Book Review – The Change Room by Karen Connelly

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TITLE: 
The Change Room
AUTHOR: Karen Connelly
PAGES:  320 pages
PUBLISHED: April 11th 2017
PUBLISHER: Random House Canada
GENRE: Romance, LGBT, Adult Fiction

MY RATING: 3/5 birds

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SUMMARY:

Eliza Keenan is the mother of two boys, a business owner and wife to a math professor named Andrew. Her life is defined by her family and she only gets time to herself when she goes for her twice-weekly swim at the community pool. One day she meets a mysterious and intriguing young woman who she nicknames “The Amazon”. The weekly meet ups turn into an illicit affair between the two woman, which threatens her entire world but can something that makes Eliza feel so good, be really that bad?

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MY REVIEW

This type of contemporary story isn’t something I would normally pick up but I am trying to make an effort to read more novels by Canadian authors and when I saw this on NetGalley I was intrigued. There were aspects that I liked (the writing) and disliked (the characters/story) which lead to three stars.

I was conflicted about Eliza. I didn’t actively dislike her but it was hard to get behind the white, upper-middle-class whining. She complained about balancing work, kids and marriage in her white suburban life and it was really hard to give a damn. This isn’t to say that I don’t think her issues are legitimate to her but it was a bit boring to read over and over again. I also don’t have kids so I really could not relate to how much of the novel was focused on them, most of which was her complaining.

I also thought she was incredibly selfish and a bit ridiculous. For example there is a paragraph where Eliza is describing in detail how much she cleans (*yawn*) around the house and how her mother told her the way to ruin a good marriage is to keep score of who did what. So Eliza “did many tasks herself, resentfully, or in a state of resigned oblivion, often late at night after the kids had gone to bed.”

Yes…because resentfully doing anything in your marriage is super healthy, right? And then the next sentence is about how Andrew suggested hiring a cleaner, which he did himself, but in Eliza’s words after “a couple of duds and one klutz” she went back to resentfully cleaning everything herself.

Oh lord. First, just the fact that you can afford a cleaning should be enough. This is not a cheap service in Canada and I only know a few well-off family friends that have cleaners. Eliza sounds so uptight, even people that clean professionally are not up to her standard and she would rather “suffer resentfully” then work with someone. Then she wonders why her marriage is failing?

Stories like this are always a bit uncomfortable for me, personally. I have a pretty strict moral code when it comes to cheating so it hard for me to understand Eliza’s POV, even if we are told how bad of a husband Andrew is or how stressful her life is, I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t end things before cheating/having an affair.

I was also surprised at how much detailed sex there was in this. Now, if you look at the books I read on Goodreads you see I have read a lot of erotica, bdsm, LGBT stuff so it wasn’t that I am a prude, it just did not work for me. It was really distracting from the actual storytelling and it felt like the author added it for “shock value” which I did not like.

The Quebecois woman was also bit stereotyped in my opinion, and also the line about Eliza’s brother (I think?) who works in the oil rigs in Alberta and makes a ton of money, most of which “goes up his nose”. While that is true for some rig workers it’s a terrible stereotype and so cliché. It also makes other Canadians look down upon Alberta.

I would be interested in reading other novels by Karen Connelly, the writing itself was very well done and I wish I had like this more but unfortunately it just did not work for me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Canada for letting me read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

Each week The Broke and Bookish hosts a Top Ten Tuesday based on a chosen literary topic. This week’s topic is “Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book”! As I began to think about this topic I realised that I have become very picky with what I choose to read, especially regarding books that instantly grab my attention. I just feel like there are too many books I want to read and I may never get a chance to get through them all in one lifetime!

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1. A Great Synopsis – This is kind of a no-brainer but if I pick up a book and the synopsis has already hooked me then I am sure to continue reading. The only time this becomes an issue is if something in the synopsis gets me excited but reviewers indicate that it doesn’t actually occur in the novel, that is always so disappointing!

2. The Author – I definitely have a few favourite authors and if they put something out I will read it. Doesn’t matter what it is, if they are trying out a new genre, or the synopsis is different I will read anything from my select few favourite writers.

3. Recommendations Online – If any of my wonderful goodread friends recommend something to me I can almost guarantee I will read it. I have some very thoughtful followers that have very similar tastes to me and if they give something 5 stars, it makes me want to read it too!

