Thursday, January 30, 2014

CLP Blog Tour: Hard Hats and Doormats


You know that feeling you get when you're reading a really great book and you don't want it to end? I got that feeling when I read Hard Hats and Doormats, the debut novel by Laura Chapman. It was that enjoyable and that good.

Here's the synopsis:
Lexi Burke has always been a stickler for following rules and procedures. As a human resources manager for a leading Gulf Coast chemical company, it’s her job to make sure everyone else falls in line, too. 
But after losing out on a big promotion–-because her boss sees her as too much of a yes-woman––Lexi adopts a new policy of following her heart instead of the fine print. And her heart knows what it wants: Jason Beaumont, a workplace crush who is off limits based on her previous protocol.
While navigating a new romance and interoffice politics, Lexi must find the confidence to stand on her own or face a lifetime of following someone else’s orders.
Who says nice girls have to finish last?
Confession: Laura and I are virtual besties. We've been calling ourselves that for awhile now, so long, in fact, that I can't even remember exactly what it was that made us declare ourselves besties. The virtual needed to be added because I'm in Ontario and Laura lives in Nebraska. So, because we're so close, virtually, I immediately signed up to be part of the CLP Blog Tour for her debut novel. It gave me such a thrill to know that her book was being published. I was proud of her! So, some may think I'm biased, but I think anyone who reads this novel will love it just as much as I did.

I can't remember the last character I read about that I loved this much. I desperately wanted to be Lexi's friend. I loved her personality and I totally related to her. That actually wasn't really that hard because we have a lot in common, including being in our mid-twenties. I completely understood her frustration at her job and wishing she had more choice in careers. I can relate as we're still at the point where any job is better than no job thanks to the brutal economy. I liked that she and her friends would go out to pubs to have a few drinks and hang out instead of going out clubbing. That's what my friends and I like to do, too. Sometimes we get incredibly drunk, like Lexi does on occasion, but sometimes we just go for a few and have a good time, again like Lexi does sometimes. Chapman did a great job of accurately portraying the lifestyle of a twenty four year old (not surprising since she's also in her twenties) and I really appreciated that. I don't know if I can really explain it but I really did want to be besties with Lexi and, by extension, her BFFs. When that happens with a character the book is a winner for me.

I also loved that this novel was funny. It's not a comedy but Chapman wrote characters who were smart and witty. They also got themselves into some interesting conversations, there's a misinterpreted line about crabs at one point, that had me laughing out loud. Then there was this scene (warning, swearing is present!):


I think part of what made this so funny is that my boyfriend is a journalist and I had just made a comment similar to this to him the night before reading this book!

There was only one little thing that I wished had been different in this book. There were a few occasions when I felt like I was missing out on events and conversations. Unless I missed something, the first weekend Lexi and Jason spend together isn't written about. The second weekend is but I feel like that's just not as important as the very first time they spend together. The second, third, and so on could be glossed over but not the very first time they spend significant time together.

I loved the romance in this novel. OK, fine. I loved Jason. He might be my book boyfriend of 2014. There was just something about him that made me swoon as much as Lexi did whenever he was around. I appreciated that the romance wasn't the only part of the story. This was helped along by the fact that we knew right away who Lexi was interested in. Instead of a book full of "will they or won't they?" we get part of that and part of watching the beginning of a relationship. It was a really nice balance.

Other little odds and ends: Lexi named her work phone and I found that ridiculously amusing. I also loved every character name in this book. Lexi, Jason, Brenna, Kara, Cameron....all great names!

As I write this, Hard Hats and Doormats is my favourite book of 2014. Laura Chapman has written a fabulous novel and I think so many people would enjoy as well. Check it out! 

Make sure you check back here in the next few days as I have an awesome guest post from Laura coming up on February 3rd and a Q&A with the author herself on the 5th. While you're waiting, check out all the other reviews and posts that are part of the CLP Blog Tour!

PS A fun fact: this is my 500th post on Books Etc.! That's crazy!

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Don't Make Me Live There!

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.

Have you ever read a book and thought, "My god, I never ever want to live in this world or trade places with this character. The hell they have to go through!"? That's what this week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about. We had to choose ten worlds we'd never want to live in or ten characters who we would never trade places with. It was an interesting list to created and, not surprisingly, there's a lot of fantasy/dystopian type worlds and characters listed. What would you put on your list? Links lead to Goodreads.

Worlds


This one gets a big ol' "duh". Is there anyone who would want to live in a world where The Hunger Games exists? Suzanne Collins created a hell of a story and Panem is great to read about but I'd rather stay in today's North America, thank you very much.


I love Jane Austen's books. I love reading about 19th century England. I do not want to live there. Sure, it'd be peaceful without all the traffic and smog and so on, but I like my modern conveniences - like toothbrushes and Twitter. 


Divergent's world is a little less crazy on the dystopian chart but the things that happen in their world are no less devastating. I also wouldn't want to be controlled by some whacked out woman and 'wake up' to find I had killed my neighbour. Ugh.


Tanya Huff wrote an awesome story and the world's pretty cool but there's some weird sort of approved incest thing that happens. I never really understood it but from what I could tell first cousins would sleep together after getting all hot and bothered during a magical outing. Really weird. But great novel. Oh, and there are some crazy and evil Dragon Lords (that might not be their correct title but it's been awhile since I read the book) that are running around the city, too.

Characters


Before you jump down my throat, let me explain. The world Harry Potter lives in is one that I'd give up almost anything to live in because I love it so. BUT, I don't want to be Harry Potter. The pressure that kid was under was enormous and I wouldn't want to be in his place.


Caitlin is the main character in Sarah Dessen's novel Dreamland. I wouldn't want to be her because she ends up dating a real asshole who treats her horribly and is all kinds of abusive. Rereading this book last year was really hard because I really felt like I wanted to save Caitlin. It was like reading about a little sister or cousin or niece who you weren't able to save until it was almost too late. Heartbreaking.


I wouldn't want to trade places with Emma, from Catherine McKenzie's novel Forgotten, for a couple of reasons. First, she's in Africa when a devastating earthquake hits (think the 2010 earthquake in Haiti). That's not fun. Second, because of that earthquake and the issues it creates with communications, her friends and family think she's dead. Uhhh...so not fun. Excellent book, though, by one of my favourite authors.


I really like the fun, cozy mysteries by Joanne Fluke that feature Hannah Swensen. They have recipes throughout and main character Hannah owns a cookie shop. But, they are mysteries, and this is the reason I wouldn't want to be Hannah. She's always the one to find the dead bodies! That's not my idea of fun.


I picked Dan Brown's most famous character because of the way his career would have progressed. If I chose to get an obscene amount of education and then work on my own research projects while being a professor at a prestigious American college, I'm expecting to have a pretty low key life. That's not the case for Langdon. He repeatedly gets pulled into dangerous, life threatening situations all around the world. I doubt that's what he signed up for!


Ursula Todd had an extraordinary life. Er. Lives. She's the main character from the amazing novel Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. She relives her life over and over and over again. I don't think that's something I would like. I wouldn't want to know what's going to happen (like World War II) and be powerless to stop it. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Catch of the Day


Catch of The Day by Carla Caruso was a sweet read. I didn't love it but I didn't dislike it. I did, however, love that it was set in Australia!

