Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: You Can Sit With Us

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.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is playing on the back to school theme that seems to be popping up everywhere. Especially since here in Canada the kiddies are back to class today! This TTT is asking, if I was back at school, which characters would be at my lunch table? Ooh, so tough! So I'm kind of cheating. Note: I definitely didn't intend to make this an exclusively female list. I guess my lunch table is my equivalent to a fort...no boys allowed! Unless they're wearing pink on Wednesdays. Links lead to Goodreads.

Kim from Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr.
I freaking love Kim and I think we'd immediately hit it off. Could we perhaps have a liquid lunch?

Basically any Sarah Dessen heroine but especially Remy from This Lullaby and Auden from Along for the Ride.
I love Dessen's main characters because they're so freaking real. I'm not a teenager any more but hanging out with them would be a lot of fun. Maybe if I'm eating lunch with them, fictional characters, it means I can also go back to being a teenager? :)

Cassie from S.E.C.R.E.T. series by L. Marie Adeline.
It might be a little inappropriate for the lunch table but I'd really like to know more about the women she met in New Orleans and through S.E.C.R.E.T. Plus, Cassie seems like one awesome woman that I'd love to get to know more about her.

All the girls in the When Girlfriends... series by Savannah Page.
The six girlfriends in this series are all different but each of them would be a lot of fun to hang out with!

Hazel Grace Lancaster from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
She's such a smart and funny teen who's dealt with too much in her life. Getting the chance to hang with her would be great.

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
She might have some difficulty with the cafeteria food but wouldn't it be great to get to know Lizzie and find out what Darcy was really like?

Lexi from Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman.
Lexi and I could totally be besties so lunch time with her would be awesome.

Cath from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
I wish I could sit down with her and help her through her first year of post-secondary school. It's tough! And I'd love to hear more about Levi aka one of the best book boyfriends ever.

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Anne-with-an-e has been a favourite character of mine for many years. How cool would it be to hang out with the literary world's favourite redhead?

Anne Blythe from Arranged by Catherine McKenzie.
Not to be confused with the married Anne Shirley, Anne Blythe is the heroine in my favourite McKenzie book. She ends up taking part in an arranged marriage and I'd definitely want to hear about that. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: The Heiresses

If you're looking for an addicting novel to read before the summer is out look no further than The Heiresses by Sara Shepard. (Yes, the Sara Shepard behind the hit series Pretty Little Liars.) I've never read (or watched) PLL but I know the basic idea. Some may say The Heiresses has a similar "whodunit" in a high class world but that didn't matter to me. I loved it.

Here's the synopsis:
You know the Saybrooks. Everyone does. Perhaps you’ve read a profile of them in People or have seen their pictures in the society pages of Vogue. Perhaps while walking along that choice block on Fifth Avenue, you’ve been tempted to enter the ornate limestone building with their family name etched into the pediment above the door.
The only thing more flawless than a Saybrook’s diamond solitaire is the family behind the jewelry empire. Beauties, entrepreneurs, debutantes, and style mavens, they are the epitome of New York City’s high society. But being a Saybrook comes at a price—they are heirs not only to a dizzying fortune but also to a decades-old family curse.
Tragedy strikes the prominent family yet again when thirty-four-year-old Poppy, the most exquisite Saybrook of them all, flings herself from the window of her TriBeCa office. Everyone is shocked that a woman who had it all would end her own life. Then her cousins receive an ominous threat: one heiress down, four to go.
Was it suicide... or murder? In the aftermath of the tragedy, the remaining heiresses—Corinne, the perfectionist; Rowan, the workaholic; Aster, the hedonist; and Natasha, the enigma—wrestle with feelings of sadness, guilt, and, most of all, fear. Now they must uncover the truth about their family before they lose the only thing money can’t buy: their lives.
I had a feeling The Heiresses would be an intriguing read but I had no idea it would be as addictive as it was. This quality was due, in part, to the mystery surround the Saybrooks. Are they really cursed as the blog that chronicles their ups and downs suggests? I liked learning about the family history (which I found was shared in a great way...Shepard didn't fall into the "but the characters would already know this" trap) because, hello, there was a massive amount of money and diamonds involved.

