Review// The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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Author: Kristin Hannah
Series: Standalone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Book Length: 440 pages 
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Review: 4/5
Goodreads Synopsis:
France, 1939.

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

My Review:
So beautiful and yet so heartbreaking, this book taught me a lot about WWII and all the horrors that people faced upon the Nazi invasion in France that I didn’t know before.

I loved the portrayal of the two sisters – Vianne and Isabelle – and how they were so completely different from one another; Vianne being more uptight and rule abiding, and Isabelle being more rebellious. Before the war, the two seemed to constantly butt heads and resent the other. However, amid the war that was tearing everything and everyone apart, Vianne and Isabelle were brought closer together which I thought was extremely heartwarming.

The book kept switching back and forth between WWII and 1995, where an unnamed elderly female was going back to France from America to speak about the war at a passeurs’ reunion. There were very few chapters set in 1995, but I was really looking forward to them because I was eager to know who the female was and figure out how the events of the war played out for all of the characters. When I did find out how things ended, it was definitely – as you could have guessed – a tearjerker.

This book really does live up to its hype. If you are looking for a captivating, emotionally-engaging read in the genre, I would highly recommend picking this one up.

-Catherine

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My Experience at the Harry Potter-Themed Bar in Toronto!⚡️

Hi random burst of creative energy to write a blog post that’s not a book review for the first time in almost a year – how are ya? 💁🏻‍♀️

So it’s been a while since I’ve written something like this but I’ve been feeling very inspired to take my blogging back by the reins this year, so here goes!

In a previous post back in 2018, I wrote about 5 Literary Themed Restaurants Around the World – in that post, one of the places I wrote about was The Lockhart in Toronto, Canada which is a Harry Potter-themed bar. In it, I vowed, and I quote: “You better believe I am going here after I finish the series and I will have a blog post up about it when I do.” I did finish the series, but I didn’t go to the bar immediately after (I should have). However, I’ve done it now (twice!) and I am very excited to share my experience.

The Lockhart is a quaint little cocktail bar a little bit outside of the downtown core. They have mostly regularly-named food and drink, but some themed names as well, like the Better Beer – a play on Butter Beer which I still want to try in Harry Potter World – or Dementor’s Kiss which are two drink names that caught my eye. I opted for the Better Beer, which is tequila-based and it was delicious! They do a very good job of masking the taste of alcohol in this drink, but it’s definitely strong enough to feel the effect of. Below is a photo of what it looks like – I seem to have misplaced the photo I took at the time, but this is one from their website:

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Pitcher of Better Beer

Along with drink options, they also of course have food. I got chicken and waffles – the portion was huge and the chicken was very flavourful and crispy, which I liked:

Although I went there to eat and drink, I especially appreciated how they decorated the place. They have a neon sign by the bar that says ‘all was well’ which are the last words in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; and also a wall of framed photos of Dobby (my favourite 🥰).

I love that I got to experience this place after reading all of the books; I adore it and am already eager to go back again. The staff is very friendly, the food and drink are great, and I love the aesthetic.

Now, I’m on the hunt for more literary-themed places to visit and I can’t wait for what will be next… ✨

-Catherine

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Review// A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats & Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

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Author: Mackenzi Lee
Series: Montague Siblings #2
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Book Length: 450 pages 
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Review: 3.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

A year after an accidentally whirlwind grand tour with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a window of opportunity opens—a doctor she idolizes is marrying an old friend of hers in Germany. Felicity believes if she could meet this man he could change her future, but she has no money of her own to make the trip. Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid.

In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

My Review:

I had been anticipating this book ever since I finished The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue a few years ago; Felicity had made an appearance in that one, so I was excited when I found out that she got her own story line.

Living in the 17th century, Felicity really had to fight to prove her place as an aspiring doctor in the male-dominated field. I loved how she was resilient, strong-willed, and at times very sassy. I thought Lee was really able to tackle major issues such as homophobia, racism, and sexism though the characters in this novel, which made it that much more enjoyable.

Although I did enjoy it, some major parts were very predictable to me, which kind of took away from my experience. I think I am slowly finding that I’m not as into YA as much as I used to be, which definitely affects my rating too. Had I felt about the genre like I did a few years ago, I think my rating would have been higher. Nonetheless, it was a good book, and very informative about not only what life was like in the 17th century, but also about the medical world and how women were seen back in those times.

I’m glad I finally got to read this, and happy to have started off 2020 with such a positive, female-empowering novel 🙂

-Catherine

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Review// White Elephant by Trish Harnetiaux

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Author: Trish Harnetiaux
Series: Standalone
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Book Length: 228 pages 
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Review: 2.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

There are only a few rules in a White Elephant gift exchange: 1) Everyone brings a wrapped, unmarked gift. 2) Numbers are drawn to decide who picks first. 3) Gifts don’t need to be pricey—and often they’re downright tacky.

