Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mini Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Yes, I know, I know. I had not actually read any of John Green's novels prior to March (note: obviously it's been awhile since I read and wrote this...). It's most surprising because I love contemporary YA and that's Green's thing. I figured with the The Fault in Our Stars movie coming out soon I should probably get around to reading the book. After waiting a bazillion years for the book to come in at the library, I finished it in just a few hours. And I loved it.

Here's the synopsis:
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.
Since I haven't been living under a rock, I knew this book was going to make me cry. In fact, I posted this picture on Instagram the day I started it, with the caption "I'm about to (finally) read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Will a full box of tissues be enough?"

The consensus of my Facebook and Instagram friends was no. I would definitely need more tissues! So even though I was prepared and had an idea of what was going to happen, I still found myself with tears streaming down my face. People were right. This is a tearjerker! But, it's not quite as depressing as you may think. I know reading about two teenagers who have cancer isn't exactly anyone's idea of fun but Green has written, what I think is, a fairly realistic portrayal of what teens and their families would be going through.

Hazel and Augustus aren't your normal teens and while I suppose some may criticize the way they talk as being unrealistic, I think it makes sense. These kids are faced with one of the worst things in life, cancer, and they have to grow up fast. So, I liked the way Hazel and Augustus talked and interacted with each other. I loved that they were extremely clever (both smart and funny) teens. And that they sometimes Talked in Capital Letters. They were just amazing characters to read about and get to know and fall in love with. Which what makes it so much harder to read.

There are some really amusing bits throughout the book. One of the lines that almost made spit out my tea was this one:

See? Clever girl.

There's probably not much else that I can say that others haven't. The Fault in Our Stars is a great book. I don't think it glamorizes cancer nor do I think teens shouldn't be exposed to such a book (I actually want to rage when I hear people say that). I'm excited for the movie and I think Shailene Woodley is going to nail it as Hazel. If you haven't checked out the (first) trailer, you can watch it here. I don't really have the urge to run out and read the rest of Green's novels though...none of the others really appeal to me. Maybe some day! What about you? Have you read this one? What did you think of it?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dewey's Read-a-Thon 2014

Good morning readers! It's read-a-thon time! If you don't know what I mean, check out this site. And join in if you like! The event actually started almost an hour ago so I'm behind in getting started. But I didn't want to get up at 8am on a Saturday! This post will end up being a large one as I'm going to continuously update it throughout the day. Here we go!

Kick Off
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I'm reading from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Location helper: I'm 20 minutes away from Niagara Falls.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before. I don't often read a ton of YA but this contemporary (my fave!) novel has been getting a lot of good press.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Tea. Lots of tea. And maybe popcorn. And hard apple cider for later. And leftover Easter chocolate!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I'll do the basics: I'll be 27 in a month and two days. I'm 6'0" tall (so if you know tall girl books, send me the titles!) with curly-ish brown hair. I own the most ridiculous pet rabbit ever (her name is Tonks – yes, from HP – and I adore her). I just started a new job at a nature centre last week in a marketing/communications type role. That's me in a nutshell!
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I've done the read-a-thon before (twice, maybe?) and I've never really, totally, completely committed. As you can tell, I haven't really done it this year either. I love the idea of it and everything but as much as I love reading, I'm not willing to totally disrupt my sleep pattern for it! :) So, there's not a whole lot I'll do differently. Maybe try to participate in more challenges. We'll see!

Update #1: 11:40am = almost 4 hours into the readathon.
I just finished my first book, Who Killed "Tom Jones"? by Gale Martin. In all honesty, I should have DNF-ed it yesterday but I didn't and then I read the bit about the murder today and just couldn't stop. Needed to know for sure who the murderer was! So far I've read for just over two hours and have finished 182 pages. Not bad. Time to move on to Brooklyn Girls!
Did I mention the three books in the above pic are all library books? Thought I'd use the readathon to get through the books that are due soon!

Challenge #1: Best of the Reading Year
Lisa's World of Books is hosting hour six's mini-challenge. She wanted us to share about the bests of our reading year. She has a huge list of options on her page and we were to choose at least three titles. I went with five, even though I could have chosen more. Have you read any of these ones? Links lead to my review if you're interested in learning more!
Best New Adult Book: Ten Tiny Breaths –K.A. Tucker
Best Non-Fiction Book: Never Have I Ever – Katie Heaney
Best Fiction Book: One More Thing – B.J.Novak (short stories!)
Best Cover: Landline – Rainbow Rowell (no review releases in July!)

Update #2: 4:00pm = hour nine is beginning!
I just finished my second book! Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess was a lot of fun. If it had been released this year it'd be considered new adult but I feel like it won't get lumped into whatever NA has become. It was a really fun read and I'm so happy I have the second book in the series to review!
There are a couple of very thought provoking challenges up right now so I'm going to take some time to deal with those. And maybe find another snack! (In case you missed it on Instagram, here's my rabbit, Tonks, eating her snack.)

Challenge #2: A Literary Tea (or Coffee)
Over at the Fig and Thistle, Amanda has asked us readathoners to create a literary coffee or tea drink. Ooh, time to get the brain thinking about something more than the book we're reading. Books and tea are two of my all time favourite things so I had some fun with this one!
In Zoey and the Moment of Zen by Cat Lavoie, our heroine, Zoey, is sent to a wellness resort (her friends tell her it's for her own good but she's not so sure) that doesn't allow anything fun (read: caffeinated) on the premises. I don't know how a coffee shop owner survived without caffeine! I created a tea that uses rooibos leaves – they're caffeine free. Perfect for the Moment of Zen Wellness Resort! I came up with this one because I adore a sweet, dessert tea and the chocolatey taste could almost convince the coffee drinker in you that you're drinking sometime caffeinated.
Zoey's Salted Caramel Escape
Red rooibos leaves
Caramel pieces
Sea salt
Chocolate chips
You'd need about a teaspoon and a half of tea leaves per cup of tea. If you were feeling particularly fancy, you could turn this into a latte!