I really had no idea how it would conclude. I couldn't figure out who did it! There were so many conflicting clues that it was hard to pinpoint the murderer and that made the book oh so much better.

Be warned though: the novel ends with a MAJOR cliffhanger so I assume (and hope hope hope) that there will be a second book. This warning is for those who don't want to get into another series or who may want to wait until more than one book is released. I can't tell when the next one will be published but I need it now!

There are a lot of characters in The Heiresses. So many, in fact, that there is a family tree in the front of the book. It was confusing at first but I found I quickly caught on to who was who (and who's slept with who) and eventually stopped consulting the front of the book. Speaking of characters, I'm a huge character person and almost always need to like the main character in order to enjoy the book. I can't say that I particularly loved any of the Saybrook heiresses but I was intrigued by them. They all had a distinct personality and I think that helped me like them more than I otherwise would.

I'd also like to take a moment to acknowledge the beauty of this cover. I love it. The colours, the view, the font. Ah! Love.

The Heiresses is perfect for your end of summer read. It's a long weekend here in Canada so it's a great time to get yourself to the bookstore! Pick up Sara Shepard's novel and settle in for a mysterious, gossipy, addicting weekend.

*I received an ARC of this novel from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for review consideration. My review is honest, as always!*

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Solsbury Hill

When I first heard about Susan M. Wyler's novel, Solsbury Hill, I was immediately drawn in by the cover. I LOVE IT. Then, once I got past the gorgeous cover, the synopsis intrigued me a little more. I was a bit hesitant to read this one as I'm hit or miss when it comes to Gothic novels. In the end, I didn't love the book but I didn't hate it either.

Here's the synopsis:
The windswept moors of England, a grand rustic estate, and a love story of one woman caught between two men who love her powerfully—all inspired by Emily Bronte’s beloved classic, Wuthering Heights. Solsbury Hill brings the legend of Catherine and Heathcliff, and that of their mysterious creator herself, into a contemporary love story that unlocks the past.
When a surprise call from a dying aunt brings twenty-something New Yorker Eleanor Abbott to the Yorkshire moors, and the family estate she is about to inherit, she finds a world beyond anything she might have expected. Having left behind an American fiance, here Eleanor meets Meadowscarp MacLeod—a young man who challenges and changes her. Here too she encounters the presence of Bronte herself and discovers a family legacy they may share.
With winds powerful enough to carve stone and bend trees, the moors are another world where time and space work differently. Remanants of the past are just around a craggy, windswept corner. For Eleanor, this means ancestors and a devastating romantic history that bears on her own life, on the history of the novel Wuthering Heights, and on the destinies of all who live in its shadow.
I am not a Wuthering Heights fan. At all. I've even read it twice! (Not by choice...it was for two separate English assignments. One in high school and one in university.) Maybe I just don't get it...don't understand the so-called grand love story in it. But, even knowing my severe dislike for the novel, I wanted to give Solsbury Hill a try. It's not trying to be like Wuthering Heights. It's connected to the classic novel because of the location (the moors! the old house!) and the family history. Bronte fans will like the similarities between the novels but non-Wuthering Heights fans, like myself, can still find enjoyment in the story.

One of the big things keeping me from loving this book was the way it was written. It was divided into parts instead of chapters (there were four parts and an epilogue in total) and I wasn't always sure why the parts needed to be differentiated. It didn't always seem like there was a difference or a change from one part to the next. The other thing was just some of the phrasing. It was a little choppy and I sometimes felt like I was missing information. For example, early on in the book, Eleanor describes her friend Violet, who she and Miles were going to see. But then all of a sudden they're at Eleanor's apartment and I had no idea what had just happened. 

The story in Solsbury Hill was what kept me reading to the end of the novel. I was intrigued by the ghost Eleanor was seeing and the information she learned from her. I wanted to know what Eleanor would do - would she stay in England? Would she end up with Miles or Mead? The mystery and intrigue kept me reading but it wasn't quite enough to make me fall in love with the book.

