Monday, January 30, 2017

Blog Tour: Juliet's Answer

I'm not a Shakespeare fan. I never really enjoyed it when we had to read one of his plays in high school English class (except the time we had to make up a scene for Macbeth and my friends and I decided that the three witches got their prophecies from fortune cookies). I don't remember anything beyond the highlights of Romeo and Juliet. I hardly recall the Leo and Claire adaptation, to be honest. But something about Glenn Dixon's new memoir intrigued me. And once I started reading Juliet's Answer, I could hardly put it down.

Here's what this memoir is about:
Eat, Pray, Love (from a man’s perspective) meets Under the Tuscan Sun—a fresh, heartwarming story about a man who travels to Verona, where he answers letters addressed to Shakespeare’s Juliet, all in an attempt to understand heartbreak, to heal and to find love again.
In fair Verona where we lay our scene…When Glenn Dixon is spurned by love, he does something unusual. He travels to Verona, Italy, to become a scribe of Juliet, Shakespeare’s fictional character, all in an attempt to understand his heartbreak. Once there, he volunteers to answer the thousands of letters that arrive addressed to Juliet, letters sent from lovelorn people all over the world who long to understand the mysteries of the human heart.
Glenn’s journey takes him deep into the charming community of Verona, where he learns the traditions of the townspeople and becomes involved in unravelling the truth behind Romeo and Juliet—Did these star-crossed lovers actually exist? Did they live in Verona? Why have they remained at the forefront of hearts and minds for centuries? And what can they teach us about love? At the same time, we learn about Claire, Glenn’s unrequited love, the source of his heartbreak. Was she truly his soul’s match, or was she, like Rosalind in Shakespeare’s classic play, a mere infatuation who pales in comparison the moment his real Juliet enters his life?
When Glenn returns home to Canada and resumes his duties as a Grade 10 English teacher, he undertakes a lively reading of Romeo and Juliet with his students, engaging them in passions past and present. But in an intriguing reversal of fate and fortune, his students—along with an old friend—instruct the teacher on the true meaning of love, loss, and moving on.
An enthralling tale of modern-day love steeped in the romantic traditions of eras past, this is a memoir that will warm your heart.
I, like many other chick flick lovers, watched and enjoyed the 2010 Amanda Seyfried film, Letters to Juliet. That was the first time I remember hearing of Juliet's house and the letters people (mostly women) write to her. The movie barely scratched the surface of Juliet's secretaries. In fact, Juliet's Answer probably could have gone more in depth. But it's fine, almost better, that Dixon didn't because then it'd be more of a research book and less of a memoir. But Dixon gave me a much better idea of what it's like to be one of Juliet's secretaries. The idea that so many people write to a fictional character with their love problems is both heartbreaking and romantic. And that there are people who write back to those who leave a mailing address? That letter won't change the world but that response means the world to someone. 

Here's a true testament to how enthralled I was with this book. I started reading it just after the same time I got really sick. I took it with me on day 3 of a sore throat to the walk in clinic where I had to wait an hour and a half to have a doctor confirm my self-diagnosis of strep throat within about thirty seconds of examining me. Brutal and "poor little ol' me", I know :) But the time almost flew by as I kept my nose in the book and tried not to breathe on anyone. I was transported to Italy and Glenn's world as I sat on an extremely uncomfortable chair. If that doesn't say "engaging", I don't know what does.

I'm so intrigued by the fact that Romeo and Juliet may have actually existed. Had anyone else heard that before? Because I most certainly hadn't.

I think Dixon found a great balance of facts and personal experience. I really enjoyed how he put together his experience in Verona with what was happening with his love life back at home in Canada. Just one or the other wouldn't have been as engaging but weaving it together the way he did made for a great and interesting read.

And that cover? Between that and the way Dixon wrote about Verona I want to jump on a plane to Italy immediately. 

