Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2015 So Far

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.

We're halfway through 2015 (how did that happen?) so it's fitting that this week's TTT topic has us listing our favourite reads of the year so far. Yikes. It's hard! Apparently I've read a lot of good books this year. I managed to get it down to 10 but if you want to see all the books I've loved this year, check out my Goodreads page! What have some of your favourite reads been this year? Links will lead to reviews or, more likely, the Goodreads page. (I'm soooo behind on reviews!)

Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea/the Island/Windy Poplars - Lucy Maud Montgomery
Lindsey of Reeder Reads decided to do a Green Gables Readalong that, if I'm being honest, a lot of us are failing at. BUT! It is an amazing idea. I adored the Anne books when I was younger and rereading them has been fabulous. I'd forgotten how lovely the story and writing is. I can't wait to get my TBR list down a bit and continue reading the last four books. If I had to pick a winner of the four I've reread so far though, Anne of the Island would definitely come out on top.

Saint Anything - Sarah Dessen
Guys. I cannot tell you how much I loved Dessen's latest book. I wasn't crazy about her last two so I wasn't sure what to expect with Saint Anything. This one is a bit darker than her others (and I'm SO GLAD the cover design reflects that and didn't make it all girly like they tend to be for hers...but I'm veering off into another topic altogether...) but that's kind of what makes it oh so good. It's real and raw and just amazing. Read it.

99 Days - Katie Cotugno
I heard about this YA novel through Jamie (who, you should already know, is behind Broke and Bookish and also her fab blog The Perpetual Page-Turner). I totally trust her YA recommendations because she is a contemporary lover and that's really the only YA I read. I haven't read Cotugno's first, How to Love, yet but I imagine I will soon because I just really loved how her latest novel was written and I loved Molly, the main character. She's in a crazy messy situation, which won't be for everyone, but I thought the feelings Molly was having were totally spot on.

Four Seconds to Lose - KA Tucker
I keep reading the next in Tucker's series (this one is the third in the Ten Tiny Breaths, which I loved) and saying to myself, "Oh, there's no way I could love the next one more." That's why I give myself breaks between them because I don't think I can handle jumping into another character's life. But. I really think Four Seconds to Lose is my favourite of the three I've read (just put the last one on reserve at my library!) so far. Maybe. Oh, I don't know anymore. Long story short: I just effing love Tucker's books.

The Royal We - Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
I could not stop reading this book! You don't have to be a royals lover to enjoy it but having at least some sense of Will and Kate's relationship will probably make you like the book more. The book is hilarious but it has all the emotions you want and need packed in its (many, many, many) pages.

At the Water's Edge - Sara Gruen
I adored this historical fiction novel. I loved that it was set in Scotland but I equally loved reading as the main character, Maddie, learned about herself. The story gets a little harrowing at times, you're not entirely sure how stable her husband is, but the high emotions and tension are what suck you into this story.

The Marrying Type - Laura Chapman
I love books about wedding planners, I love books that are a subtle nod or homage to Jane Austen's novels, and I love Laura. So, it's no surprise that I loved her latest, The Marrying Type. It's a fun book with a lot of heart.

In the Unlikely Event - Judy Blume
I admit that I actually couldn't tell you exactly what Judy Blume books I read growing up. Are you there God? It's me, Margaret, for sure. But other than that? No clue. But that didn't stop me from wanting to read her new book. She's a legend for a reason. And oh man am I ever glad I read this one. The story is so captivating and I actually loved that so many characters were able to tell their part of the story. It sounds like it wouldn't work, and from any other author it might not, but in Blume's hands, it adds to the crazy nature of the story. Make sure you read this one.

The Knockoff - Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
Another admission: I wasn't sure how much I'd love this book. But the good news is I loved it a lot! The story takes a very real problem (those who don't understand the technology being shoved at them by the younger and (generally) more tech-savvy generation) and makes it extreme. And it's awesome that it's extreme because that's what you expect in a novel about the fashion world. It's the perfect read for the summer.