4. Recommendations from my Friends/Family – I have quite a few people in my life that read as much as me and I love getting recommendations from them. In particular, if my fiance’s mum and sister tell me to read something (or even better buy me books for my birthday/holidays) I will read it and most likely enjoy it!

5. Romance Novels where the hero is described as a “sweetheart” – Lately I have been drawn to romance novels (in any genre; YA, NA, Fantasy, Sci-fi etc.) where the hero is a complete and utter sweetheart. I have been getting a little sick of the whole “alpha male” thing in romance novels and if the hero is sweet I will read that in a heartbeat!

6. Canadian Authors – I have been trying to read more Canadian authors and novels set in Canada. Unless the synopsis is really bad I have been picking up more by Canadians.

7. Space Opera Genre – I have been OBSESSED with reading novels in the space opera genre and so far I have not turned away from one! Give me galactic space, fast romance and spicy drama, please!

8. Beautiful Prose – if my Goodreads friends or other reviewers online have indicated that the novel has amazing prose then I am pretty much guaranteed to read it. Even if the genre/synopsis doesnt intrigue me at first, I know the writing will suck me in.

9. Hype – This doesn’t always guarantee that I will read it but generally if I have heard a ton of buzz around a book I will try to read it (unless the synopsis is something I really dislike).

10. The Cover – I put this last on the list because although a great cover will draw me to the book if the synopsis isn’t interesting I may not read it. As silly as it sounds a great cover design is still important to me and can draw me into a book.

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I want to hear your thoughts! What things make you pick up a book? How do you decide what to read next?

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Book Review – City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

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TITLE: 
City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6)
AUTHOR: Cassandra Clare
PAGES:  725 pages
PUBLISHED: May 27th 2014
PUBLISHER: Margaret K. McElderry
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal/Urban-Fantasy

MY RATING: 4/5 birds
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SUMMARY:

This is the long-awaited and final epic instalment of the Mortal Instruments series, which first began with City of Bones, published in 2007.

Sebastian Morgenstern, Clary’s brother, is using the Infernal Cup to create evil Shadowhunters, known as his Endarkened army, that do his bidding and threatened the lives of everyone around him. No one can stop Sebastian and when the ultimate betrayal is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon and Alex must find a way to stop Sebastian before he tears the world apart.

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MY REVIEW

In the words of Frodo Baggins “It’s done. It’s over.”

I put off reading the final book of the Mortal Instrument series because I have a bad habit of starting and not finishing series and as time went on I forgot some of the characters and the plot of the previous books. Although I find the TV series is pretty bad, watching a few episodes actually helped me remember a lot. It is always difficult when a series spans five years to recall every detail and character but Cassandra Clare did a great job of drawing me back in even after all this time.

I still think the third book is the best. I think this book was way too long and I admit I was bored at a few points. I also didn’t like how everything with Sebastian turned out. I was expecting more, you know? And it was so disappointing that even after everything the Clave had been through they literally did not learn a single thing. Peace is obviously not going to last very long in this world…

And Simon’s fate was really heartbreaking but I am really looking forward to reading Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy and also Emma’s story in Lady Midnight.

Overall this has truly been a great series! I definitely will re-read it at some point (at least the first three) and although I don’t think this was the strongest ending, especially if you compare it to The Infernal Devices ending, it is a fantastic series and I would recommend to anyone!

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Book Review – Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World

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TITLE: Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World
AUTHOR: Doug Saunders
PAGES:  384 pages
PUBLISHED: October 4th 2011
PUBLISHER: Vintage Canada
GENRE: Non-Fiction, Canadian, Urban Planning, Architecture, Sociology, Economics/Politics

MY RATING: 4/5 birds
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SUMMARY:

The twenty-first century is entering an epoch that is reshaping our cities and economies by the appearance of Arrival Cities, a term coined by Saunders, which explains the final migration from the rural village to urban areas. This isn’t a localised event focused on the developing world, it is a global phenomenon that is affecting everyone worldwide. These arrival cities establish new lives, where immigrants integrate themselves into a new world socially and economically, to set up life for themselves and their family. Saunders explores slums, gecekondu, favlas, barriadas and various other arrival city enclaves, which provide low-cost housing usually on the outskirts of major cities for individuals to gain entry-level jobs and to generally provide money for their family back in the village until they can make the full transition to urban and middle-class life.