Overall, Solsbury Hill was a good read. I think others would really like Susan M. Wyler's novel, especially those who are Wuthering Heights/Bronte/Gothic fans. 

*A copy of this novel was received by the publicist in exchange for review consideration.*

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Life as a Bookworm: A Reader in Australia

Many of you know that I had a trip of a lifetime a couple of months ago. Thanks to my superstar family, I was able to accompany my boyfriend, Luke, and his dad as they travelled to Australia to visit their family. It was, in a word, incredible. I've been meaning to write about the trip for ages (we've been back for over two months now) but just haven't gotten around to it. I discovered a solution for this procrastination: writing multiple posts! In this one I will strictly talk about the bookish things I did and encountered while I was there. In another post (which will come sooner rather than later, I hope) I'll write about the awesome things we did and saw.

First up...when going on a sixteen day vacation, which includes a mother effing long plane ride (thankfully, with no mother effing snakes...sorry, bad joke), what does a bookworm plan to pack first? Books, of course.

This was the stack that accompanied me to the other side of the world. My plan was to complete the following (links lead to reviews):

Delicious! - Ruth Reichl
Then and Always - Dani Atkins
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling
Cure for the Common Break Up - Beth Kendrick
I Don't Know What You Know Me From - Judy Greer
The Never Never Sisters - L. Alison Heller
The Man Test - Amanda Askell
Love and Chaos - Gemma Burgess (which I just realized isn't in the picture...annoying...and I'm too lazy to retake it!)
Twisted Perfection - Abbi Glines

That may seem ambitious, even for a speedy reader like myself but I'm happy to report that I have now read all of them, with the exception of Twisted Perfection. Woot!

My sister and I went to Florida two and a half years ago and I read on the plane with no issue. We would be flying for almost 20 hours all together this time around which meant tons of time for reading! Part way through our flight to LA I realized the worst: I could no longer read on a plane. Nooooooo. A headache hit almost as soon as I tried to focus on the pages so that plan was out. I managed to get a few pages read here and there on all flights but it just wasn't enough. Ah well.

I hadn't actually intended on taking Delicious! with me. I was about two thirds of the way through by the day we left and I just couldn't leave it behind. I finished that one on our first or second day there when we were being pretty low key and just hanging around the house (and recovering from our jet lag). We were staying with Luke's aunt and uncle and since they are both readers, they had no problem with me snuggling on the couch with my book. Once I finished Delicious! I finished Then and Always (so-so), Cure for the Common Break Up (loved), which I had to have read for blog tours, and The Never Never Sisters (ok but ultimately forgettable) in quick succession.

My view from the living room. Bliss.
Early on in our visit, I was brought to the bookstore in the small town of Kingsliff (next to the tinier town we were staying in). It's called Boardwalk Books and it was delightful. It was here I first realized how accustomed I've become to using my phone's camera. It's easy to take a sneaky picture of a store or something with a phone but not so much with a point and shoot (and especially not with the boyfriend's fancy pants camera). I really wanted a picture of the store but it just would have been too awkward! So just imagine a super cute little bookstore, ok? It was interesting to see the different book covers (I actually saw Delicious! there with a lovely bright blue cover). Some were the Canadian covers, some English, some American. And the prices! Hoo boy. I saw The Cuckoo's Calling there in a trade paperback size (not the small pocket book paperback but larger). Amazon.com has the print copy listed at $18.00 (before discounts) and Chapters Indigo has it listed at $20.00 (before discounts). In the store in Australia? $30. The price of a hardcover in Canada. Ack.

My sole purchase in the bookstore? This beauty:

This is the British cover and title of Sarah Dessen's Keeping the Moon. I already own that one but I don't have this cover. I just had to have it. She's my favourite author, after all.