Challenge #3: First Edition
Jessica at The Bluestocking Society has come up with a challenge that's teaching us something! Her challenge post tells us how to tell what edition we're reading. So, I took up the next book I'm planning on reading, Dorothy Must Die (trying not to think about the whole Full Fathom Five thing...) This is what I found:
It tells me that it's a first edition, right there at the bottom. I can also figure out that it was published in 2014 (which I knew but you can also tell because of the 14 15 etc. to the left). However, I would have thought that there'd be a 1 in the sequence in the left. Can a book still be a first edition if it's in its second printing? Someone help! :)
Looks like I need to brake for supper (the boyfriend made some delicious smelling steaks) but then it's back to reading!

Update #3: Approaching the Midway Point!
Time for the Mid-Event Survey! And also time for me to get back into reading.
1. What are you reading right now?
Just about to start Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
2. How many books have you read so far?
I've finished two (though one I was already reading...I was about 25% complete when I started)
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Because Dorothy has been a wee bit tainted due to the Full Fathom Five issue, I'm looking forward to To All the Boys I've Loved Before even more.
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
Not really. Honestly, I don't have much of a life! :) The rabbit is pretty self sufficient and the boyfriend cooked supper ( nom nom). I put off going out to the mall but it wasn't pressing. And  I might have held off suggesting that we have friends over tonight!
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Not so much. I was annoyed that I needed to do laundry and dishes but they were quick to do. Of course, I did it at a time where supper came soon after so it's been a couple of hours since I've read!
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
I haven't really been too involved in the online community aspect of it, I admit. I've been posting pictures and updates but haven't been checking out other people's. I'm happy that others are responding to my posts even though I'm not out there doing the same. So, thank you to the people who are balancing their commenting and reading!
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Not irks only come from the fact that not everything is open internationally!
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
Just read more. And comment more. But I like my laid back approach.
9. Are you getting tired yet?
Nope! It's just 7:30pm in my part of the world. But I am making myself a caffeinated tea (Coffee Cake from David's Tea...damn, it's so good) before getting into the hard ciders I'm looking forward to later!
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
I'm sure others have discovered it but go into the readathon with a plan. Know how your day is going to play out and what you're going to read when. And if you live with anyone, let them know what you're doing...and why you're reading a tad more than usual!

Challenge #4: Name in Titles
So. It turns out that it is REALLY hard to spell my name (Kaley) using the books I have at home. Wow. But, props to The Geeky Blogger's Book Blog for this awesome challenge! I've also been distracted by watching 24 and drinking and making popcorn :) BUT. Here's my title pic:

Keeping the Moon - Sarah Dessen
Attachments - Rainbow Rowell
Life After Yes - Aidan Donnelley Rowley
Exes and Ohs - Shallon Lester
You Had Me At Hello - Mhairi McFarlane

Now, it's back to Dorothy Must Die! I'm 78 pages in (chapter eight) and it's ok so far. Happy reading, friends!

Challenge #5: Page 35
Hoo boy, this was a difficult challenge for my last one. Full disclosure: it's approaching midnight here and I've had a couple of drinks sooo...I'm not at my best :) With this challenge, hosted by Bibliophibian Inc., we had to find the third sentence on page 35 of the book we're reading and then create something to go along with it. Like I've said, I'm reading Dorothy Must Die. I can't exactly categorize it (fantasy, I guess?) but the goal is to try to write something different than the original material. I have no idea how this sounds to anyone else (did I mention the alcohol I've had?) but here it is:
After a while, the bedraggled fields by the side of the road turned into huge cornfields on either side, with stalks as tall as my body. The first thing I thought of when I saw the cornfields was baseball. That might sound silly to some but I'm a sucker for ball movies. Really, I'm a sucker for anything baseball. But add in Kevin Costner and I'm a happy girl. I mean, come on. Have you seen Bull Durham? Guys might think it's a baseball movie but it's got one hell of a romantic storyline. But that's not where the cornfields come in. No, that's that other ball movie, Field of Dreams. You know the one where there are ghosts playing baseball in Kevin's backyard? "If you build it, he will come" and all that? Baseball's a romantic sport, and I'm not talking about the lovey-dovey romance. I'm talking about a certain kind of relationship you get with the sport. With the way it's played. With the players themselves. Like Annie in Bull Durham, I like to pray to the Church of Baseball. It might not mean much to you but when I see a cornfield I think of Field of Dreams. I think of the men who were banned from playing ball after the Black Sox scandal. I think of Costner's character finally playing catch with his father. And I think of all the feelings I have. Somewhere in there is romance. And who can argue with that?

And now...bed! I'll update with final numbers and include a Storify link for all of my #readathon tweets tomorrow!

