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BookChick (Simcoe, ON Canada)
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Happiness for Beginners: A Novel
Happiness for Beginners: A Novel
by Katherine Center
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.63
31 used & new from CDN$ 3.62

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read!, April 11 2015
Helen is 32 and has been divorced from a man who loved drinking more than he loved her for a year now, and she knows that it's time for her to be strong and to move on with her life. Knowing that she needs to do something symbolic in order to get past everything that happened, she signs up for a three week wilderness survival course- one that doesn't have the best reputation for actual survival.

Discovering that her younger brother Duncan's annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, and that somehow she has been volunteered to drive him to Wyoming where the course is taking place, changes her mind about the trip. She's sure that it will now be nothing short of a disaster. But what she finds is something entirely different- perhaps it will be on the brink of disaster that she can finally find happiness again.

I picked up Happiness for Beginners and started to read it....and then I couldn't put it down. I became caught up in the story of Helen- prickly on the outside but genuinely a person who wants to be loved despite that. I loved Josh, Duncan's best friend, from the very beginning as well. It's hard not to. He's charming and sweet to Helen, and he seems to only see the best in her despite her guarded nature. As we delve deeper into the story and we discover what tragedy Helen has been through, and what secret Josh is hiding, I liked both characters even more.

Katherine Center has created endearing secondary characters too, and although I liked almost none of Helen's survival group at the beginning of the story, by the end I found them all to be entertaining or interesting in some way. Center's absorbing writing kept me reading page after page, long after it was time for me to put the book down. Most interesting to me was how Center got me thinking about happiness, and about what truly makes me happy in life. That message was there, but not in a hit-you-over-the-head preachy way, and I appreciated that even more. It was subtle but enlightening.

Happiness for Beginners was a satisfying story of one woman's quest to find herself, and her own happiness, after a painful divorce. It wasn't the first book that I've read by Center and it certainly won't be the last. It was enjoyable to the last page, and I thank the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.


My Father's Wives: A Novel
My Father's Wives: A Novel
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling story from a talented author, April 4 2015
Jonathan Sweetwater has it all- a fulfilling, high-profile career, a devoted wife, and two beautiful children whom he adores. Coming home early from the office one day, a rarity in Jonathan's world, he happens upon a man and a woman, in his guest bedroom, naked. Only seeing them from behind, he observes that the woman looks much like his wife Claire. But could it be? Could his wife be cheating on him? Hiring a private investigator to find out what he scarcely wants to know himself, Jonathan decides to pursue more information about his father, whom he has not seen since he was 9 years old, and who is now dead, by meeting and speaking with his father's six wives, some of whom he has never met before. In his pursuit of these women and of the answers that they might hold to his own past, will Jonathan find what he seeks? Will he find out the answers about his father and about his own marriage that he is so desperately looking for?

I absolutely love Mike Greenberg's writing style. He writes with charisma and I found myself thinking about My Father's Wives even when I wasn't reading it. I was invested in the story and the characters from the beginning. Jonathan Sweetwater, despite his rocky relationship with his father, seems pulled-together and admirable. He has a solid relationship with his mother, his wife, and his children, and a job that most would find more than respectable. He doesn't gamble or drink excessively or cheat. His carefully ordered world falls apart around him when he believes that he catches his wife cheating on him, and suddenly he finds that not only does he have questions about his wife's fidelity, but he has questions about why his late father left him at such a young age and didn't ever want to have contact with him again.

This is where the story lost me a little, as far as plot goes. I could understand why Jonathan wanted to reach out to his father's ex-wives, to meet them and to learn more about his absent father. He seemed to be searching for the answer to a specific question, though, which he often expressed to the ex-wives. The problem is that he didn't know what question he was looking for the answer to. He told one of the ex-wives that he was searching for something, but that he didn't know what. We never do find out what question about his father Jonathan holds in his heart. I also found that the book shifted from being about Jonathan and his marriage, to Jonathan and his father. Both were valid parts of the plot, but I failed to see how they connected. He seems aimless in his quest, and this leaves the story feeling rather aimless as well.