Juliet's Answer is a fairly quick and easy read but it's one that will stick with you for awhile. Glenn Dixon has written an absolutely lovely memoir that allows you into his past and his life while also educating you on a play you thought you knew. 

Now, as a bonus for my blog tour stop, here's a piece on "The Science of Love" from Glenn Dixon. Enjoy!

While writing my book, Juliet’s Answer, I looked at a lot of the research on love and much of it came down to this: love is not one single thing.  Many of the experts agree that there are at least three separate but related facets to what we might call true love, and interestingly, each facet has its own individual brain chemistry.
            The first and most obvious aspect of love is sexual attraction. It’s no surprise that this biological system is almost entirely controlled by the hormone testosterone, in both males and females. Of course, we all know that there more to love than sex, but we must admit that it’s a big part of it.
            The second facet of love in what is sometimes called the triangular theory of love is called intimacy. It’s includes touch, cuddling and hugging and kissing but it’s much more than that. This element of love also involves trust, it involves being able to share your dreams and your deepest secrets with the person you are with.  These connections are strengthened and controlled by the familiar neurotransmitters of serotonin and dopamine which light up the reward centers in our brains. A look can be enough, a gentle word or the warmth of your lover’s hand in yours.
The third facet of love is the most interesting. It is sometimes called commitment.  A wealth of research shows that there is an expiry date on the first two facets of love, a period many researchers peg at about four years. This is a part of the theory of evolutionary psychology –  the four year period being the span of time needed to bring a pregnancy to full term and then raise that child to the point where the little he or she can walk and talk and basically function in the world.  This, or so the research claims, defines an ‘window’ for many relationships, whether or not a child has been conceived.  But the third facet of love goes beyond this simple time frame. For the lucky few, love can last much longer, even an entire lifetime.  It is a matter of wanting to, a conscious decision that your life is the better for it.  It’s associated with a remarkable neuro-hormone called oxytocin.  This is the same chemical that causes goslings to imprint on the mother goose, it’s the same hormone that bonds a mother to her newborn baby and if you ever see an elderly couple walking hand in hand after all those many years, you can be sure that it is washing through their happy brains.
All these neuro-hormones and their associated neural pathways form the chemical moons that pull at the tides of love.  It’s complex of course but in this sense we are all, like Romeo and Juliet, star crossed, our fates sealed by our very own biology.

*An ARC was provided by the publisher, Simon and Schuster Canada, in exchange for a review for this blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Friday, January 13, 2017

Cover Reveal: Rocked Up

It shouldn't be a secret that I adore Karina Halle's contemporary novels. I was so excited and intrigued when I learned she had written a novel with her husband, Scott Mackenzie! (As they say in their author bio for this book, it's like her novel Smut come to life! And if you haven't read Smut, you should.) Rocked Up is set to be released on April 12th.

Here's what the novel is about:
Rocked Up is a STANDALONE rockstar romantic comedy and the fun and sexy brainchild of New York Times bestselling author Karina Halle and her husband Scott Mackenzie.
I have been watching him since I was a child.
He didn't notice me back then and it didn't matter. Brad Snyder, guitarist and singer for one of the world's greatest bands, was my entire life.
My father, the CEO of Ramsey Records, takes credit for all of Brad's success, trying to control him in the same way he's controlled me.
But I finally get an opportunity to prove myself.
To be wild.
To be free.
Today I'm auditioning to be the replacement bass player for Brad's band. If I get the job, I'll go on tour and work with Brad every day, in very close proximity.
There's only one rule: he's not allowed to touch the boss's daughter.
Remember when I said that Brad never used to notice little ol' me?
Well, Brad's noticing me now.
In a way that's going to get us both in trouble.
My name is Lael Ramsey and we all know how this will turn out.
Doesn't that sound great?

Hang Le has designed many of Halle's covers in the past and I adore her work. Ready to see her latest work? You bet you are!

I'll admit that I hadn't realized the play on words until I saw the pregnancy test on the cover. Knocked up, rocked up. It makes me even more intrigued about this book - and I hope you are too!