China Rich Girlfriend - Kevin Kwan
This one was probably my most anticipated read of 2015. I freaking loved Crazy Rich Asians when I read it two years ago and could not wait to get back into the insane life of these characters. The imagery in this one is amazing and the story is so crazy but so good. I'm already impatient for the third book! And the film adaptation! Whee!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Review: After

I have been struggling with what to write about Anna Todd's After since I read it back in February. On the one hand, I couldn't put it down. On the other, it features one of the most messed up love stories I've ever read. Conflicted, I am.

Here's the synopsis:
Tessa is a good girl with a sweet, reliable boyfriend back home. She’s got direction, ambition, and a mother who’s intent on keeping her that way.
But she’s barely moved into her freshman dorm when she runs into Hardin. With his tousled brown hair, cocky British accent, tattoos, and lip ring, Hardin is cute and different from what she’s used to.
But he’s also rude—to the point of cruelty, even. For all his attitude, Tessa should hate Hardin. And she does—until she finds herself alone with him in his room. Something about his dark mood grabs her, and when they kiss it ignites within her a passion she’s never known before.
He’ll call her beautiful, then insist he isn't the one for her and disappear again and again. Despite the reckless way he treats her, Tessa is compelled to dig deeper and find the real Hardin beneath all his lies. He pushes her away again and again, yet every time she pushes back, he only pulls her in deeper.
Tessa already has the perfect boyfriend. So why is she trying so hard to overcome her own hurt pride and Hardin’s prejudice about nice girls like her?
Unless…could this be love?
There was the time before Tessa met Hardin, and then there’s everything AFTER ... Life will never be the same.
Before I dive into the review, I will confirm that yes, this is the One Direction fanfiction book that was published on Wattpad. I don't know much about One Direction (and knew even less when I read the book, which was pre-Zayn leaving the band...and yes, I did have to Google his name to make sure I spelled it correctly) but I like to bop along to their music when it comes on the radio. So, the fact that Todd wrote this series with the band in mind played no part in my decision to read it. I was drawn in based on the synopsis alone.

I am completely over the "good girl meets total badass" storyline in New Adult. Just done. I probably wouldn't have minded too much with this one if it hadn't seemed like Tessa was totally abandoning who she was pre-Hardin. College is a time of discovering yourself, yes, but there are still some qualities that are quite defined by the time you turn 18. Not being treated like shit by someone is one of those qualities and I couldn't believe that Tessa was allowing Hardin to treat her like he was.


Ok. That was the major issue for me with this book. Hardin is awful to Tessa. And I really don't think I had a problem with it simply because I'm almost ten years older than these characters (good lord, has it really been almost ten years since I started university?). I can understand that Hardin has some serious issues. That's ok. But that is absolutely no excuse for being an asshole towards the girl you want to date. He's crazy jealous which is stupid because he also sometimes acts like he wants nothing to do with her in public. Or even in private sometimes. There were times he almost redeemed himself because I could see that he kinda sorta wanted to try to be a better person. But then he'd screw up again. And he screwed up big time at the end. I really couldn't believe how awful he was. It's mind boggling.

And yet...

And yet, I couldn't put the damn book down. There was something addictive about it. And I don't think it was the good kind of addictive. I imagine the pull I felt towards this book was similar to the feeling drug addicts have when they're looking for their next hit. Seriously. I know it wasn't really good (PS the writing in this one isn't super great either) but something kept pulling me back in.

Part of me wants to read the rest of the series to see if Hardin gets his act together and if Tessa grows a backbone. But the other part of me cannot bear to read any more about this unhealthy relationship.

So...do I think you should read After? Not really. Anna Todd came up with an intriguing idea, One Direction fanfiction, but she also came up with one of the most unhealthy romantic relationships ever. At the risk of sounding old and overprotective of teens, this is not a book you want your teenage daughter, friend, niece, whatever to be reading. I do not want girls of any age thinking that she can change the guy she's dating, not when he continually treats her like crap. And, ok, fine, I probably would read After I Collided, book two in the series, if it fell into my lap. I just can't look away.