Despite the rather unsatisfying conclusion (we never really find out the answers to the questions that we, as readers, have) I truly enjoyed My Father's Wives. The plot, while directionless at times, was interesting, the characters fleshed-out and fascinating. I couldn't put the book down and found the writing compelling. This raises an interesting point for me as a reader and blogger- despite the fact that the plot often wandered and that the conclusion was not what I was looking for (two things that are often crucial to my enjoyment of a book), I still really enjoyed the book. Perhaps that is a testament to Mike Greenberg's talent as an author, and I, for one, can't wait to read what he comes out with next.


The Firelight Girls
The Firelight Girls
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read!, March 29 2015
Ethel, former camp director of Camp Firelight on Lake Wenatchee, is facing a dual loss. Not only has she lost her partner of many years, Haddie, but she is on the verge of losing the beloved camp that she has called home for decades. The camp has been plagued by financial problems for years and the national directors are unable to justify keeping the doors open any longer. Ethel invites several former camp employees, also known as The Firelight Girls, to come and help close up the camp for good before it is sold.

Answering the request for volunteers is Shannon, a teacher who has grown weary of the restricted system that she is teaching in and is longing for a fresh start, Laura, who watched her last child depart for college recently and is struggling to reconnect with her distant husband, and Ruby, who committed a great wrong against Ethel many years ago and is hoping to make things right between them. When these four very different women find a runaway teen hiding in the cabins they decide that some things are worth fighting for and they attempt to save their beloved camp.

The Firelight Girls tells an important story. The one thing that unites these four women is their various experiences at Camp Firelight. The Firelight Girls reminds us that the experiences that we have at camp, and the things that we learn, are important, and those experiences continue to shape us even later on in life. Anyone who has been to camp can attest to the fact that camp is a unique experience that shapes many aspects of our adulthood. I personally went to camp for a week every summer for several years as a child. I made life long friends, one whom I see at least yearly still. I wrote countless letters to the friends that I met there during the school year. I thought about camp when I wasn't there. I learned a lot about myself as a person while I was there. Kaya McLaren has created a wonderful camp in The Firelight Girls that is bound to evoke pleasant memories for many.

The stories of each individual person- Ethel, Shannon, Laura, Ruby and Amber- were all incredibly interesting and well done. There are flashbacks and backgrounds for each character that helped us to understand who they are as people and how camp and their life experiences affected them. I especially loved the story of Ethel and Ruby. The history between them was fascinating and the flashbacks to their camp days were very well done. My one complaint would be that there was a lot going on in the book and often it was hard to keep track of all of the characters. Between flashbacks, modern day background stories, and trying to save the camp, there was a lot going on. I may have found it a little easier to keep track of everything if there were less characters with a more in-depth focus on each.

Reading The Firelight Girls was a pleasure. The story was enjoyable to read and the setting evoked some very positive memories and feelings for me personally. I enjoyed getting to know all of the characters and their stories. While there was nothing earth-shattering about the plot it was thoroughly enjoyable to read, like settling into a hot bath after a long day, and I would definitely read a book by this author again. My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of this book.


Confetti Confidential: They Do, I Don't (Confetti Confidential Series)
Confetti Confidential: They Do, I Don't (Confetti Confidential Series)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 3.53

3.0 out of 5 stars I Do, But I Don't..., March 29 2015
After finding out that her husband Peter has been cheating, marriage celebrant Viv is devastated and she decides that she no longer believes in love or in happily ever after. The problem is that she has committed to officiating at ten upcoming weddings and there is no going back on her commitment to these couples without ruining their special days. She has no choice but to soldier on through them but the fact that once she gets through these weddings she will no longer have to perform them is a comfort to her.

