot, and I really enjoyed it, so I'm all for more firefighter stories ;) When I read the premise for this one, I was definitely intrigued because it's also a single father romance. What was refreshing about this book was that the child was not a baby or a toddler. Jake's daughter, Bailey, was a preteen. It was quite nice to see the change in dynamic and see how their relationship worked. I really like stories that have the trope of bestfriend's sister, or brother's bestfriend. Erin and Jake's attraction was clear from the get-go and I just loved seeing them find their pacing and what worked for them. There was a lot of back and forth, and doubting what was right, but I liked seeing Erin fall back in love with her home in the process as well. I'm excited for the next book because it follows Erin's brother Reece, and I really hope we get more about their sister, Andie! If you like firefighters, a quirky protagonist, and a heavy emphasis on family, this is the read for you!

Available for purchase at:
Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Kindle, and Book Depository
Disclaimer: I received an advanced readers copy of this book from Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Review: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart 

Publishing Date: July 31, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Young Adult Fantasy

The Premise from the Publisher: "Serina Tessaro has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace--someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. It's her chance to secure a better life for her family, and to keep her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, out of trouble. But when Nomi catches the Heir's eye instead, Serina is the one who takes the fall for the dangerous secret her sister has been hiding. Trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one option: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to save Serina. But this is easier said than done.... A traitor walks the halls of the palazzo, and deception lurks in every corner. Meanwhile Serina is running out of time. Imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive, surrounded by women stronger than she is, one wrong move could cost her everything. There is no room for weakness on Mount Ruin, especially weaknesses of the heart. Thrilling and captivating, Grace and Fury is a story of fierce sisterhood, and of survival in a world that's determined to break you" (LB).

My overall thoughts and review: As some of you may know now, I'm not a huge fantasy reader. I like fantasy books, but I don't read them so often because it takes a lot to immerse yourself into the world, and it's hard for me to jump into a new world so soon after that. And because I haven't read a ton of fantasy, it's not very often that I read one and it completely blows me away. That was the case with Indigo's August Staff Pick of the Month, Grace and Fury! The last fantasy YA book that I read also happens to be an Indigo Staff Pick of the Month - Everless by Sara Holland - the Indigo SPOTMs have been really good with picking their fantasy picks! ;)

I had heard good reviews from my fellow staff members and bookish friends about how feminist this book was and I'm all for that. I read a bit on my trip away and once I got home, I absolutely devoured this book and could not put it down. The book follows two perspectives: Serina and Nomi. Serina has been prepared to become a Grace, and her sister Nomi, her handmaiden. This is the future that would've been best for them and their family, but things don't go that way, when Nomi is chosen as a Grace and Serina is sent off to Mount Ruin, a prison essentially for women. In this world that Banghart has created, women are to be submissive and aren't allowed to read. They essentially have no rights and are meant to simply play the role that the men in this world have created for them. The sad part is that some men in this world take pleasure in breaking the will of women. Despite that, I loved seeing how both sisters adapted to their new roles and were able to find ways they could stand up to the patriarchy. Although apart, every action one did, they thought of the other. They were able to find likely allies in their new surroundings and I loved that Banghart demonstrated sisterhood is possible even if it isn't blood related. I did see a couple of the twists and turns coming, and in some cases, that would deter me since I figured it out, but in this case, it just made me happy that Banghart went a certain direction instead. In cases where sisterhood and family are involved, some stories can often portray such a volatile relationship that gets caught up in selfishness and betrayal, and I loved that Banghart demonstrated something that can overcome that, something more. Despite not knowing where the other is, and how they are doing in their new surroundings, Serina and Nomi, both loved one another deeply, and they both really demonstrated the importance of family. The book definitely ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I hope that means that there are many more books in this series to come. I LOVED this and I would highly recommend this for fans of Sarah J. Maas!

