Blog Tour | Lily and the Octopus, Steven Rowley

27276262By page 3 of Steven Rowley’s Lily and the OctopusI knew this book would make me ugly cry, and I honestly wasn’t sure if I had the guts to keep reading. I tweeted my trepidation, and the author responded, “So much laughter, adventure and love in the pages ahead. If you cry, I hope the journey will have been worth it.” So I decided to continue, and I’m so glad I did. This book is one of the most emotionally affecting ones I’ve ever read. I ugly-cried like I hadn’t since Patrick Ness’s A Monster Callsand that’s a good thing. The best books rip right into your heart and make you feel as you’ve rarely let yourself feel before, and then stay with you long after you turn the last page. Lily and the Octopus was such a book, and I can say with full certainty that yes, the journey was beyond worth it.

The story begins with Ted on a typical Thursday night, debating with his dog Lily about which celebrity Chris was the cutest, when he notices an octopus gripping tightly to the top of Lily’s head. We realize what the octopus wants long before Ted allows himself to, and by page 3, you can probably tell where this story is going and whether you want to stay for the ride. Lily and the Octopus is a beautifully written story of love, of the fierce connection between us and our pets, and of how love can make us afraid to face the truth.

I love how Ted was afraid he was incapable of love until he met Lily:

When I held my new puppy in my arms, I broke down in tears. Because I had fallen in love. Not somewhat in love. Not partly in love. Not in a limited amount. I fell fully in love with a creature I had known for all of nine hours. (p. 22)

How beautiful is that? And how many of us with dogs or cats or other pets of our own can relate to that sense of instant, intense connection, that feeling that they have chosen us as much as we have chosen them and that we will from that point forward be inextricably bonded? This passage certainly rang true for me; I went from wary pet owner to crazy cat lady in the space of a few seconds, and knew exactly what Ted was talking about.

I also really love how absolutely full of joy and energy Lily is. Her conversations with Ted are hilarious, and her sheer happiness at the silliest things — a red ball, an inflatable shark — is just a joy to see. There is indeed much laughter and joy in these pages, and it was wonderful to see Ted and Lily together. Ted’s love for her shone through, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with her too.

The book faltered somewhat for me during a scene involving a boat. I wasn’t sure what was or wasn’t real anymore, and while Rowley may well have intended that ambiguity, I was too distracted by trying to figure it out to really lose myself in the scene, as I had throughout the rest of the book. That being said, for the most part, I was completely caught up in Lily and the Octopus’ roller coaster ride of emotions, and I’d never hated an octopus more.

I read the entire book in a single afternoon, mostly because I was unwilling to put it down and leave Ted and Lily’s story behind. Even while reading it, I knew I would be recommending it to all my friends, especially those who love animals. I did ugly cry in the end, and grabbed my cat for cuddles and a belly rub. I like to think the look he gave me wasn’t of puzzlement but rather of concern. I just didn’t want to be alone after reading this book, and am glad my cat was there to be with me.

This is a beautiful, moving book, and one I highly recommend. Read it, laugh out loud at its silliness, and let yourself ugly cry if you need to. Then put it back on your shelf and give your dog or cat a huge squishy hug. Just because.


Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Blog Tour and Contest

This review is part of the Simon Schuster Canada Perfect Pairing Blog Tour. Check out the full schedule below.

Also: nothing pairs up better with a book than a cup of coffee, so heads up on an awesome contest: Simon and Schuster Canada is giving away a set of books AND one year of free coffee from aroma espresso bar! Enter at

Summer Fiction Blog Tour

Blog Tour | The Searcher, Simon Toyne

25678239A plane crashes in an Arizona desert and a man emerges unscathed. A label in his suit identifies him as Solomon Creed, and he has no memory of who he is and how he got there. All he knows is that he has the uncanny ability to know how to disarm and disable an attacker and a persistent feeling that he is meant to save a man who he learns has died the day before.

Simon Toyne piles up the questions throughout The Searchereffortlessly weaving in drug cartels, corrupt policemen, a grieving widow, and a thread of the supernatural underpinning it all. It’s an intense page turner, and as Toyne draws us ever deeper into the various mysteries within the town of Redemption, Arizona, you can’t help but wonder how exactly the author would pull it all together in the end.

Toyne’s style reminds me very much of Stephen King, with just a touch of Indiana Jones. Toyne is a fantastic world builder — you can just about imagine Redemption as a desolate landscape where dark secrets can abound and multiply over centuries. Like King, Toyne mixes up the mystical and the mundane, and while at times, I wished he’d just go full out into supernatural territory (so many intriguing hints!), I also felt that this disquiet was precisely what the author intended.

