Things To Do When It’s Raining {Review}

All of my reviews are always SPOILER FREE 🙂

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review.

things to do when it's raining

 

Title: Things To Do When It’s Raining

Author: Marissa Stapley

Genre:  Women’s Fiction, Canadian

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada

Date published: Expected Publication February 6, 2018

Page Count: 256 pages

 

 

synopsis

Mae Summers and Gabe Broadbent grew up together in the idyllic Summers’ Inn, perched at the edge the St. Lawrence River. Mae was orphaned at the age of six and Gabe needed protection from his alcoholic father, so both were raised under one roof by Mae’s grandparents, Lily and George. A childhood friendship quickly developed into a first love—a love that was suddenly broken by Gabe’s unexpected departure. Mae grew up and got over her heartbreak, and started a life for herself in New York City.

After more than a decade, Mae and Gabe find themselves pulled back to Alexandria Bay by separate forces. Hoping to find solace within the Summers’ Inn, Mae instead finds her grandparents in the midst of decline and their past unravelling around her. A lifetime of secrets that implicate Gabe and Mae’s family reveal a version of the past that will forever change Mae’s future.

From the bestselling author of Mating for Life comes a poignant generational story about family and secrets. With honesty and heart, Marissa Stapley reminds us of the redemptive power of love and forgiveness, and that, ultimately, family is a choice.

 

My Review

Things to do When it’s Raining takes place in Alexandria Bay, New York, on the beautiful St. Lawrence River. It’s a real place, and coincidentally it’s only about 100km away from where I live! I didn’t realize this when I requested the advance reader copy. I’ve seen the 1000 Islands area and it’s absolutely stunning. If you’ve never been, I suggest taking a trip there someday.

This story touches on themes that I think many of us can relate to: family secrets, struggling to forgive, grief, regret, and the power of love. Mae Summers grew up in Alexandria Bay. She was raised by her grandparents George and Lily after her parents Virginia and Chase died when Mae was a child. We meet Mae as an adult, living in New York City, engaged to Peter. We find out Peter has committed fraud and up and left Mae with nothing but a short note scribbled on paper. She ends up losing everything, and finds herself back at the inn her grandparents own in Alexandria Bay. After 67 years of marriage, Mae’s grandfather George finds out that his best friend who was killed in the war is the real father of Virginia (Mae’s mother). He leaves Lily to stay at a hotel. Meanwhile Lily is losing her mind and has been forgetting the names of people, places, and objects. George finds out Gabe’s father, Jonah, is in the hospital and isn’t doing well, so he calls Gabe to tell him he should probably come back to Alexandria Bay. Gabe’s mother left when he was really young, and Jonah is a drunk who used to physically and emotionally abuse Gabe. Gabe he decides he should go back to check on his Dad. Gabe and Mae get to see each other after many years, work through current life challenges and in the process reveal many secrets that have been buried for too long.

 

Mae was extremely naive. I mean…she’s an adult, and somehow had no idea what Peter was doing behind her back when she worked with him? I dunno, I found that slightly unbelievable. I had a hard time getting into the story, but once we arrived in Alexandria Bay and I got to meet George, Lily, and Jonah, I became more engaged in their stories.

 

Gabe is my favourite character. He’s been through some real crap in his life. You would think the ability to love someone else would have died in him long ago. I would have liked more info about Gabe’s life after he left Alexandria Bay.

If this story wasn’t written in third person narrative I would have been able to felt more connected to the characters. There was too much telling, not enough showing.

Overall, this is an easy read with a compelling story. If you like romance stories with family drama and secrets, then you’ll like Things to do When it’s Raining. Expected publication is next month 🙂

 

 

About the author.jpg

Marissa Stapley is the Globe and Mail bestselling author of the novel Mating for Life, and the forthcoming Things to Do When It’s Raining. She writes the commercial fiction review column “Shelf Love” for the Globe and Mail, reports on books and culture for the Toronto Star, and lives in Toronto with her husband and two children.” https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7382096.Marissa_Stapley

http://www.marissastapley.com

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Stories From The Vinyl Cafe (Spoiler-Free Book Review)

stories from the vinyl cafe.jpgStories From the Vinyl Cafe (Vinyl Cafe #1)

Published 2009 by Penguin Canada (first published 1995)
226 pages
Fiction: Short Stories, Canadian
Stories From The Vinyl Cafe is a collection of eighteen tales written by Stuart Mclean. There is a fantastic balance between serious topics and touching stories about losing pets, family relationships, marriage, overcoming fear, stinky skunks, a mom who got caught stealing sausage from the grocery store, doing the right thing and remembering Canadian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.
“Everyone should get to drive a car with everything they own piled around them. All alone. Heading towards the horizon. Driving into the future”.
These stories may be short but they are packed full of emotion and authentic Canadian culture. This one was a page-turner that left me wanting to read more of Mclean’s work.