Here's the synopsis:
After a regrettable incident at the office Christmas party, up-and-coming fashion editor, Winnie Cherry, is banished to coastal South Australia to set up a beach lifestyle magazine – 300km from nowhere.
Her friends joke that she'll marry a rich cray fisherman and stay there for good, but Winnie has other ideas. Determined to get back to Sydney within two months, she gets to work and starts counting down the days. Until she meets handsome freelance photographer Alex Bass, and sparks begin to fly.
As Winnie is increasingly drawn into the close-knit local community, she starts to question whether city life is really what she wants. That is, until Alex drops a bombshell that casts dark storm clouds over all her coastal dreams…
This was a really middle of the road book for me. I didn't fall in love with the characters (or really even fall in like with them) but I still wanted to know what would happen to them at the end of the novel. I knew there were going to be major issues coming up (the foreshadowing wasn't very well done and I figured out the basics of Alex's secret) and I wondered how the characters would deal with them. I rooted for them as I wanted to see everyone have a happily ever after ending. 

This novel had a Pride and Prejudice feel to it. When Winnie and Alex first meet they instantly dislike each other based on a split second judgement. I'm glad they eventually got to know each other and realized that the other had more going on with them than what was on the surface. That being said...it was kind of hard to believe Winnie's change in attitude over the course of the novel. She wanted absolutely nothing to do with the town and her city girl persona seemed so ingrained in her that it was a touch harder than it should have been to see her small town girl personality come out and shine. 

My favourite part of the whole book was the setting. I don't often come across books that are set in Australia. In fact, I can't remember the last book I read that was set there, let alone written by an Australian author. Not only was the setting lovely but the language was authentic too. Caruso used a lot of Australian terms (including ute...which I am only just now looking up because I had no idea what the hell kind of transportation device it was...ha! Short form for 'utility vehicle'. Learn something new every day.) and, while I was lost with some of them (obviously), I was still glad they were included. 

I also really like the look of the cover (other than the fact that the author's name is taking up half the cover...hate that). The blues are so pretty and the woman sitting on the dock could totally be Winnie (except for the hair colour. She was described as a strawberry blonde...as well as auburn and dusty blonde...). I also love that pop of red with the heart dangling on the line off the 'd'.

Overall, Catch of the Day was a fun read. Carla Caruso has written a sweet chick lit novel that I think lots of others would enjoy, even if I didn't absolutely love it.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Reread: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone


A few months ago a bunch of Toronto area bloggers got together for an event and they got to talking about how they all wanted to do a reread of the Harry Potter series. It turns out there are a lot of people who want to revisit the world J.K Rowling created! Michele of Just a Lil' Lost put together a sign up post and opened it up to other readers and bloggers. As of mid-January there were 25 people signed up, which is pretty cool. It's a very casual readalong as you can read at your own pace as there aren't any prompts or anything. We're all staying connected by posting on Twitter or Instagram with #HPreread. The goal is to read a book a month. My goal is to put up some sort of post after every reread but I haven't really decided how each month will look. Some may be longer than others and some may be more rambling. They definitely won't be "true" reviews because, hello, almost everyone has read these books. Though I'd recommend not reading each post unless you've read the entire series. It's all up in the air at this point so we'll see how the year goes! First up, my thoughts on my reread of book number one, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.


Before starting the book I was trying to remember how old I was when I first came across Harry Potter. I know I was still in elementary school and I'm 95% certain only the first three books were released. A friend of the family, who had a daughter the same age as my younger sister, told my mom about these awesome magical books and said we had to read them too. I am so thankful for that recommendation! Goodreads tells me that Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire were both released in 1999 so that must have been the year we read them meaning my sister was 9 and I was 12. So, assuming that's correct, Harry Potter has been part of my life for about fifteen years. That's over half my life. Kind of crazy, no?

I wasn't sure what to expect with this reread. It's been a long time since I've reread all the books (at least four years but probably closer to five or even six) and I wondered if the magic would still be there for me. I knew exactly what was going to happen after all (the last time I reread them the final book had yet to be released). On a Saturday morning I settled myself on my couch, under a blanket and with a cup of tea, and found that I was amazed at how happy it made me to be rereading a favourite book. I had been having a crap week and everything seemed better after I started reading. Amazing what books can do, isn't it?


I was really looking forward to seeing what I had missed the first few times I read the series. Rowling does such an awesome job of hiding seemingly innocent details in the story that you don't realize until later how extremely important they are. The jinxed broom during the Quidditch match and the Mirror of Erised are important parts of this story and I liked rereading those scenes to see what I missed the very first time I read the book. I also found the detention scene very interesting. Draco, Harry, Hermione, and Neville have to go into the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid and Fang and at one point Hagrid says, "There's nothin' that lives in the Forest that'll hurt yeh if yer with me or Fang." (page 183) Is that a bit of foreshadowing, particularly with the spiders in Chamber? I had also forgotten that Hagrid gives Harry a photo album full of pictures of his family but I did consciously notice this time around that Harry had never seen his parents until he looked in the Mirror of Erised. I can't imagine what that would have been like. Something else that I had never noticed before was this exchange between Dumbledore and Harry at the end of the book when Harry is recovering from meeting Voldemort. Harry asks why Voldemort would want to kill him and this is Dumbledore's reply, "Alas, the first thing you ask me, I cannot tell you. Not today. Not now. You will know, one day...put it from our mind for now, Harry. When you are older...I know you hate to hear this...when you are ready, you will know." (page 216) Had anyone else recalled that exchange? It takes so long for Harry to finally realize the reason Voldemort wants him dead that I didn't think about what Dumbledore told him in the first book.

One of the interesting and sort of unimportant things I noted included the realization that Lily, Harry's mother, and Petunia, his aunt, are both named after flowers. I also found myself wondering what it would have been like had there been a magical sort of Google available to the students. You know how much easier it would have been for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to find Nicholas Flamel if they were just able to pop it into a search engine? Actually, now that I think about it, I bet that sort of thing would have been banned from the school and students would still be made to use the library!

Next, let's talk about the feelings. I found myself getting increasingly excited as Harry received his first letter, went off to Diagon Alley (love love love that part of the book), and finally traveled to Hogwarts. I love that we learn about the magical world right along with Harry and I wonder if that's what makes it so easy to relate to. This boy is also learning all these new things like we are but he's accepting them so we should too. Interesting thought. I was filled with mixed emotions whenever Draco showed up because, while he's a horrible boy in the first books, he eventually comes into his own, in a positive way, in the very end. Same goes for Snape. I really liked reading the parts with him because of what we learn at the end of the series. I was also reminded how much I love the chess scene near the end of the story. Ron has always been my favourite and I realized how important this scene is in setting the stage for his and Harry's friendship. He takes control of the giant chess game and Harry allows that because he realizes he can't do it alone (sure, he struggles with that eventually but let's not worry about that now). The same goes for Hermione and the potions but for some reason the chess scene stands out more for me. Finally, and most importantly, I got goosebumps during Dumbledore's end of year speech as he awarded Ron, Hermione, Harry, and Neville points and explained why he was doing so. I was surprised by that because I knew what was coming but I was still completely affected by it.

I tweeted 15 times while doing the reread. I liked this because I know I would like to read tweets from people as they reread Harry Potter and it allows others doing the reread know that I'm working my way through the book. On the other hand, it took away from the solid reading time I had set aside. Every once and awhile I would stop, pick up my phone, tweet something funny/interesting/emotional and then go back to reading again. It sort of took me out of the story too much and I wonder if I'll tweet as much as I read the other novels. I used Storify to create a compilation of all my #HPreread tweets so use this link to check 'em all out if you missed them the first time around.