Final Update
As promised, here's the Storify link for my #readathon tweets.
And here are my final numbers: 7.8 hours read over 15 hours. 160 pages read. Finished a book I was about 25% through already (Who Killed 'Tom Jones'?), finished a full book (Brooklyn Girls), and finished close to half of another (Dorothy Must Die).
Notable consumables: chocolate, tea, steak supper, popcorn, and hard cider.
I'm pretty happy with how the day played out. I wish I was able to put off my chores (laundry and dishes just had to be done!) as that contributed to a large chunk of non-reading time in the afternoon. I do wish I had been able to finish Dorothy (I did finish it today) but that's alright. I made a dent in my TBR list and that's all I could have hoped for! I hope everyone else participating had fun. I'm hoping I can participate in October's read-a-thon, too. Maybe I won't be quite as focused on reading and will interact more with others! Now it's time to write up some reviews and dive into my next book! 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: 'Til St. Patrick's Day

I had no idea what to expect when I picked up 'Til St. Patrick's Day. I had been meaning to read Holly Gilliatt's book for months and I had since forgotten what the book was all about. Since I don't reread the synopsis before diving into a book (review or otherwise), I was going in essentially blind. I was expecting to be totally surprised with the story but I ended up predicting almost every single thing that happened in the book. I don't know if it's fair but that is the only reason I didn't end up loving this book. It's good, don't get me wrong, but it was missing the wow factor that I needed.

Here's the synopsis:
For three best friends, one winter will change everything.
Chronically optimistic Jayne is surprised she's still single at twenty-eight. But as always for Jayne, there's hope. This time his name is Gray--a successful, gorgeous marketing VP that she can't believe is going out with her. She's never given up on the belief that the right man for her is out there, somewhere. Maybe Gray could be the one...if she just works hard enough to make it happen.
Her cynical friend Karen is suspicious of Jayne's new guy with his model looks and over-inflated ego. She's concerned for Jayne, but has her own relationship to worry about. Not that anything's wrong with her boyfriend. He's actually perfect for her, which is why she's terrified. Not sure she can ever fully trust a man again, she considers bailing on yet another relationship.
Claudia is always there for her friends, no matter what they're going through. She mothers them like the children she craves to have, relieved she's no longer navigating the dating world. Happily married, Claudia can't wait until the day her husband finally agrees it's time to start a family.
'Til St. Patrick's Day is a novel exploring the depths of friendship and what happens when love doesn't go according to plan.
Like I said, I was able to figure out almost all of the plot points as I was reading the book. I always say that I don't mind if I have an idea what the ending is as long as the journey there makes for a good read. In this case, I needed a great read to be able to get over the fact that I figured out everything. It was just too predictable for me.

The other thing that I didn't love was the characters themselves. I did love that the story focused on three best friends but I didn't really click with any of their personalities and I like to like the characters when I'm reading a chick lit book (or, really, any book). Jayne was being too much of a doormat, Karen was being too much of a bitch and letting her daddy issues affect her too much, and Claudia...well, she was kind of boring (I think Bridget Jones would have called her a Smug Married). I'm sure they'd all be delightful women to get to know but I was missing something with them.

I know this seems like a downer review but this wasn't a bad book. Trust me! I may have given it a three star review on Goodreads but the average is over four stars. That's great! I think what this book has going for it is that the things the three friends were going through were totally relatable. Unfit partners, commitment issues, infidelity, among other things, are all things most women have gone through themselves. Or at least have had a close friend who's dealt with something similar. These characters were real...which mean they weren't perfect. I may like to like the characters I read about but I definitely dislike reading about perfect characters. That's just unrealistic. I liked that Gilliatt's characters were real women.

Overall, 'Til St. Patrick's Day was a lovely read. It's light without veering into fluffy territory and it features three very realistic characters. Pick up Holly Gilliatt's novel if you're looking for a quick and enjoyable read.

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

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Blog Tour: When Girlfriends Take Chances

It's finally my stop on the CLP Blog Tour for When Girlfriends Take Chances by Savannah Page! I've been reading and really enjoying this series for awhile and was so happy to be able to take part in the latest tour for the When Girlfriends... series. Even though there was a little something lacking for me, I was so happy to get back into the world of Emily and her five best friends!

Here's the synopsis:
A novel about exploring love and life's path, and taking chances along the way.
Emily Saunders has never thought twice about grabbing her passport, rucksack, and camera and trekking across the globe. If there's an NGO, a study abroad program, or simply the travel itch, Emily's on the first plane out. Free-spirited, open-minded, and eager to explore, it's no wonder Emily's hardly in one spot (or relationship) for long.
For the past year and a half, though, Emily's found herself planted in her college hometown of Seattle. She's surrounded by her best friends, has steady work as a photographer and at her friend Sophie's café, and is certainly kept busy by the wild antics of her BFF Jackie. Life's enjoyable, but Emily's looking for something more. She's ready for a change, for adventure!
But when Emily tells her girlfriends she's ready for something new she does not expect Operation Blind Date!
Sure, Emily's single. Sure, she hopes to some day find true love. But being thrown into an insane challenge like this is not exactly the adventure she had in mind! Couldn't she just travel and focus on her photography? Or volunteer in Africa? Will a string of eligible bachelors lined up by her friends--a shot at finding a real and lasting love--really be that change she's searching for?
This is a spirited story about seeking adventure while being true to yourself, wherever you are in life. It's a story about love, risk, and self-discovery. About what happens when girlfriends take chances.
Like I said, I was excited to read about these girlfriends again. The friendship is, by far, my favourite thing about the series (even if I do think there are too many friends and that it gets confusing sometimes). The girls are about my age which makes things even better since I can really relate to their lives. They're at the same place in their lives as my friends and I and they do the same things I would do with my friends. It's so much fun to read about.