New Book Published! The Shoe on the Roof ~ Spoiler-Free Review

The shoe on the roofThe Shoe on the Roof

By Will Ferguson

Published October 17, 2017 by Simon and Schuster

384 pages (hardcover)

Adult Fiction

Goodreads Giveaway: Ends October 31, 2017

 

 

 

Book Blurb

From the Giller Prize–winning novelist of 419 comes the startling, funny, and heartbreaking story of a psychological experiment gone wrong.

Ever since his girlfriend ended their relationship, Thomas Rosanoff’s life has been on a downward spiral. A gifted med student, he has spent his entire adulthood struggling to escape the legacy of his father, an esteemed psychiatrist who used him as a test subject when he was a boy. Thomas lived his entire young life as the “Boy in the Box,” watched by researchers behind two-way glass.

But now the tables have turned. Thomas is the researcher, and his subjects are three homeless men, all of whom claim to be messiahs—but no three people can be the one and only saviour of the world. Thomas is determined to “cure” the three men of their delusions, and in so doing save his career—and maybe even his love life. But when Thomas’s father intervenes in the experiment, events spin out of control, and Thomas must confront the voices he hears in the labyrinth of his own mind.”

The Shoe on the Roof

A woman dies on the operating table. The doctors refuse to give up on her. After they miraculously bring her back to life she says she floated about them all, floated up to the roof of the hospital. The doctors explain how that feeling is caused neurologically. She tells them she saw a shoe on the roof. They sent a janitor up there who finds the shoe she had described.

My Thoughts

The Shoe on the Roof has an extremely unique plot. The idea that belief in God can be caused neurologically is certainly provocative. When I read the book blurb about how this story is about a failed psychological experiment I was worried it would be a “heavy” read with lots of difficult words and medical jargon. That is not the case at all. The scientific terms are not difficult to understand. Other reviewers have said there were many times that they laughed out loud, and although I didn’t find it funny enough to actually laugh out loud, it is a fun, quick read.

Each character had a distinct voice and personality. One of the mentally ill men who calls himself the magician is my favourite character by far. I would read an entire book about his life story. There are lots of interesting medical information and thought-provoking ideas about the relation between mental health and religion.

There are some interesting comparisons between this story and Christianity. The Shoe on the Roof highlights father/son relationships: Thomas and his father, Jesus Christ and his father. Thomas is trying to cure three men who believe they are the Messiah, which made me think of the three wise men. Thomas’s godmother Frances is a wonderful woman who helps the injured and sick homeless people  – probably inspired by Saint Frances of Rome, a nun who served in hospitals and even established a homeless shelter at one point in her life.

There is a big twist at the end that I DID NOT SEE coming. I often guess the big twist when reading mysteries and thrillers, so I’m always impressed when an author manages to make my jaw drop.

I did not start liking the main character, Thomas, until around 3/4 of the way through the book. At the beginning of the story he is a sexist, arrogant, a-hole. I did not understand his motivations which made me not care about if he was able to win back his ex-girlfriend. Actually, I don’t even like the ex-girlfriend either to be honest. Thankfully, Thomas achieves a crap-load of personal growth, and by the last 50 pages I found myself finally caring about him. I would have quit reading it before the 100 page mark if it wasn’t an ARC. I am glad I did finish it, because this ended up being a pretty good read for me.

I don’t understand why there was a murder mystery sub plot about homeless people being murdered. That could have been left out of the story completely and wouldn’t have changed the main plot in any way. Actually…you could also cut out the Thomas/Amy storyline as well. It would have created more room to give us more background information, especially about the three mentally ill men.

If you’re a fan of mysteries and like science/psychology I think you’ll dig this book.

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review.

About the Author

Will Ferguson.jpg

 

Will Ferguson is an award-winning travel writer and novelist. His last work of fiction, 419, won the Scotiabank Giller Prize. He has won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour a record-tying three times and has been nominated for both the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. His new novel, The Shoe on the Roof, will be released October 17, 2017. Visit him at WillFerguson.ca

Whimsical Novel from Canadian Author: The Lonely Hearts Hotel – Review #spoilerfree

Like a tough meat turning tender in a homemade beef stew, Heather O’Neill’s newest novel, The Lonely Hearts Hotel, will toughen your heart with the abuse of two orphans, then mend it with a timeless love story of two quirky, yet magical destined sweethearts called Rose and Pierrot. This dark, peculiar, imaginative fairy-tale takes place in Montreal and NYC from the 1910s to 1940s.

lonely hearts hotel

Published in 2017 by HarperCollins. Picture from Goodreads.