The Harry Potter movies have become such a huge part of the whole universe Rowling created and I found it hard to remember how I pictured the characters when I first read the books. All I see and hear in my head now are the actors' faces and voices. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but it reminds me why I love reading so much. I love being able to create my own little picture of the characters and world in my head.

Finally, I realized what I love about this series, and the first book in particular. It's the world building Rowling does. I adore the magical world of Harry Potter and I'm able to really understand what's in it because of the way Rowling writes. She has every little bit of information about the world - even if it's not in the book - so we, the reader, know why things are the way they are, like how many Knuts are in a Sickle (It's 29 for those who forgot. 17 Sickles to a Galleon). Speaking of which, can we have that Harry Potter encyclopedia already? :)

So there we have it. My thoughts and feels and reactions to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I am surprised by how much I desperately want to move onto Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets even though it's not my favourite. I'm definitely looking forward to February!

What I've learned from this month's reread and what I'll continue to do going forward:
  • I'm definitely setting aside a solid chunk of uninterrupted time to read each book. Right now I'm not working so I can read it whenever I want but eventually I'll have a job (she says hopefully) and I'll only have a lot of open reading time on the weekends. These books are meant to be savoured and that means doing a lot of reading at one time.
  • I really wanted to dive right into book two so I'm hoping I can restrain myself for the rest of the year. I think it'll get easier as the months go on because I'll have time to digest each book on it's own instead of reading the series as one huge book.
  • I also really wanted to watch the movie right away but I'm going to wait to watch them until the end. And will probably bingewatch all eight over a weekend!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: Saving Saffron Sweeting


A week ago I realized I hadn't yet read a chick lit book in 2014. I decided to finally read Saving Saffron Sweeting because it had been sitting on my Kobo for months (bad blogger). I'm kicking myself for not reading it sooner! I thoroughly enjoyed Pauline Wiles' novel. It was so fun and cute and British!

Here's the synopsis:
Grace Palmer’s British friends all think she’s living the American Dream. But her design business is floundering and when she discovers her husband is cheating with her best client, she panics and flees home to England.
The tranquil village of Saffron Sweeting appears to be a good place for Grace to lick her wounds, but the community is battling its own changes. Reluctantly, Grace finds herself helping her new neighbours as they struggle to adjust and save their businesses. However, not everyone has the same opinion on what’s good for the village. The charismatic new man in her life may have one speculative eye on Grace, but the other is firmly on profit. How will she navigate the tricky path between her home and her happiness?
With gentle humour and generous helpings of British tea and cake, Saving Saffron Sweeting explores one woman’s need to define herself through her career and community, before she can figure out who should be by her side.
I adored Saving Saffron Sweeting. I loved Grace, I loved the town, and I loved Mungo the dog, who repeatedly showed up at Grace's cottage. I'm a sucker for small town stories so I really loved the 'save the town' aspect of this novel. It was a lot of fun to see the ideas that Grace came up with and I was happy with the reception she received. 

What stood out for me was how British the novel was without it being in your face English and confusing. I love reading books set in Great Britain but sometimes there are obscure (to me) words that just confuse the heck out of me. In the case of this book, Wiles does a fabulous job of subtly explaining word choices. I think that's because Wiles moved from England to California, just like her main character, and likely understands the language barrier than can sometimes exist between Americans/Canadians and Brits. There were lots of British terms and such that were sprinkled throughout the book and I loved it. In one particular scene a few different British chocolate bars are mentioned (Side note: Americans, do you not have Crunchie bars? You are seriously missing out if that's the case.) along with Coronation StreetDoctor Who, and red plonk (aka wine). 

I had a sense of what would happen in the end but I really didn't know how that would eventually end up happening. Since I couldn't see a clear answer I was happy to read along and see where Wiles would take the story. How would Grace realize who she was supposed to be with? What would happen with the town? Would she stay in the town? (Oh, how I hoped she would!) 

Speaking of the journey towards the end of the novel, I really loved watching Grace grow as a person. She had a lot to figure out about herself before she could decide who she should be with romantically. I also liked that this wasn't your typical sort of 'a woman is scorned and goes off to sulk somewhere and is swept away by another man.' Sure, there were elements of that but Grace and her work played centre stage. That work, and the town, ultimately proves to be most important.

I don't know if my review has given Saving Saffron Sweeting justice but I hope it has. It was so incredibly enjoyable. If you're looking for a British chick lit story you can really get into, check out Pauline Wiles' debut novel. I think you'll like it as much as I did!

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

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: A Reading Wishlist

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 prompt to be quite interesting: a reader's wish list. What do I want authors to write about? Is there a certain type of character I wish would pop up more often? Are there issues, locations, plot lines, and time periods that I want to see in books? I put my thinking cap on and came up with some things that I wish would appear in the books I read. Let me know if you've heard of any awesome titles in the categories I come up with that you think I might like. I read mostly adult but will happily check out YA and NA books too! What's something that you'd love to see in a book?

Tall girls
Background information: I'm 6' tall. Not only is this tall for a female, it's tall for a male (last I checked the average male height is 5'10"). I'm totally cool with it (except when I have to buy clothes, especially pants) but I find that society and books are not. I bet there are only a handful of books that I've read when the author has explicitly stated that the heroine is tall (and doesn't mean tall like 5'6"). It's especially bad in the romance genre because women are supposed to be all tiny and cute and protected by their big, strong man (who, by the way, is usually only about 6' tall). Argh. Sure, this is a totally personal preference but I would love to see more tall ladies in the world of literature.
I have to give a shout out to one of my favourite authors, Anna Garner (who also writes under the name Libby Mercer). She's a fellow tall girl and a couple of years ago wrote a fabulous post about how she makes the effort to write tall main characters. I think she may be my spirit animal.

Canada
I feel like I have to really explain this one. I know there are tons of fabulous Canadian authors who write books set in Canada. But there are also many Canadian authors who set their stories in the US or elsewhere. There aren't many non-Canadians who write books set in my country and I have no idea why. I also find that there are hardly any (traditionally published) women's fiction titles set in Canada. That's why I was thrilled to bits when I came across Winter Wonderland by Belinda Jones (review here), a chick lit novel that takes place at the Quebec winter carnival. Can I get a little more Canadian lovin' from the authors out there?

Stories about girls in their mid to late twenties who still don't have their shit together
I know there are books like this out there. I just think there should be more. I say this because I'm turning 27 this year and I feel like I'm no further along than I was when I finished university at 22. Usually when books feature characters who are 25-30 those characters have a job, a house, a man, and sometimes a dog or even a baby. I can hardly look after myself let alone a kid. *shudders* (though my rabbit is doing quite well, don't worry.) I just think there are more and more people who are my age who have yet to figure out the whole career thing and I don't think that's being illustrated in novels. Which leads me to...

New Adult books that aren't all sex and angst
New Adult has great potential and I absolutely love the idea of it. What I don't love is the current trend. It seems like New Adult has become synonymous with sex/angst/bad boys/messed up girls. There are some awesome books that fall into that category, don't get me wrong, but that's only one genre under the title New Adult. I'd like to see more chick lit themed NA and I'm sure others would love some paranormal/fantasy/dystopian type NA titles as well. Fingers crossed this starts to change and we see other genres emerging that focus on characters who are 18-25.

Sports
I haven't found enough novels that have a sport playing a key role or have athletes as the main characters. I've read two that stand out, The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou and Gold by Chris Cleave, and I absolutely adored them. I think there should be more like these. Both of those, funnily enough, feature characters who are trying to get to the Olympics (both summer games but different years). Let's play ball, authors!

