Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Lily and the Octopus


I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting when I started Lily and the Octopus. I had heard amazing things so I thought I'd give it a try. But...I'm still not entirely sure what I got with Steven Rowley's novel.

Here's the synopsis:
Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of Pi, Lily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart.
When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.
The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details.
We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.
For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog.
Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.
Remember the last book you told someone they had to read?
Lily and the Octopus is the next one.
I'm going to go against the synopsis and give you a bit more background on the story. Lily has been Ted's dog for many years and one day he realizes there's something growing on her head. Ted decides that that something is an octopus. I think he knows, deep down, that it's a tumor and Lily is therefore very sick. What follows is a story that is sweet and heartbreaking all at once.

So that magic the synopsis alludes to? It took the reader on a bizarre adventure on the high seas and that is when Rowley completely lost me. I love a good magic realism book but when I'm not expecting something like that and when I wasn't as invested with the story to begin with...well...it doesn't help my enjoyment. 

I can't pinpoint what, exactly, my issue was with this novel. It wasn't a bad book. It was written well. I just don't think the subject matter resonated with me and I think it needed to for the reader to fully enjoy the novel.

I do have to say that I love the idea of being able to have actual conversations with our pets. And the opening? That Thursdays are for talking about boys Ted and Lily think are cute? Love. (Ted is a Ryan Gosling fan while Lily is Team Ryan Reynolds.)

Lily and the Octopus really was a sweet novel. I think it might resonate more with dog owners. I have a rabbit and I'd be devastated if an "octopus" moved in with us. Many, many other people absolutely adored Steven Rowley's novel so don't just take my (oh so very lukewarm) thoughts on it.

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: Hungry Heart


Jennifer Weiner has long been a favourite author of mine. I was able to see her when she was in Toronto a few years back and she was so nice and real. Because I find her to be an overall excellent human, I was so excited to read Hungry Heart, Weiner’s first non-fiction book.

Here’s the description of her book of essays:
Jennifer Weiner is many things: a bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and an “unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter, and a sister; a former rower and current cyclist; a best friend and a reality TV junkie. In her first foray into nonfiction, she takes the raw stuff of her personal life and spins into a collection of essays on modern womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Tina Fey, Fran Lebowitz, and Nora Ephron.
Jennifer grew up as an outsider in her picturesque Connecticut hometown (“a Lane Bryant outtake in an Abercrombie & Fitch photo shoot”) and at her Ivy League college, but finally found her people in newsrooms in central Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, and her voice as a novelist, activist, and New York Times columnist.
No subject is off-limits in this intimate and honest essay collection: sex, weight, envy, money, her mom’s newfound lesbianism, and her estranged father’s death. From lonely adolescence to modern childbirth to hearing her six-year-old daughter’s use of the f-word—fat­­—for the first time, Jennifer Weiner goes there, with the wit and candor that have endeared her to readers all over the world.
By turns hilarious and deeply touching, this collection shows that the woman behind treasured novels like Good in Bed and Best Friends Forever is every bit as winning, smart, and honest in real life as she is in her fiction.
I’ve met a few authors who just don’t give off an accessible sort of vibe but Weiner is so genuine. That personality comes through in the book and you really feel like she's just chatting with you and telling you, and only you, her stories. 

Side note: if you watch The Bachelor(ette), make sure you follow Weiner on Twitter. I'm guilty of hate-watching the show (though I've skipped the current season...Nick drove me bonkers so I couldn't bring myself to watch it) and I find that many of the things my friends and I are thinking and saying are what Weiner is tweeting. Funny, insightful, and sometimes cringe-worthy, they're definitely a must for any fan (or "fan") of the franchise. 

I love how passionate Weiner is about feminism and, in particular, discussing and bringing attention to inequality with book reviews. The issue is, basically, if you look at any major publications that review books, you'll see that women authors just aren’t getting reviewed as often. And when they are, it's not usually for commercial fiction but, meanwhile, genre fiction for men is often reviewed. I think I was expecting even more about this issue in the book and was a little let down that she didn't tackle it as much as I thought she might. She has written other articles about the issue so I encourage you to look them up.

When I finished Hungry Heart, I found I wanted more. I imagine Weiner had many more stories to share but only so many could make it into the book, which is too bad. So many stories, so few pages to share them in. I guess I'm just greedy!

I also wish there had been more present day stories and anecdotes. I loved finding out what Weiner's childhood was like and how it shaped her as a woman and an author but I found I wanted to know more about how she's living her life now and what she thinks of even more current events.