Complicating her already complicated life is the fact that her ex-husband is trying to make amends to her and to their three children. Is Viv ready to take her husband back or will a surprise confession from a mystery suitor change her mind about her ex-husband and about love? Viv's unique and loving sisters help her navigate the waters of being single and perhaps finding love again in this often funny and definitely thought-provoking book from new author Susan Murphy.

I have mixed feelings about Confetti Confidential: They Do, I Don't. Let me start with the parts that I enjoyed. I really loved the plot. Who doesn't love a book about crazy weddings? Susan Murphy is a marriage celebrant in her real life and she definitely brought the best of those weddings to life in this story. I enjoyed reading about the weddings- from the one that takes place in a couple's paved driveway to the one that almost resulted in a fist fight- and these parts of the book were a lot of fun to read. I also enjoyed reading about Viv and her sisters. They were all unique and far from perfect but the fact that they loved each other was evident and I appreciated the fact that they were always there for one another through thick and thin.

There were a few things that I didn't like about Confetti Confidential and one of those things was that I was often confused as to where the book was taking place. I believe that the author decided not to clarify the setting so as to make the book universally relatable, but for me that just resulted in confusion. There were a few references to things that were decidedly Australian yet I thought that the book was taking place elsewhere. It was unnecessarily confusing and I would have preferred to have known where the story was taking place.

I also had a problem with the ending of the book. *Spoiler* Throughout the book Viv is trying to decide between several men, one of whom has been her best friend forever. She is mainly worried about losing her friendship with him if things don't work out but when he leaves her for several months in order to lose weight, and returns thinner than he used to be, Viv falls for him immediately, although the day before she had doubts. That potion of the book bothered me simply because it made Viv seem shallow and I felt like it took away from the book as a whole.

There were some things that I liked about Confetti Confidential and there were some things that I did not. As a whole it was well-written and entertaining and I would be interested in giving a different book by this author a try. My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.


Blokebusters
Blokebusters
Price: CDN$ 5.92

5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly funny and touching!, March 14 2015
This review is from: Blokebusters (Kindle Edition)
Matt Brown is the world's nicest husband. He may not be the most polished man, and he may not look the best in a suit, but he adores his wife Georgia and he would do absolutely anything for her. Luckily Georgia adores Matt just as much as he adores her. Even though people describe them together as "the beauty and the geek" they are devoted to making one another happy.

When Matt loses his job in IT he is devastated. Not having had the most stable of childhoods, he doesn't want to lose his beautiful home and garden, and Georgia doesn't want that for him either. She vows to work even harder to make sure that doesn't happen. One night, drunk off of dreadful homemade wine, Matt comes up with the concept of starting up a business that tests men's faithfulness. Thus, Blokebusters is born. The small business explodes seemingly overnight, with women from their area desperate to test the faithfulness of their husbands and boyfriends.

While the initial success is wonderful for all three of them, they quickly find out the downfalls of being successful in a small business while working day jobs. Georgia and Matt find cracks in their marriage that they never imagined could exist. Fi finds herself enjoying her job immensely but unwilling to trust men given her horrible track record. When a sexy American enters onto the scene and makes a play for Georgia will she fall for it, or stay true to her loyal and flawed hubby? Will Fiona be able to open her heart up to journalist Leo, or will her cynical side win again? Is running Blokebusters all it was cracked up to be?

I found myself thoroughly enjoying Blokebusters! It kept me guessing and the story grabbed my attention. It was well-written and thoroughly edited, which is something that I look for in a book. If I receive a book for review I do appreciate when it is carefully edited and free of glaring errors, as that is my pet peeve regardless of where the review copy came from! I loved the dynamic of the relationship between Matt and Georgia. It's clear that they are two very different people and it is brought up several times that Georgia's co-workers think that she is too good for her hubby, but she remains loyal to him and she remains insistent that he is perfect for her! I loved that aspect of the story. It seems like everyone is all too quick to cheat and "upgrade" these days but these two remained loyal to one another. How refreshing! Matt was endearing as well, and he was definitely one of my favourite characters in the story. More than anything I wanted him to have a happy ending!