Traveling
I know there are lots of books like this. I just want more. Simple as that :)
I'm not much of a traveler myself and I've recently discovered that I like to do some armchair exploring along with the characters who go on road trips, cruises, train rides, and so on. (This was thanks to Just One Day and Just One Year. I couldn't get over how much I enjoyed the travel aspects of the book.)

Librarian and author main characters
I cannot tell you the last book I read that featured a main character who was either a librarian or an author. I like books, I like those professions, and I'd like to read more about both.
Other jobs I'd like to read more books about: travel writers, journalists, and event planners.

Art history fiction
There are some out there, I know. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan has been sitting on my shelf for far too long. But I like the idea of taking a painting, sculpture, artist and fictionalizing it a little bit. I really like art history and I like to see it woven into a novel.
Also acceptable: movie and television history novels.

Fairy tale retellings for adults
Do these exist? There seem to be a ton of YA novels that put a twist on fairy tales but I can't think of any that are written for adults (yes, I know adults can read YA).

Scotland
I've never been to Scotland but I will go someday. I'm a Stewart for crying out loud. I think I'd like to read more about characters who travel to Scotland who are not originally from there. I know these books exist so give me your recommendations!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bunch of Mini Reviews 7


This edition of mini reviews is a mix of my own book (one) and library books (two). I'm still trying to use my library as much as possible even though there are some books I want to own myself. It's also a good way to break out of my comfort zone as it allows me to get some of the YA I've been missing out on. Without further ado, here is my seventh installment of mini reviews!

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (synopsis)
Before every Ontario Blogger Meet-Up, a massive file is started with lists of books bloggers have to give away or trade. I always peruse the list but I don't have much to offer nor do many books appeal to me because the vast majority of titles are YA. This year though, I saw that Wendy had Dash and Lily's Book of Dares up for grabs and she was willing to give it to me. Yay! I'm so glad she did because it was such a cute and enjoyable read!
I was hooked on this story as soon as I read the first few lines:
Imagine this:
You're in your favorite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You get to the section where a favorite author's books reside, and there, nestled in comfortably between the incredibly familiar spines, sits a red notebook.
What do you do?The choice, I think, is obvious:
You take down the read notebook and open it.
And then you do whatever it tells you to do. (page 1)
Doesn't that intrigue you? I loved that Dash and Lily met because of a scavenger hunt Lily thought up. I totally wanted to take part! I think the hunt exposed more of themselves and their personalities than Lily had intended but it was really great to read along as they learned more about each other and, oh so slowly, fell for each other.
I don't think this is a book that everyone will love though - and I think it's because of the characters. This is probably going to sound harsh/weird/judgmental but bear with me! This book was published in 2010, before the whole hipster scene became a popular thing. I mention this because Dash and Lily are total hipsters in training and that is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way (like my sister, for instance. I think she'd enjoy the story but she would have really disliked the characters, especially Dash). I was fine with it because these types of characters aren't often the focus of novels. I love Sarah Dessen and everything (fave author ever) but her main characters all have similar characteristics. Dash and Lily broke the average character mold and that was really enjoyable to read.
I liked that there was a touch of Christmas cheer (or anti-cheer in Dash's case) in this novel. Because it was a short read, it made it a perfect book for me to read over Christmas. I started it Christmas Eve and finished it in the wee hours of Boxing Day and it was delightful.
If you're looking for a different sort of contemporary YA read, check out Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. It was cute and a lot of fun!

Takedown Twenty - Janet Evanovich (synopsis)
I've been reading Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series for some time now - probably about ten years. Which is half the time the books have been around. Yes, my friends, One for the Money was released a whopping twenty years ago in 1994. I've been saying for awhile that I just kind of wished this series would end. I'm not loving it like I used to and it's gone on for so long. To be blunt...I'm sure the only reason this series is still being written and published is because it's making money. And that bugs me because there are so many other (better) novels out there that aren't getting the time of day because books like these are front and centre at the store. But that's an issue for another day...
Basically, I didn't love Takedown Twenty. It had the same humour and hijinks you'll always find in an Evanovich novel, particularly her Stephanie Plum series, and I found that kind of boring. My favourite part of the book had to do with the giraffe that was running around Trenton. I'm sure I would have found this amusing even if giraffes weren't one of my favourite animals but because they are, I found myself looking forward to every scene featuring Kevin (Lula decided the giraffe looked like a Kevin...she became quite attached to him).
I've decided that I will not read another Stephanie Plum book until I know it's the last one (so someone let me know, K?). You can't fault me for that...I need to know who she finally chooses! Will it be Morelli or Ranger? Until then, I'll pass on Plum's adventures because there are other books I'd rather spend my time on. I know tons of people will read this and enjoy it and that's totally fine. I am not one to judge what others read, trust me. I'm just done with Stephanie until Evanovich is.

Ten Tiny Breaths - K.A. Tucker (synopsis)
Now this should have been my first read of 2014. I could not put Ten Tiny Breaths down. I was hooked! Tucker created a really addictive story and interesting characters in the first of this series.
I did have a couple of problems with it and that's why I didn't give it five stars. It looks like I'm joining others who are not a fan of instalove. I haven't read a ton of books that are like this but as much as I know instant attraction can exist (I'm looking at you, lust), it was sort of hard to get over how quickly Kacey and Trent fell for each other. Another thing that kind of bugged me had to do with the big revelation that I saw coming and you probably will too but I can't say much more about it because I don't want to spoil anything. I just couldn't really see how Kacey could forgive such a huge lie. Everything else I can understand but the lying to her was hard to take.
I did appreciate that there were some serious issues addressed in this book and it wasn't all about the relationship. Kacey has some major problems to sort out thanks to the car accident she was in that killed her parents, her best friend, and her boyfriend. I think Tucker did a good job of showing how PTSD can really affect a person and how different people react to it in different ways.
I also like that the cover doesn't look like your typical New Adult cover (which tend to look like romance covers but with models who are in their twenties). Kudos to whoever approved that!
Even though I had a few issues, I really loved this book. I'll eventually read the next two books in the series, One Tiny Lie and Four Seconds to Lose, but I think I might wait a little while because they feature different characters and I want to stay with just Kacey and Trent for a little while longer.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: Liar, Liar, Hearts on Fire


When author Jennifer Zane first contacted me to see if I would review her latest novel Liar, Liar, Hearts on Fire, I had no idea what to expect. I went into reading this book with no expectations and I was blown away by how amusing and interesting it was. I liked it so much that I read it in virtually one sitting!

Here's the synopsis:
Violet Miller is a teacher savoring her summer break until she's been called in as emergency reinforcements—of the dating kind. She volunteers to help an old flame by pretending to be his girlfriend. In Alaska. At a family reunion. Since the guy is a handsome, lumberjack-sized doctor she's never quite forgotten, faking a relationship won't be hard work.
Mike Ostranski is a desperate man on vacation. His mother wants grandchildren and sees a crazy Alaskan woman as a candidate for daughter-in-law. Mike needs Violet by his side to deflect the lady's advances.
A week in Alaska as boyfriend and girlfriend should be easy for them. They grew up together, even had a brief fling. What could go wrong?
Everything.
The first thing I have to address is the fact that this is actually part of a series...sort of. It's one of those "same world, different main character" series that you don't technically have to read in order but things make a lot more sense if you do. I felt like I missed out on the meaning behind other characters' lives and their relationships because I hadn't read any of Zane's previous work. I mean, it didn't really matter and I was able to figure out what had happened previously, thanks to brief descriptions of the past, but I think I would have liked to know how this world came to be, you know? And what features in every novel. Does George the Gnome show up in every book? Goldie? (Reading the synopsis of the previous novels tells me yes, they both show up in the other books.) So, start with Gnome On The Range and work your way up to this one because it's so enjoyable!