The face of a happy (but jetlagged) bookworm.
I had brought my laptop with me on our trip because I knew I'd have to do some blogging. And, ok, I may be mildly addicted to social media. Here was my second reading related problem: no wifi. It may seem ridiculous but I just about lost my mind. On the one hand, it was really awesome to not have a constantly dinging phone and to be able to really be present in the moment. Highly recommended for all trips. BUT. I had blogging to do as I had assumed I would have wifi and didn't plan ahead and schedule posts. So, I did what any bookworm without wifi would do...I went to the library! The Kingscliff library was pretty small but it seemed to get the job done for its patrons. I didn't look around too much since I only had limited time there. Unlike my local library, you could only use the wifi (with the accompanying password) for two hours. My favourite thing about the library was the scenery. It was nestled into some trees and it was really nice to look out at the greenery while writing. The only downside of its locale was the need for the snake warning sign. Thankfully I never saw any snakes while I was there!

The second week of our trip had us staying in a farm house with Luke's uncle's son and his wife and his son and his girlfriend (Jodie). (Confused yet? Welcome to my vacation...I needed a family tree!) One of the first things I did was check out the bookshelves they had in the house. It was a holiday rental house and I was happy to see they had a good variety of books for the tenants to browse. Including two books by Canadians! If I remember correctly there was a Rohinton Mistry novel and a Margaret Atwood novel (there were also a couple of Atwood books in the bookstore).

This farmhouse gave this bookworm a couple of awesome things. The first was a fellow twenty something female reader. Jodie and I hit it off right away, especially when we realized we were both huge readers. She was reading a Nicholas Sparks novel when she arrived, which was a departure from her usual reads, and our discussion evolved from there. She actually gave me that Sparks book to take home with me since I hadn't read it yet. Not only was that very nice of her, it's also cool because its cover is one I wouldn't be able to get here. Once I learned she had read and loved The Hunger Games I told her she needed to read Divergent asap. She agreed and a month or so later I got a tweet from her saying she read it and did love it. Book pusher success! Then, just a week or so ago, she sent me another tweet in which expressed her displeasure for the end of Allegiant. Oops. :)

The second awesome thing about this house was the view we had. Oh my goodness, it was beautiful. My favourite reading spot was on the second floor balcony. It was so easy to get up at 7am, have a tea and biscuits, and read. Just look at this!

I spent a fair bit of time out there...

I also got some reading done on my birthday in a different, but equally beautiful, spot:

HP on my birthday with Mt. Warning in the distance. Love.
Sigh. I would like to go back now, please.

As I mentioned, I got almost every single book read (or at least started) while I was away. I saved Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the day before and day of my birthday as an extra treat. We stayed in a hotel the night before and while Luke and his dad watched TV, I happily read and drank some tea (hey, that rhymes...). Love and Chaos was a perfect holiday read - it's about a group of twentysomething girls in Brooklyn. The Man Test let me down, sadly, so I rushed to finish it before I got on the plane in Brisbane. I started I Don't Know What You Know Me From on the plane from Brisbane to LA and got a fair bit done before the headache took over. This was also a great non-fiction vacation read (and a great read overall) and I got another chunk done in LA while waiting for our flight back to Toronto.

And that's that. The bookish part of my wonderfully awesome trip to Australia. Stay tuned for another post (or maybe two...) on the rest of my vacation. Spoiler alert: there will be koala pictures!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Blog Tour: When Girlfriends Let Go

I've read almost every other book in Savannah Page's When Girlfriends... series so when CLP Blog Tours asked for hosts for the upcoming tour for When Girlfriends Let Go, book six in the seven part series, I eagerly signed up. I was really looking forward to see what my favourite Seattle based girlfriends were up to!