Author Bio:
Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Smut, The Artists Trilogy, Heat Wave and over 20 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her rescue pup and her husband Scott Mackenzie, who co-wrote Rocked Up with her. That's right. It's like the book SMUT come to life! This is their first venture as a writing team. A lot of music was played. A lot of laughs were had. A lot of sex was...put in the book!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

7th Annual End of Year Survey

It's that time of year again! Time for the End of Year Book Survey, courtesy of Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner! To be honest, it's past that time of year. But that's ok! I'm still going to post my answers. How was your reading life in 2016? Links will lead to Goodreads (but only the first time I mention the book/author) or, if noted, to my review.

Number Of Books You Read: 103
Number of Re-Reads: 8
Genre You Read The Most From: Adult Contemporary (fiction, chick lit, romance, and so on)

Best in Books 

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?
You can’t expect me to pick just one, right?
Best Reread: Arranged – Catherine McKenzie
Best (Romantic) Suspense: He Will Be My Ruin – KA Tucker (review here)
Best (Adult) Contemporary: Poles Apart – Terry Fallis
Best YA: The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson
(Fun fact: almost all of those authors are Canadian!)

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
First Comes Love by Emily Giffin. I’ve been a Giffin fan for years but I just didn’t love this one, even though many others did.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
It wasn’t so much the book itself that was surprising but the subject matter, which was based on truth. In The German Girl, by Armando Lucas Correa, it’s 1939 and a ship full of Jewish refugees was turned away in Cuba, the USA, and Canada before being forced to head back to Europe. Some people were allowed off and the novel focuses on a fictional girl who stays in Cuba with her pregnant mother but her father is not allowed off the ship. He, like many others, dies in a camp in Europe. I didn’t love love love the book but it made me realize how many stories I just don’t know from history.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
I reread Arranged by Catherine McKenzie this year because my book club decided to read it (yes, with my urging) and it’s one I’ve pushed on many people over the years.

5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?
I finally read All Lined Up by Cora Carmack and loved it. I wish my library had the books because I definitely can’t afford to buy the rest of them! 
I also freaking loved Sarah Morgan’s series From Manhattan with Love. A definite must for romance lovers. 

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?
Karma Brown. I actually came across her in a way that’s fairly normal for others but not for me. A co-worker was given her book and because she doesn’t read, she passed it off to me. See the blogging life category further down for more on Karma!

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
Literary fiction is not usually my jam but I freaking loved The Hidden Keys by Andre Alexis (he won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2015 for Fifteen Dogs…which is also very good.)

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
He Will Be My Ruin by KA Tucker. I love her writing anyway but she wrote such a suspenseful book that I just could not read fast enough.

9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Arranged was a re-read and I’m likely to re-read that one as it’s one of my all-time favourites. I also imagine I’ll reread the Lucy Maud Montgomery books I read this year. But will any of those get read in 2017? Unlikely.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?
The Regulars by Georgia Clark

11. Most memorable character of 2016?
Most of the characters from We’re All in this Together by Amy Jones were pretty memorable but I think I’ll have to choose Georgia Nicolson from Louise Rennison’s series. I read these back in high school and a blogger friend and I reread them after Rennison’s death earlier this year. Georgia is a bit ridiculous and has so much growing up to do but she definitely qualifies as memorable!

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?
Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery.   