I think the cover description, "a zany romantic comedy", is bang on. Zane has created some great characters and outrageous situations for said characters. I felt so sorry for Violet and Mike as they had to deal with the lies Mike created just to keep from hurting his mom's feelings. There are so many crazy antics in this book but it totally worked - overly amorous French twins, an uncle who's going off to take part in a Civil War reenactment, a neighbour who likes to show up (naked) unannounced...you know, the usual. Even with all the craziness, I liked that Violet and Mike's relationship stayed centre stage.

Speaking of the relationship...I was totally rooting for the two of them to smarten up and realize they each had real feelings for each other. It was so obvious - to everyone else! (And the twist at the end - which I loved - proves that.) I so wished they had realized their feelings sooner because they had spent eleven years apart! In the end, though, everything works out as it should and I was really happy with how Zane wrapped things up for the couple. 

The only real negative I have with this novel (and why I didn't give it a five star rating) was the mystery aspect to the story. I understand that Zane always includes a mystery in her books and I'm fine with that but the mystery in this book, which isn't even mentioned in the synopsis, seemed like it was just added in after the rest of the novel was written. I'm not sure what, exactly, Zane could have done to make it better but I wish the mystery was woven in more with the rest of the story. 

Overall, I really loved reading Liar, Liar, Hearts on Fire. I think if you like books by Janet Evanovich, particularly her Stephanie Plum series, you'll love Jennifer Zane's series. It's funny (sometimes literally laugh out loud funny), sexy, mysterious, and just plain fun. I think I might have to make time to go back and read the first few books in the series!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

CLP Blog Tour: The Holdout


When I read what Laurel Osterkamp's latest novel was all about, I was intrigued. I immediately signed up for the CLP Blog Tour and hoped The Holdout would deliver. It did! I was so interested and invested in this novel and I couldn't stop thinking about it when I wasn't reading it.

Here's the synopsis:
Robin wanted to win The Holdout, a cutthroat reality TV show, so she gave it her all, challenge after challenge. Then she fell for Grant, with his irresistible eyes and heartbreaking life story. But Grant was only using Robin as they competed for a million dollars. Once home, Robin wants to hide from the humiliation as episodes of The Holdout are aired, and she worries her family was right all along; she's not a survivor. Or maybe she'll have the last laugh Besides, Robin now has jury duty. And as she forges ahead, confronting her demons about bravery, justice, and romance, Robin will come to decide which is more important: the courage to stand alone, or the strength to love again. 
I have to admit that I was a little worried about reading another of Osterkamp's novels as I read Starring in the Movie of My Life a couple of years ago and didn't love it. Still, I thought her newest sounded interesting and boy am I glad I gave it a shot. It was so good. I loved the way she played with the reality show novel - that was probably my favourite part of the whole book. I have never watched a full season of Survivor but it's been around for so long that everyone has at least a vague idea of what goes on during the show. Even though that's not my reality show of choice, I still found Robin's story, and her time on the show, interesting. I liked that we learned what the whole process could be like and that Osterkamp gave us all the background information we needed. 

There were two things that stood out for me that kept me from giving this book five stars. One was the way Robin acted during jury duty. I felt like she had a lot of lingering issues with the way the show played out and every once and awhile she'd think about which of her other jurors would get voted off first if they were on The Holdout. I don't blame her, I'm sure being on a show like that can really mess with your head, but I wish that had been toned down just a tad. It made her seem a little unstable and I don't think that's what Osterkamp was trying to go for. The other issue was with her family. I totally loved that she had a large family and they sort of supported her in their own weird way, but I feel like there were too many of them...I got a little confused. There were some side stories involving them that didn't feel as complete as they could have and it just didn't flow well for me. These issues are not deal breakers, though, and I'd still wholeheartedly recommend this book.

I appreciated that the romance in this novel took a total backseat. I could kind of tell how things would end up but Osterkamp kept me guessing until the very end. I liked that. Robin didn't go into the show looking for a romance but it happened, just like real life and good chick lit-esque novels. The romance just happens along the way and that's what happened in The Holdout

Even if you're not a Survivor fan, which I am not, I still think you would really enjoy The Holdout by Laurel Osterkamp. It's interesting look at the way we view two seemingly very different things - justice and reality TV. Osterkamp did a good job of weaving together the two into a thoroughly enjoyable novel. Check it out! It won't disappoint.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Simon & Schuster Canada's Winter Survival Package + Contest


It's no secret that Canadians deal with some cold weather in the winter. To help battle those winter blues and the bitter cold, Simon & Schuster Canada has come up with a great contest. You could win your very own stay warm kit!

Most of you reading this will probably agree that curling up with a mug of tea and a book is a perfect way to stay warm in the winter and this contest will help with that. Not only will you have the chance to win some awesome books but also included in the prize pack are mitts, tea, a mug, and more! Doesn't that sound cozy?

To enter, just head on over to the contest homepage and fill out the form. Easy peasy! While you're there, check out the five ways they recommend you stay warm this winter. What's your favourite way to stay warm? I'll take that blanket and cup of tea, please!

Good luck and stay warm!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rereading Sarah Dessen: Lock and Key


It's the last post for the I Eat Words Sarah Dessen Read/Reread Challenge read! *sobs* Check out this post that explains the details about the awesomeness that is this challenge. This post has been delayed for a few reasons...lots of other books to read for me, the holiday season for both of us, and a wedding Sandy was in at the end of the month. December's read was Lock and Key and it was actually my last read of 2013, which I liked. I was looking forward to this book because I really didn't remember much about it. I'm so glad I reread this one because I adored it. I think it'll make it in my top five favourite Dessen books (see the end of the post for that list).

Synopsis:
Ruby, where is your mother?
Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she's been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.
That's how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn't seen in ten years, and Cora's husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future; it's a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?
Best-selling author Sarah Dessen explores the heart of a gutsy, complex girl dealing with unforeseen circumstances and learning to trust again.
About the Story
Main  Character: Ruby Cooper
Age: 17
School Year or Summer?: School year.
Boy: Nate Cross
First description of the boy: This is actually the second meeting between Nate and Ruby. The first time they met he's swimming and it's dark so not much detail is given. "In broad daylight, he looked even more like a jock than the night before - in jeans, a t-shirt with collared shirt over it, rope necklace around his neck, and thick flip flops on his feet, even though it was way past beach season. His hair, as I noticed last night, was that white kind of blond, like he'd spent the summer in the sun, his eyes a bright blue." (page 71)
Crushable?: Absolutely...he's the school's Golden Boy but there's so much more to him.
Big Secret?: Yes - more about Nate's family life.
Heavy Storyline?: Yes, both with Nate's life and Ruby's past.
Parents Together?: No. In fact, Ruby's parents aren't even really in the picture.
Sibling(s)?: An older sister, Cora, who takes Ruby in after their mother took off.
Takes Place In: Lakeview, though I don't think the town's name is actually mentioned.
Cameos: So many. In fact, there are so many that I'm just going to provide the link to the Wikipedia page that lists all the references to other works and mention that I picked up on almost all of them.