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

Friday, June 26, 2015

New Cover Reveal: Finding Lucas

When I first heard about Finding Lucas a few years ago, I never imagined I'd become friends with the author. Samantha Stroh Bailey has become such a cheerleader for me, always with a kind, hilarious, or helpful word for me. I had been talking with her for a little while when I finally read her novel and, luckily, I loved it! My review from 2013 is here.

I'm so thrilled to share the brand spanking new cover for this book. I absolutely adore it!

But! Before I do, I want to share the synopsis with you, in case you haven't clicked on my review link yet!
Can you ever really go back to the past?
After five long years of living with Derek, her former bad-boy-turned-metrosexual boyfriend, Jamie Ross finally reaches her breaking point. She's had enough of his sneering disdain for her second hand wardrobe, unusual family and low-paying job as the associate producer of Chicago's sleaziest daytime talk show. When her new boss plans a segment on reuniting lost loves, Jamie remembers Lucas, her first love and the boy she'd lost ten years earlier. Spurred on by her gang of quirky friends, Jamie goes on a hilarious, disastrous and life changing hunt to track Lucas down. But are some loves best left behind?
Now, to reveal the cover!

Ah! Isn't it just completely delightful?

If you want to buy the book (you totally should) or find out more about Samantha (again, you should), check out the links below!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: Eight Hundred Grapes

I've read one of Laura Dave's novels before and loved it (my review of The First Husband was posted three years ago today!) so I was thrilled to read her latest, Eight Hundred Grapes. It was released back on June 2 and since then has been tearing up the best of summer lists - for good reason. I really enjoyed reading this one!

Here's the synopsis:
There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide…
Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.
But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.
Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets…
I think my favourite thing about this book is that it's not just about Georgia. Don't get me wrong, I totally loved her, but I really liked that there were amazing secondary characters who you wanted to learn more about. This isn't just a novel about one woman's relationship, though that is what puts everything in motion. It also has a little to do with careers and a lot to do with family. It's a book about life, really. I loved that because it was realistic. It was sweet, it was funny, it was hard, and it was messy. Exactly like life.

This novel is so well written and unpredictable in the best possible way. I didn't know if Georgia would be able to forgive her fiancé and I didn't know what would happen with the family's winery. Dave kept me guessing which made me more invested in the story. I couldn't assume I knew what the end result so turning every page was a delight because I truly didn't know what would happen next.

I loved that the book was set at a vineyard. I live in one of Canada's wine regions so I've come to appreciate the land and weather that's needed to make wine. There are lots of interesting facts about wine to be found throughout the novel (I'm sure the research would have been so tough for this one!) but it's all seamlessly woven into the story. Other than making you want to have a glass or two yourself, the book should also spark more of an interest in how wine is made.

I do have one important recommendation for you for when you read this book: read it in one go if you can (or at least in a couple of large chunks). I read bits and pieces on my short lunch breaks and I never felt as invested in the story as I wanted to and I expect I would have been had I read it on a Saturday afternoon. Dave has written a story that you want to become totally immersed in and you should definitely dedicate your next free weekend to reading it.

Final sort of side note: I had the chance to meet Laura when I was at BEA last month. I had a blogger friend get me into the party for her book and I am SO glad I was able to go. It was a nice, laid back event with lots of food and wine. Plus, Laura is an absolute sweetheart. I'll post more about that event once I finally get around to writing my BEA recaps (so much happened!) so stay tuned!

Giant blogger + tiny author = massive height difference.
Eight Hundred Grapes is a novel that you are going to want to read this summer. Read it on a rainy day, read it on the beach, just read it. Preferably with a glass of wine beside you! I adored Laura Dave's latest and I cannot wait for her next novel!

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

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Spotlight: J'adore Montreal

Bonjour mes amis! I have a delightful surprise for you. Isabelle Lafleche, author of J'adore New York(review here) and J'adore Paris, has written a short story! J'adore Montreal is a short story that will allow you to spend one more night with chic protagonist, Catherine.