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?
Either The Break Katherna Vermette or The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall. Both are must reads.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I know. I had it on my shelf but it took the movie and going to a (very very quick) signing for me to finally read this one.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?
So many parts of Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy had me laughing so hard I was in tears or nodding because I totally understood what she meant. This one is one of the funny ones.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?
Longest: The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson (Goodreads says 519 pages)
Shortest: Winter Wishes – Karina Halle (Goodreads says 87 pages – it’s a novella)

17. Book That Shocked You The Most
While I read many shocking stories this year, most of them had expected shocking moments. Finding out who the killer is, if the father and pillar of the community really was guilty of sexual abuse, who it really was who raped a young girl (oh yeah, I read some really light books this year)…those are all things you expect to find out through the course of a gripping, suspenseful novel. But I had a literal jaw drop moment when I read Karen Swan’s latest book, of all things. Christmas Under theStars had a few more twists than I had anticipated and I think I was more shocked because I figured out one revelation and then, bam, Swan surprised me with another.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)
Georgia and Dave the Laugh from Louise Rennison’s series.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
The friendship between Hannah and Kate in Karma Brown’s The Choices We Make is one of the strongest and best I’ve ever read. 

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
He Will Be My Ruin by KA Tucker

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
I kind of wanted to read it anyway but all the press about The Nest made me look forward to the book. End result? Meh. I do not see what the fuss is about.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?
Blake Crawford from Karina Halle’s Smut. Blake is British, smart, funny (sometimes more on the dry wit and sarcastic side), and good-looking. Sign me up. Plus – Halle’s muse was Sam Claflin. Yum.

23. Best 2016 debut you read?
Technically Amy Jones has been published before but We’re All in This Together is her first novel (and it’s delightful). Also a stretch because it’s not her first book but it is her first novel, The Break by Katherena Vermette. Although, I did read Karma Brown’s debut novel, Come Away With Me, this year even though this wasn’t the year she published it.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
The Break takes place in Winnipeg, which is a real place and wouldn’t necessarily need a lot of “worldbuilding” but in order for the story to work, Vermette had to paint a picture of what it’s like to live as a Native Canadian. She did and it’s a total gut punch. And a must read.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
I read a lot of books that are on the lighter side so they have funny and sweet moments throughout so, I think I’ll go with Hot Dudes Reading because, hello.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?
Raise your hand if you’re surprised that it was Me Before You.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
Pretty much anything by Karina Halle but Smut and Heat Wave in particular.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover. Read it.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?
I really enjoyed Don’t I Know You? by Marni Jackson. It’s a book of short stories that follow a woman from 16 to 60 as she has the most random encounters with celebrities in her everyday life. You have to suspend your belief a little bit but once you do, it all works and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. Notable celebrity mentions: Leonard Cohen, Taylor Swift, Keith Richards, Meryl Streep, and Bob Dylan.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
I had an ARC that infuriated me but some of the issues did get resolved so my pick is Falling by Jane Green. It was infuriating and I think tried a little too hard to be like other popular books.

Your Blogging/Bookish Life

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016?
Every year I say, “Kaley, make sure you write down which new blogs you’ve discovered otherwise you’ll forget when it’s time to do the end of year survey” and every year I forget. So, I’m going to promo for a friend (who has no idea that I’m going to hehe) Rattle the Stars belongs to a girl I went to university with. She’s just about to celebrate her first blogoversary (so I guess, technically, I did discover it in 2016 lol).

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016?
I’m going to go with my review of Hot Dudes Reading because the book and review meant staring at hot dudes who were reading. You cannot go wrong with that.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
2016 was my sixth blogoversary, can you believe it? I kind of let it all out in a post celebrating that and I’m glad. We always talk about being yourself and blogging the way you want to blog so I kind of just talked about everything that was good and bad and in between with blogging over the last year.