About the Book
Released: 2008
Epigraph?: No.
Format (of the copy I read): Hardcover - and a special cover, not sure why there were so many covers of this one.
Own?: Yes.
Signed?: No.
Read or Reread: Reread.
Age when first read: 21.
New cover vs older cover: I think I like the newest one (I like the red, maybe because of Ruby's name and the fact that she's a redhead) but I am partial to the one I own.


My Thoughts
I don't know why Lock and Key didn't stand out for me when I first read it. I loved it this time around. Ruby was a really great main character to read about and, as usual, Dessen created an interesting story.
I forgot how serious the subject matter is in this story. Not only does Ruby come from a messed up family but Nate is hiding a huge secret as well. I think Dessen did a great job of showing how conflicted Ruby was when she knew she needed to say something to someone but didn't know how and didn't want to be the snitch, since that destroyed her life. She eventually realizes what the right thing to do is but it's not as hokey as that sounds.
Over the course of the novel Ruby also learns what family really means. Dessen tied in Ruby's school project in an interesting way...she had to come up with an explanation for one word and hers was, you guessed it, family. Because of this project she actually talks to people about the meaning of family and you learn just how different families can be.
Speaking of family, I really liked reading about Cora and Ruby's relationship. We get to learn more about what their upbringing was really like and what went wrong. It was hard to read at some points because you realize how much Cora wanted to save Ruby but she just couldn't. She blames herself and says she should have tried harder but she took on a lot when she was a young teen and I can't imagine her trying any harder. She did all she could at eighteen and you have to commend her for that. I'm so glad they got the chance to work on their relationship and become closer than ever.
I loved Ruby. She thinks she can do everything on her own but during her journey over the course of the novel she realizes that it's ok to accept help from others and that doesn't mean that you're helpless. She's a strong girl but she's not as...hard, I guess, as you might think. Nate is able to work his way into her life, and her heart, and that helps her open up to everyone else.
I'm really glad I reread this one (I know, I'm a broken record) because I can now wholeheartedly recommend Lock and Key to others. I think it's such a great coming of age YA novel that I think everyone can enjoy. 

Sandy's Thoughts
I felt a certain kind of sadness as I started what would be our last Sarah Dessen book for the year 2013. I have very much so enjoyed reading and reviewing over the last eleven months. I have to admit that Lock and Key is one of Dessen’s books that I previously remembered very little about. It has nothing to do with they story or the characters, I just read it so long ago that I forgot. Reading it this past month has been like reading it again for the first time and I really enjoyed it. Though Along for the Ride and This Lullaby remained two of my favourites throughout this process, I also discovered a newfound love for The Truth About Forever and What Happened to Goodbye. I also feel more confident in my recommendations of all Sarah Dessen books, including Lock and Key.
Lock and Key has a different vibe to it than most of Dessen’s other novels. While it is still a coming of age story based on the life of one girl it takes place over a longer period of time and focuses more on the male character and his secret problems. We follow Ruby from her solitary existence in the yellow house to her new life with her estranged sister. The new life she finds herself in is vastly different than where she came from and at first she resents being uprooted and forced to change. When Ruby meets Nate he comes across as someone who sees life in the completely opposite way and challenges her to follow. He is polite, kind, giving and positive, making it seem like he has it all. But no one ever does. Hanging around him, helping him help people allows her to see a different kind of life and more positive way to live.
I really enjoyed the dichotomy between Ruby and her sister Cora. They both went through the same upbringing and have very similar attitudes but Ruby has spent years repressing her helping gene and Cora has spent a lifetime honing it. When Ruby is faced with Nate and his situation she feels, for the first time in a long time, the urge to help and fight for someone other than herself. Having spent years pushing people away so they can’t hurt her, she finally opens herself up to Nate and accepts what true friendship and family can mean. Family is anyone that accepts you and wants to be there for you for no ulterior motive or price. Ruby finds this in the people she lets in once she feels safe enough to do so.
While living with her sister Ruby discovers that telling the truth and being truthful with yourself is the first step in changing who you are and who you could become. Once she opens up about who she is and what she wants people listen and help her. After being thrown into a world of false perfection at Perkins Day she realizes that at first it seems that Cora is trying to rebuild her but once she accepts help from Cora, Jamie and even Nate it is clear they only want the best for her. Those who truly care about her are not looking for her to be perfect, they just want a better life for her. With this realization she begins to let go and want a better life as well.
For most of her life Ruby thought that needing someone meant you were weak. It takes being the one that is needed to break her of that idea. When she lives with Cora and after the truth about their past lack of relationship is revealed she opens to the idea of being taken care of by Cora and Jamie. That was always Cora’s role in her life and it is an easy one to accept. Once she is taken care of she refocuses away from saving herself and towards Nate, someone that no one realized needed saving. It takes some adjustment and time but in the end she is changed and the people around her are as well.
This novel is the perfect coming of age tale from the master of the genre. All Sarah Dessen characters learn a lot about themselves through her novels. Ruby is no exception. By the end of the story you feel as though you have been through the ringer with her. This book seems to take place over a longer period of time than the others, especially the first few that Sarah Dessen wrote. The reader takes a journey with Ruby from rags to figurative riches. She comes into her own and flourishes beautifully. At the end of Ruby’s tale you feel as though she will do well in the future no matter where it takes her.
Sarah Dessen is a fantastic author and I wait impatiently for her next novel and the journey it takes us on.

Overall Thoughts on this Challenge
As I've said over and over again, I'm so glad I did this challenge. I really liked rereading the books by my all time favourite author. I was able to remember why I love her books so much. I also appreciate that I was able to understand a bit more of the nuances in the novels when reading them at 26 instead of 16. That was an interesting experience. So now that I've reread all of the books, what ones are my favourite? Here are my top five Dessen novels:
1. This Lullaby
2. The Truth About Forever
3. Along for the Ride
4. Lock and Key
5. The Moon and More

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cover Reveal: A Questionable Friendship


I am so unbelievably excited to share the cover of Samantha March's third novel, A Questionable Friendship. I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for Samantha for this novel (and I must say, the title changes everything!) and I freaking loved it. I can't wait for all of you to read it too but don't worry, you only have to wait a month or so. The exact release date has yet to be set but Marching Ink will be publishing this new novel sometime in February.

Here's the synopsis for March's upcoming novel:
Brynne Ropert and Portland Dolish have been best friends since being paired as roommates in college. Seven years later they are now twenty-five, married, and living in Maine–– but the two women couldn’t be more different. Brynne finds fulfillment in her life as a wife, mother and owner of a small cafĂ© and bookshop, but is struggling to expand her family. Portland is still coping with her mother’s death during her childhood, and her marriage is unraveling before her eyes. Portland envies her friend’s seemingly stable and easy life while Brynne doesn’t understand the growing distance between them and cannot begin to guess what secret Portland is hiding about her husband and crumbling marriage. While one woman feels shut out, the other enters into a web of lies to protect herself.
A Questionable Friendship explores what really makes someone a true friend, a support system, a sister. How much trust goes into a friendship and when is being a friend not enough? Brynne and Portland’s story will attempt to answer those questions, and show that happily ever after isn’t in the cards for everyone.

Ready for the cover?


Ahhhh, I love it. Just adore it. Cover designer Scarlett Rugers did a great job! Make sure you mark this one down on your to read list.

About Samantha
Samantha March is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, and all around book lover. She runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up to date on all things health, fitness, fashion, and celebrity related. In 2011 she launched her independent publishing company Marching Ink and has three published novels – Destined to Fail, The Green Ticket and A Questionable Friendship. When she isn’t reading, writing, or blogging, you can find her cheering for the Green Bay Packers. Samantha lives in Iowa with her husband and Vizsla puppy.