If I had one complaint it would be minor, and that would be that the fact that Georgia and Matt's differences are emphasized often. While I realize that it was a key plot point I thought that it was mentioned a little too often. We as readers got the point quite early on, and didn't need it drilled into our heads.

Overall Blokebusters was surprisingly funny as well as touching. There were characters that I enjoyed getting to know, and I found myself unable to put the book down while I was waiting to see what would happen next. The ending wasn't predictable, and was thoroughly enjoyable. My thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of this book!


Heartbreak Hotel
Heartbreak Hotel
Price: CDN$ 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining!, March 12 2015
This review is from: Heartbreak Hotel (Kindle Edition)
Russell "Buffy" Buffery is retired from the acting profession and is sick of living in London. He's simply getting too old for the hustle and the bustle, not to mention the lack of parking available! Salvation from the busy city comes in the form of a tired B&B located in the Welsh countryside, left to him in a dear old friend's will. The only problem? The B&B is desperately in need of repairs and he hasn't any money for them, nor does he have the bookings to provide the income.

At first he manages with the help of Voda, the woman who used to clean the house. Her boyfriend is in jail and she's at a loose end so she offers to not only clean the B&B but to assist in running it as well. Quickly Buffy finds that in order to be able to keep the B&B he needs new customers- and fast! He hatches an idea to run courses on cooking and car maintenance and gardening, all with the purpose of catering to the newly divorced whose former other halves attended to these things. While the courses do prove to be quite entertaining, each for their own reasons, they all seem to have mixed results, but an idea has been born and it's enough to keep Buffy afloat for the time being- or is it?

As various people who visit the B&B struggle to find their place in the world, Buffy finds that he is where he was meant to end up all along.

Heartbreak Hotel is the first book by Deborah Moggach that I have had the pleasure of reading, and I was pleasantly surprised! The motley crew of characters provided me with no end of entertainment, and the setting was picturesque and quite fun! It came at a perfect time for me- I was looking for a read that would be both relaxing and fun, and this is exactly what this book was! There were a lot of characters who we meet, some whose heads that we get inside, and some whose we don't, but they are all endearing in their own way, and if there was one that I didn't particularly care for, chances were good that we wouldn't be spending long with them anyways! Buffy, who ties the whole book together, is fun and hard not to love, and I enjoyed getting to know a few of his children, of whom there are many!

If I had a complaint it may be that there were a lot of characters introduced to us in one book, and as such we didn't get a chance to truly get attached to any of them. I also didn't like the fact that we get inside the heads of characters when we meet them, and once they are on their way to a happy ending they are presented to us in a very distant way. No longer are we privy to their thoughts and I wish that we would be!

Heartbreak Hotel was an entertaining read, perfect for enjoying on a relaxing day in the sunshine or at the beach. While I didn't feel strongly for any one character in the novel, I did enjoy meeting them all in passing, and the B&B setting was hugely fun! This being the first book by the author that I have read, I now know that I would like the opportunity to read more from her in the future!


FRiEQ® Waterproof Camera Float - Floating Camera Wrist Strap for Your Underwater Camera - Compatible with GoPro, Panasonic Lumix, Canon PowerShot D20, Marine Binoculars, Camcorders and Other Multiple Small Waterproof Devices (2-Pack)
FRiEQ® Waterproof Camera Float - Floating Camera Wrist Strap for Your Underwater Camera - Compatible with GoPro, Panasonic Lumix, Canon PowerShot D20, Marine Binoculars, Camcorders and Other Multiple Small Waterproof Devices (2-Pack)
Offered by T.M. Enterprise
Price: CDN$ 36.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A great way to keep an eye on your waterproof items, March 11 2015
This device is so simple, yet it makes so much sense to have one! While marketed as a product good for someone with a waterproof camera, it would also be great for someone who has a waterproof phone case such as this one: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00T2QSTW4 . That's what I'm using mine for!

