Sunday, March 30, 2014

Reread: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I was very giddy as we approached month three of the Harry Potter Reread Challenge. Why? Because I absolutely adore the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I won't say (yet) that it's my favourite of the seven novels because I want to wait until I've reread all of them but it'll for sure be one or two. For more information about this challenge and the idea behind it, visit Just a Lil' Lost's sign up post. Check out Twitter or Instagram with #HPreread if you want to follow along with us. A reminder: if you haven't read this book, or even finished the whole series, please beware of spoilers. If you don't want parts of the story or series ruined for you, stay away until you finish the books!

I'm not totally sure what it is that makes me love this book so much. I could say that it's because we learn so much more about the wizarding world when Harry gets to ride the Knight Bus (which I's "violently purple" favourite!) and ends up spending a great deal of time at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley. But, technically, we learn more about the world in every book so that's not much of a reason. Though I do love Diagon Alley and liked being able to spend a bit more time there in this book.

Azkaban is also the last "light" Harry Potter book. I'm not saying the serious issues that come up in the next books aren't important or good (they're great, really), it's just that this is the last book where Harry is really able to keep his innocence. I know he's already faced Voldemort twice but the danger hasn't really been there yet because Voldemort isn't totally back. It's not as dangerous or real like it will be in the next books. And, for us, the reader, this is the last book without major deaths. And anyone who tells you "they're just fictional characters" should be cut out of your life immediately. Or at least ignored until they see sense. We grow to love these characters (even some of the evil ones) and reading about their deaths is like a knife to the heart.

Other little things I enjoy in this book: Hagrid being a teacher, Hogsmeade (Butterbeer! Honeydukes!), Crookshanks (damn clever feline, that one), Ron's new owl, Hermione slapping Malfoy, Gryffindor winning the Quidditch Cup (couldn't stop smiling), the Marauder's Map, the Time-Turner, and expecto patronum (side note: if I ever get a HP tattoo, that might be it). To really get a feel about what stuck out for me while I reread this, check out my Storify story with all my #HPreread tweets.

But the most likely reason I love this book is because we meet two characters who are extremely important to Harry: Remus Lupin and Sirius Black. The love I have for these characters is even more intense since I know what happens to them in the end. Of course, my heart broke a little during each scene with them, but that's the price you pay for knowing the end of the series, I suppose. Meeting these men, men who were Harry's father's best friends, give Harry more of an insight into his parents' lives. He is so desperate for details of them. It hurts my heart a little that he just doesn't know enough about James and Lily, the people who died in order to protect him. And knowing what I know now, reading this is's hard:
"We'll be at Hogwarts in ten minutes," said Profession Lupin. "Are you all right, Harry?"
Harry didn't ask how Professor Lupin knew his name.
- page 68
And if the words don't do enough to your poor heart, check out this pin I found not too long ago. I'll give you a moment to collect yourself. Oh, and just to make it even more clear how close these friends are:
Lupin was lowering his wand. Next moment, he had walked to Black's side, seized his hand, pulled him to his feet so that Crookshanks fell to the floor, and embraced Black like a brother.
- page 252
All the feels.

Once again, I was completely uplifted by spending a Saturday reading a Harry Potter novel. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is probably the last book of the series that I will read in one sitting (though I did read Deathly Hallows in about seven hours total when it was first released), which is sort of sad. I like being able to commit an entire day to read the book from start to finish and I just don't think it'll be possible to do that with the next books. Ah well. I'm looking forward to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire even though things take a dark turn. Until then, happy reading!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Guest Post: Faerl Marie

As promised, I have a lovely guest post from author Faerl Marie, author of  The Golden Apple as part of the CLP Blog TourMy review went up yesterday, in case you missed it. I wanted to know how much importance the setting of this novel had in the story. New York City can sometimes become a character itself in books and movies and I wondered if Faerl had any thoughts on that. Enjoy!

It was important to set the novel in New York City because Poppy needed to move somewhere completely separate from her life with Josh, somewhere with a lot of contrast to the small, southern town she was used to. New York City is big and glamorous and it's a chameleon. It can be anything you need or want it to be and Poppy needed contrast, a place to hide, when she first arrived. Later in the novel she needed more familiarity and comfort and it became that.

The city did become its own character of sorts. It became a friend to Poppy. When she first arrived, New York was an acquaintance, sort of like Austin--a place she had visited a few times but had no real history or intimacy with. She starts out in Vivienne's neighborhood and the city is a friend of a friend. As she moves forward, away from her life with Josh and towards one with Austin she gets to know the city for herself, choosing a neighborhood (one that is close to Austin) and creating familiar feelings and "friendliness" with that part of the city. Once she doesn't need it to be an escape it becomes her home. 

Author Bio:
Faerl Marie is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and minors in English and Social Welfare. She has worked as a style consultant, personal shopper and wardrobe curator, among other things. Faerl Marie spends her days writing, dreaming about new stories and characters, walking her dog and adoring her husband. She lives in the idyllic mountains near Santa Fe, New Mexico. "The Golden Apple" is her first novel.

