Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Things to Quit

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature.

Being a book blogger is a ton of fun. But, at the same time, it's an intensive hobby. It can be really hard to balance reading, reviewing, and everyday life. You learn a lot about yourself as a reader and writer when you've been doing this as long as I have been (almost five years!) so thinking about this week's Top Ten Tuesday was interesting. I focus a lot on what I need to quit doing but I threw in a really frustrating trope at the end as well. What are some bookish things you need to quit or you wish the bookish world would quit?

Not reviewing a book right away
I had a hell of a time late last year and into this year when I was (ineffectively) balancing the blog, a crazy commute, and a job I didn't enjoy. I was reading a fair amount but I didn't have the energy to sit down and write reviews. It was five months of getting further and further behind and I'm still not caught up (I left that job back in February). I'm getting better but, particularly because of the back log, I'm still not writing a review as soon as I'm done the book. I have to start reviewing as soon as possible after finishing the book!

Not cross-posting on Goodreads or Amazon
I'm friends with a bunch of indie/self-published authors and I know how important these reviews and ratings are for them. And yet, I don't post reviews on sites other than my blog unless the author specifically requests it. It's really not that hard to put a review up elsewhere and it could help so much.

Agreeing to read a book I'm only sort of interested in
I get a lot of emails from authors and publishers asking me to review their books. I want to read and review all of them because, in part, I want to talk about as many books as possible (and the access to free books doesn't hurt). I end up agreeing to read a lot and then I just don't get them read in a timely manner. It's unfair to the author/publisher and to me when I agree to read a book when I have that niggling feeling that's telling me it's not going to be something I really enjoy. But then I have to silence the other feelings that say, "But what if it is great?" and "But you'll be so mean if you say no." I'm working on it! (And if you're an author or publisher who's emailed me in the past and have been cursing me for not reviewing your book...I'm sorry. Life happened.)

Forcing myself to read CanLit
I'm Canadian and I really want to support Canadian authors. There are a ton of amazing authors in this country of mine but it can be a struggle for me to find CanLit titles that are, well, interesting for me. The books and authors are diverse so you'd think I'd be able to find some I really enjoy. Of course, I'm the first to admit that I don't read widely enough...I like the genres I like and I stick with them. The point of this is, as much as I want to read Canadian literature, I need to know when not to force it. Just because an author is highly regarded in Canada (*cough* Margaret Atwood or Elizabeth Hay *cough*), that doesn't mean I should read their books (especially if I haven't enjoyed them in the past).

Putting off fixing my @&$% kobo
I don't know what the problem is (is it the device itself or Adobe Digital Editions?) but it's been causing me trouble for almost a year. I keep putting off figuring out the issue because every time I try, I want to toss the freaking thing out the window. I hate that I can't figure it out (I'm a smart lady, damn it!) and I hate that support from both kobo and Adobe is lacking. I need an ereader because so many of the books I get to review are only available on a device. I'm going to try to work on it today because I need my ereader working for when I go on vacation next month. Send wine and positive thoughts, please.

Reading something just because it's popular
Sure, there are a lot of great books that are popular for a reason. I'm so glad I gave in to the hype surrounding The Hunger Games many years ago, for example. But there are some books I'm just not interested in and I feel like I should read them. Just this weekend the page I was working with at the library told me I definitely have to read The Maze Runner. I've heard that a lot and I'm sure it's great but...I'm just not interested! And my reading time is so precious that I'm going to read what I want to read.

Reading a series just because I've read all of the other books
There are two series in particular that I'm referring to here. One is the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I've been reading them for 14 years or so and, as fun as they are in the moment, I usually regret reading them because it's the same thing over and over again. I've decided I won't read another one until it's the final book. I need to know if she picks Ranger or Morelli! The other series is Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series. Again, it's the same thing over and over again. I don't mind reading about a flighty character if, at the end, she realizes that she's been acting kind of crazy. But Becky just keeps doing ridiculous things. And, again, once the series is over I'll read the final book.

Not DNFing
Admittedly, I've gotten better over the years but I still really struggle with putting a book down when I'm not enjoying it. I always talk about how precious my reading time is and yet I keep reading books even when I know I'm not enjoying myself. Repeat after me: it's ok to put a book down when you don't like it.

Buying books just because I have a gift card or it's on sale
I've been pretty good lately but I did buy a new colouring book in the spring because I had a $10 off card and about 10 minutes to use it before the store closed (I had forgotten when the expiry date was). I enjoy the colouring book but there was a similar one coming out a few months later that I actually would have enjoyed more. Was getting $10 off worth it? I'm not sure. My shelves are overflowing and, for the most part, I'm pretty good at restraining myself but sometimes I just can't help buying a new pretty to bring home even when I really don't need it.