If you're a fan of Jennifer Weiner's novels, you're going to want to read Hungry Heart. If you like memoirs and books of essays by smart, funny women, you're going to want to read it. I hope she writes another series of essays soon. In the meantime, I'll impatiently wait for her next novel.

*An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Rerelease: Blogger Girl Series


Yesterday was a very exciting day for Meredith Schorr. Her five (amazing) romcom novels have been republished with her new publisher Henery Press. Meredith is one of my favourite people so I'm thrilled to be promoting the hell out of these new covers (and even some new insides too!). Meredith's Blogger Girl series is amazing. I mean, how could I not love books about a chick lit blogger?

Above is the cover of Blogger Girl, the first story about Kimberly Long. And, I absolutely must draw your attention to the short and sweet quote on that most adorable cover. How cool is that? None of her other new covers have blurbs and the one that does have one, it's by yours truly! I'm not sure if it's cool to be this excited but I am.

I reviewed Blogger Girl back in 2013 (jeez...how has it been that long?). If you missed it that time around, check out my thoughts here.


Novelista Girl is the continuation to Kim's story. I was thrilled to get back to her life and see how things were going for her. Here's what I thought of the second Blogger Girl novel when I reviewed it last year.

You're going to want to buy these books (yes, you really will want to) so I've made it easy for you. Here are all the buy links for the two Blogger Girl books.

Blogger Girl 

Novelista Girl



A born-and-bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related emails way more than she was probably supposed to. After trying her hand penning children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling writing romantic comedy and humorous women’s fiction. She secures much inspiration from her day job as a hardworking trademark paralegal and her still-single (but looking) status. Meredith is a loyal New York Yankees fan, an avid runner, and an unashamed television addict. To learn more, visit her at www.meredithschorr.com

Follow Meredith on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: All About Romance

Created by The Broke and the Bookish
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. (Side note: I only did one TTT in 2016! And it was over a year ago! Crazy.)

Happy Valentine's Day, bookworms! Are you doing anything special today? Nothing planned for me. We're not into celebrating Valentine's Day so it's just another Tuesday in our house. Even though I'm not part of a typically romantic couple, I adore romances. I will read pretty much any book that has any hint of a romance - chick lit, women's fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, and, of course, romances. Gimme 'em all. I'm interpreting today's TTT of All About Romance Tropes/Types as a list of my favourite tropes. I've included an example for each so you get a better idea of what I mean by the trope. Links lead to Goodreads. I only came up with eight because, to be honest, it was getting late on Monday night and I needed to get to bed! What are some of your favourite romance tropes?


Small Town
This is, hands down, one of my favourite tropes. I don't really know why because I wanted to get out of my own small hometown so badly but I guess there's just something about stories in teeny little towns to tug at my heart.

Example: I love Nora Roberts' Inn Boonsboro series and thought The Perfect Hope was the perfect way to wrap up the series. Bonus: you can actually visit the Inn and bookstore. Nora and her husband own them!


Second Chance
I think I love these stories so much because, like most people, I always wonder about what could have happened if life had gone one way instead of another. (To be clear, these days I wonder about more career related things than relationships gone wrong!)

Example: Jennifer Weiner puts her own (fantastic) spin on the second chance romances in Who Do You Love.

Classic Example: Persuasion by Jane Austen. And there have been so many books written that pay homage to this wonderful story, too!


Christmas
I absolutely adore Christmas and one of my favourite things about the holiday is reading all of the romances that have anything to do with Christmas. It does get annoying when "Christmas" gets slapped on a story that barely has a whiff of peppermint or evergreen. But...when there is the holiday spirit and a sweet romance? Oh, I'm a happy girl.

Example: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is, well, simply wonderful. It has the Christmas spirit and it's by one of my favourite author/blogger/people, Marie Landry. Bonus: It also takes place in a small town and is a second chance romance.


Summer Vacation
This trope is only really applicable to YA novels. I think I have a fondness for them because I had quite a few summer romances in high school. There's just something magical about those few months off school when the weather is beautiful and you don't have a care in the world.

Example: Sarah Dessen wins all of the summer vacation stories. Yes, there are other, amazing authors, like Morgan Matson, but I've been reading Dessen for so long that summer vacation = her novels. Along for the Ride is my favourite summer story because it also takes place in a beach town.


