Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Still Need to Meet

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've been lucky enough to meet a lot of my favourite (or, er, used to be favourite) authors over the years: Sarah Dessen, Rainbow Rowell, Jennifer Weiner, too many amazing indie authors to name (ok, I'll try a few...Heather Wardell, Samantha Stroh Bailey, Lydia Laceby, Meredith Schorr, Samantha March, Cat Lavoie, Romi Moondi), Chantel Guertin, Marissa Stapley, Gayle Forman, Sarah Mlynowski, Joseph Boyden, L. Marie Adeline, K.A. Tucker, Emily Giffin...I could probably go on but those are some big ones. I'm also lucky that I don't live too far away from Toronto so I can get to the city to see the authors when they come to Canada. I'd say half of those authors were met in brief signing lines so I'd for sure love to spend more time with some of them. (I'm positive Sarah Dessen and I would be besties.) The authors I've listed below are some of my favourite authors, or at least have written some of my favourite books, and it'd be so awesome to meet them! Which authors would you love to meet? Which authors have you met?

All links, including for the authors above, lead to their Goodreads pages so you can check out what they've written.

Lindsey Kelk
I've read far fewer of Kelk's books than I'd like but social media makes it seem like she's super awesome.

Cecelia Ahern
I'd really like to hear, from her not from articles, more about her publishing journey as she was quite young when she was first published. Her books all have some romance and magical element and I'd love to see what she's like in person.

Beth Kendrick
I just love her books and think she'd be an awesome person to meet!

Sophie Kinsella
One of the queens of chick lit. Need I say more?

Catherine McKenzie
I love love love Catherine's books and have not been able to meet her yet. I've been tempted to arrange to (finally) visit Montreal just so I can go to an author event of hers. I think she's going to be at BEA though so maybe these two Canadians can finally meet...in America. :)

Sara Gruen
I'm kind of kicking myself for not looking into her travel schedule when her latest book, At the Water's Edge, was released as I believe there was a most excellent event in Toronto that I would have loved to have attended. Ah well!

Laura Chapman
Laura and I are virtual besties so one of these days she either has to travel to Ontario or I have to travel to Nebraska so we can get some serious hang out time in.

Stephanie Perkins
Would she not be just awesome in person?

J.K Rowling
Though I'm sure I'd be SUPER nervous and tongue tied and would make a complete fool out of myself.

Jenny Han
I've actually only read To All the Boys I've Loved Before but I adored it. I own the Summer series so maybe I'll tackle them this summer :)

Anna Garner (also goes by Libby Mercer)
I've emailed with her in the past and I really want to be able to meet her in person one of these days!

Lucie Simone
I sometimes read manuscripts for Lucie's small press, Simon & Fig, so we've had the chance to virtually get to know each other. She's a sweetie and I'd love to meet her face to face!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon: Mega Post

It's that time of year again, friends! It's the Dewey's 24 hour read-a-thon! As usual, the read-a-thon starts at 8am for me so I probably won't start until at least 9am. It's a Saturday, people. I want to sleep in a little bit! Truth: I'm actually writing this little intro on Friday night so on Saturday I can just get started on the opening meme and get the party started. I hope you have a great day and keep checking back to see what goodies I've posted.

Kicking things off, as usual, is the opening meme!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Today I'm reading from my little home in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. For those who have zero idea where that is, it's about 20 minutes away from Niagara Falls. 

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Confession: I do not have a stack. I'm kind of winging it. I do have a vague idea that I might (finally, finally!) read Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. I'm starting the day reading Good to Myself which is by one of my favourite authors, Heather Wardell.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? 
I need to pop out later today and I will just happen to be by a Marble Slab and I just happen to have a fully stamped card so I think I might treat myself to some ice cream! I'll also be having popcorn. It's one of my favourite snacks and I usually end up having it during the readathon. That and hard cider (though I think tonight it'll be wine!). 

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! 
I'm a month and three days away from being 28. Last year I spent my birthday in Australia (where I finally learned to like wine even though I live in a major wine region) and this year I'll spend it in New York City (BEA!). I own the cutest little rabbit named Tonks (she'll be three this fall!). I have zero idea what I want to be when I grow up but I'm working on it. I'm ridiculously tall (6') and love it (except when I'm trying to find clothes that fit). I'm a huge tea fan and the people who work at David's Tea know me well.