Angsty New Adult
I loved New Adult but I wish there would be more diversity among its titles. Right now it seems like only contemporary titles are included in the category (which is usually a great thing by me since contemporary is my favourite). Particularly, I need the "good girl is finally out on her own and meets a bad boy who she just can't help but fall for but it's ok because she can totally change him but - shocker - he doesn't change and he still treats her like total garbage because he's an asshole" trope to just stop. Stop. Stop. It gives NA a bad name and doesn't give young women good role models. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Review: Before We Were Strangers

I've read Renee Carlino's work before and loved it (my review of Sweet Thing is here) so I was really looking forward to reading her latest, Before We Were Strangers. Did I love it as much as Sweet Thing? Not quite. Would I still recommend it? Absolutely.

Here's the synopsis:
From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Sweet Thing and Nowhere But Here comes a love story about a Craigslist “missed connection” post that gives two people a second chance at love fifteen years after they were separated in New York City.
To the Green-eyed Lovebird:
We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.
You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.
We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.
Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…
I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.
After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half?
This novel seems to be promoted as New Adult. In a way, it is...but only half of the story really fits into the New Adult category. The novel takes place at two different points in time. In one, the past, Matt and Grace have just met in college. The other is present day, fifteen years later, which means they're in their early thirties - not exactly New Adult. Is this really a problem? No, but a lot of people use categories and genres to decide whether or not they'd like to read a particular book. I'm closer to my thirties than I am New Adult so it didn't bother me as much as it would someone who was expecting a true NA story.

Matt and Grace had a lot to work through once they reconnected. A lot. There were unanswered questions, which included a few where the other party had assumed the answer. This novel really showed that you should never assume you know what the other person is or was thinking and you should always talk things through when you finally have the chance. Of course, this is easy for me, the reader, to say! :) That was another little negative for me...I just didn't like how neither Matt nor Grace seemed to try very hard after they went their separate ways. There was almost too much drama surrounding it.

I liked that Carlino really kept me on my toes. I wasn't sure how things would work out between Matt and Grace. I really couldn't tell what would happen and the whole time I was hoping for a Happily Ever After (what can I say, I'm a sucker for happy endings). There were quite a few curve balls thrown into the story which I loved...even though it meant a lot of pain and heartache for the characters I had come to care about!

Second chance love stories are some of my favourites and, while Renee Carlino didn't hit it out of the park completely for me with this one, I did enjoy Before We Were Strangers. She's written two characters who are so real, and therefore flawed, who readers will love getting to know over the course of the novel. Do I think you should try this one if it piques your interest? Absolutely. But if there are other New Adult novels that you're looking at reading, maybe put this one on the to be read eventually, instead of immediately, list instead.

*An egalley of this copy was provided by Atria via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Review: Pie Girls

I've read and enjoyed many of Lauren Clark's novels in the past so I was really happy to read Pie Girls, a light hearted women's fiction novel that was released last year. It was just as I expected from Clark's novels: fun, entertaining, and full of great characters.

Here's the synopsis:
Princess, Southern belle, and spoiled-rotten social climber Searcy Roberts swore on a stack of Bibles she’d never return home to Fairhope, Alabama. After marrying her high school sweetheart and moving to Atlanta, Searcy embraces big-city life—Carrie Bradshaw style.
But now, Searcy has a teeny, tiny problem. Her husband’s had a mid-life crisis. He’s quit his job, cancelled her credit cards, and left her for another man.
Searcy returns to Fairhope, ready to lick her wounds. But when her mother falls ill, she’s thrust into managing the family business—only to discover the beloved bakery is in danger of closing its doors forever.
Enlisting the help of the adorable bike store owner next door, an array of well-heeled customers, and her soon-to-be ex-husband, Searcy hatches the plan of the century to save Pie Girls.
Oh, Searcy. When we first meet her, she's the kind of woman you love to hate. She seems to have it all together and has no problem flaunting it. She has the husband, the money, the lifestyle everyone (for the most part) envies. But then it all comes crashing down around her and she has to face some hard facts. Has she really been living a life that should be envied?

The best thing about these kind of fall from grace stories is when the character is genuinely trying to figure out her life and make changes for the better. I could tell that Searcy's journey was going to be one I would be happy with, even if she did struggle mightily at times. I was rooting for her the whole way through and I kept my fingers crossed that she'd get the Happily Ever After she deserved.