Connect with Faerl!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

CLP Blog Tour: The Golden Apple

Welcome to my stop on the CLP Blog Tour for The Golden Apple. I was really intrigued by Faerl Marie's novel so I just had to sign up for this tour! Did the book hold up to my expectations? Not quite but it wasn't a bad read by any means.

Here's the synopsis:
MEET POPPY PARKER, a recent widow who knows she must move forward but has no idea which direction to take. To start fresh, Poppy moves from her idyllic home in Georgia to the grimy glamour of New York City to open up her own boutique and find a way to live and love without her husband.
Austin Bandy has been in love with Poppy since the moment he laid eyes on her years ago, right before her wedding. Now she is back, grieving and broken hearted by her nearly-perfect husband’s death—not Austin’s ideal romantic situation. He needs to wait for her to recover but not so long that someone else has the chance to move in and sweep his dream girl off her feet and keep him as a “good friend” forever. 
My biggest issue, I think, was with the way the book was written. It wasn't poorly done but I still felt like there was something off with the flow and the way the story was told. It's hard to explain exactly what I mean but, for some examples, sometimes I felt like there needed to be more background given and sometimes the way the dialogue and story flowed just didn't feel realistic. For example, the money that gets thrown around in this book is insane and even though we find out about Poppy's background, I had a hard time accepting that Austin would spend so much money on her. Speaking of missing background, I feel like Austin was struggling with the fact that Poppy was very well off but it's never really discussed and I think it should have been. I also wish the layout had been better. I think there should have been page breaks in certain places because, for example, all of a sudden the story jumped to a different day and it was just moving from one line to the next. It was a little jarring.

I wasn't completely invested in this novel but, at the same time, I found myself hoping that all the characters would end up in a good place. I wanted Poppy and Austin to get their happily ever after. They were genuinely good people and that made the book better. If I had disliked either of them I probably would have had a hard time actually finishing the book.

At its core, The Golden Apple has a good story. (Note: I really didn't mean to make that pun - core/apple. I'm apparently more clever than I thought.) I liked the idea of reading about a woman who is trying to find her new normal after her husband dies. Being a young widow (or a widow at any age, really) wouldn't be easy and the drama that surrounds that lends itself well to a women's fiction novel. Poppy rediscovering her love of life was the main purpose of the story but I wonder if it could have been told better. There weren't clear milestones on her road to "recovery" (and I know real life probably isn't like that but I expected something different in the book) and the story sort of dragged. I just wish something different had been done so I was more excited about picking up this book after being away from it.

So, I didn't love Faerl Marie's novel The Golden Apple. I'm bummed because I never like it when I don't thoroughly enjoy my reading experience. I wonder if life circumstances prevented me from really loving it as I had finished another similar in tone book the day before and I don't know if I was ready for the story. If that's the case and you want a few more opinions, make sure you check out the CLP Blog Tours page to find the other reviews of this book. And check back tomorrow as I have a fun little guest post going up from Faerl herself!

Happy reading :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Bucket List

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 would I put on my bookish bucket list? What sorts of book related things do I want to do in my life? Some of these goals are easy ones to accomplish. Others will take some work. Others will just have to wait until I have the time and space and money. What would be on your bookish bucket list?

I've been keeping track of the number of books I read every year since 2012. That year I read 105 books. Last year I read 183 (I was unemployed for the majority of the year so had a ton of reading time). This year I'm on track to read about 110. That's about two books a week and that makes me happy! I know there are some bloggers that read more than that but I'm not a machine. I read because I enjoy it and if I give myself some ridiculous and unattainable goal I'm going to feel pressured to hit a number I cannot hit.

I've written about this before but I actually haven't read all of Austen's novels. My goal for 2014 is to read all of them, one every other month. I love Austen but it can be tough to read her books because the language is so different from what we're used to. That's the main reason I haven't attempted to reread all of her books before. Wish me luck!

I own the whole series and have had since I was a pre-teen. I got as far as Prince Caspian and stopped reading. No idea why. Wait...light bulb's entirely possible that I finished Prince Caspian the same year that other magical series got popular. You know the one about the boy wizard with the lightning shaped scar? :) That's an interesting revelation. Anyway. I really want to finish this series.

I attempted a couple of internships in the book world last year and that didn't work out too well. I don't know if I'm meant to work with books. I might be confused/unsure because I just don't know where my niche is. But, maybe I don't belong in the world. And I can be ok with that...I might just need to try a few more things. Maybe?

Catherine is one of my all time favourite authors. I've exchanged emails with her over the years but I've never been able to meet her. Sad! Maybe she'll come to a city near me for her next book. Either that or I need to plan a trip to Montreal!

I love Lindsey's books and I love following her on social media. I think I'd have a fab time with her if we could get together for cocktails. But I'd settle for meeting her at a signing!

Jennifer Weiner is one feisty lady and I love it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she comes to Toronto on her next book tour. *sends plea to the universe to send more American and British authors to Toronto*

This has been a goal of mine for awhile. Unfortunately, do to lack of money and another trip being planned during BEA time, I won't be making the 2014 event. Yet again. But. I WILL be there in 2015. I want to celebrate my 28th birthday on the 28th in NYC!