Friends to Lovers
This trope can be overdone but when it's done right? I love it. One friend realizes they have feelings for the other but they don't know if the feelings are reciprocated. Such tension!

Example: Anne of the Island. There are so many great examples but...it's Anne and Gilbert. Swoon.


Boy/Girl Next Door
This kind of carries on from the friends to lovers but I just really like when two friends grow up together and end up realizing they're in love with each other.

YA Example: My Life with the Walter Boys was so much fun to read. I need more!


Athletes
Either I haven't found enough or there just aren't enough sportsing romances out there. Good ones, of course. I particularly need more with baseball or hockey or basketball. There are enough football books out there already. Anyway. I've played sports and enjoy watching them so I also really enjoy reading about athletes falling in love. And yes, I'm being a bit sexist when I think of these types of stories. Tall, strong, men with all sorts of other redeeming qualities on top of their athletic prowess? Yum.

Example: This was a really hard one to choose because the few I've read (there should be more!) are all so good. But my virtual bestie, Laura Chapman, has an awesome series about football (yes, I know what I just said) that everyone should read. Start with First & Goal.


Road Trip/Vacation
This is sort of the adult version of the summer vacation trope. I like reading about couples who are in a different place than they're used to and either fall in love or fall in love more deeply while they're vacationing.

Example: Karina Halle has written so many books that would suit for a lot of these tropes (without being cliche...important!) but one of my favourites of hers is Where Sea Meets Sky which brings a guy from BC to New Zealand because he's chasing after a girl.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Review: My Not So Perfect Life


I've been reading Sophie Kinsella for years and I'm always happy to see when she has a new book (except the Shopaholic books - I've given up on those because Becky drives me up the flipping wall). It's been awhile since I've read one of her adult books (I read and enjoyed Finding Audrey, review here) so I was really thrilled when I received a copy of My Not So Perfect Life. I dove in and could not stop. This book is exactly what I want chick lit to be and I loved it. 

Here's the synopsis:
Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.
Ok, so the real truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers.
But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?
Until her not-so perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business.
Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday, and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams? Or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman with everything – have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems.
And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?
 
I loved Katie. It helped that she's only a few years younger than I am so I really understood her struggles, especially in terms of her career and cultivating a seemingly perfect life online (you know you're guilty of only posting the good stuff too, don't try to deny it!). It's common for me to find myself rolling my eyes at chick lit heroines, particularly Kinsella's. I didn't find myself getting frustrated with Katie, not much anyway. I wanted her to be honest with her dad but I could totally understand why she was holding back. Maybe I wasn't getting annoyed because I just identified with Katie on so many levels and could see bits of myself or my friends in her. Whatever the reason, she was an absolute joy to read because she was smart, funny, and such a genuinely good person.

Many people probably wouldn't care too much what Katie's job is but I loved that she worked in branding. I'm a communications grad and I've worked in marketing type positions over the years so I really liked reading as they tried to come up with campaigns and worked on different projects. It's only a small part of the book but it rang true for me and it helped me enjoy the story that much more. 

As much as I loved Katie, I also really liked Demeter. I could see how she was a bit of a nightmare to work for (we've all had bosses like that, right?) but I could also see glimpses of someone who's trying to hold it all together and starting to show some cracks. Or maybe I could see it just because I figured where the story was going. The point is, Demeter was a really interesting character and I loved the reminder that no one's life is perfect, no matter how it's filtered on Instagram.

Final side note...I really want to go to Katie's family's farm and try glamping. I am not an outdoorsy kind of girl (camping? No thank you) but I am a small town, country girl so the idea of getting away from the city and spending time at a farm without the distractions of life is incredibly appealing. And Kinsella made Biddy's food sound freaking amazing. 

Just in case you want further proof of how much I liked My Not So Perfect Life, I'm planning on buying it this week (in hardcover...in Canada...so I essentially have to pay with a kidney) so I can go to a signing on Saturday. It's not often authors I enjoy come to Canada so I'm thrilled that I live close enough to go to the event. (I just need to hope for no snow!) 

My Not So Perfect Life may have just catapulted itself to the top of my list of favourite Sophie Kinsella books. It's not perfect (sorry, couldn't resist) but the teeny little things that I wasn't thrilled about didn't even matter because the story is, overall, so so good. If you're a lover of contemporary stories with heart and laughter that feature smart and real women, you have got to pick up this book!

*An eARC was provided by Random House in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

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 Christmas...at 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!