Here's the synopsis:
A novel about love, self-discovery, and realizing sometimes you have to let go.
Jackie Kittredge is the consummate drama queen living the charmed life. She’s enthusiastic, outspoken, and is always looking for a good time. At twenty-seven she’s got a swanky Seattle townhouse, a wealthy husband, a designer wardrobe, the best of girlfriends, and a calendar filled not with meetings and deadlines, but spa appointments and happy hour reminders. On the outside, she’s got it all.
On the inside, though, Jackie’s charmed life isn’t as it seems. She’s seeing a therapist, battling the demons of coming from a broken home and a past of promiscuity and heavy drinking. She can be selfish and demanding, sometimes even wearing her best friends thin. And now her marriage—what she thought could be her solid foundation—is on the rocks. Her husband Andrew spends nearly all his time at the office (and possibly with his secretary), and apologizes for his absence with lavish gifts and empty promises.
Miserable and desperate, Jackie questions if her marriage is worth fighting for. Then a string of events begins to put things into perspective…into a perspective she didn’t quite anticipate. With her best friends by her side and some tough love, Jackie finds herself not only asking if she’s where she belongs, but if she’s who she’s supposed to be.
This is a passionate story about having to answer some of life’s most important and difficult questions. It’s a story about fear, courage, and personal growth. About what happens when girlfriends let go. 
I knew this book was going to be about Jackie and I'm not going to lie and say that I was looking forward to it. Jackie was never my favourite of the girlfriends. She always seemed so immature and selfish and...sort of broken. While I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan of hers even now, I'm glad I got the chance to read about her life from her perspective. Even though she drove me up the wall. I couldn't believe how whiny and, well, stupid she was being for so much of the novel. I found myself desperately begging her to grow up before she ruined absolutely everything. I'm happy with how things worked out for her in the end, of course, but, boy, it was rough getting to that point.

And it took forever to get to the point. My biggest complaint about this novel is that is was way. too. long. It was over 400 pages! Ack! You all know I love my chick lit and I really don't mind large novels. But big books that have absolutely no reason for being that big? Frustrating. I feel like I would have enjoyed this novel a hell of a lot more if it had been 200 pages shorter. The more I read the more I got to thinking about which sections I would cut. It was really repetitive in a way...Jackie acting the same and having the same fights with her husband. It needed to be shorter, simple as that.

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the book. As with the others, I loved that the girls are all (for the most part) twentysomething women living fabulously everyday lives. Each one is at a slightly different point in her life (some are married, one has children, one owns a business, and so on) but I love that they could be my group of friends. Actually, I wish they were. That would mean my friends and I would be much more successful than we are (sorry...that might be the "my contract job is over next week and I don't know what I'm going to do with my life" talking!). But seriously. I adore reading about a fun group of girlfriends and Page's most recent When Girlfriends... book delivered that.

I was a little surprised to learn that there's going to be a seventh book (actually, When Girlfriends Find Love is already released) but it makes sense. Page set up her series to work in a bit of a circle. The books started with Sophie and they'll end with her, too. Even though I didn't adore this one, I still want, no, need to find out what happens to all the girls. Do they all get their perfect happily ever afters? I hope so!

Overall, When Girlfriends Let Go sort of disappointed me but it's by no means a bad book. I think I wanted more from it because I had enjoyed Savannah Page's other novels so much. It's still definitely worth the read if you've checked out the rest of the series but just be aware that you'll be in this one for the long haul. Perhaps it's perfect for a nice, long weekend!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Should I Read This Book?

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.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is an interesting one. What ten books am I trying to decide if I should read or not. I feel like bloggers will totally identify with this topic. We all have SO. MANY. BOOKS to read for review that it's easy to put off the books we might like. You'll notice a theme with this list...there are a lot of series on it! I guess I'm scared to commit to a huge series. OK, you'll notice two themes. There are a lot of YA books on this list too. I'm sure there are other books that I'm missing but this is my list. What books are on your "maybe I'll read it eventually one day...maybe" list? Links lead to Goodreads.

If I Stay - Gayle Forman
I didn't really have a ton of interest in any of Forman's books. Don't know why. I decided to finally try Just One Day and Just One Year and I freaking loved them. But, even after that, I'm still not sure if I want to read this one. I kept putting it off because of the movie was coming and then it was cast and I put it off more because now I wouldn't be able to imagine the world and characters (based solely on the info I've seen and the trailer I've seen a total of one time).

A Song of Ice and Fire Series - George R.R. Martin
I'm sure I'd love the Game of Thrones series. But. THEY'RE SO FREAKING HUGE. I've faithfully avoided spoilers and even watching Twitter the night the show is on because I don't want anything ruined.