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮✮ (5/5 stars)

Available for purchase at:

Disclaimer: *I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review.* #IndigoEmployee 

Monday, 13 August 2018

Book Club Reads Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Earlier this year, my best friends and I got together to start a book club. I've been wanting to start one for ages and it's always a scary process starting something and worrying about how it will keep it's momentum. You also want to ensure people genuinely have a good time after every meeting and that you are reading books that are interesting. There also needs to be a good dynamic among your group to foster good discussion. After almost 5 months of doing it, I can say adding a book club to my life is one of the best decisions I've ever made. Not only do I get to read books I didn't think I would read, I get to do that with my best friends and get together once a month to discuss them. Reading is such a solitary act, and to come together having read the same book each month brings a social aspect to reading that is quite nice. We don't always agree on if we liked the book or not, but it's great to get various perspectives and to hear everyone's thoughts. 

I also went camping not too long ago, hence the photo here, but book club has brought some firsts for me too. While camping, I read one of the stories out loud to my boyfriend and it was such an awesome experience. We read Big Driver by the camp fire and I think having read the story out loud, it really stuck with me the most out of all the stories. It reminded me of reading out assignments or sharing creative writing in school, but of course, in a fun way. As a fast reader, I feel like reading out loud allows me to slow down and take a step back, and really absorb the text. I won't be able to read every book out loud, but short story collections make moments like that possible. 

This past month we all read Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars, which is a short story collection of four stories: 1922, Big Driver, Fair Extension, and A Good Marriage. Vik and Liane hosted book club at their place this month since King's book was one of Liane's picks. We designate a month to a person and their book pick! We had lots of great discussion about the themes of family and children that link the four stories together, the narrator's voice and the constructions of self, and the nature of human behavior when in dire circumstances. Everyone was in agreement that the strongest stories of the collection were definitely Big Driver and A Good Marriage

Our hosts went all out and even made themed food items for the event and then we all sat around afterwards and watched the trailers for the various movies. We had some mini pizzas that looked like rats (from 1922), Arlette's Lemonade (from 1922), Spotted Hen Microbrew (from Fair Extension), and Perrier and Lime (from A Good Marriage). The creativity!! *heart eyes emojis galore* Three of the books have been made into movie adaptations. 1922 is the most recent one having come out last year on Netflix. 

I've also gathered some book club members thoughts on the book to share with you all: 
Michelle: “I really loved reading a King book starring a few female protagonists that struggled with dynamic women’s issues. Big Diver was a personal favourite! A story in the horror genre from the female perspective about sexual assault really had me thinking about this and related issues in a new way." 
Niki: "Full Dark, No Stars was endlessly captivating. Each story being more horrific than the last. It wasn't the frightening events that made it as harrowing, but rather the idea that these events were common events, each becoming more and more likely a situation that could exist in our own lives. It was the unexpected  human conscience that was within each story that made it most enjoyable, and the slow collapse in the aftermath of the events. Definitely one of the best books I've read all year."
Liane: "Full Dark, No Stars (a title that is also a warning for what lies ahead) is a collection of stories with a strong theme that threads through each of the four novellas - retributive justice and what that means to each narrator. The stories left me disgusted, unable to sleep, annoyed, and questioning my own actions as well as those of the people around me. Typical Stephen King. 
Jeremy: "I'm not usually a big reader, but I really enjoyed all these stories with Big Driver being my favorite. They kept me wanting to read more and more. I'm definitely becoming a Stephen King fan."  
Brandon: "King’s decision to write from perspectives different than his usual style was refreshing and displays his growth as a writer. I enjoyed that the collection of short stories featured protagonists with varying levels of involvement in the horror that takes place."
I would like to thank the lovely folks at Simon and Schuster Canada for sponsoring the book club this month and sending over copies of the book for us. It's definitely something that will have a special spot on all of our shelves. If you like more book club recaps like this, I'll be sure to post more in the future. I hope that by the end of this post, you will feel inspired to join or start up your own book club. Reading is already rewarding because you get to immerse yourself into new worlds, but reading with a book club ensures you aren't going it alone ;)