One of the things I loved about this book was the small town feel. I liked getting to know the characters in Fairhope and seeing how they rally behind Searcy, her mother, and Pie Girls.

Pie Girls is a lot of fun. Lauren Clark is fantastic at balancing a light hearted storyline with moments that have a lot of depth. I definitely encourage you to check out her previously published novels!

*A copy of this novel was provided by the author in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature.

Tomorrow is the first official day of fall! Can you believe it? As much as I love fall clothing, I am not looking forward to cooler weather and Canadian winter! The books I've included in this week's Top Ten Tuesday are a mix of titles. Some of them are not released yet so I'm looking forward to reading them as soon as they're released. Others are for events, book clubs, blog tours, or just because. What are you looking forward to reading this fall?

Racing the Sun - Karina Halle
This is a bit of a cheat as I just started it yesterday but I need to have it done before the weekend so I can pass it (and another of Halle's) onto a friend I'm seeing on Sunday!

Surviving Ice - K.A. Tucker (publication date: October 27)
I'm so excited for this last book in the Burying Water series! More than I thought I would be, actually. I'll admit that I'm still not sure if I'll love reading about Ivy but I love Tucker so I know it'll be a good story.

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
This is a book I've been thinking about reading and I always decide not to because it's so not my usual fare. However, the time has come for me to dive in because I'll be leading the discussion for next month's Beer and Books event the library I work at holds every month. Can't run a meeting without reading the book first!

Avelynn - Marissa Campbell
This will be a read for the magazine I review for. Apparently it will appeal to fans of Outlander!

Smoke - Catherine McKenzie (publication date: October 20)
Catherine is one of my favourite authors. I actually have a signed ARC from BEA that I've been holding off on reading. I think I just wanted to wait until closer to the publication date (it feels like a fall book) plus I know as soon as I read it I'll have to start waiting all over again for her next book!

Anne of Ingleside - L.M. Montgomery
I've gotten back into the swing of things with the Green Gables Readalong. This one is October's read.

Poles Apart - Terry Fallis (publication date: October 20)
I've still only read one of Fallis' novels but I'm going to rectify that soon with his upcoming book. I have an ARC (that the boyfriend has already devoured) that I'm really looking forward to reading!

A Sister's Place - Savannah Page
I've read and loved Page's other works (the When Girlfriends... series) so I'm excited about this one. I have to have it read before November for a blog tour.

The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah
This one will be next month's book club pick. I just had my first meeting last night and put the book on reserve at my library. 23 holds. Gulp.

The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance - Kirsty Greenwood
I've received a few books from publishers in the last little while and this is the one I'm most looking forward to diving into. It seems like it'll be really different and fun!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Review: Finding Audrey

I've been reading Sophie Kinsella books for a long time now. When I heard she was writing a Young Adult novel I was immediately intrigued. I wasn't really sure what to expect from Finding Audrey...literally. I didn't even read the synopsis before requesting a review copy. That's how much faith I have in Kinsella!

Here's what this novel is all about:
An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey's daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother's gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she's never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.
This was a super fast read for me. I sat myself down at my patio set in the backyard (I read it back in June) and did not move from the chair until I was done. Part of this was due to the fact that it was an easy read. The other was that I was 100% in and would not rest until I found out how Audrey's story ended up.

I talked with my friend Natalie, of Browsing Bookshelves, a day or so after I finished the book. She too had finished the book quickly and could not put it down either. We also both had the same reaction when we were done. We realized there's a lot of merit in a book that we could not stop reading but...does that mean it actually was a really good read? Because we did have some issues with this book. (You can read Natalie's review here.)

I was a little unsure about the way Audrey's anxiety disorder was approached. I loved that Kinsella wrote a book about a girl who isn't your typical YA heroine. But...I was a tad hesitant about how Audrey was eventually able to deal with her anxiety. I felt like it made it look too easy and gave too much importance to certain relationships. Now, I don't have an anxiety disorder. I don't know anyone who does, at least not like Audrey. I'm no doctor. So I'm not really sure what would help someone with a disorder like this. Does Kinsella, really? I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt and hope that she did a lot of research before writing this book.

I absolutely adored Audrey. I was her biggest fan the entire time I was reading this book. I think what helped this feeling was how the novel was told. I felt like I had just sat down with Audrey and she was telling me all about her life. It was totally conversational and I loved it.

I also loved Audrey's family. She has two brothers, one is a bit older (who is giving her mother absolute hell because he's, in her words, addicted to computer games) and one is much younger (he's just the cutest thing). Her parents were her biggest supporters and you can tell they are trying so hard to fix the world for their daughter.