The design is simple and makes sense, it fits comfortably on my wrist and it is covered with a soft material so it won't irritate your skin after a long period of time holding it. The package contains two flotation devices, so if you misplace one you have a backup, or you can use it with multiple devices! The strap is bright yellow, so much easier to see if you do drop your camera or waterproof phone case! I love that this allows you bring your camera or phone out on the lake or to the ocean without having to worry about dropping it! Dropping something in the water often equates losing it for good, so I plan to use this product often this summer! Please note that each strap is good for holding 7 oz each. Although I received this product for review this is my honest opinion.


FRiEQ® Floating Waterproof Cell Phone Carrying Cases for Apple iPhone 6, 5s, 5, Galaxy S5, S4 S3, HTC One, Galaxy Note 3, MP3 Player - IPX8 Certified to 100 Feet (Rainbow)
FRiEQ® Floating Waterproof Cell Phone Carrying Cases for Apple iPhone 6, 5s, 5, Galaxy S5, S4 S3, HTC One, Galaxy Note 3, MP3 Player - IPX8 Certified to 100 Feet (Rainbow)
Offered by T.M. Enterprise
Price: CDN$ 33.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provides peace of mind for a great price!, March 11 2015
Honestly I have to admit that these days it's not often that I'm without my phone. I use it as my primary source of contact for work, friends, and family so I rarely leave home without it! In the summer I'm frequently at the beach or on friend's boats as we live close to Lake Ontario and some beautiful beaches. FRiEQ sent me this product in exchange for my honest review and to be honest I'm not sure how I lived without it until now! Right now it's winter but come summer I will be getting my use out of it!!

I love how this case is pretty universal. It's roomy with plenty of room for any phone! My Galaxy S4 fit in there without a problem and with plenty of room to spare! No need to take your phone out of its case if you have it in one- my case and phone both easily fit inside. The phone fits into the pouch easily, and is sealed using two snaps at the top. The pouch also comes with a handy caribiner for in case you would like to snap it to a life jacket or belt loop. The pouch is certified waterproof up to 100 feet and if you do drop your phone into the water while it is in its case, it floats. For extra visibility you may want to consider purchasing the yellow waterproof floating strap that is also available from FRiEQ: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00SUY8DF2

While I love this pouch for the obvious reasons, such as protecting my phone at the beach or pool, I tried it out in the bathtub too since that's another place that I love to use my phone. Success! The touchscreen is easy to use, even through the plastic of the pouch, and the camera still takes clear shots. I tried texting and using my phone's apps, all with great success. I'm impressed that this product lives up to its claims and I'm sure that it will accompany me out many times this summer! A great price in return for worry-proof outings with your phone. Nobody wants to go out to the beach or pool and come home with a water damaged $700 phone to replace! Well worth the price in exchange for the peace of mind that it provides! This is also available in a black for those that would prefer it: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00T2PMJJY


FRiEQ® Floating Waterproof Cell Phone Carrying Cases for Apple iPhone 6, 5s, 5, Galaxy S5, S4 S3, HTC One, Galaxy Note 3, MP3 Player - IPX8 Certified to 100 Feet (Black)
FRiEQ® Floating Waterproof Cell Phone Carrying Cases for Apple iPhone 6, 5s, 5, Galaxy S5, S4 S3, HTC One, Galaxy Note 3, MP3 Player - IPX8 Certified to 100 Feet (Black)
Offered by T.M. Enterprise
Price: CDN$ 33.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provides peace of mind wherever you take it!, March 11 2015
Honestly I have to admit that these days it's not often that I'm without my phone. I use it as my primary source of contact for work, friends, and family so I rarely leave home without it! In the summer I'm frequently at the beach or on friend's boats as we live close to Lake Ontario and some beautiful beaches. FRiEQ sent me this product in exchange for my honest review and to be honest I'm not sure how I lived without it until now! Right now it's winter but come summer I will be getting my use out of it!!