I really like writing (but don't want to write a novel) and since I still have some free time (I really need a full time job...) I'd like to start thinking about who else might want my writing.

Some day I will have a room in my house dedicated to my books. It will have many bookshelves and a comfy place to sit and read. And a fireplace. This must happen.

Pretty home libraries found on various Pinterest boards.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Life as a Bookworm: Not Write Now

No, that's not a typo up there in the title of this post. My (not so) clever play on words has to do with the fact that I do not want to write a novel. At least, not right now. But why am I sharing this? Well, this is something that comes up more often than you'd think in this book blogger's life. I had a job interview a week or so ago (it had nothing to do with books - it was for a retail position because that's where I'm at in life right now...sigh.). During the interview I explained why, after leaving my full time job to pursue a publicity internship at Random House of Canada, I was not working in publishing. The interviewer thought that perhaps I wasn't working in publishing not because I don't want to live in Toronto (I really don't) or because I don't want a publishing job enough (I'm still not sure) but because I'm meant to work with books in another way. By writing them myself. The interview moved on to other, more relevant, topics but that idea stuck with me for the rest of the day.

Why am I not writing a novel?

The simple answer is that I just don't feel like it. And, really, that's the only answer I need.

This topic came up after BookBuzz Toronto last year as I was the token non-author in our group. The women I was with asked me, and rightly so, if I ever thought about writing a book. Writing novels is, after all, what they love to do.

The truth is that I have thought about it. I have a few half-formed ideas floating around in my head but that's all there is and that's all there will be for awhile.

If I'm remembering correctly, one of the women told me that if I don't feel the desire to get a story idea onto paper (or screen, I suppose), then it's not going to go anywhere. I've talked to, and consider myself friends with, enough authors to know that deciding to write a novel is a big deal. It's not a serious decision or a life or death one, but it's one that you shouldn't enter into lightly. You have to dedicate time and energy into creating the best possible story. And if you don't really have that burning desire to get those thoughts and characters out there, then you're just not going to want to dedicate the time to write the thing, let alone decide what to do with it after you're finished.

I love writing. I always have. I was a diary writer and aspiring poet when I was growing up (oh boy, I do not want to reread some of the angsty stuff I must have written when I was a teen). My high school yearbook has "journalist" listed as my dream job next to my grad picture (though now that I'm dating a journalist I realize that is so not the job for me). I have countless notebooks that are just waiting for ideas to fill their pages. Keeping this blog is a way to continue writing in a way that works for me right now. That's why you see posts like this popping up more and more on here.

And, ok, maybe there's a bit of fear in this decision, too. I can review books and critique what I read with the best of them...but can I really do any better than those authors I'm reviewing? I worry that my writing wouldn't be good enough. That my story wouldn't be interesting enough. That I wouldn't be able to find an audience. And those worries are sort of overpowering any other thought at the moment. I'm sure every single author has those same worries but the difference is that they push past those fears and worries and write anyway. Why? Because that's what they're meant to do. I may not have any freaking idea what I'm meant to do at this point (you'd think at almost 27 that I would, but no) but I realize that I'm not meant to write a book. Yet.

I know that, if I ever decide to take the plunge and write a book, I have a great group of women to advise me. I've been lucky to meet some amazing authors through my blog and I know there's more than one who would be happy to give me a hand, should I need it. But, for now, the only writing you'll see is on this blog. Maybe on other sites if someone wants me to write words for them. "Author" isn't a title I'm looking to add to my name yet but feel free to keep asking. Maybe my answer will change one day. You never know.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review: Don't Even Think About It

I have to thank whoever decided I should be sent a "read now" copy of Don't Even Think About It, Sarah Mlynowski's recently released novel. Without that auto-approval, I never would have picked this book up. And that would have been a sad, sad thing. I blew through this short novel because I couldn't stop reading it. It was so much fun!

Here's the synopsis:
We weren't always like this. We used to be average New York City high school sophomores. Until our homeroom went for flu shots. We were prepared for some side effects. Maybe a headache. Maybe a sore arm. We definitely didn't expect to get telepathic powers. But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking. Our friends. Our parents. Our crushes. Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.
Since we've kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests. We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us. We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs. We always know what's coming. Some of us will thrive. Some of us will crack. None of us will ever be the same.
So stop obsessing about your ex. We're always listening.
I don't read nearly enough fantastical/magical books. I used to all the time when I was younger but now contemporary books rule my reading list. Don't Even Think About It is a book I would have adored when I was a teen and, happily, I still loved it even almost a decade out of teenagehood (is that a word? It should be.). My favourite thing about the novel was the story itself. People getting ESP because of a flu shot? I can't say that I've read a story like that before. It could have gone another way but Mlynowski made the outcome humorous instead of scary, which I loved (I don't do scary or creepy or bizarre).

The way the book was written was interesting, too. The story is told in sort of an omnipresent voice, which doesn't always work. We learn about everyone's story at the same time and the story is told as a collective we. It sounds weird but it totally makes sense and I liked that Mlynowski deals with that issue early on by having the narrator explain that the story is being told not by one person but by all of them.