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MY REVIEW

Arrival City is a richly-themed study of migration across the world, looking at a very old problem in a new way. Saunders casts arrival cities in a positive light, especially the slums which were previously thought as dysfunctional but as he explains, are very organised and an integral part of our society. He explains clearly the role that is needed for producing functional arrival cities and more of the process of acculturation than total immersion. I personally enjoyed this book and how he provided an unromanticized view of village life which is still a big hindrance for governments resisting arrival cities as they have a warped sense of village struggles and culture. I also enjoyed how he humanised the phenomenon by introducing us to real individuals and their personal stories. From this I could make the connection from my own families immigrant history to Canada, and the migrants presented in the story, and perhaps our lives aren’t so different even thousands of miles away.

I noticed that Saunders omitted any discussion about the role of economic growth in playing a part of raising the living standards of migrants. In places like China and Brazil, countries he wrote about, their economies are growing at an alarming rate and at what point does the wealth trickle down to the poor? Following the ‘trickle-down theory’ which essentially gives tax breaks to business which in turn creates more jobs for lower and middle class individuals and leads to goods at lower prices, these seem like all things that would be very beneficial to migrants who are in need of jobs and cheaper goods but Saunders doesn’t speak much about the effect economics play into arrival cities.
Saunders raises many issues not just about what is happening right now but for the future of our cities. After I read the book, I wonder what the consequences of mass migration to cities with non-functioning enclaves in the future will be, especially if governments continue to ignore communities that feel complete isolation and then diverge into more extremist ways of living

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Book Review – The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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TITLE: The Hating Game
AUTHOR: Sally Thorne
PAGES:  384 pages
PUBLISHED: August 9th 2016
PUBLISHER: William Morrow
GENRE: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Enemies to Lovers, Chick-lit, Rom-Com, Humour

MY RATING: 5/5 birds
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SUMMARY:

The story begins with our heroine Lucy Hutton pestering Joshua Templeman. Her mortal enemy at work. She hates him more than anyone and they constantly play passive aggressive “games” to irritate one another while sitting one desk away. Joshua thinks Lucy is annoying and too quirky with her colourful clothes. Lucy thinks Joshua is an uptight jerk.

When a new promotion at work threatens to unbalance the careful hatred Lucy and Joshua have, they both up the game. But at what cost? Especially when the games become confusing and the hatred changes to something more.

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MY REVIEW:

I really wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book. There are many 5 star reviews but the words “chick-lit” “rom-com” and “cheesy” got to me. It was also a GR Best Romance book finalist. I was caught between expecting a lot and expecting nothing.

What I found was a book that made a laugh out loud, made me crave Josh and Lucy’s interactions (both crazy and sweet), and the amount of “cheese” was just perfect. The author really captured that wild obsessive-like behaviour you get when you first start dating someone and start to fall for them. It really put a big smile on my face and reminded me of those good ol’ days. I loved how much they were all over each other from day one, using “games” as a way to keep their infatuation with one another, whether it be mentally noting the shirt colour choices or staring into each other’s eyes (the “Staring Game”) for long periods of time.

The chemistry between Lucy and Josh was wonderful. Some of the best I have read in a while. When Lucy stands up for him against (view spoiler) I just wanted to cheer. Josh was so endearing and the character development we get from the beginning of the novel was very well written. At first he is just an asshole who most likely has a crush on Lucy. No, the reader’s aren’t fooled. He is like the little boy on the playground who pulls on the girl’s pigtails to show her that he likes her. But then we really get to know him, as Lucy does, and we learn about this shy sweetheart who is sometimes hurt, sometimes lonely, and he becomes so real. Their highly witty hateful banter becomes even better sexual tension that was so much fun to read. I actually really enjoyed their banter in the beginning. I know some other readers saw it as childish, and it was, but it was also so hilarious. I loved all of Lucy’s jabs where she insinuates that Josh is the devil, and lives “close to earth’s core”.

Yes, this is chick-lit. Yes, it is predictable, it is sometimes cheesy and sometimes silly, but I loved it. I had a big smile on my face at the ending.

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Book Review – Beautifully Broken by Laura Lee

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TITLE: Beautifully Broken
AUTHOR: Laura Lee
PAGES:  326 pages
PUBLISHED: November 15th 2016
PUBLISHER: LAN Fiction LLC
GENRE: New Adult, Romance, Forbidden Romance

MY RATING: 4/5 birds
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SUMMARY:

The story begins with our heroine Kat, drinking in a seedy bar on her 18th birthday when she meets Gavin. Or “Sparkles” as Kat dubbed him. We learn quickly that Kat has had a tough life. She has been in the foster system since she was a kid, never knew her dad, and has a heroin-addicted mother who is barely present in her life. Tonight she is trying to forget her problems and Gavin seems like the perfect distraction. Their attraction to one another is off the charts and neither of them can deny it.