Of course, some girls I could relate to more than others. Emily was one of the friends who I didn't really connect with in the other books - mostly because she wasn't really around. Emily is a traveler, a wanderer, a free spirit. I was happy she got her own book so I could learn more about her and how passionate she is about traveling and giving back. I was also reminded that she's a trustfund baby which I think helps her lead her laidback lifestyle. The thing about Emily is that you cannot be jealous of her massive amounts of money because she's so down to earth and lovely.

One of the little things that bugged me was that I realized that every book has the same voice. I get that friends would sound similar but I don't think that every book should have the same tone because each book is narrated by a different friend. Think of your group of girlfriends...if each of you told your story it would sound a little different, right?

I loved that Emily was so open to Operation Blind Date. It was a lot of fun to read about all of her various dates. If she had been anti-dating it would have been a totally different scenario. She loves her friends and, deep down, really does want to find that man to love completely so why not indulge them in a little bit of matchmaking fun? I'm happy with how things ended up and am glad that she didn't end up dating any real jerks (though there were a couple that were no picnic) or have her heartbroken.

I'm finding that I'm not loving these books as much as the first few but When Girlfriends Take Chances is still a really fun novel that I think chick lit fans would enjoy. Savannah Page has created a great group of girlfriends! I'm really not sure what to expect with, what I assume will be, the last book in the series - When Girlfriends Let Go. I've never been a fan of Jackie but I desperately want to find out how the rest of the girls are doing. If you want to see what other bloggers thought of this book, head over to the CLP Blog Tour main page. And don't forget to check out a Rafflecopter giveaway!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review: Country Heaven

When I read a romance novel, I want there to be substance. I don't need a whole lot (I like romances because they're light and entertaining) but I do need an engaging story. I normally turn to romance queen Nora Roberts when I want a fix but I think I have a new author to check out. I really enjoyed reading Country Heaven by Ava Miles. And, bonus, this book is part of a series so there are so many more of her novels for me to read! Yay!

Here's the synopsis:
When famous-and infamous-country singer Rye Crenshaw saunters into the diner where she cooks, Tory Simmons is certain she's got him pegged. He's a bad boy who indulges himself in all things, women included. But while she couldn't care less about country music or arrogant men, Rye makes her an offer she can't refuse when he asks her to be his private chef on his multi-city concert tour. The job is the answer to all her prayers: it will clear out her debt and finance the fresh start she desperately needs. Rye is certain his sassy new cook is the last woman who'd ever tempt him, but spending time with the wholesome girl next door will do wonders for his damaged public image, whether she likes being forced into the spotlight or not. Her food also happens to be the best he's ever eaten, both comforting and seductive. But spending time with Tory on the road shows him a new side to her-one that's as impossible to resist as her food. And when an emergency in his family whisks him home, he does the one thing he's never risked: he lets a woman into his heart... Soon the emotions Rye faked for the tabloids become all too real, but will the country heaven he's found in Tory's arms survive in the real world? 
Technically, Country Heaven is part of Miles' Dare River series. I didn't realize that when I requested the book from NetGalley and when I did realize it I was kind of annoyed. I'm a "read the series in order" kind of girl, after all. But, this book can stand alone. Which is probably why it's not linked to the series on Goodreads. So, my thought is, if you really like the sound of this one, read it, and if you like it (and I think you will), go back to the beginning and read Nora Roberts Land. That's my plan!

I really liked the country music angle in this book. I'm, happily, finding that country is showing up in books slightly more often than it used to and I love that. Country music is becoming a bit more mainstream and I think that's now being mirrored in books. If you're not a country fan like me (even Tory isn't a country fan!) don't let that stop you from reading the book. Yes, Rye is a mega star in country music but it's not like you actually have to listen to his music (but how cool would that be?).

Speaking of Rye, he was totally swoon-worthy. I could totally see how Tory would immediately find his face and body attractive but was turned off by his personality. The way he was acting, and it really was acting, was so off putting and it was great to see Tory call him on it. The fact that there wasn't an immediate emotional attraction made this romance more realistic. Tory doesn't really start falling for Rye until she sees the real man when they're visiting his family. I really liked how their romance and Rye's personal journey grew at the same sort of pace. I'm really happy with the happily ever after in this book!

Like I said, this romance novel had something more going on than just the romance. While Tory had some things to sort out in her life, I liked reading about Rye's life more. He had such a crazy background with his family drama and it was interesting to read about how he fixed the relationships with his family. I despised his mom and I applaud Tory for how she handled herself when they were visiting. If the family story hadn't been part of the overall novel, I definitely would not have liked it as much.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Country Heaven. Ava Miles wrote the type of romance novel I love to read and I cannot wait to check out some of her others. If you're a romance fan, check out her books! And if you already knew about them...why didn't you tell me sooner?

Happy reading :)

*An eARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly

I saw A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller making the YA book  blogger rounds back when it was released in January and I was intrigued. I asked my blogger and library friend, Natalie, to put in a request for me at the library and they ordered it! Yay! I'm really glad I got to read this book. I found it to be so different than any YA book I had read before. That might not be true for everyone but, as a fairly newbie YA reader, I hadn't read a historical YA book with this much depth and with such a gripping story before.

Here's the synopsis:
Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.       
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?
I didn't realize how much of the story would follow the suffragette movement. That was more than fine by me (I really don't know enough of that history) but I wish the synopsis had mentioned it just a little more. For the most part, the book was about Victoria trying to escape the golden cage that is her life. Eventually that leads her into the suffragette world and she learns how important the movement is.