After being sexually abused by her cousin, “Iggy”, a young teenager gave birth to her baby at the HĂ´pital de la MisĂ©ricorde. The baby was born blue, declared dead, then somehow came back to life. “The nuns at the orphanage called this baby Pierrot because he was so pale and he always had a rather stupid grin on his face.”

Another teenage mother gave birth to a baby girl in a bathtub, relinquished her newborn to a woman who, for a small fee, promised she would find a good home. The woman left the baby, and other infants, in a park to freeze in the snow. Miraculously, the baby girl was found and brought to the orphanage with blue marks on her cheeks. “All the girls at the orphanage were named Marie, and so was this baby girl. But her nickname, which she would always be known by, was Rose, because the two bright spots on her cheeks had turned from blue to red, then took two more weeks to disappear”.

Pierrot grew into a tall, blonde, slender performer with a natural piano-playing ability. Rose bloomed into a stunning young lady with dark hair, also an artist, she loved to create hilarious skits, and dance to Pierrot’s beautiful music.

Sister EloĂŻse had been sexually abusing Pierrot for years and was insanely jealous of how close Pierrot and Rose were becoming, which was heightened when Mother Superior decided to send Pierrot and Rose out to perform at local old-age homes and in order to make money for the orphanage. These outings gave them a chance to fall head-over-heels in love, and make plans for their Snowflake Icicle Extravaganza circus that they would one day run together.

A rich elderly man named Irving stopped at the orphanage to give his usual donation when he heard Pierrot playing the piano. He loved it so much that he adopted Pierrot so that he could listen to the alluring music every day. Sister EloĂŻse ripped up Pierrot’s goodbye letter to Rose while Rose was locked in the cupboard. Rose’s heart broke thinking she had been abandoned yet again. She left to work as a governess where she would mainly be looking after two children, Hazel and Ernest McMahon.

Pierrot wrote letters to Rose for years, which Sister EloĂŻse destroyed. And so, the two attempt to live life without each other, yet always yearning for the other. Rose becomes McMahon’s mistress, then porn actress, while Pierrot ends up a heroin addict playing the piano at a movie theater.

I love the way O’Neill writes. It’s absolutely sublime to read:

“His pupils always dilated for a split second when he was confronted with the truth. Once she saw his eyes turn black, he had already confessed to her.”

“She looked at the cheap wedding ring on her finger. She would always wear it. It was like a small snowflake that had landed on a mitten – and it was so beautiful. It was always just about to melt.”

The perspective bounces back and forth between Rose and Pierrot frequently. Sometimes you’ll get a full chapter from one perspective, then other times you only get one sentence. I found this annoying at first, but eventually became used to it, and as the story progressed found myself enjoying the jumping as if it were piano notes hopping around creating the rhythm of their story.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel reminds us about the importance of art, and how it can positively affect people even during the saddest, most desperate times. O’Neill also uses this story to highlight gender expectations, and I love the fact that Rose is a strong female, unafraid of the glass ceiling.

My only critique is that the lengthy section of the book where Rose and Pierrot are separated. We are left yearning for them to find each other for about two hundred pages. I was beginning to get a little bored with their continuous pining for each other.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel ultimately is about the power of hate versus the power of love. O’Neill weaved a story set in the Great Depression, with graphic sex scenes, drug addiction, abuse, violence, yet managed to teach us a touching lesson about true love, and forgiveness.

 

May TBR

What I plan to read this month 🙂

Share your TBR in the comments!

lonely hearts hotel

 

The Lonely Hearts Hotel

By Heather O’Neill

Goodreads Blurb:

“With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one’s origins. It might also take true love.

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.

Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.

With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O’Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.”

Outlander.jpg

Outlander

By Diana Gabaldon

Goodreads Blurb:

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.”

The STonekeeper's curse

 

The Stonekeeper’s Curse
Book 2 of the Amulet series
Graphic Novel
By Kazu Kibuishi

Goodreads Blurb:

“In this thrilling sequel to AMULET #1: THE STONEKEEPER, Emily and her brother Navin head for Kanalis, a beautiful and mysterious city of waterfalls, where they hope to find the antidote for the poison that felled their mother. That cure lies in the eggs of a giant serpent atop Demon’s Head Mountain, but the kids’ archenemy, Trellis, is headed for the peak, too. A battle that will engulf all of Kanalis is looming. It’s up to Em to triumph over evil while controlling the amulet’s power . . . without losing herself!”

Illuminae

Illuminae

By Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Goodreads Blurb:

“This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.”