I don't often like reading about young teens - it's been a long time since I was in grade ten - but I managed to get over that usual stumbling block when reading this book. Which is odd since I really was reading their every thought. Instead of being totally annoyed at the "ohmygosh, do you think he likes me?" in the beginning (since after the ESP kicks in they know if someone likes them or not), it reminded me of what my friends and I were like in high school. Makes me wonder if I would have appreciated having ESP when I was sixteen...

If you want a quick read that's all about teens and is really fun and quirky, pick up Don't Even Think About It. Sarah Mlynowski has written an awesome YA novel that's a perfect mix of the ordinary and extraordinary and I just loved it.

*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

K.A. Tucker Announcement!

I've been getting in the New Adult craze because I love the idea of it - stories focusing on twentysomethings who are figuring out who they are outside of high school and their parents' house. I decided to give K.A. Tucker's books a try and I adored Ten Tiny Breaths (my review is here). I especially love that Tucker is a small town Ontario girl like myself! While I haven't read the next books (yet...they're in my big pile o' books), I was super excited to be a part of this announcement. Thanks to Ink Slinger PR for letting me take part!

Fans of K.A. Tucker's Ten Tiny Breaths, we have a SUPER exciting announcement: On September 1, 2014, Atria is releasing a PREQUEL NOVELLA to Ten Tiny Breaths that tells the story from Trent's point of view! It's called IN HER WAKE, and we cannot wait one more breath to read it!

About IN HER WAKE: Cole Reynolds had it all. And then one night he makes a bad choice... and loses everything. When a drunken night out at a Michigan State college party results in the death of six people, Cole must come to terms with his part in the tragedy. Normally, he'd be able to lean on his best friends. The best friends that have been in his life since he could barely walk. Only, they're gone. Worse, there's the shattered body of a sixteen-year-old girl lying somewhere in a hospital bed, her entire life ripped from her because of a case of beer and a set of keys. Everyone assures him that they know it wasn't intentional and yet he can't ignore the weight of their gazes, the whispers behind his back. The all-consuming guilt he feels every time he thinks of that girl who won't so much as allow him near her hospital room to apologize. As the months go by and the shame and loneliness festers, Cole begins to lose his grip of what once was important-college, his girlfriend, his future. His life. It's not until Cole hits rock-bottom that he can begin to see another way out of his personal hell: forgiveness. And there's only one person who can give that to him... Are you as excited about this as we are?? And...this is going to be available at the great price of $.99!!
Buy links:

Four Secondsto Lose
And while you're at it, pre-order the gorgeous paperback of FOUR SECONDS TO LOSE, hitting bookstores on 4/1!

About FOUR SECONDS TO LOSE: Owning a strip club isn’t the fantasy most guys expect it to be. With long hours, a staff with enough issues to keep a psych ward in business, and the police regularly on his case, twenty-nine year old Cain is starting to second guess his unspoken mission to save the women he employs. And then blond, brown- eyed Charlie Rourke walks through his door, and things get really complicated. Cain abides by a strict “no sleeping with the staff” rule. But being around Charlie challenges Cain’s self-control…and it’s been a long time since any woman has done that. Twenty-two-year old Charlie Rourke needs a lot of money, really fast, in order to vanish before it’s too late. Taking her clothes off for men makes her stomach curl but Charlie tells herself that at least she’s putting her acting anddancing skills to good use. And though her fellow dancers seem eager to nab their sexy, sophisticated, and genuinely caring boss, she’s not interested. After all, Charlie Rourke doesn’t really exist—and the girl pretending to be her doesn’t need to complicate her life with romance. Unfortunately, Charlie soon discovers that developing feelings for Cain is inevitable, that those feelings may not be unrequited—but losing him when he finds out what she’s involved with will be more painful than any other sentence awaiting her.

ABOUT K.A. TUCKER: Born in small-town Ontario, Kathleen published her first book at the age of six with the help of her elementary school librarian and a box of crayons. She is a voracious reader and the farthest thing from a genre-snob, loving everything from High Fantasy to Chick Lit. Kathleen currently resides in a quaint small town outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures.

Blog * Website * Author Facebook * Twitter  * Author Goodreads *Atria

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring is coming...right?

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.

While it may not feel like spring is coming any time soon in my corner of the world (as I write this it's -5 Celsius (23 Fahrenheit), feeling like -10 (14). That's definitely not the coldest we've felt this winter (oh, how that would be wonderful) but it's so cold for mid-March! So, this week's TTT topic is a welcome one. What books will I be reading this spring? Whenever it decides to show up, that is. I started my list and realized it looked a lot like this list, the books I was looking forward to most in 2014. Instead of repeating that list, I decided to give you a peek into my actual spring TBR list. And by spring I mean the next two months. I have two on the go right now (yes, I'm cheating so I don't take up some of my numbers!), Middlemarch (from the library and so I can read and understand, My Life in Middlemarch) and The Golden Apple (for an upcoming tour) and many more to get to asap. Which is why this list is actually a top fifteen! Eek! What are you most looking forward to reading this spring? Are there any books you've been meaning to read for forever that you think you'll finally get to in the next couple of months? Links lead to Goodreads.