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 been participating in read-a-thons for a little while now and always have fun. I approach it with a totally open mind and just do what I can do. I know I always go to bed on Saturday with the idea that maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to get in an hour before the end of the read-a-thon but it never happens. And that's ok. Who wants to get up at 7am on a Sunday? I don't even want to get up at 7am on a workday! I'll read, I'll take part in challenges, I'll find new friends on Twitter, and I'll eat. It'll be great!

Mini-Challenge: Classic Words of Wisdom
Hosted by A Literary Odyssey

I knew as soon as I saw the challenge that I wanted the quote to be from the Anne of Green Gables series. I've been rereading them this year (best idea of 2015) and I'm remembering how lovely the series is. I chose this quote because I really adored Anne of the Island plus it's just so true. College or university doesn't teach you everything. It teaches you a lot, and not just the typical education, but you're always learning and finding life lessons. Learning doesn't stop after you graduate.
What are some of your favourite classic quotes?

Mini-Challenge: 4 Seasons, 4 Books
Hosted by Bart's Bookshelf

For this challenge we posted a picture (with the hashtag #minichallenge4S) that showed four books featuring covers or titles that represented each season.

I went a tad obvious for two, Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah and All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue. The seasons are right in the title! But the covers are very much representative of their respective seasons. Redesigning Rose by Lydia Laceby is my spring choice (gardening plays a big role in the book) and One Tiny Lie by K.A. Tucker is my choice for fall (just look at those colours!).

I have just finished my first book, Good to Myself by Heather Wardell. I adore Heather as an author and a person so I must admit I was feeling a little guilty because I hadn't read one of her books in so long. This one didn't disappoint and I'm really happy it coincided with the readathon! It's been a slow reading day since I got started late and had to pop out earlier. I signed up for an art class at Michaels as you could get 50% off if you signed up today - I'm going to learn how to make a metal stamped bracelet! And because it was so close to Marble Slab I just had to get some ice cream. I had a fully stamped card though so my ice cream, birthday cake with Crunch and Skor, was free. Yay! How's your reading been going? I'm finding I'm not doing as many challenges this time around as none of them are really speaking to me. Have you been taking part in any challenges? Well, time to get back to it. I'm really not sure what book I'm going to read next. The past month or so has been picking a book and reading it instead of working off a monthly list, which is what I usually do. It's kind of nice! Hm, and I think it's time for another cup of tea...and figuring out what to do for supper. It's almost 5:00pm here! Happy reading, all!

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
Four Seconds to Lose by K.A. Tucker. I. Am. Hooked.

2. How many books have you read so far?
I've only finished one and I'm about halfway through this one.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Like I said before, I have no plan! I have no idea what I'll read next. Or if I'll even start a third one.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
One major one when I had to go out. But I saved myself some money on signing up for a jewelry making class that I'm excited about and I got some ice cream so it really wasn't a big deal!

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
I'm not doing as many mini-challenges as I thought I would. I find that if I'm not immediately able to answer or do the challenge creatively, I don't bother. I want to be reading right now (which is why the massive pile of dishes in my kitchen is still there...) and don't want to put a ton of effort into a challenge that won't pay out with a good reward.

Update and End of Event Thoughts:
Well, this year's read-a-thon has come to a close! (Well, technically it ended almost three hours ago but I was still curled up in bed...it's Sunday!) I only finished two books but I'm totally fine with that. I do have a bit of a guilty feeling as I needed to do approximately five million other things other than read yesterday but it was nice to be reading when I knew so many others were doing the same. I read until about 1:00AM, which is later than I usually stay up. I wanted to get my book done and I had gotten distracted by wine, popcorn, the boyfriend coming home and watching Breaking Bad, the rabbit, the rat in the backyard that I named Porridge...ahem. Anyway! I spent the last half hour or so petting my rabbit with one hand and holding my book and turning the pages with the other. Hey, when Tonks wants to snuggle, I'll pet her! All in all, it was a good day. Could I have read more? Sure! But I'm happy with what I read and I hope you are too. There's no pressure with this event, it's all for fun. And fun I had! See ya in October, read-a-thon friends!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Authors

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.