The Friday Night Knitting Club

 

The Friday Night Knitting Club

By Kate Jacobs

Goodreads Blurb:

“Once a week, an eclectic group of women comes together at a New York City yarn shop to work on their latest projects – and share the stories of their lives…

At the center of Walker and Daughter is the shop’s owner, Georgia, who is overwhelmed with juggling the store and single-handedly raising her teenage daughter. Happy to escape the demands of her life, she looks forward to her Friday Night Knitting Club, where she and her friends – Anita, Peri, Darwin, Lucie, and K.C. – exchange knitting tips, jokes, and their deepest secrets. But when the man who once broke Georgia’s heart suddenly shows up, demanding a role in their daughter’s life, her world is shattered.

Luckily, Georgia’s friends are there for encouragement, sharing their own tales of intimacy, heartbreak, and miracle making. And when the unthinkable happens, these women will discover that what they’ve created isn’t just a knitting club; its a sisterhood.”

Turning: a year in the water #bookreview #spoilerfree

Turning: a year in the water is a beautiful, extremely unique, autobiographical nature-memoir written by Jessica Lee. It will be released May 2nd, 2017.

Turning.png

The publisher kindly sent me a complementary digital proof copy for review.

“Through the heat of summer to the frozen depths of winter, Lee traces her journey swimming through 52 lakes in a single year, swimming through fear and heartbreak to find her place in the world.”

Jessica swims in 52 lakes throughout four season in Germany, we are given flash backs to her childhood living in Canada and Florida, brief time spent time in London before her divorce, and then to Berlin, Germany to work on her dissertation in environmental history. As she explains the physical changes of each lake through the seasons, she is undergoing her own emotional transformation, washing remnants of self-doubt, letting go of the feeling that you are not where you’re meant to be, and also learning to not fear being alone.

Reading this memoir brought me back to my own memories swimming in lakes while growing up in Labrador. She successfully expressed the strange, opposite emotions lakes impress upon us – intense beauty, stillness, quiet, but also scary unknowns lurking below while you stare hard into the dark depths.

I often find story without dialogue slightly cumbersome, however, Jessica deflty carves her way around the story, providing description of all sense for the lakes, trees, environment, food, and German people, completely making up for the lack of dialogue. We are also given some interesting tidbits of German history concerning the war, reunification, and even some German words.

The only thing I didn’t like was how abruptly it ended, not because of how the story ended, but because I wanted to keep reading 🙂 I could read her writing for hours and hours.

I recommend this book to those who like the outdoors, swimming, are interested in Germany, and to anyone who wants to push themselves to face their fears.

Jessica Lee is a badass winter swimmer, with a PhD in Environmental History.

Jessica Lee

Jessica Lee’s profile picture on Goodreads

Follow Jessica Lee on Twitter

 

Spoiler-Free Book Review: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed is a story about a parent’s undying love for their child, grief, revenge against those who do us wrong, forgiveness, the literal and figurative prisons we live in – forced upon us by others, and created on our own. You do not need to read The Tempest before reading Hag-Seed (I did, and I found it enjoyable to have Shakespeare’s work so fresh in my mind, but it’s not necessary).

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, is a re-telling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of The Tempest, but was pleasantly surprised to find how masterfully Atwood has crafted a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s work.

The prologue entitled “Screening”grabbed my attention from the get-go with words like “shots fired” and “lockdown”. I don’t usually like prologues because they are often used as information dumps for character backgrounds,or back story, but in this instance Atwood effectively used the prologue as a way to grab the readers attention.

As the novel begins we meet Felix Phillips, an Artistic Director for a Canadian theater company. Felix has lost his wife and child, which has affected his work, and he’s given the news that the Festival Board have voted to terminate Felix’s contract. He learns that he has been usurped by his colleague, Tony. (In The Tempest the usurper was Antonio).

Felix finds a worn-down cabin to rent, hiding away in his “cell” to plot revenge, using a fake name – Mr. Duke. He lands a job working at a prison where over the next twelve years he introduces the inmates to Shakespeare’s work, casting convicts in plays, leading up to his final play The Tempest. As an Educational Assistant I found his teaching methods interesting.

Other readers have said they had a hard time connecting with Felix. I would have to disagree. I felt sorry for Felix. He is at times over-confident, but I feel like this comes from low self-esteem, depression, and his struggle dealing with grief. His interactions with his dead daughter brought tears to my eyes. As a mother, I could see why he wanted to keep her alive.

My one complaint is that I wanted more –  more back story about Felix’s colleagues at the art festival, his wife, and the convicts.

Every single character in both The Tempest and Hag-Seed are imprisoned in some way, and each story provides a glimpse into how we are put into our “cells”, how others lock us up, and the struggle to be set free.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

www.crownpublishing.com

Check out Margaret Atwood’s website http://margaretatwood.ca/