When Girlfriends Take Chances - Savannah Page
Just Destiny - Theresa Rizzo

A Mad, Wicked Folly - Sharon Biggs Waller
Never Have I Ever - Katie Heaney
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

Country Heaven - Ava Miles
The Here and Now - Ann Brashares
The Travelling Tea Shop - Belinda Jones

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling

White Lies - Emily Harper
Til St. Patrick's Day - Holly Gilliat
Getting Rooted in New Zealand - Jamie Baywood

(Novel Escapes is the other blog I write for)
Northanger Abbey - Val  McDermid
The Other Summer Girl - Sarah Towne

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Review: The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris

I was expecting a super sweet and fun read when I started The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan. What I got was a chick lit story with much more depth than expected and a story that will make you think about the choices you make in life and living every day to the fullest.

Here's the synopsis:
As dawn breaks over the Pont Neuf, and the cobbled alleyways of Paris come to life, Anna Trent is already awake and at work; mixing and stirring the finest, smoothest, richest chocolate; made entirely by hand, it is sold to the grandes dames of Paris.
It's a huge shift from the chocolate factory she worked in at home in the north of England. But when an accident changed everything, Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offered her the chance of a lifetime - to work in Paris with her former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier.
With old wounds about to be uncovered and healed, Anna is set to discover more about real chocolate - and herself - than she ever dreamed.
It took me ages to finish this novel. That was, in part, due to the fact that I was glued to my TV watching the Olympics and out visiting friends over the couple of days it took me to read the book. It was also because I couldn't bring myself to read the book because I wasn't totally into it. I wanted to finish it so I could move on to my next read but I had no real desire to finish it. It wasn't bad, don't get me wrong. I think many people would love it much more than I did. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for this story. It could also be because I really was expecting a typical Brit chick lit story and there were more serious issues discussed than I anticipated. 

I do think the novel should have been shorter. Goodreads tells me it's 416 pages, my eARC said it was 384. I did a quick look at the chick lit novels I've read this year and can see that most of them are between 200 and 300 pages. More pages means more story which is usually awesome...except when it seems to be unnecessary. I think there should have been some trimming done - especially at the beginning, which I found to be very slow. 

The story was told in two perspectives, which I both liked and disliked. The majority of the story was told in first person, through Anna's eyes. We also got to see Claire's perspective in the present, in third person, and her past, also in third person and italicized and set apart from the rest of the story (if that makes sense...). It was a little jarring but I really did like Claire's story. In fact, I think it could be a lovely historical story in its own right. 

My favourite part of the entire book was the setting. I've never been to Paris (someday, maybe) but I felt like the book really showed what the city is really like. The people who live there, not the tourists. The shops. The buildings. It was all so clear and I loved reading the scenes where Claire experiences the secrets Paris has to offer. And, of course, I loved every single scene that took place in the chocolate shop. Yum.

I liked that the romance kept me on my toes. It wasn't exactly typical. I found myself wondering if what I thought was going to happen actually would happen. It wasn't super romantic either. The male love interest was a little...brash, I suppose, and you never really know where he stands. I'm not usually a huge fan of epilogues or final chapters that totally and perfectly wrap things up but I was glad that the last chapter in this book let me know exactly how the characters were doing after the traumatic event that occurs near the end of the novel. And I don't just mean that I was glad to know if there was a romantic Happily Ever After or not. I really did need to know if the characters were all ok. I may not have loved them all but I wanted to see them do well.

I'll say it again: I may not have been thrilled by Jenny Colgan's novel The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris but that doesn't mean you won't be. If you like your chick lit with a lot of depth, read this one. If you want to read about the real Paris, read this one. I hope you enjoy it!

*An advanced ecopy of this novel was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cover Reveal: Right Click

I'm a little late to the cover reveal party for Lisa Becker's upcoming novel Right Click. The reason is quite simple: I've been hit with an end of winter cold. Boo! But this post is not for complaining about how much being sick sucks (though it does). No, this post is here because I wanted to share the cover of a book I am SO excited for. I've read the first two books in this trilogy and I can't wait to see what happens in the final book. I wasn't in love with Click but Double Click was fantastic (links lead to reviews). Enough chit chat! Here's the cover:

Neat, isn't it? I love how the covers always incorporate the online nature of the story. It's told entirely through emails! 

Now for the details. This is what the book is all about: 
Love. Marriage.  Infidelity. Parenthood. Crises of identity. Death. Cupcakes. The themes in Right Click, the third and final installment in the Click series, couldn't be more pressing for this group of friends as they navigate through their 30's. Another six months have passed since we last eavesdropped on the hilarious, poignant and often times inappropriate email adventures of Renee and friends. As the light-hearted, slice of life story continues to unfold, relationships are tested and some need to be set "right" before everyone can find their "happily ever after."
It will be released in mid-May so mark your calendars! 

And, just for fun, here's the book trailer for Click. Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Chick Lit

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.