Trying to come up with ten favourite authors is quite the daunting task, let me tell you. I had to include two sub-categories because, let's face it, it's pretty much impossible to come up with just ten. My process was to list the ones that came to me right off the top of my head and then went through my five star rated books on Goodreads. I also kind of love that every single author, all thirteen of them, are women. Sure, I've read some amazing books by male authors but there aren't any that are on my autobuy list (though Kevin Kwan comes close...I cannot wait until China Rich Girlfriend is released). It's also no surprise that many of the authors on this list are ones that I've met. Though, on the flip side, there's one author who I used to list on my favourites but I no longer will since I saw her in person. (Any guesses?) I'm sure I'm missing a few but these authors are always recommended and dearly loved. Who are your favourite authors? Which ones are on your autobuy list?

My Favourite Ladies
Sarah Dessen
No one should be surprised that Dessen tops my list. She is an amazing writer, I've loved her since I was in my teens, and she's just an absolute sweetheart. I'm counting down the days until Saint Anything is released!! Definitely an autobuy author.

Rainbow Rowell
I've loved both Rowell's adult and young adult books, which is important, but I also found her to be amazing in person when I met her a few years ago.

Jennifer Weiner
I've been reading Weiner for years and have always found her books smart and engaging. Meeting her last year cemented my love for her because she is one amazing woman.

Heather Wardell
Heather was one of the first indie authors I read and now, many years later, I consider her a friend. (Hopefully that's not presumptuous...) Not only does she write amazing novels but she is also great at connecting with her readers.

Meredith Schorr
I've loved all of Meredith's books and she's another author who I like to consider a friend (she's offered to make sure I don't get lost in NYC when I'm there for BEA next month...that's a friend!) She also wins a ton of points for writing an awesome book about a chick lit blogger, appropriately called Blogger Girl, that is one of my all time favourites.

K.A. Tucker
Tucker's stories completely suck me in. They have interesting characters who you're immediately invested in. Plus, when I met her at a signing last year she saw my name and knew what my Twitter and Instagram was (it helps that my name is so unique!). She's definitely my favourite New Adult author.

Gayle Forman
I first read Just One Day and Just One Year and fell in love with Forman's writing. The love sort of lessened when I read If I Stay and Where She Went. I just didn't connect with that story. I decided to try her latest, I Was Here, and fell in love all over again. I also met her at the Toronto International Book Fair last year and she was really nice!

Catherine McKenzie
McKenzie is on my autobuy list as well. She's written so many amazing novels, though Arranged is by far my favourite. I haven't met her yet but I'd absolutely love to.

Beth Kendrick
I fell in love with Kendrick's books when I read Second Time Around and have thoroughly enjoyed all of the others of hers that I've read. Happily, I still have a few from her backlist still to read to tide me over until she releases a new one.

Stephanie Perkins
I freaking love Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and Isla and the Happily Ever After. Plus, the book of short holiday stories she edited, My True Love Gave to Me, was absolutely amazing (plus it featured authors like Rowell and Forman). I like that Perkins seems so real and awesome. I'm looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Dearly Departed Authors
Lucy Maud Montgomery
I've been rereading the Anne of Green Gables series and I'm remembering how much I loved them when I was younger. The books and writing are just so delightful!

Jane Austen
I admit that it can sometimes be difficult to read Austen but her stories are intelligent and entertaining...she's a lot funnier than a lot of people give her credit for.

The Ultimate Queen of Authors
J.K. Rowling
Do I really need to explain this one? Harry Potter is my all time favourite and Rowling herself is one awesome lady.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: The Job

The Job is the third in the Fox and O'Hare series written by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg. I've enjoyed the series so far and this latest installment delivers more of what readers have come to expect from the books. It is a little darker than the previous books but, overall, it delivers an amusing mystery that's hard to put down.

Here's the synopsis:
Charming con man Nicolas Fox and dedicated FBI agent Kate O'Hare secretly take down world’s most-wanted and untouchable felons, next job Violante, the brutal leader of a global drug-smuggling empire. The FBI doesn’t know what he looks like, where he is, or how to find him, but Nick knows his tastes in gourmet chocolate.
From Nashville to Lisbon back alleys, from Istanbul rooftops to Thames, they chase clues to lookalike thefts. Pitted against a psychopathic bodyguard Reyna holding Kate hostage and a Portuguese enforcer getting advice from an ancestor's pickled head, they again call driver Willie for ship, actor Boyd for one-eyed Captain Bridger, special effects carpenter Tom, her father Jake - retired Special Forces, and his talent - machete-wielding Somali pirate Billy Dee. This could be their biggest job - if they survive. 
The bad guy in this book is a seriously violent individual - who has even scarier folks working for him. Because of this, there's a heightened sense of danger throughout this book. It's still fairly lighthearted and there are many amusing moments, but the potential for disaster and harm was always present for me. 