But things are a little different in Aspen, Colorado, at the office holiday party for the real estate firm owned by Henry Calhoun and his wife Claudine. Each Christmas sparks a contest among the already competitive staff to see who can buy the most coveted gift: the one that will get stolen the most times, the one that will prove just how many more commissions they earned that year than their colleagues. Designer sunglasses, deluxe spa treatments, front row concert tickets—nothing is off the table. And the staff is even more competitive this year as Zara, the hottest young pop star out of Hollywood, is in town and Claudine is determined to sell her the getaway home of her dreams.

Everyone is puzzled when a strange gift shows up in the mix: an antique cowboy statue. At least the sales agents are guessing it’s an antique—otherwise it’d be a terrible present. It’s certainly not very pretty or expensive-looking. In fact, the gift makes sense only to Henry and Claudine. The statue is the weapon Henry used to commit a murder years ago, a murder that helped start his company and a murder that Claudine helped cover up. She swore that no one would ever be able to find the statue or trace it to their crime. So which of their employees did? And why did they place it in the White Elephant? What could possibly be their endgame?

Over the course of the evening, Henry and Claudine race to figure out who could have planted the weapon, and just what the night means for the secrets they’ve been harboring. Further adding to the drama is a snowstorm that closes nearby roads—preventing anyone from leaving, as well as keeping law enforcement from the scene. And by the end of this crazy night, the police will most definitely be required…

My Review:

Yay, I’m happy I finished this just in time for Christmas! I was looking forward to reading at least one festive novel.

I thought the premise of this book was extremely interesting. I love mystery/thrillers and I thought it was a great idea to combine that with a Christmas-theme (although I know this is not an original idea by any means).

I will admit that some parts were suspenseful, but I did guess a few of the main plot twists which took away the other half of the excitement. It just seemed like the plot points in this book were wrapped up all too perfectly with a little red bow, just like the one on the cover. A lot of things “conveniently” happened and after a while it seemed just too good to be true that the pieces were fitting together so seamlessly.

I also wish that the characters had a bit more personality. They seemed to be very cookie-cutter (no pun intended) and I could always predict the main characters’ next moves. In general, I think this is a little bit of an issue for me personally, but it is especially the case when I intend to read a mystery/thriller. I love being on my toes, and unfortunately with this, there were very few times that I was.

Despite all of that, the writing was enjoyable and I finished this in a few days – reading most of it in one. Not the worst book ever, but I did expect more from it. I would still recommend it if you are looking for an easy holiday read, but don’t expect to be sitting at the edge of your seat.

-Catherine

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Review// Roomies by Christina Lauren

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Author: Christina Lauren
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: December 5, 2017
Book Length: 368 pages 
Publisher: Gallery Books
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient.

For months Holland Bakker has invented excuses to descend into the subway station near her apartment, drawn to the captivating music performed by her street musician crush. Lacking the nerve to actually talk to the gorgeous stranger, fate steps in one night in the form of a drunken attacker. Calvin Mcloughlin rescues her, but quickly disappears when the police start asking questions.

Using the only resource she has to pay the brilliant musician back, Holland gets Calvin an audition with her uncle, Broadway’s hottest musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until his reason for disappearing earlier becomes clear: he’s in the country illegally, his student visa having expired years ago.

Seeing that her uncle needs Calvin as much as Calvin needs him, a wild idea takes hold of her. Impulsively, she marries the Irishman, her infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves and Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway—in the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting—will Holland and Calvin to realize that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

My Review:

This book sounded so great to me from the synopsis, and although I liked it, I didn’t love it, and I’m a little sad about that.

I liked the idea of the plot so much, but I think it fell short for me. As soon as I figured out that a musician was the heartthrob of this story, I was instantly sold. However, I wasn’t exactly sold on Calvin and Holland’s relationship.  I could tell the author was trying to make them click as the book progressed and they actually got to know each other after the marriage, but I never felt the spark. There were times I liked Holland and found her relatable, but other times when she was acting so immature that I couldn’t stand her – the same goes for Calvin. Maybe they were meant to be after all because they were both annoying and childish 🤷🏻‍♀️

I picked this up partly because of the synopsis and partly because Autoboyography by Christina Lauren was one of my favourites, but in this case, I just wish I liked the characters more. Regardless, I would definitely consider reading more Christina Lauren books and am glad I read this as it had been on my radar for months.

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