4. Best event that you participated in?
I finally read Me Before You this year and adored it. I heard Jojo Moyes would be in Toronto (about 1.5 hours away from me) for a signing so made plans to go. It was a bit of a clusterfuck getting there as I didn’t realize until close to the event that it was just a signing, and a fast one at that, and realized the day before that it was at a different Indigo than I thought. I almost didn’t go but having the chance to hang out with Jess from Paper Trail Diary was too good of a chance to pass up. Fast forward to the day of and having to drive into Toronto (shudder) and almost not finding the store and having to buy new copies of the book for Jess and myself because of their stupid rules and not being able to hear any of the Q&A before the signing, we got our copies of Me Before You signed by the lovely Moyes. That doesn’t sound like much fun, right? Well, you’re right. But because of who I was standing with (Terri from Read and Riot), we all got passes to see the movie Me Before You that night – about two weeks before it was released in theatres. VIP theatre (my first experience), free popcorn, water (or pop), magazine, and Kleenex (and yes, it was necessary). It was so much fun and I was so glad I made the trek into the city for the signing!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?
As I mentioned earlier, Karma Brown was a new to me author in 2016. I saw an event coming up where Karma was being interviewed by another author I knew and liked (Marissa Stapley) so I devoured her first book (Come Away with Me, the one I was given) and bought the second (The Choices We Make) at the event. It was a great event – two smart women talking about books and publishing! – and I had a chance to hang out with my Toronto author friend Samantha Stroh Bailey and bumped into author Chantel Guertin too! But that wasn’t the best part of my year with Karma and her books. My book club decided to read Come Away with Me so I tweeted at Karma to tell her that. She ended up coming to our meeting! It was an excellent night and almost everyone in my club was engaged and asked questions. We kept Karma for almost two hours (sorry about that…) but it was a fantastic evening.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
Fitting in time to blog and being inspired to write were my biggest challenges. I got a lot of reading in but just did not feel like sitting down to write the reviews. Sigh.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
My post on my blogoversary was well loved (thanks, guys!) but my review of The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson was a popular one, too!

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
I think everyone needs to read Karina Halle and everyone can because she has something in pretty much every genre. I reviewed a couple of hers this year, and read a few more, but I don’t think enough readers know about her. If you’re a fan of KA Tucker or Colleen Hoover, you should really read Halle.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
Hamilton Review of Books (not to be confused with the musical…I live near Hamilton the city) just started up a month or so ago and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with next. The Penguin Shop in Toronto opened this year but I have yet to visit (they’re only open during the week and I’m never in Toronto during the week or, if I am, it’s after the store has closed). Finally, I discovered FirstEdition Tea and have even bought some…I just haven’t tried it yet. Oops. Their packaging is just so fun!

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I had decided to make my reading goal 75 because I was hopeful I would eventually work full time and would therefore have less time to read. I did get full time but I also managed to read 103 books.
I also reread all of the Georgia Nicolson books with Jessica from Paper Trail Diary. It was a mission and a half (and we may have regretted our decision partway through the year) but we stuck with it. It was really interesting to read YA books from when we were teens and compare them to what teens are reading these days. Let me just say, thank goodness some things are changing.

Looking Ahead
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I bought it the day it released (the actual day time…I didn’t do the midnight release) and because of magazine deadlines and other books and life, I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?
Once and For All by Sarah Dessen (my all-time favourite author!) and Until it Fades by KA Tucker. Oh and Things to Do When It’s Raining by Marissa Stapley! And for a non-fiction choice, Baseball Life Advice by Stacey May Fowles (It looks like Goodreads hasn't updated the listing for the book yet with the right title or new cover but that's the book! You can see the cover here).

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
This is one of the hardest questions to answer! I’m so bad at knowing what debuts are coming, plus I always find it’s YA debuts that are talked about most in the blogosphere. Not helpful for me. (Even if answers for 2 and 4 make you think otherwise haha)
I did find one article on the interwebs that included The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell. I have no idea if I’ll get to it this year or not, but it sounds intriguing and it’s her first novel.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017?
Always and Forever, Lara Jean (SO EXCITED) by Jenny Han and The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie (that one will be my first read of the year!).

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?
Other than recommitting and blogging more, I really really really want to finally redesign my site. There’s so much work involved (design, hosting, etc etc etc) that I’ve been putting it off for awhile now.

6. A 2017 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:
I beta-read one upcoming novel which I’m really excited about but you’ll just have to wait to hear more about that one.

I did finish Juliet’s Answer: One Man’s Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for Heartbreak by Glenn Dixon, which releases later this month, and it was delightful.