The puzzle that starts O'Hare and Fox off on this adventure was interesting. I definitely didn't see it coming and I enjoyed how it all came together at the end. Vague, isn't it? It can be hard to review a mystery novel...every clue is so important to the overall story!

Like the previous novels, Fox and O'Hare need to hire a bunch of individuals to pull off their con. This adds a bit of diversity and even more humour to the overall story. 

Overall, The Job is exactly what you'd expect from a humorous mystery series. You don't have to read the previous two books in the series but I do think I liked those ones better. Will I read the next one Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg write? Probably. This a fun series and I'll likely keep reading until I get bored!

*A copy of this novel was provided by Random House of Canada in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Review: The King's Curse

The King's Curse is Philippa Gregory's latest novel and the last in The Cousins' War series. And, if you can believe it, it is also the first book of hers I've ever read. I'm really interested in Tudor history but I just never found the time to pick up one of her novels before last fall.

Here's the synopsis:
Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter—Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret’s contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.
After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret’s world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and “holiest” woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors. 
This is a looong book, around 600 pages, which is both good and bad. It's good because Margaret's entire story could be told in detail. However, there were some parts where there wasn't anything significant happening and the story really dragged. I found myself flipping past those pages, wanting to get to the next interesting event.

I was really shocked about the ending. I shouldn't have been had I known or researched the particulars of this time period. I understand why it had to end like that but it was abrupt (and sort of weird) especially when you consider that The King's Curse is the final book in The Cousins' War series. I suppose I just expected things to either be wrapped up more than they were or for it to continue on until King Henry's reign was over.

Quick observation: I was super happy to have the family tree for this book. I also appreciated that Gregory continually updated it after members of the family died, were married, or had children.

I'm sure at some point I'll pick up another Gregory novel. Like I said, I enjoy the history of Tudor England. However...I'm unfortunately aware of some of the criticism surrounding her novels and her research. I went back and forth a bazillion times on whether I should include this in my review or not because I don't want to unnecessarily prejudice someone else, especially when I don't have specific references, but it's something that's bugged me and kept me from reading Gregory until now. I have no problem with some creative license when it comes to historical fiction because, well, it's in the name of the genre, isn't it? Historical fiction. But I still expect truth to be under entertaining dialogue and way the story is told. It bothers me when I can't be sure what I'm reading actually happened. Does anyone else feel this way about her novels? Or can provide some excellent interview or evidence that I shouldn't be so hard on her?

Long, rambling review short, I don't know if The King's Curse was the right Philippa Gregory novel for me to start with. I didn't find Margaret's story particularly riveting and I was more interested in other characters' stories. I think the best course of action for me is to find myself some excellent research books on Tudor England, arm myself with the actual facts, and then dive back into the historical fiction, particularly Gregory's. I think I may enjoy the embellishments more if I have all of the background information. If you've been reading The Cousins' War from the start, I'd say give this one a read. I think you'll appreciate seeing how Gregory ends the series.

*An advanced copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, Simon and Schuster Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review: Batter Up

When I first saw the title of Robyn Neeley's novel, I was intrigued. Batter Up...was it a baseball novel? It turns out it's not but what it is is a sweet, entertaining romance that has magic and, best of all, cake. What's not to love?

Here's the synopsis:
She mixes more than flour and sugar into her cake batter, and he’s about to find out if a little bit of magic is to his taste...
Bakeshop owner Emma Stevens has a secret — a delicious, slightly unorthodox secret. Each Monday, she mixes up a premonition to share with the bachelors of Buttermilk Falls, and sets one lucky man on the path to true love.
When reporter Jason Levine finds himself mixed up in a Las Vegas bachelorette party, he hears the strangest rumour: the marriage is happening thanks to magic cake batter. Seriously sceptical, and sick of frauds, Jason journeys to the backwater town of Buttermilk Falls to expose the baker and release the townspeople from her evil clutches.
But when Jason meets Emma, tempers flare and sparks fly. Will Jason cling to his logic at the expense of a future, or will he let himself fall under Emma’s spell?
I was telling someone about this book as I was reading it and as I was explaining it I realized it sounds completely hokey. Magic cake batter? But the beauty of this story is that it totally works. I liked that the magic added a fresh element to an otherwise simple (but in the best way) romance story. I also liked that the magic was a bit of a mystery, even to Emma.