I'm a chick lit fan. I have been for years and I have no problem using the term. But, in the interest of being inclusive (who says dudes can't read chick lit?) I've considered using the term rom-com more often. After all, chick flicks are now marketed as romantic comedies. And the romance plus the comedy is exactly why I love these kinds of books. I've read a lot of them over the years so narrowing my favourites list down to ten was a HUGE challenge. Most of the books are on the funnier side but there are a few that might be considered more women's fiction. Either way, they're my favourites! Hopefully I've shared some new titles with you and that you'll give this genre a chance, if you haven't already! What's your favourite genre?

Blogger Girl - Meredith Schorr (review)
I will tell every single chick lit fan that they must read this book. I love love love it. Partially because it's about a chick lit book blogger but also because it's just an amazing book. I also love Meredith's first novel, Just Friends with Benefits

Go Small or Go Home - Heather Wardell (review)
Really, this could be every Heather Wardell book. I adore them all. And I doubly adore that she's Canadian and her books are set in Toronto. If you want to check them out, her first, Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo is free on all ebook outlets! (,, Kobo, Nook). Read it!

Arranged – Catherine McKenzie (review)
Once again, I love every single one of Catherine's books but Arranged is my favourite. It's so clever and all around awesome.

Second Time Around – Beth Kendrick (review)
This story starts out kind of heavy but it's a really great book. I loved it (and Nearlyweds) so much that I've bought every single one of Kendrick's books published since then (there are three, with a fourth coming out soon). 

Love the One You're With – Emily Giffin
It seems like Giffin fans are pretty split on their favourite book but I love this one. I also really liked her last one, Where We Belong (review), and have high hopes for her upcoming book, The One and Only. Can't wait to get to my ARC! 

Breaking the Rules - Cat Lavoie (review)
The thing I love about Cat's debut novel is that it takes a typical chick lit story (boy and girl friends realize they have romantic feelings for each other) and takes it in a completely unexpected direction. Her second novel, Zoey and the Moment of Zen is just as awesome.

Winter Wonderland – Belinda Jones (review)
The setting of this novel plays a huge part in why I love it so much. It's set during Quebec's Carnival. I've never been but it's on my list of things to do...eventually. It's also a really fun story featuring a travel writer (one of my favourite types of characters to read about). 

Sugar Spun Sister - Anna Garner (review)
I love all of Anna's books (which include the ones she writes under Libby Mercer) because she writes some of the best characters. I always want to be friends with them. I chose to feature this one because it takes the typical sweet shop story and switches it up. The friends in this series own an ice cream shop! What's not to love?

Finding Lucas - Samantha Stroh Bailey (review)
This book puts the comedy in romantic comedy. I couldn't believe some of the things the characters get up to and it was so much fun to read. I can't wait for Sam's next book!

The Runaway Princess – Hester Browne (review)

I call this book The Princess Diaries for grown-ups. The story is a little different but it has the same feel of the Princess books and movies. I was so incredibly and pleasantly surprised when I read this book and think all chick lit and princess lovers should read it. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Rereading Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility

Last year I decided I wanted to read, or reread, all of Jane Austen's novels. I knew it would be a massive undertaking but I wanted to do it. You can read all about that in my post about the reread-a-long here. January flew by and I thought, "That's ok, I have all of February to read the first book." Well, February seemed to disappear too and before I knew it it was the 22nd and I still hadn't picked up Sense and Sensibility. Uh oh! I got it done though, in four days, and finally have my thoughts to share with you all!

The one thing I knew going into this challenge was that these books were not going to be easy to read. They were going to take away time that could be devoted to other review books and they would take me awhile to get through. Don't get me wrong, I still love Austen but the way she writes is much different than today's authors. Mostly it's a language thing. Of course books from the 1800s would be written differently than a book in the 2000s. So, sometimes there was a bit of translation, shall we say, that needed to be done before it could totally make sense in my head.

Once you get past the language, though, there's also the way the story is told. People may think Austen is a romantic but there's not really a lot of romance in her stories. In fact, in Sense and Sensibility, we don't even get to read about the actual engagement between (er...spoiler alert) Edward and Elinor. He came to the cottage with the mind to propose and this is how Austen shares it with us:
"How soon he had walked himself into the proper resolution, however, how soon an opportunity of exercising it occurred, in what manner he expressed himself, and how he was received, need not be particularly told. This only need be said; - that when they all sat down to table at four o'clock, about three hours after his arrival, he had secured his lady, engaged her mother's consent, and was not only in the rapturous profession of a lover, but in the reality of reason and truth, one of the happiest of men."
- page 348
There is a sweetness there, knowing that Edward is "one of the happiest of men" but would any author writing a similar story (think women's fiction) get away with not writing the actual engagement of her main characters? Interesting to note how things have changed and how Austen approaches these romantic matters.