Outlander Series - Diana Gabaldon
Another series that I'm sure I'd like. Another series of massive books. But Scotland! And another TV series!

The Heroes of Olympus Series - Rick Riordan
I really loved Percy Jackson but I don't know if I would necessarily love the next series set in the same world.

Any other John Green novel that's not The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
I gave into TFiOS because of the movie. I loved it but I'm still not sure I want to read the rest of his novels.

Jessica Darling's It List - Megan McCafferty
I freaking loved the Jessica Darling series. I need to reread it asap, in fact. But I don't know if I'd love middle school Jessica. I probably would but...maybe not. So I'm putting it off.

Stealing Harper - Molly McAdams
Taking Chances just about killed me and I just don't know if I can handle reading things from Chase's perspective. The story was so good and addicting in the first book so that's why I'm tempted. I just don't know if I can handle ALL THE FEELS.

The Mortal Instruments Series - Cassandra Clare
I've heard a lot of great things but I'm still worried I won't like it. And that I'll get sucked in and then only feel so-so about the series but still make the time to read every damn book.

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
I feel like I should read this but I'm just not sure.

The Lunar Chronicles - Marissa Meyer
Another series. Another series I feel like I would like. Just...so many books...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Review: Virgin

I really had no idea what to expect when I started Radhika Sanghani's novel Virgin. With a title like that who would? I ended up being really happy with this novel. It was a thoroughly entertaining novel full of real characters.

Here's the synopsis:
Okay, I admit it…I didn’t do it.
This is normal, right?  I mean, just because everyone I know has talked like they’ve already done it doesn’t mean that they’re telling the truth…right?
It’s not like I’m asking for that much. I don’t need the perfect guy. I don’t need candlelight or roses. Honestly, I don’t even need a real bed.
The guys I know complain that girls are always looking for Mr. Right—do I have to wear a sign that says I’m only looking for Mr. Right Now?
Sooooo…anyone out there want sex? Anyone? Hello? Just for fun?
I am not going to die a virgin. One way or another I am going to make this happen.
Hey, what have I got to lose? Besides the obvious.
Main character Ellie was awesome. Even if you're nothing like her, you can relate to her. I loved that. She was smart and funny and someone I could totally see myself having a drink (or three) with. Had I not connected with Ellie I may have found it harder to enjoy the novel but, thankfully, that wasn't the case. She intrigued me and I couldn't wait to see where she ended up at the end of her quest to lose her virginity. 

If you're uncomfortable talking (or reading) about sex (of any kind), pubic hair, and all that other stuff that comes with sexual relations...you're not going to like this book. But if you are as confused as Ellie when it comes to grooming and mouth placement, or just love talking about all things sex, you'll enjoy this read. Which, incidentally, is sort of what Ellie and her new friend (I want to say Emma...) started their vlog about all things vagina (side note: using the term vlog was misleading as their blog was strictly writing and did not include any videos). Their aim was to educate the uneducated as well as talk to the online world about their own experiences. 

In trying to recall if Emma's name was, in fact, Emma (which I'm still not sure and I can't check my copy as it's expired...sincere apologies if I'm wrong!) I decided to read through some of the reviews on Goodreads to see if anyone mentioned her name (these are the times I get frustrated with ereaders!). In my browsing I found a few one and two star reviews and they irked me. A lot of them seemed to think that Ellie's naiveté was unrealistic. How could she be so clueless about sex? Personally, I didn't find it that hard to believe. Maybe it's because I had a group of friends as a teen who didn't talk about sex. (oh god, this is turning into a review I hope my grandma doesn't read...) Does it really matter that she didn't seem to know what to do when presented with a sexual experience? Ellie was crazy obsessed with losing her virginity but I thought that her desire to educate herself (both in all things sex as well as through traditional education) sort of balanced her personality. 

There's just a little something (an unidentifiable something...the worst kind) that kept me from rating Virgin really high but I have no problem recommending Radhika Sanghani's novel. Especially if you like real characters, oddball humour, and a realistic story. This is definitely one to check out!

*An eARC of this novel was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.*