Thursday, November 17, 2016

Review: Heat Wave

Karina Halle is, by far, one of my favourite contemporary authors. I'll read pretty much anything she writes and was thrilled when I heard what Halle's latest novel, Heat Wave, was all about. The good news was the story lived up to the synopsis!

Speaking of the synopsis, here's what this new novel is all about:
They say when life closes one door, another one opens.This door happens to lead to paradise.And a man I can never, ever have. Still grieving the loss of her sister who died two years ago, the last thing Veronica "Ronnie" Locke needed was to lose her job at one of Chicago’s finest restaurants and have to move back in with her parents. So when a window of opportunity opens for her – running a kitchen at a small Hawaiian hotel – she’d be crazy not to take it. The only problem is, the man running the hotel drives her crazy:Logan Shephard.It doesn’t matter that he’s got dark brown eyes, a tall, muscular build that’s sculpted from daily surfing sessions, and a deep Australian accent that makes your toes curl.What does matter is that he’s a grump.Kind of an asshole, too.And gets under Ronnie’s skin like no one else. But the more time Ronnie spends on the island of Kauai, falling in love with the lush land and its carefree lifestyle, the closer she gets to Logan. And the closer she gets to Logan, the more she realizes she may have pegged him all wrong. Maybe it’s the hot, steamy jungles or the invigorating ocean air, but soon their relationship becomes utterly intoxicating. There’s just one major catch. The two of them together would incite a scandal neither Ronnie, nor her family, would ever recover from. Forbidden, Illicit, off-limits – sometimes the heat is worth surrendering to, even if you get burned.
My absolute favourite thing about Halle's books is she features such real and flawed characters. Too many novels are all about pretty much perfect characters and that's kind of boring. Halle's characters have deep issues they need to work out over the course of the novel. 

Those flaws and issues make for a totally heart-wrenching read - especially in the case of Heat Wave. I don't usually enjoy feeling anxious (who does?) but the emotions I was feeling mirrored the characters' and that made my reading so much better. Halle does such an amazing job of really making you feel what her characters are feeling.

I've always wanted to go to Hawaii and this book did not help my wanderlust! :) Hawaii and Moonwater are almost other characters in this novel. I loved picturing where the characters were and it didn't matter that I've never been to Hawaii. Halle sets the stage so well so I really did feel like I was there with Veronica and Logan and the rest of the Moonwater crew. Speaking of the Moonwater crew...I adored the whole idea of making your own family. The group at the hotel were so great. They really were ohana.

I can't end a review about a Halle novel without discussing the romantic relationship. She's written steamy scenes before but, holy monkey, I don't think I've read anything that steamy from her before. *fans self* Of course, the relationship between Veronica and Logan is more than just sex and Halle is able to make the reader see what it is that makes the pair drawn to each other despite the massive obstacles in their way.

Overall, Heat Wave was a fantastic read. I'd definitely recommend it to every contemporary reader - especially those who love books set in travel destinations. Read it! Meanwhile, I'll be over here not-so-patiently waiting for Karina Halle's next novel!

*An eARC of this novel was provided by the author and publicist in exchange for an honest review as part of a blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

On Blogging for Six Years

It still hasn't really hit me that today is my sixth blogiversary. Maybe because blogging is such a part of my life that it doesn't register that I've been doing it for so long. Or maybe it's because I haven't been a very good blogger over the past year. Or maybe it's because I tend to want to skip over November...usually it's crummy weather and there isn't much going on in Canada except snow prep and Remembrance Day. But no matter what the reason my anniversary snuck up on me actually is, the fact remains that on this day in 2010 I hit publish on my first Books Etc. post. And that is still so crazy to me.

