Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Blog Tour: When Girlfriends Take Chances

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review: Country Heaven

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading :)

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

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: All the Bookish Things

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: Just Destiny

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review: The Chase

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: The Here and Now

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

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

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

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

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

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