There is a romance in this book, which isn't surprising, and I loved it. Vicky is the daughter of a wealthy family and there are certain expectations that comes with that life. One of those expectations is marrying well. Her family sets her up with a boy who doesn't seem to be horrible so she thinks the whole arranged marriage thing might be ok. Enter PC Will Fletcher. He's the copper she meets while unintentionally getting involved in a rally. He's also a gorgeous boy that she can't wait to draw. I couldn't see how things would work out for the two of them so I was on the edge of my seat until the end!

While I loved reading this book, I feel like it paints a bit of a rosier picture of what things would have been like during the Edwardian time for women like Victoria and the suffragettes. I know novels tend to do that a lot so perhaps I'm being too critical.

One of the great things about this novel was that Vicky was an art lover and an artist. There aren't many YA characters, especially historical characters, who are artists and it was really interesting to read about what it could have been like for a young woman who wanted to be an artist. Basically, it's a battle. Women weren't meant to be educated and I couldn't imagine not being able to go to school to do what I love (not that that's painting but you know what I mean!). I was intrigued by the paintings that were mentioned and I liked that the book made me look up and learn about the art and artists that showed up in the book.

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller was a really enjoyable read and I think those who read it (and I think many should) will need to be aware that, while this novel is rooted in fact, it's just a novel. Do more reading on the suffragette movement to get the real story. Basically, if the synopsis grabs you in any way, read it. I think you'll like it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: All the Bookish Things

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 found this week's Top Ten Tuesday to be both easy and hard. It was easy because I just hopped over to my Pinterest boards and picked the bookish things I loved from my many pins. But, it was hard because I want so many bookish things! The criteria I used for this list was: would I want this to be gifted to me for my upcoming birthday? Would I be over the moon excited to receive it? The system worked well. I limited this list to actual things - clothing, jewellery, and other nifty items. I didn't include any prints, not because I don't have any that I love, because that would make this already over ten item list even longer. If you want to see ALL the bookish things I love, you can check out my various Pinterest boards. The links will lead to the site where the item is sold.

Three Broomsticks - I love the design and I love Butterbeer. 
Rock Stars - Obviously. Especially awesome because Austen is on the shirt.

Fuck Off, I'm Reading - Really, who hasn't thought this before?
Lined page - Simple but so unique.

Anne of Green Gables - There are many scarves out there but I love this one.

Read - I adore this necklace. Just love it.
Bookish - Really, everything from the BookFiend shop could be on this list.

Wingardium leviosa necklace - I don't love gold but I DO love this necklace.
Wizardry bracelet - I love how everything works together in this bracelet.

Ravenclaw glass - This shop has a ton of awesome stuff but I love my house's glass!
Flourish & Blotts - This is one of the HP stores I'd LOVE to go into. I'd settle for the tote.
Candles - This shop has a ton of awesome candles but I love the sound of these two scents.

Candle - Again, this shop has many choices but I chose Dauntless because it smells like cake.
Grammar teacups - As a book nerd, I hate when people mess up your/you're. So these are awesome.
Jane Austen figure - Need I say more?  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: Just Destiny

I read a lot. Obviously. I like to think that I'm quite good at realizing which books aren't up my alley so I don't end up agreeing to review a book that I know I won't end up loving. Turns out I'm not as good as I thought. I recently read Just Destiny by Theresa Rizzo and I didn't love it. There was nothing really wrong with it, per se, it was just not my kind of book. And I hate when that happens. I just want you to know that going into this review. I'll explain why I didn't like certain things and you can decide if those are things you like. The book actually has a really great average rating on Goodreads right now (just over 4 stars) so I appear to be in the minority.

Here's the synopsis:
What would you do if your whole world fell apart?
Jenny Harrison made some poor choices in the past, but marrying Gabe was the best thing she’d ever done. They had the perfect marriage, until a tragic accident leaves Gabe brain dead and her world in ruins.
Devastated by grief, she decides to preserve the best of their love by conceiving his child, but Gabe’s family is adamantly opposed, even willing to chance exposing long-held family secrets to stop her. Caught in a web of twisted motives and contentious legal issues, Jenny turns to best friend and attorney, Steve Grant. Steve wants to help Jenny, but he has reservations and secrets of his own.
When something so private and simple turns public and complicated, will Jenny relent? What is Steve willing to sacrifice to help Jenny?
It may be unfair but the first thing to put me off this book was the prologue. Confession time: I hate prologues. I hardly ever see the point of them. I just want the story to start! Plus, major plot points are sometimes given away and I feel like the story would have been stronger had those things not been hinted at or divulged. This particular prologue confused me. It was all about Steve and his girlfriend Annie. I knew the book was mostly about Jenny and her husband so I wasn't entirely sure why we were seeing this part of Steve's life. Minor thing but I went into chapter one confused and that's not a good thing to be when you start reading a book.

Like I said, this book isn't bad. It hits all the emotional notes - especially the heartbreaking ones. Rizzo wrote some exceptionally hard scenes and did it well. I felt the grief Jenny had when she was mourning Gabe. I could feel how conflicted Steve was with his feelings for Jenny. I was angry on behalf of Jenny, and others, when certain secrets were revealed during the court battle. If I hadn't been able to feel these things alongside the characters, I wouldn't have liked the book at all.

The aforementioned court battle was another thing that made the book less than appealing for me. It seemed to take forever (and I know court cases can go on forever but I don't want it to feel like it when I'm reading about it) and, since it took up a good chunk of the story, made the whole novel drag. It also got into a lot of sort of scientific and moral issues (I don't really want to say much because it would take away from the beginning of the story) that got slightly confusing.