I've said it before and I'll say it again...I love novels, romances especially, that take place in a small town. I like the quirky characters you get to meet and that everyone is in everyone else's business. How else would anyone get together if it weren't for meddlesome neighbours? They also seem to have the most fun events, like a bachelor auction for a good cause!

The romance is, as you may expect, quite predictable in that you know Emma and Jason are going to get together. That's the way of the genre! They have their ups and downs and miscommunications and sparks fly, and all get a happily ever after. But, to me, the formulaic romance doesn't matter because Neeley manages to keep things fresh and interesting. I didn't know exactly what was going to happen and she kept me rooting for the couple all the way through. In my mind, that makes a great romance novel.

If you like your romance with a dash of magic, Batter Up is definitely a book for you to read. It won't take you long, it's a novella, so it's an absolute perfect read for a rainy weekend afternoon. Or any time, really! I really enjoyed Robyn Neeley's book and can't wait to see what she writes next.

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Escape Publishing, via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: New Uses for Old Boyfriends

I love Beth Kendrick and I'm always so excited when she publishes a new book. It should be no surprise then that I jumped at the chance to read her latest novel, New Uses For Old Boyfriends. The book was good and I enjoyed reading it...but...I found it a little lacking.

Here's the synopsis:
After growing up in privilege and marrying into money, Lila Alders has gotten used to the good life. But when her happily-ever-after implodes, Lila must return to Black Dog Bay, the tiny seaside town where she grew up. She’s desperate for a safe haven, but everything has changed over the past ten years. Her family’s fortune is gone—and her mother is in total denial. It’s up to Lila to take care of everything...but she can barely take care of herself.
The former golden girl of Black Dog Bay struggles to reinvent herself by opening a vintage clothing boutique. But even as Lila finds new purpose for outdated dresses and tries to reunite with her ex, she realizes that sometimes it’s too late for old dreams. She’s lost everything she thought she needed but found something—someone—she desperately wants. A boy she hardly noticed has grown up into a man she can’t forget...and a second chance has never felt so much like first love.
I think one of my issues is that I found the characters to be somewhat two dimensional. Or maybe I just didn't get the connection I wanted with them. For example, Daphne, Lila's mom, drove me up the wall. I completely understand that she's been dealt a really hard hand in life but she wouldn't listen to her own daughter, who she seems quite close with. To be fair, this made Daphne's eventually transformation even more awesome. Not to give too much away, but she really shines once she finds her new path in life and gets her spark back.

This isn't the first time Kendrick has set a book in Black Dog Bay. A lot of the characters from Cure for the Common Breakup (my review is here) pop up in this story too. To carry on the previous character discussion, I felt like too many previous characters showed up and that took away from really getting to know Lila and Malcolm. Sure, I loved finding out what Summer and Ingrid were up to but, for example, Ingrid was such a secondary character and she shone far more than Malcolm, one of the love interests, did. 

All that being said...I did like the book. I liked that the romance wasn't totally obvious and I really enjoyed seeing how Lila and Daphne grew as women. They had a lot of really tough stuff to deal with and they did it with class - not everyone would be able to do that. It was also fun to get a bit of a crash course in couture fashion history. Kendrick did a good job of sharing information without overloading the reader with unnecessary facts. 

Maybe my expectations were too high for New Uses for Old Boyfriends. I do expect "ohmygod, I love this book to infinity and beyond" feelings when I dive into a new Beth Kendrick novel. Do I wish I had loved it more? Absolutely. Do I still think you should read it? Yep! This is a sweet novel, with depth!, that takes place in a small town everyone will want to visit. While it can stand on its own, I would recommend reading Cure for the Common Breakup first so you can get to know the characters and the town from the beginning.

*A copy of this book was provided by BookSparks via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*