Kat goes home with him and lies about her age and turns every question he asks –like what she does for work – into a game so he barely knows anything about her. Imagine his surprise when a few days later she is sitting in his classroom and Gavin a.k.a. Sparkles is also Mr. Cooper her English teacher! They both try to deny their attraction and know their situation is wrong even though he didn’t know she was in high school and she is eighteen, but fighting their feelings is harder than they thought.

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MY REVIEW:

When I first saw this book and all the 5 star reviews I was a little skeptical. The premise of a forbidden romance between teacher and student isn’t something I normally find appealing to read but something compelled me to pick this up and I am glad I did! This book definitely goes down as a guilty pleasure read.

Kat was really an amazing character. Life threw her so many curve balls and she took everything in stride. She was even more mature than Gavin in certain parts of the novel. And even though parts of her were broken, Gavin’s constant reassurance of telling her she is worthy of love and respect helped her feel whole again. It was such a feel good novel in that aspect even though there was a ton of seriously dark drama. This was definitely more real than I thought it would be from the blurb, which was a good thing. The dialogue was very well written as well. Their flirty banter was cute and believable and Kat and her friends acted and talked like real eighteen year olds.

I also liked the non-judgemental aspect of stripping in the novel. Kat described most of her coworkers as being college students just trying to earn a quick buck so they can advance in life. We find that some of the girls that have worked there have gone on to be doctors, lawyers, veterinarians etc. Although I think this is not the case for many strip joints, I think it is still a good lesson that you shouldn’t judge someone for where their life leads them.

I know some readers have a hard rule with cheating and I think this may blur the line….Just a forewarning but (view spoiler). Decide what you will about that. I didn’t mind but I know others consider once the two main characters have had any kind of physical contact another woman/man in the picture is unacceptable.

I was also really frustrated with the ending. I could completely understand Kat’s POV and why she chose what she did but Gavin really had no excuse.

Overall this was a really interesting and angsty read. If you are looking for serious drama but with a HEA then this is the book for you! Thank you Netgalley, LAN Fiction LLC, and the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) for providing this novel in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review – Thirst by Jacquelyn Frank

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TITLE: Thirst (The Energy Vampires #1)
AUTHOR: Jacquelyn Frank
PAGES:  279 pages
EXPECTED PUBLICATION: January 17th 2017
PUBLISHER: Loveswept
GENRE: Paranormal Romance, Adult, Vampires

MY RATING: 3/5 birds
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SUMMARY:

Our story begins when Renee Holden, a tough cop in New York City, is called to investigate a murder. The only witness claims that the perpetrator is a vampire and when she explains the body they find two puncture marks on the victim’s neck. Slightly disturbed by this information Renee goes with the angle of someone who is a delusional vampire-fanatic who pretends he actually is one. Because vampires don’t exist.

But of course they do because Rafe DaSilva is an energy vampire who feeds off of human’s energy instead of blood and he is currently stalking Renee. He knows who killed the victim and he has to make sure Renee is safe and also doesn’t come to discover that vampires are real as she investigates the murder.

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MY REVIEW:

I just could not connect with this novel. I’ll admit that I had to skim read quite a bit near the end just to finish. The dialogue between Renee and Rafe was so stilted and unnatural. At first I thought maybe the author was trying to make Rafe sound formal because he was so old but it just did not work for me. And Renee didn’t seem to stay true to her character many times in the novel. We establish right away that she is a tough detective that has a strong attitude but then she does so many shy and fearful things later on in the novel that had me scratching my head.

The romance was sweet once they got to know each other better but the insta-love at the end was a bit much. Yes, they had been through a lot together in such a short period of time but it was still plain ol’ insta-love.

The crime/mystery aspect to the story was fairly interesting but the origin story had me rolling my eyes. It is definitely original but it was quite silly. Even the whole idea of e-vamps that don’t actually drink blood, but drink energy, was a bit much for me.

Overall it was an okay read but I won’t be continuing the series. I normally love paranormal/urban-fantasy novel so I would still recommend this to other that love that genre but this just did not work for me!

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