There were some other things about Just Destiny that took away from my overall enjoyment of the novel (I just didn't get the progression of Jenny and Steve's relationship) but, for the most part, I do think others would like it. Theresa Rizzo's novel shouldn't suffer simply because I've realized that I just don't enjoy heavy women's fiction novels.

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

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review: The Chase

I'm not a huge mystery reader. I don't like blood or gore or being scared witless. But, give me an amusing caper with some twists and turns and I'm happy. Bonus points if there's a bit of a steamy romance (hey, I'm a chick lit lover...can you blame me for enjoying a touch of romance?). I read and enjoyed the first book in Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg's new series last summer (you can read my review of The Heist here) so I was looking forward to The Chase, the recently released second book. It was just as much fun to read and I enjoyed it.

Here's the synopsis:
Internationally renowned thief and con artist Nicolas Fox is famous for running elaborate and daring scams. His greatest con of all: convincing the FBI to team him up with the only person who has ever caught him, and the only woman to ever capture his attention, Special Agent Kate O’Hare. Together they’ll go undercover to swindle and catch the world’s most wanted—and untouchable—criminals. Their newest target is Carter Grove, a former White House chief of staff and the ruthless leader of a private security agency. Grove has stolen a rare Chinese artifact from the Smithsonian, a crime that will torpedo U.S. relations with China if it ever becomes public. Nick and Kate must work under the radar—and against the clock—to devise a plan to steal the piece back. Confronting Grove’s elite assassins, Nick and Kate rely on the skills f their ragtag crew, including a flamboyant actor, a Geek Squad techie, and a band of AARP-card-carrying mercenaries led by none other than Kate’s dad. A daring heist and a deadly chase lead Nick and Kate from Washington, D.C., to Shanghai, from the highlands of Scotland to the underbelly of Montreal. But it’ll take more than death threats, trained henchmen, sleepless nights, and the fate of a dynasty’s priceless heirloom to outsmart Fox and O’Hare.
It was interesting to see what kind of caper Kate and Nick would get up to. There's always a dangerous element (Carter, the guy they're going after, is one badass dude with some ruthless killers on his payroll) but, for the most part, the action is all about a con or two. I like that there's a cleverness to what Nick does and that he's not a mindless criminal. He has a reason for doing what he does and has a knack for understanding what other criminals would do as well. It's interesting to read about, that's for sure.

Of course, as enjoyable as the book was, it was pretty formulaic. I suppose you can expect that with genre fiction and I should expect it knowing that Evanovich's other series, the Stephanie Plum series, always follows the same sort of format. It's not a bad thing. In fact, I purposely read this book on a Sunday afternoon when I needed a quick, fun, and easy read and it totally fit the bill. Win all around!

I like that this book is funny. There are lots of little clever remarks and it doesn't take itself too seriously. As in the first book, there was a Harry Potter reference (love when adult books reference HP). And this really amusing quote that, as a Canadian, had me laughing out loud:
How bad could a Canadian prison be? It was in Canada. Canadians were civilized.
- page 199 
As I mentioned, there's a romance aspect to the story - though it doesn't take over the story nor is it particularly romantic. Kate and Nick are attracted to each other but have so far managed to avoid jumping into bed together. Though Nick is trying really hard, Kate seems to have magnificent willpower. For now, the will they, won't they is fun to read about but I won't be able to handle it for too much longer!

If you want a fun and mysterious book to read, check out The Heist. It is part of a series but you don't really need to read Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg's first novel. It's good if you want more background but this book stands well on its own. I'm still looking forward to the next book!

*I received a copy of this novel from the publisher, Random House of Canada, in exchange for an honest review.*

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: The Here and Now

One of my favourite series of all time is Ann Brashares' The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. Because of that, I've read her other novels. And I keep reading them even though I haven't loved them. I was pre-approved for the newly released The Here and Now on NetGalley so I thought I'd give her another shot. While I didn't love this new novel, I didn't outright dislike it either.

Here's the synopsis:
An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world...if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.
Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.
This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.
Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.
But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves. 
I don't really read sci-fi and The Here and Now sort of felt sci-fi-ish to me. That might be my biggest issue with it. And since it's pretty personal issue (obviously others like sci-fi), I encourage you to look past it...but I'm still going to talk about it! When I read non-contemporary novels, I tend to go more for fantasy novels...magic, dragons, wizards, you know. Time travel is a sci-fi concept I can get behind, though. In a way, this book was actually kind of a mix of contemporary and dystopian. Prenna came from the future and her world was all but destroyed by an awful pandemic. Instead of fighting her way through that barren world, she, and many others who also escaped, went back in time for a do-over, of sorts. It was interesting to read about what the world was like in the future (they came from 2080something or 2090something, I can't remember) and how they were trying to fix things. Trying to connect the dots and figure out how to save the world was stressful, in a good way. 

To generalize, it wouldn't be YA without a love story. I have to say that I liked Ethan more than Prenna. Not really sure why. Maybe because he was more relateable...I can't imagine losing almost my entire family, going back in time, and then being constantly monitored. I did like that Prenna was rebelling as that showed that she had a spark in her. Part of that rebellion included spending a lot of time with Ethan, which was a problem as she is forbidden from being emotionally or physically intimate with anyone from the present day. Bummer! I liked that Ethan automatically accepted Prenna once he learned all the details of her past (his future..weird). Even though they're trying to save the world, they're still teenagers and it was kind of fun to read as they figured out their feelings for each other.