All in all, I was really happy with Finding Audrey. I think Sophie Kinsella has done well with her first foray into Young Adult and I'd definitely recommend it to others. Have you read this one? I'd love to hear what you thought of it!

*A copy of this novel was provided by Doubleday Canada (Penguin Random House Canada) in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Saturday, September 12, 2015

BEA 2015: Touristing + Leaving NYC

Saturday was my last full day in New York City. Since I had never been to NYC before, I knew I needed to add some sightseeing time into my trip. I also knew I wouldn't have a ton of time to see things because I didn't feel super comfortable wandering around on my own and I was already pretty booked up before I even got to BEA.

Ciara (Lost at Midnight) and I decided we would spend the morning together and meet up with Katherine (Ms Lady Critic) later in the day. We wanted to see as much as we could so we picked a lot of things we could sort of do walk-by stops at. First up: the M&M's and Hershey's stores in Times Square.

Oh my gosh, guys. So much chocolate. It was so cool just looking around M&M's World because there were colours everywhere. Look at those M&M dispensers! Because I didn't have a ton of money and am trying to not eat as much junk, I walked away from both stores empty handed. (Except for the free chocolate at Hershey that ended up melting and then I forgot it when I was packing up anyway. Fail.)

Ciara decided we could cut through Times Square before heading to Bryant Park. This was when she learned that I hadn't actually been to NYC before and immediately stopped and made me stand in front of the iconic buildings for a typical tourist picture. We ended up walking the wrong way, I think?, off the subway but it was an excellent move because we found ourselves in front of the New York Public Library. You know...the one with the lions out front! So we took a selfie, as one does. Bryant Park was lovely (I didn't get a great picture!) and it was nice to have a brief break in the shade. It was so hot outside! I had spotted the HBO Store down the street and we decided to make a quick stop. I picked up an Eastbound and Down shot glass for my boyfriend's brother, a Sex and the City magnet for me, and a Newsroom coffee mug for my boyfriend. The guy at cash (who had visited Toronto, naturally, because everyone we met had been there) told me that the building across the street, the Bank of America Tower, was used for the media building in the Newsroom. They just used CGI to put the fake media corporation name on it in post-production. Neat!

Left: Look, Ma! I'm in Times Square! | Middle: Making new friends with the lions.
Right: Can't believe that building is in The Newsoom!

We battled slow/delayed subways and large crowds and powerwalked our way down (up?) Fifth Avenue (Tiffany's!) to make it to FAO Schwarz and Katherine. The three of us definitely wanted to go to the iconic toy store because we knew it would be closing in July. It was so freaking cool. So many toys and things to play with! If you've never been, employees are stationed throughout the store showing off different toys. We happened upon one guy who had the coolest Melissa and Doug game (it was similar to Jenga). We started playing and he asked us where we were from. We answered generally: Ontario, Canada. He was all, "No way, I'm from Brampton!" Cue the jaw dropping. Just kidding! He actually wasn't (I think he was from Montana or something) but the fact that he knew Brampton and could kind of tell us where it was totally made our afternoon. After spending way too much time playing the game (and all of us wishing we could afford to buy it) we carried on to our next destination: Central Park!

Top left: I wanted that Barbie so bad. | Top middle: The Big piano!
Top right: The closest I got to the Statue of Liberty.
Bottom: The main store signage. I was there!
Of all the things to do in Central Park, I really wanted to see the Alice in Wonderland statue. Katherine and Ciara wanted to ride the carousel, which I was totally down for. It was classic, nostalgic, and a lot of fun. We wandered through the Mall and Literary Walk (spotted Robert Burns and had to take a picture for my grandma. We're Stewarts, after all.), found Hans Christian Andersen, and then came upon Alice. Ciara and I scrambled up for a picture (thanks, Katherine!). I, as a bunny owner, snuggled up to the White Rabbit and Ciara nearly burned her butt sitting on the mushroom. Totally worth it! :) We walked through Bethesda Terrace (I foolishly didn't get a picture. It was so beautiful though.) and saw the Loeb Boathouse and the pond that are featured in so many movies. Again, beautiful.