One of the other things I knew I'd have to deal with during this challenge is separating the original novel from all other adaptations and retellings. When I was reading this book I couldn't get the 1995 Sense and Sensibility movie out of my head. Elinor was Emma Thompson, Edward was Hugh Grant, Marianne was Kate Winslet, Colonel Brandon was Alan Rickman, and Mr. Palmer was Hugh Laurie. I'll write a post (or two) about adaptations later on in the year (especially since I found my fourth year film essay that talked all about Austen adaptations) but I had to briefly touch on it in this post because the movie was all I could think about when reading this book. And that kind of frustrated me. Is that silly? I've seen the movie more than I've read the book so I suppose it makes sense but as a book lover I would rather have the books at the front of my mind when I'm rereading. Final note about the adaptation aspect: I couldn't get over the age difference between the characters in the book versus the actors' ages in the movie. I know why it had to be done but there were some massive gaps. For example, Mrs. Jennings is assumed to be about 50 (if that). The actress who played her, the late Elizabeth Spriggs, was 68 when the movie was released.

The cover of my edition.
So what did I actually think about the story this time around? Well...I didn't adore it, which I had a feeling would happen. I wasn't in love with Elinor or Marianne so their stories were not as interesting as, say, the Bennet's. I did like reading about how Elinor had to be the responsible one in the family after their father passed away. That sounds sort of odd, doesn't it? I didn't like that she had to look after every little thing but it was interesting to see how she dealt with the issues as an unmarried woman in the 1800s. Marianne was much too flighty and emotional for my taste (she would translate well to a contemporary YA novel, I think!) but I found myself hurting when she was (curse you, Willoughby!) and wished the pages would somehow change and she'd realize earlier on that Brandon was the man for her.

Fun fact: had my bunny been a boy I would have named her Willoughby, I think! But, she is a girl and I named her Tonks instead :)

I probably haven't added much to your overall opinion or knowledge of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility but I wanted to keep you all updated on my challenge progress. So far it's been a good experiment and I'm really looking forward to next month's reread, Pride and Prejudice. This is the Austen novel that a lot of people say is their favourite, myself included, but I'm interested to see if my reread holds up against the story I have in my head (thanks to those movie adaptations). I also wonder if Persuasion, will take over as favourite by the end of the year! Stay tuned for my next challenge "review" in April. I'll also likely have another fun Austen post later this month.

Happy reading :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review: My Life With The Walter Boys

I love contemporary young adult novels. So when I got the chance to read the newly published My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak, I was pretty excited. I was sucked into this debut novel and I really enjoyed the time I spent reading it.

Here's the (very short) synopsis from Goodreads (which differs from others I've seen!):
Sixteen-year old Jackie Howard knows nothing about her new guardian Katherine Walter when she moves from New York to Colorado. After discovering that Katherine has twelve boys, Jackie fears that living in the Walter house isn't going to be easy. It's just icing on the cake that the boys look like Abercrombie models...
This was one of those books that I really loved reading but am aware that it may not be for everyone. It's not, exactly, a great book. There were a few problems and little things that irked me. I felt like twelve boys (well, eleven) was too much. I couldn't keep track of all of them! It added a lot of confusion that didn't need to be there. Novak could have cut out six boys and the story would have still had the effect she wanted. Two of the boys were actually nephews/cousins and it drove me crazy that it took until almost the end of the book to find out why they were staying there - where were their parents? I also couldn't understand how cruel the boys were being and that their parents didn't do much of anything about it. I get that raising twelve kids, now thirteen, would be rough but you need to have some sort of handle on your kids. Finally, how did the parents not say anything when Jackie and one of the boys started dating? They had a rule that whenever one of the boys was alone in a room with her the door had to stay open. Fine. But really? No talk about dating someone who's living in the same house as you? All of these things were fairly minor and, even though they annoyed me, it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the book.

I've gotten into the practice of always reading the acknowledgements and the about the author pages in the books I read. Part of it is because I've been pleasantly surprised to see my own name in the acknowledgements and I know how important it is for the people whose names are in there, but also because I like learning what I can about the author. When reading about Ali Novak I learned that she's only 22, started writing this book when she was just 15, and was a Wattpad sensation. I find that this sort of thing, young authors being noticed because of online platforms or social media, happening more often and I think it's kind of awesome. Of course, I'm also a bit jealous that she's published a book by 22 while I, at the same age, had just finished a fifth year of post secondary school because I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life (and now, at almost 27, am still wondering...). But seriously, I like how things are changing in publishing and that books like these are getting a chance to find readers.

As I was nearing the end of the book I realized that I was likely reading what was to be the first in the series. As I was preparing this review, I saw on Goodreads that it will become a series. This is both exciting and not. Let's start with the seems like every YA (and new adult) book out there starts as a story that could totally be a standalone and then it turns into a series. Also, this is another series that is going to switch perspectives (book two, My Life as a Walter Boy, is Cole's story and, side note, the cover has a totally different feel than this book...not sure I like it). However, it's hard to be annoyed about a book being turned into a series when I know authors like to revisit characters as much as the readers do. I truly do want to read more about Jackie and the Walter boys.

So now that I've written all sorts of other things...what, exactly, did I love about this book? What made me rate it five stars? It was a really lovely story and I enjoyed every single second I spent reading this book. When I get that immersed in a story it's usually going to be a five star. I loved reading about how Jackie dealt with being thrown into the Walter household. This book reminded me of Jennifer Echols' novels The Boys Next Door/Endless Summer and I loved these books for the same reason - a girl trying to navigate adolescence while immersed in a world filled with boys. So much fun to read about.