Despite the supernatural underpinnings, Toyne manages to keep most of the story grounded in reality. Drug wars form a major plot thread, not quite connected to the mystery of Solomon’s identity but impacting on his quest anyway. And while there are enough car chases and action packed scenes to keep us riveted between commercial breaks (The Searcher has been optioned for TV), it’s the relationships among the characters that ultimately stand out. Toyne doesn’t shy away from the disturbing lengths to which people go for their families. A moving conversation between a son and his father’s killer is surprisingly chilling, and an adversarial conversation between a kingpin and his son is unexpectedly poignant.

The solution to the mystery isn’t quite what I expected, but it fit in well with themes raised throughout the book. The Searcher is the first in the Solomon Creed series, and I can’t wait to find out how the rest of Creed’s story unfolds.


Intrigued by The Searcher? Add it to your To Read shelf for your 50 Book Pledge!


Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Want to read what other bloggers thought of the book? Check out the rest of the blog tour below:

Blog Tour | All Inclusive, Farzana Doctor

All Inclusive book coverI absolutely loved Farzana Doctor’s new book All Inclusive. The publisher’s summary begins with the intriguing question “What’s it like when everyone’s dream vacation is your job?” The novel takes place at an all-inclusive resort, and I loved the behind-the-scenes peek at the employees simply going through a work day while having to deal with starry eyed travellers expecting a five-star-everything experience. Anyone who’s worked in tourism, and possibly even retail, may be able to relate.

I love the way Doctor writes about family, and about the tensions that arise from having multiple heritages. One of my favourite parts of her earlier novel Six Metres of Pavement is Ismail’s struggle with his family’s cultural norms in the face of new relationships. Family and self-realization are major themes as well in All Inclusive. Protagonist Ameera, a resort employee whose career is jeopardized by a customer complaint, struggles with never having met her father, who disappeared the morning after she was conceived. Unbeknownst to her, her father Azeez is looking for her, and the reason behind his disappearance makes this quest ever more bittersweet.

All Inclusive Blog Tour Banner

Dundurn Press has kindly invited me to be a part of their blog tour for All Inclusive, and I took the opportunity to ask Farzana some of the burning questions I had while reading the book.


Farzana DoctorQ: Ameera works at what many people consider a “dream vacation.” Why did you choose such a setting, and what insight does this career choice give us into her character?

An all-inclusive resort, rife with inequality, seemed like a good setting for Ameera’s struggles. She hopes the job will provide an escape from her life, but instead she finds herself in a walled-in amusement park where she must face herself.

Q: Ameera and her father Azeez’s search for each other takes a much different form than I expected. Why did you choose to have Azeez’s story take that trajectory, and were there any particular challenges that resulted from it?

Azeez’s story came to me by magic. During a period of deep discouragement I heard a voice telling me about his character and his back story. I listen to voices when I can hear them—they always guide me well. At first I didn’t want to write what I was being told; I don’t have personal links to the real-life tragedy in the story and I worried that it might not be respectful to those who do. But the more I researched the issue, the more obsessed and compelled I felt about writing it.

Q: Ameera is compared to a house with a roof and windows, but no walls, because of her lack of knowledge of who her father is. How important is an understanding of one’s origins to one’s sense of rootedness?

It’s not essential, of course (many people don’t know their ancestry). However, I chose this to be an important part of her journey. On a personal note, being connected to my roots makes me feel more grounded.

Q: Ameera is very unfamiliar with the South Asian aspect of her heritage, and the story’s setting away from Canada adds another layer of uprootedness. What is it about this double separation from heritage/home that intrigues you, and how difficult/easy was it to put yourself in Ameera’s shoes?

I wanted to create a liminal space that would magnify her sense of otherness for the reader. This in-between place also offers her freedom to explore things she cannot at “home” in Canada. You know, it wasn’t that hard to put myself in her sandals! So many of us diasporic folk feel this sense of not belonging anywhere.

Q: In one of the most (to me) touching scenes, Azeez advises the pre-teen daughter of a con artist that her parents’ problems are not her own, yet the daughter’s shoulders remain stiff and unyielding. How much do you think children take on their parents’ burdens, and is this reflected in Ameera’s relationship with either or both of her parents?

We know that trauma can be inter-generationally inherited, even if that trauma is not directly witnessed. In this example, the child might not realize exactly what her parents are doing, but she senses the wrongness and stress. Ameera inherited her mother’s solid, independent approach to life. She mostly inherited her father’s physical attributes, but I also wanted to imagine how his losses might impact her without her knowing.

Q: Did you do any fun research about Mexico and resorts for this book? If so, what was the highlight of this research trip?

The research wasn’t intentional. I went to an all-inclusive resort in Huatulco about six years ago and was very awake that trip. I noticed the foreign tour reps and wondered how they lived. I saw the intense beauty around me. I cringed at the unequal relations between workers and vacationers, the food and water waste, the history of land appropriation. All this fed my imagination and helped me create “Atlantis”.


Thanks to Farzana for answering my questions!

And thank you to Dundurn Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour!

All images courtesy of the publisher. Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #AllInclusiveNovel.