Top left: Hello from the carousel! | Top middle: Robbie Burns! | Top right: carousel details.
Bottom left: Chilling with Alice and her friends. | Bottom middle: The Ugly Duckling + Hans.
Bottom right: Beautiful scenery. 
We made it out of Central Park, a tad reluctantly, and set off in search of food. Specifically, the Shake Shack. When in NYC, right? We walked past the Met (oh, I cannot wait until I'm back in NYC and can spend a full day there) and dragged our weary, hungry selves into the bustling Shake Shack (I don't remember the last time I've been so happy to see food!). The milkshake was definitely necessary. I had finally admitted to the girls the night before that I had never actually had a macaron (despite being strongly opposed to/annoyed by people using macaroon when they mean macaron) so they were adamant that we stop at Ladurée. (And if you were wondering what my first experience tasting a macaron was like, don't worry, Katherine instagrammed a video of it. You're welcome.) I don't know if I can have any other macarons since Ladurée is kind of a big deal. Mmm. Yum.

After Ladurée we made our way back to the apartment because we had agreed to go to a Paper Lantern Lit party in Brooklyn that Jess (Read My Breath Away) had been invited to later that night. While I'm happy we went and it was fun to be with everyone (Tiff and Sarah included), it almost wasn't worth it. We were already late leaving and certain subway lines weren't running so that made us even later and we missed the games and most of the fun at the party. We did get drinks and candy so that was a plus. I was a super fancy lady and had some Rosé (in my plastic cup) while others tried the punch (it had basil in it and I leave the basil to my rabbit). I classed it up even more and ate a candy necklace as well. I also turned down the free ARCs that were being handed out at the end of the evening. They weren't books I really wanted to read and I was super conscious of suitcase space!

I also couldn't help but think of all the things I didn't get to see in New York City. I didn't see the Statue of Liberty. I wasn't able to make it to the 9/11 Memorial (a fact I'm really dwelling on today, 9/11, as I write this). I didn't get up the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock. I wish I could have made it on The High Line too (something I didn't even know existed until I was there). I am happy with what I did get to see and I know I was there for BEA but I can't help but wish I had done just a bit more sightseeing.

While at the publishing party, Tiff, Katherine and I arranged to get to the airport together, which lead us to packing as soon as we got back to the apartment. But even the fact that Emilie needed to leave at the crack of dawn to drive back to Ottawa didn't stop us from staying up too late and enjoying our last night in New York City together. Katherine and I quickly regretted it the next morning when we both overslept and had to throw crap in our suitcase and hope we weren't overweight. We made it to the car service (which was early, of course) and realized all three of us were going to different terminals in Newark. Of course. Why can't things be simple? Once I was dropped off, a very  nice United employee got to work checking me in. Then disaster struck. Again. Yep. My flight was cancelled. Again. I was super lucky that I was early so the woman got me all set up on the next flight, just 45 minutes after my original flight. It still meant I had a lot of waiting to do in the airport. But, bonus, both suitcases were underweight! I was so happy I went the suitcase within a suitcase route! At long last, I made it back to Buffalo, got off the (tiny) plane in the pouring rain, gathered my (wet) luggage, made my way to my parked car, and went off towards the border and my country. This was where I was very worried. I had heard horror stories of people being charged duty and given trouble for going over the border with ARCs they had received at BEA. Luckily I made it through without incident. Finally, about an hour after landing, I was home sweet home. I was exhausted and exhilarated and I couldn't wait to unpack all of my lovely new books and start planning for BEA 2016.

Stay tuned for my haul post where I will share everything I brought back with me from BEA. I can sum it up in one word: insanity.

In case you missed it...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Cover Reveal: Butterfly Ginger

I'm really excited to take part in today's cover reveal (organized by Jen Halligan PR) for Stephanie Fournet's upcoming novel, Butterfly Ginger. As soon as I read what it's about I knew I wanted to get involved because it features one of my favourite subjects for romances and contemporary novels: a second chance love story!

Before I share the cover, here's what the book is all about:
Butterfly Ginger is the story of first love getting a second chance. The summer before freshman year, Nate Bradley and Blythe Barnes meet and fall hard. Even with plans to attend college in different cities, they’re convinced that nothing can tear them apart—until everything does. Now, six years later, life in South Louisiana is giving them the chance to put the pieces back together.
Now...here's the cover!

It's sweet, isn't it? Make sure you add the book to Goodreads! It will be published on November 3.

About the Author
Stephanie Fournet, author of Fall Semester, Legacy, and Butterfly Ginger, lives in Lafayette, Louisiana—not far from the Saint Streets where her novels are set. She shares her home with her husband John and her daughter Hannah, their needy dogs Gladys and Mabel, and an immortal blue finch named Baby Blue. When she isn’t writing romance novels, she is usually helping students get into college or running.  She loves hearing from fans, so look for her on FacebookTwitterGoodreads, and and stephaniefournet.com.

Oh, and guess what! There's a giveaway!