I really liked that there was a balance of humorous and heart-wrenching moments. I laughed out loud and teared up. And the emotional aspect of the story didn't just have to do with the fact that Jackie's family had died in a car accident (though that was devastating and I just wanted to give Jackie a big hug). Novak reminded me what it was like to be a teenage girl and trying to figure out who you like and who likes you. Such a range of emotions!

Overall, My Life With The Walter Boys was a really great read. If you're looking for a contemporary YA book, pick up this one. Ali Novak has written an incredibly enjoyable novel. I still can't quite get over that this was her debut! I cannot wait to read the next book in the series and get into Cole's head!

*An eARC was provided by the Canadian distributor, Raincoast Books, in exchange for an honest review.*

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Reread: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

It's month two (er, well, technically three since it's now March but let's just pretend it's still February, ok?) of the Harry Potter Reread Challenge! For more information about this challenge and the idea behind it, visit Just a Lil' Lost's sign up post and check out my post on book number one. A reminder that this is a casual readalong and to check out Twitter or Instagram with #HPreread. Another reminder: if you haven't read this book, or even finished the whole series, please beware of spoilers. If you don't want parts of the story or series ruined for you, stay away until you finish the books! Month two of the challenge meant rereading book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Like a lot of people, I felt like this was my least favourite book of the series. Why? I'm not really sure. It may have something to do with the fact that, at first read, it doesn't seem to move the entire plot forward too much. However, knowing what happens at the end means that we realize how important Tom Riddle's diary actually is. It could also be because I am so not a fan of Gilderoy Lockhart, the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher in Harry's second year. He's not exactly evil. He's, as I tweeted, incredibly sleazy. Every scene with him in it makes me want to smack him upside the head!

I was reminded while reading this book how much I freaking love Diagon Alley. I loved being introduced to even more stores as the Weasleys, Harry, and the Grangers visited in the summer. We're also introduced to the shady side of the wizarding world - Knockturn Alley - after Harry has some issues with Floo Powder (which, by the way, I totally would be so much easier). I'm sure most people can/have figured out that Diagon Alley = diagonally. However, I recently (re?)learned that Knockturn Alley = nocturnally. As the Harry Potter Wiki explains, "Nocturnally" has to do with the night and darkness, hinting at its dark nature." The more you know! Speaking of Knockturn Alley...did anyone who did the reread notice that Harry hides in a black cabinet in Borgin and Burkes (page 42)? And that Nearly Headless Nick drops an extremely valuable vanishing cabinet in the halls of Hogwarts to save Harry from detention (page 98)? Interesting to note that those important cabinets first show up so early on in the series.

I had some emotional moments while reading this book. Chamber of Secrets is when we first meet Dobby the house elf. I may not love Dobby as much as some HP fans but I still hate how things turn out for him in the end. But instead of focusing on that, let's just revisit the very first time he appears, even though we don't yet know it's Dobby:
"Harry suddenly sat bolt upright on the garden bench. He had been staring absent-mindedly into the hedge - and the hedge was staring back. Two enormous green eyes had appeared among the leaves."
- page 12
Just like I love going back to Diagon Alley, I adored experiencing Harry's first visit to The Burrow, the Weasleys' home.

I also found myself getting furious that Harry was living in such horrible conditions at the Dursleys'. It's so horrible that it's almost comical. I just can't understand how nothing was done to make things marginally better. I know why he had to go back there every summer, to be with family, but still. Ugh. They're just the worst.

As most people know, J.K Rowling said in an interview a few weeks ago that she wished she had not had Ron and Hermione end up together. I'm not going to talk about the implications of this revelation. What I will say is that I never paid much attention to the relationship aspect of the stories when I first read them - that's not what was important to the overall story. This time around, however, I found myself paying a little more attention to how Ron and Hermione interacted. They're still very much twelve years old and Hermione disapproves of a lot of what Ron does. Ron makes fun of Hermione a lot. But, they're fiercely loyal to each other.

At the end of the book, the trio notes that it didn't matter that their Defence Against the Dark Arts classes had been cancelled as they had been getting quite a lot of practice in in real life. Also, they practiced disarming, which "Harry was getting very good at." Talk about foreshadowing!

Like with the first book, I tweeted while reading. You can check out my Storify story here and see what I had to say while I read book two.

Another note: I adore the Ford Anglia. I'm not sure why I love this flying car so much but it's probably my favourite part of this whole book :)

Universal in 2012. I was  SO excited to see the car at one of the rides!
There were lots of amusing and poignant lines in Chamber of Secrets, as is to be expected. I could share them all but that would get boring for you. Just read the books. But I will leave you with one of Dumbledore's many memorable quotes (that man is so wise):
"It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
- page 245
So there we have it. My thoughts on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As jumbled and all over the place as they may be. What do you guys think of book two? I'm super excited to read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban next (er, this) month because it's one of my favourites of the series.