Here's what the story is all about:
Catherine Lambert is an endearing, stylish and razor-sharp legal mind. Along with her trusted legal assistant Rikash, a street savvy, wickedly funny, lover of everything chic, they arrive in Montreal for an evening of fun and glamour for the re-opening of the Dior boutique in the city's chicest department store. During the festivities, Catherine catches the eye of a mysterious local designer who appears to have something up his sleeve. Once again, she will need to use her unparalleled savoir faire to get to the bottom of things while Rikash mingles with the attractive local crowd...
I love that Isabelle has placed the story in Montréal since that is where she lives. It's a city I've always wanted to travel to but my French is, well, basically non-existent.

Once I finally read J'adore Paris (I'm embarrassed to admit how long it has been sitting on my shelf...) I will jump into J'adore Montréal. I'll share my thoughts on both once I read them!

Happy Sunday!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Review: The Marrying Type

There was a moment after finishing my event management post-grad program that I considered getting into wedding planning. It was a brief moment. I realized I just wasn't cut out for dealing with the brides nor did I want to give up every summer weekend. But that doesn't mean I'm not still interested in the whole wedding thing. So, when Laura Chapman asked if I would review her latest novel, The Marrying Type, I jumped at the chance to see what one of my favourite authors would do with the popular wedding planner story.

Here's the synopsis:
Always the wedding planner, never a bride, Elliot Lynch is famous for orchestrating the splashiest weddings in Charleston, South Carolina. When her father’s sloppy management practices leave them on the brink of bankruptcy, Elliot will do whatever it takes to save the family business. When asked to appear on “The Marrying Type,” a reality TV show about the people behind the scenes as couples exchange I dos, she says yes to the invasion of privacy (and the hefty paycheck that comes with it).
With a camera crew capturing every detail of her life, Elliot faces her most challenging contract yet: planning a wedding where her ex is involved in every part of the process. Add in a lazy assistant, liquor-loving bridesmaid, and rival planner encroaching on her turf, and Elliot’s wedding season goes from high-end to high-stress.
Forced to confront her past, Elliot must live out her troubled present on national TV if she has any hope of saving her future.
There is so much going on in this book but that is what makes it so good. Chapman expertly weaves together every storyline and everything flows and fits together perfectly. Yes, there is a drunk, out of control bridesmaid and a reality TV show and family drama and an ex who is back in town BUT The Marrying Type would not be the amazing novel that it is if any one of those elements had been left out. It's wedding season in the south. Of course it's crazy! :)

I loved Elliot. She's one of those characters who is just flawed enough at the beginning of the story that she's not annoying and you know she's going to get herself on the right path by the end. It's not that she was imperfect, exactly, it's just that she was totally realistic. She had her issues and hang ups like anyone else does and that was refreshing. I really enjoyed reading about her life and I was rooting for her throughout the entire novel.

I can't finish this review without mentioning the romance in this novel. Even though I knew Elliot's ex, Eric, would be showing up (thanks to the synopsis) I had no idea how or when he would arrive back in Elliot's life. I was constantly surprised by what happened in their relationship and I loved that. They had some major obstacles to overcome but I really wanted a Happily Ever After for the two of them because they just seemed so perfect together!

Fun fact: The Marrying Type is a bit of a modern take on Jane Austen's Persuasion. I absolutely loved that. It's a bit of a subtle homage but Chapman does an amazing job of updating the classic story while still making this novel all her own. And if you haven't read Persuasion yet, get on it. *makes note to reread the novel as soon as possible.*

I loved loved loved The Marrying Type. I actually read it while on vacation on a cruise ship and I hate that I couldn't tweet or message Laura to tell her how much I was loving it! It's such a great story about a twentysomething wedding planner trying to figure out her career and solve all her family's problems. Bonus, there's an amazingly sweet love story too! So far I've loved everything Laura Chapman has written and I absolutely cannot wait to see what she comes out with next!

*A copy of this novel was provided by the author in exchange for review consideration. All reviews are honest and my own.*