Random note: I actually really like this cover. It's different than the YA covers we've been seeing and I think it really conveys the feel of the story. Plus the colours are pretty. :)

I have to say that I went into reading The Here and Now with low expectations, since I hadn't seen very many good ratings or reviews. Like I said, I didn't love Ann Brashares' latest novel but I didn't dislike it. This was one of those hard reviews to write because I was so middle of the road with my feelings. I think if you find the synopsis interesting then you might enjoy the book. In the meantime, I'm going to keep hoping for another Brashares book that blows my socks off like the Sisterhood!

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

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Books

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 was a tricky one. What books do I find unique? This is tricky because not everyone will agree with what unique means. And what is unique to one person might not be to another because the first hasn't read the same books the second has. Does that make sense? So, in my list, there may be other books like them out there that I just haven't encountered yet. Feel free to leave suggestions for similar sounding books in the comments! In this list (of eleven because that's just how it happened) I've only included books I've read in the last two years (with one exception). What are some of the unique books you've read? This list is in chronological order, from earliest read to last and the links lead to my review.

Arranged - Catherine McKenzie
This is my exception to the read in 2013 or 2014 rule. This is also my very favourite McKenzie novel. I think it's unique because of the main story line...arranged marriages through a service, like a dating service. But more permanent. Sounds bizarre but this is an amazing novel.

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
I've read fantasy before but the story and world Morgenstern comes up with...just, wow.

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
This was a totally different take, I think, on a reincarnation story. It's so good.

Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan
The location of this novel played a large role in its uniqueness for me. I can't recall ever reading a book that takes place in Singapore and I liked reading about it.

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion
This whole book was unlike anything I had ever encountered before but it was mostly main character Don who made things unique. He was a socially awkward (likely undiagnosed Aspberger's) professor who was looking to meet a wife that met all of his requirements. This was one of those books that I didn't expect to love but I did.

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
There are all sorts of "shy girl starts college and then makes friends" stories out there but I found that Rowell's character Cath was unlike any I had read about before. She wasn't just shy. She was extremely introverted and stressed about all of her new surroundings. It was refreshing to read about a girl who really didn't have it all together.

Just One Day/Just One Year - Gayle Forman
I adored this series. I find this one unique because there's a romantic element to the story but the love interests barely spend any time together in the books.

The Orenda - Joseph Boyden
This is the only book I've read about Native Canadians. I'm sure there are others out there but I think all the accolades this one has received is warranted. It's real, which means it's brutal, and it really made me think about what life was like when the Jesuit missionaries came to, what would eventually be, Canada.

Don't Even Think About It - Sarah Mlynowski
A bunch of teens get ESP from a flu shot. Sounds totally hokey but, oh my goodness, it's so much fun to read.

A Mad, Wicked Folly - Sharon Biggs Waller (review to come soon!)
This was a really great historical fiction YA novel. It dealt with the suffragette movement in England and a young girl trying to receive an education in art. It was interesting and a great read.

Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date - Katie Heaney
There are other memoirs out there like this, I'm sure, but this new one had a voice that is equally as new, as well as being unique. Has anyone ever been this candid about not ever having a boyfriend?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Review: Shatter Me Series

I requested Tahereh Mafi's series from the library without knowing a thing about it. Seriously. All I knew is that the YA bloggers I follow couldn't stop talking about it and the fact that Ignite Me, the final book in the series, was being released soon (it came out on February 4). These bloggers haven't really let me down before (see: Divergent) so I thought I'd give Shatter Me, Unravel Me, and Ignite Me a chance. The first two didn't thrill me but the third book was so much more enjoyable.

Disclaimer: There's a possibility this post won't make a whole lot of sense because I started it right after reading the first two books in the series but before reading the third. Why? Because I knew I had awhile to wait before getting Ignite Me from the library and didn't want to forget what I thought about the first books. So, forgive me if things sound weird!

Like I said, I didn't know a thing about this series before I started reading it. A friend actually asked what they were about after I posted this picture on Instagram:

And I really didn't know what to tell her. All I knew was that a lot of people were loving the series so I thought I'd give it a go. Once I started reading Shatter Me I realized it was dystopian/post-apocalyptic series (can someone explain what, exactly, the difference is between those two. I feel like I should know!). Once I had that figured out, I, unfortunately, started comparing it to similar series - Divergent, Delirium, even The Hunger Games. I say unfortunately because I didn't want to compare them. I wanted these books to stand on their own and wow me with their story. They didn't, not really. All I could think about was how they had to fight the leaders of their messed up world, which included training for the inevitable battle, as well as how a romance played into it, and how all these little things compared to series I had read previously. It's not fair, and I know it (and I've been yelling at everyone who's been saying the Divergent movie is the same as The Hunger Games...ugh, pot meet kettle), but that's what happened. I'm not saying I didn't like this one. I was interested in the story and the characters and I wondered where Mafi was taking things and I can see why other people adore these books.

But wait! I wrote most of that last paragraph before reading Ignite Me. And guys? I fell in love with that book. I think it had a lot to do with Juliette's personality (which I'll get into later) but also just the storyline itself. I was completely invested and read it in one sitting in an afternoon because I just couldn't stop.

I found it interesting that Juliette played the part of the reader, sort of. She had been institutionalized for so long that she had no idea what was going on in the outside world. The reader was equally clueless so Mafi was able to explain details without doing a dreaded info dump. It flowed and whenever the reader was confused, Juliette was also confused and another character would explain the importance of what was going on.