Connect with Samantha

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Goals

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.

Happy 2014! Who's made resolutions this year? I hadn't really made any true resolutions but thought I'd get some down on paper (or screen) for this Top Ten Tuesday post. I've done a mix of bookish and non-bookish for this list because I feel like I have a lot to work on in both worlds. What are some of your resolutions?

Bookish Goals

Read 100 Books. This is a pretty basic one. I read a whopping 183 books in 2013 but that was because I had a lot of free time due to unemployment.

Read more quality books...books I want to read. I feel like a lot of the books I read last year blended together and I forgot about a lot of stories. Some because I read them so long ago and some because they just didn't stand out. I'm hoping to change this by not saying yes to every review request (not that I do that anyway) and by reading more of the books on my own shelves (which I started doing last year with my Taking It Off...the Shelf feature).

Work on the blog. I want to spruce up the blog...the layout, how I plan posts, how I design posts, and so on. I've been doing this for over three years now and I feel like it doesn't look like I have been. Time to work on that!

Read more CanLit. I read a lot of Canadian novels last year but I'd like to read more this year. There are so many great Canadian authors out there that I haven't paid attention to.


Non-Bookish Goals

Get a job. This is my number one priority this year. I technically haven't worked for a paycheque in almost a full year. I did two internships but those were (really small) honorariums for twelve weeks of work each. I've been dedicating my time to applying for jobs every day since June and it's been hard. Really hard. I'm trying to do everything I can, which includes going to an employment centre in my city and getting a snazzy redesign on my resume. My hope is to have a job by the time pitchers and catchers report for spring training (mid-February). Fingers crossed!

Re-learn how to knit. This was actually a goal two years ago and I bought yarn and needles and started...something...but I'd like to give it another go and actually make something recognizable.

Learn/take up kickboxing. I have no idea where/how to accomplish this but I had the idea and then it showed up on a TV show I watched and a book I read yesterday. Sign?

(Maybe) get a tattoo. My mom and grandma will read this and kill me (no matter that I'm 26), but it's something I've been thinking about for years. I hadn't ever come up with anything that I liked but the other day I thought of getting 'read' on the inside of my left wrist. Plus, if I ever decide to write a novel I can get 'write' on my right wrist. We'll see if I'm brave enough to do it by the end of the year :)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Jane Austen (Re)Read-a-Long


It's no secret that I love Jane Austen. But I have a confession: I actually haven't read all six of her novels. Oh, the shame! I decided 2014 was the year to change that. Together with some friends I'll be reading (or rereading) all of Austen's novels this year. Since they're lengthy and wordy, I figured it'd be best to read one every two months. After much thought we decided to read the novels in order of publication so here is the reading schedule for this challenge!

January/February - Sense and Sensibility (1811)
March/April - Pride and Prejudice (1813)
May/June - Mansfield Park (1814)
July/August - Emma (1816)
September/October - Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumously)
November/December - Persuasion  (1818, posthumously)

I'm interested to see if Pride and Prejudice remains my favourite or if Persuasion overtakes it. I'm also looking forward to finally reading Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey.

This is just a fun little challenge for my friends and I but you are more than willing to read along with us. It's going to be very informal with me posting my thoughts at the end of the second month, and maybe the thoughts of my friends if they send me snippets as they read. We'll have to see how it all plays out. I'm looking forward to a very all things Austen sort of year!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

End of Year Book Survey: 2013


It's the time of year for bloggers everywhere to take a look back at the year that was. Well, technically it's past that time of year but because I was without internet for all of December I'm only just getting my End of Year Book Survey up now! This survey is in its fourth year and it was created by Jamie of The Perpetual Page-Turner. It's so much fun to do but quite lengthy. So, thank you in advance to those who make it through the entire post. What were your favourite books of the year? Let me know if I missed any good ones! And Happy 2014!


1. Best Book You Read In 2013?
Chick lit – Blogger Girl – Meredith Schorr. Hands down the book I’ve recommended the most this year.
Historical fiction – Life After Life – Kate Atkinson. This book is so twisty turny but it’s amazing.
General fiction – Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan. It had everything and it was awesome.
Contemporary YA – Fangirl– Rainbow Rowell. Just amazing.
Fantasy/dystopian/basically anything not contemporary YA – Divergent series – Veronica Roth. SO glad I finally read this one.


2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
Longbourn by Jo Baker. I still really liked it but this was a case of having mile high expectations. I should have known better!

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013? 
Skinny Bitch in Love - Kim Barnouin. I really wasn't expecting to love this one. I thought "This woman wrote a cookbook...how is she going to do with writing a novel?" Honestly, it's not the best literary adventure ever written but I still loved it. I'm excited there's going to be a sequel!

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?
Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr for bloggers and chick lit lovers, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan for those looking for a good fiction read, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson for people looking for a twisty story.

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?
In the interest of not saying the same thing over and over again, I’m going to go with S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline (aka Lisa Gabriele). This is a new erotica series written that got a lot of marketing from Random House of Canada when it was released earlier this year. We’re seeing erotica everywhere these days but I thought this series had a good storyline to it (unlike others I could name). Not to mention it's written by a Canadian and Lisa is absolutely fabulous (so glad I went to the lunch Random House hosted for bloggers!). Review for S.E.C.R.E.T. here and S.E.C.R.E.T Shared here.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?
Rainbow Rowell. Technically I’ve heard of her and have been meaning to read her debut novel Attachments for a couple of years but I didn’t actually read her books until this year (which is probably a similar story for a lot of people). She blew up the blogosphere with her two YA novels this year, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, and rightly so. They’re awesome novels and she’s an equally awesome person. You can tell that just by following her on Twitter but I met her when she came to do a signing in Toronto and she was beyond lovely.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I’m Canadian. I hadn’t read nearly enough Canadian fiction (referred to as Can Lit) and wanted to change that this year. Little did I know that I would end up doing an internship at the amazing nonprofit Project Bookmark Canada. It made me realize that Can Lit comes in all shapes and sizes. Part of my job had me read novels based in one particular Canadian city to see if there were any potential Bookmarks to be found. The first one I read was my favourite – The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou. It’s about two athletes in Calgary who are training to take part in the summer Olympics. I just loved it. I’ll definitely be making a point to read more Canadian books from now on. Perhaps I’ll start with the books nominated for Canada Reads 2014!

 8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?
Just One Day and Just One Year – Gayle Forman. Holy man. I was crazy invested in Allyson and Willem's lives and I read both of these books in virtually one sitting.

 9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
I don’t tend to reread a lot of books these days, especially one year after another, so this was a tough one. In a perfect world, if I had the time I would like to reread the Divergent series (yes, this is coming up again). In part because it was awesome but also because the movie will be released in March.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?
Hands down the Canadian hardcover edition of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I have never loved a cover more in my life.