I love how this case is pretty universal. It's roomy with plenty of room for any phone! My Galaxy S4 fit in there without a problem and with plenty of room to spare! No need to take your phone out of its case if you have it in one- my case and phone both easily fit inside. The phone fits into the pouch easily, and is sealed using two snaps at the top. The pouch also comes with a handy caribiner for in case you would like to snap it to a life jacket or belt loop. The pouch is certified waterproof up to 100 feet and if you do drop your phone into the water while it is in its case, it floats. For extra visibility you may want to consider purchasing the yellow waterproof floating strap that is also available from FRiEQ: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00SUY8DF2

While I love this pouch for the obvious reasons, such as protecting my phone at the beach or pool, I tried it out in the bathtub too since that's another place that I love to use my phone. Success! The touchscreen is easy to use, even through the plastic of the pouch, and the camera still takes clear shots. I tried texting and using my phone's apps, all with great success. I'm impressed that this product lives up to its claims and I'm sure that it will accompany me out many times this summer! A great price in return for worry-proof outings with your phone. Nobody wants to go out to the beach or pool and come home with a water damaged $700 phone to replace! Well worth the price in exchange for the peace of mind that it provides! This is also available in a funky multi-coloured option! http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00T2QSTW4


It Was Me All Along: A Memoir
It Was Me All Along: A Memoir
by Andie Mitchell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.98
34 used & new from CDN$ 9.34

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An emotional, raw, and uplifting novel! A must-read!!, Feb. 25 2015
Andie Mitchell's childhood was less than ideal. With an alcoholic, depressed father prone to rages, and a mother who carried the household on her back while working four jobs to pay the bills, food became Andie Mitchell's best friend, baby-sitter, and companion. Most of all, it helped her to deal with how hard things were at home and how alone she felt. Coming to terms with being "the fat girl" in high school, Andie seemed to progress into adulthood with minimal scars. She had boyfriends and best friends and a college acceptance.

However stepping on the scale when she was twenty led to the shocking realization that she weighed 268 pounds. Well on the way to morbid obesity and numerous health problems, Andie is forced into the realization that she needs to find a way to lose weight. What follows is her journey- raw and emotional and real. Andie is not someone who wishes to present herself as the perfect person, or as someone who dropped the weight effortlessly. She presents herself as someone flawed and human and wanting acceptance and love more than anything. This is her story- her story of finding beauty within herself, of overcoming a difficult childhood and an eating disorder, and of finding out that inside it was really her all along.

I truly can't convey to you simply using words how deeply It Was Me All Along touched me. I related to it on such an intensely personal level and I couldn't bear to put it down for long! I read at the gym, at work on my breaks, and at home. Not only is her writing exceptional (I would read anything that she's written, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, based on the beauty of her writing alone), but Andie's story is one that I saw myself in many, many times while reading the book. If you've ever looked in the mirror and hated what you saw, if you have ever wondered how the whole sleeve of cookies disappeared in one sitting, if you have ever examined the excess flesh on your body and absolutely despised it, then Andie understands. If you'd rather read than exercise, then she gets it. I had a wonderful childhood, while Andie's was tumultuous, but I still found so many similarities between our thought patterns and bad habits. Perhaps the reason that I loved this book so much is because while I was reading it I kept thinking to myself "She really gets the pain of being overweight. She truly understands the struggle". Not only does she understand the plight of the overweight person so well, she manages to put things into words that have only been shadows of thoughts in my own mind.

Andie shares her journey towards weight loss with us in such an honest way, chronicling her ups and downs, her missteps and her triumphs. Through it all, and with a lot of hard work and trial and error, Andie seems to find a balance between being thin and being fat, being obsessed and not caring at all. While her story is far from preachy, I even found a few tips in there that I can easily apply to my own life when it comes to moderation and eating healthfully.

If you've ever been overweight, read this book. If you struggle with your relationship to food, read this book. If you've ever felt so alone that you think that no one could possibly understand how you feel, read this book. It Was Me All Along is one of my favourite books of the year so far and I won't stop recommending it until everyone I know has given it a chance.


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