The past year has been really great and really hard all at the same time. Last year's blogiversary post was scheduled well in advance because I was busy cruising on the ship my sister was working on. Coming back from that vacation set in motion a crazy few months (or year, actually...). I came home to a broken laptop and it took ages to get it sorted out. Being a blogger without a laptop is pretty much impossible. With the Christmas season came a third job as I worked at David's Tea throughout the holiday (I love the company which helped as I gradually began to remember how hellish working in retail at Christmas is) on top of my office job at a souvenir shop and a local library. 2016 brought two of those jobs to an end but I did get full time at the souvenir store in March. Finally! But summer is crazy busy where I work (Niagara Falls) so I felt like I didn't have any time to breathe let alone write. I also review books for a magazine which gets me a bit of extra money but also means about 12 books a year are dedicated to Niagara Life and not Books Etc. Add in visiting the gym as much as possible to make sure my back doesn't get messed up again, weddings, vacations, binge watching various TV shows (Gilmore Girls, baby!!!), and trying to spend time with friends and family, and, well, blogging has took a very sad back seat.

Are these excuses for not blogging nearly enough over the last year? A little bit. I get frustrated at myself almost every day for not taking the time to sit my ass down and write some reviews. I have been reading a lot - I've read 87 books in 2016 so far and read 110 in 2015. Doing cardio on a recumbent bike is super helpful for my back and reading time! It's just putting the time into writing about those books that seems to be hard. I don't know if it's because my brain is so tired by the time I get home from work and the gym that I just want to spend the three-ish hours I have left in my day doing nothing (along with eating and showering and looking after my rabbit). I haven't been able to find that groove of working full time and blogging, if I ever had it to begin with.

One of the things I've been struggling with when it comes to my lack of blogging is how it affects my relationships with publishers and authors. It's not good. I've finally managed to cut down on the number of books I request but that also means a few months could go by when I don't ask for anything from a certain publisher. Have I completely dropped off their radars? I used to have an amazing relationship with one publisher but over the last three years it's been harder and harder to keep a relationship going due to turnover there. And forget face to face events because I never get invited to them any more. (Indulge my "poor me" stories for a bit, ok?) I live just over an hour outside of Toronto. It's easy to get to but I have to really want to make the effort and spend the money to get there. A launch for a book I only kinda want to read or haven't had time to get to yet won't be something I make that effort for. A preview for the upcoming season? Hells yes, I'd go into the city for that. The really insecure part of me sometimes wonders if no one thinks my blog is any good and I suck as a blogger and I'm so rude for not reviewing books on time. (I get it publishers - trust me. I am so mad at myself.) But the other part wonders if it's as simple as they don't invite anyone outside of a certain geographical area. It can be kind of lonely being a book blogger in Niagara these days.

And all of these crazy thoughts don't even include what's happening with book blogging in general. There always seems to be some kind of drama unfolding on social media but it's usually involving the YA side of things which I'm not involved in (and which I sometimes think is why my blog isn't "bigger" than it is). I don't like getting into the drama online so I stay the hell out of it. There are almost always very valid points but they get lost in the knee-jerk reaction tweets that can sometimes make bloggers look petty and unintelligent. (Related: I'm hoping like hell I'm not coming off that way in this rambling post!)

I'm hoping today's blogiversary is the kick in the ass I need to finally get around to writing long overdue reviews and maybe, just maybe, completely overhauling the blog. Books will be the main thing of course (they're my most favourite thing and since I apparently can't find a paying job that allows me to play with them all day, I have to have the blog!) but I'm thinking of expanding a bit. Of course this means research into hosting and designs and budgeting but it's something I've wanted to do for awhile now. A refresh is in order, I think. (And tips are so very welcome!)

Thank you for sticking around until the end of this post and for reading my reviews over the years. I know I am incredibly lucky to be a book blogger and it is so much fun to read books and then flail about them (or, on the rare occasion I hate a book, warn people off it) here and on social media. I'm going to continue reading what I love even if they are genres that get slammed all the time (women's fiction, romance, chick lit, anything contemporary that's not YA) and I will really try to not be bothered that some other blog is getting more books/more invites/more anything because, hello, we're not in high school any more and blogging really shouldn't be a popularity contest. There are enough of us out there (and yes, maybe there are too many of us) that we should embrace what we really love because that will come out in our writing. Again, thank you. And happy reading!