11. Most memorable character in 2013? 
 Don from The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I had never read a main character like Don before and I think that’s part of why this novel did so well. To make a very basic comparison, he’s a lot like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Even if you don’t like that show (I don’t), I think you’d like Don and his story.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. Oh, this book was so heartbreaking. It was so kind of Schwalbe to share the last few months of his mother’s life with the world and allow us to learn what an amazing person she was.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? 
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell. As I looked through the list of books I read this year, Fangirl stuck out for me. This book is awesome for so many reasons but I really liked that Cath wasn't your typical college student. And she wasn't your typical atypical college student either. (That makes sense in my head...) I really connected with her because she was so incredibly (painfully) shy and I felt like that when I was in my first year of university too.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read? 
It sounds crazy but I actually hadn't read The Devil Wears Prada (2003) prior to this year. I love the movie but had never heard enough good things about the book to warrant putting the time into reading it. I finally read it because the sequel came out this year…but I still haven't read that one either! I also finally read Austenland (2007), a book I'd been meaning to read for ages. I read this one this year because the movie came out but I still haven't seen it because it didn't come to a theatre near me. Boo!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?
It was hard to pick one favourite so I picked two. The first is a serious quote from Dreamland by Sarah Dessen. 

The next is a little funnier and it's from Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close.

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?
Longest: Allegiant – Veronica Roth. 526 pages.
I read a lot of short stories so I went with the shortest novel (novel = 100+ pages): Cleavage by Theanna Bischoff. 122 pages.
How to do this: sort your Goodreads list by page number.

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? 
End of Allegiant. I had to text my friend and fellow blogger Natalie (Browsing Bookshelves). Exact text: What the effing eff, Allegiant.

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
Romantic: Dash and Lily from Dash and Lily's Book of Dares (Rachel Cohn and David Levithan). This one almost didn't make it on the list as it was one of my last reads of the year. I liked that they got to know each other through words first and I could tell that once they did meet they'd be really good to and for each other.
Family: Neil (father) and Chris (son) in The Banks of Certain Rivers (Jon Harrison). Neil's wife and Chris's mother had had an accident when Chris was quite young so Neil had to raise Chris on his own. He's in his teens in the book and I adored every single scene with the two of them. As I noted in my review, reading about these two was one of my favourite parts of the book.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Hidden – Catherine McKenzie. She is one of my favourite authors and I love that she's Canadian. Her books always have more to them than meets the eye and that was very true of her latest.

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
Just One Day and Just One Year by Gayle Forman. As I noted in my review, the main reason I read these is because Jamie (the lovely brain behind this awesome survey and the blogs The Perpetual Page Turner and The Broke and the Bookish) can't stop gushing about Forman. I now understand why. These books were awesome.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?
Chick lit/women’s fiction. But is that really surprising? :)

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?
Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door. Oh, he was adorable. And much too young for me. But that's not the point. :)

23. Best 2013 debut you read?
Sweet Thing – Renee Carlino. This was my first foray into “real” New Adult and it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. 1. I can’t believe it took me so long to read this amazing book. 2. The world and circus Morgenstern created were just incredible. 3. Read it.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?
Sense &Sensibility – Joanne Trollope. I personally liked this adaptation and I found it kind of fun and interesting to read it while having Jane Austen’s original novel and the Emma Thompson movie adaptation in my head at the same time.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry. I don’t know what it was that hit me so hard but I definitely cried while reading this one (and teared up a time or two while reading Crash Into You, too.)

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?
Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham. Seems kind of silly to say that a book written by a huge celebrity was overlooked but hear me out. I heard tons about how Graham was writing a book and when it’d be released and what it was about. Then it was released aaaand crickets. I don’t really remember seeing this one around the blogosphere (or even “traditional” media…sphere) too much. Did anyone even really end up reading it? It wasn’t super fantastic but it was good!


1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2013? 
I had the pleasure of working with blogger Vanessa for one week when we were Random House of Canada interns. It was my last week and her first and we quickly bonded (and wished we had been together for the full twelve weeks instead of just one). She's the writer behind My Pen, My Voice. She does a lot more writing than just book reviews but her blog is one to check out.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2013? 
After rereading a few, I've decided on two that I like: The Night Circus (posted May 24) and Just One Day/Just One Year (posted December 26).

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?
I'm not really into discussions…only because I forget that I comment somewhere and don't check back. I imagine others are like that as well. But, I did write a discussionesque post this year that I'm really proud of…even though it was kind of ranty and didn't have anything to do with books. I'm not working right now (I thought it'd be a good idea to leave my job last year and try out some publishing internships…ha) and I thought I'd write a post about how unemployment was going for me. It got a lot of responses, both from people who were in similar positions and from those wishing me luck, and it really made me appreciate the book community who showed such support.

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?
I really liked Rachelia's post about the whole Goodreads debacle (side note: can we not have any blogger drama in 2014? Makes me feel like I'm back in high school.) on her blog Bookish Comforts. 

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
I was lucky enough to attend several amazing events and signings in 2013 but I adored this year’s Ontario Blogger Meet-Up. I went in 2012 and knew I had to go again because it’s so incredibly energizing to spend time with fellow bloggers. 

6. Best moment of book blogging/your book life in 2013?
There were so many great moments (interning at Random House of Canada being a big one) but one of my all time favourite bookish moments of this year was helping plan BookBuzz Toronto. It was an amazing event featuring nine women’s fiction authors and took place at a great bar in downtown Toronto. I still can’t believe that this event happened, that I was a part of it, and that I got to meet some of my favourite authors. Mind. Blown.  

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
There were a few posts that got a lot of hits and a few comments this year. My Touring My Bookshelves posts got a lot of love as did last year's survey and most Top Ten Tuesday posts. But one of the posts that stood out on its own was my Random House of Canada internship recap post.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
Perhaps my review of The Rosie Project. I think this was a great 2013 novel and I wish more people would read it. I think a lot of people are turned off by the fact that it's not your typical novel or main character and they think they won't like it. I thought the same thing but I loved it. It's so worth the read.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
The Austen Project. It's a project that is getting six contemporary authors to retell Jane Austen's six classic novels. I'm a little hesitant, even after enjoying Joanna Trollope's reimagined Sense & Sensibility, but I'm interested to see how it all turns out.
Also, three indie bookstore shout outs…I finally went to Words Worth Books in Waterloo this year (I had only lived in the city for five years and out of it for over three) and it was delightful. I also got the chance to visit Curiosity House Books in Creemore. Such a cute town and shop! I also finally managed to visit The Bookshelf in Guelph...I wish I lived in that city because the (awesome) bookstore is also a cafe/bar and cinema. Ah-mazing.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I took part in the 50 Book Pledge hosted by Savvy Reader (HarperCollins Canada) once again. I knew I’d hit 50 easily but I had hoped to make 200. Unfortunately, I didn't quite get there but I’m SO proud of the number I hit (183).


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. This wasn't a 2013 release but I purchased my own copy (that's now signed, woot!) in 2013 so I'm counting it. I MUST READ THIS.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014 (non-debut)?
Ack. Hard to pick…buuut…I think I'll go with Emily Giffin's new one, The One and Only, which is to be released on May 20th. I expect a copy for my birthday on the 28th. :)

3. 2014 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
Oh gosh. This is a tough one. I usually don't know about debuts until they're right on top of me. So I'll have to check my anticipated 2014 reads Top Ten Tuesday post. *reads over post* Alright, actress Judy Greer's memoir, I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star wins!

 4. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2014?
I’m really looking forward to the final All Souls trilogy book, The Book of Life, by Deborah Harkness. It’s been a long time coming!

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?
I thought about not setting a goal for the number of books I want to read this year but I decided to try for 100 and see how it goes. I read way more than that in 2013 but my hope is that I'll be employed and won't have as much free time to read!
Because I can't just pick one thing, I also want to keep working on my blog and making it more…meaningful, I guess. When I was looking through posts to complete this survey I realized that a lot of the books I read just blended together. I'm not sure how to change that but it's something I'm thinking about as I start the new year.