Continuing with Juliette, she was an interesting heroine. She was so timid and unsure of things in the first two books (which might have played a part in why I wasn't loving the books) that it was hard to really root for her. I could understand where she was coming from (being terrified that you can kill someone with a single touch can really screw you up) but she didn't make for a particularly riveting character. That all changed in Ignite Me. Juliette found her spark and her drive and her anger. It was kind of awesome. She also realizes how much power she has and what she can do with it. It was really interesting!

I had a wee bit of trouble with the instalove between Adam and Juliette. I could kind of understand...Juliette had never been able to touch someone before and suddenly she realizes that not only is this (gorgeous) guy interested, but he can touch her. That's some heavy stuff. Plus, they're thrown into an adrenaline-filled situation and, of course, that's going to heighten their feelings. I just wonder why relationships like this have to take place and why they need to happen so freaking quickly. I couldn't always understand why she'd risk her life for Adam and why she'd literally destroy things because she thought he was in danger. Maybe I'm just too old to get the teenager love thing anymore or maybe I just don't understand how these series work, but I wish the relationship had been toned down just a bit. *reads Ignite Me* Ah ha! All these issues were addressed in book three. SO glad. I'm ridiculously happy with the way things turned out. The love triangle (minor spoiler but you should be aware going in that there's a love triangle in this one) was super intense and, I admit, I may have teared up a time or two reading the final book. So many feels. Love it! And Warner? Sa-woon. Fun fact: I know Warner is blonde but I couldn't help but picture Colin O'Donoghue (Hook from Once Upon a Time) as Warner. I think it was the bad boy swagger and the fact that Warner calls Juliette "love" that really did it.

The other thing I didn't love was the way the book was actually written. It almost read like poetry (not my favourite thing in the world). Mafi used so many descriptive words and often used an unconventional structure. She also used strike throughs throughout the series. Just take a look at this picture I snapped from Shatter Me and you should understand what I mean:

Again, I'm not saying this is a bad thing but it just wasn't for me. But...once again, things changed when it came to the third book. The strike throughs were not present. I didn't find the descriptiveness to be annoying...maybe because it was toned down. I don't know why Mafi decided to change things up but my guess is that it was supposed to represent how Juliette had changed and how much stronger she was. No more questioning what she was thinking (ie the strike throughs), she was confident and more straightforward.

As for the story itself, it really did interest me. Mafi wove together a captivating tale and I couldn't help but become invested in the outcome. It also helped that she threw in a few twists that I didn't expect. I don't want to go into too much detail on the plot points because I don't want to give anything away!

So, since I didn't love the first two books of the trilogy, Shatter Me and Unravel Me, but did love the third, Ignite Me, what does that mean for my overall feelings toward the series? I say read them. If you think it sounds interesting, just give them a try. I sort of wish I had been able to read all three back to back to back but maybe it'd be good to read one, read a few others, read the next, read a few others, read the last. Maybe that's what made me love the third book so much...I had had a break from the series. Who knows. I just know that I loved the final book and think that many others would love this series. My next question is if I should hunt down the half stories (Destroy Me and Fracture Me). Have you read the series? What do you think of it? Should I check out those other stories?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Review: Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date

Chalk this up for another win thanks to my library and blogger friend, Natalie. I was perusing my holds list one day when I saw that Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date by Katie Heaney was on my list. The mystery? I couldn't recall putting a hold on it! I discovered Natalie wanted to read it and decided to  have "me" request that the library purchase it. Fine by me! I had heard about this book on the interwebs and was intrigued. By the time it showed up, I was really looking forward to seeing what it was all about. It turns out all the praise I've been seeing was well worth it. It was such a fun read!

First though, I must say that this isn't going to be a book for everyone. I don't want to limit its reach but I feel like Heaney's book has a smaller reach than the average book. The majority of readers will be of a certain age (20-30), will be female, and will enjoy reading a memoir about someone else. I, and other millennials, fit right into the target demographic but anyone who thinks we really are the me generation should probably take a pass on this one.

I loved reading this book but I couldn't help but think...damn, I'm jealous of this girl! How did she get a book deal and I'm still sitting here writing on this little blog? I may have a long term boyfriend but she has a hell of a work ethic - something I lack. And I can't really be jealous of her. I'm happy that she, this person I've never met but feel like I could be besties with, managed to score this book deal and I wish her all the best. And maybe, just maybe, she's helped me see that I could do this too. Time for research, perhaps?

But back to the book. I adored how it was written. It was in a voice I was familiar with because my voice is quite similar. That helped me connect with Heaney even more, I think. It also helped that we're similar in age (from what I can tell she's a year older than I am), have similar interests, and are both super tall ladies (she says she's 5'11.5" and I'm 6'). We read the same books growing up (I don't know if I've ever met anyone who's read Bad Girls), had the same crush on JTT (and were both let down when we realized how short he is), and were both incredibly, painfully shy growing up. I love that Heaney let it all out and shared everything with us, total strangers. She's funny, smart, and seems like a genuinely awesome person.

If you think you can't enjoy this book if you're in a long term relationship, you're wrong. I've been with my boyfriend for almost nine years (holy crap) so it's been a long time since I've had a crush or had to deal with the "are we on a date or not" or "does he like me like I like him" type questions. It did remind me of what I was like in elementary and high school and I'm actually considering busting out my diaries from those years to see how ridiculous I really was. Who knows if that'll be a good idea! :)

If you're looking for a good memoir that's at times both laugh out loud funny and thought provoking, check out Never Have I Ever. I'm sure you'll wish Katie Heaney was your BFF, just like I do!