Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Up To I Do Release Day

Happy release day to one of my favourite authors! Today is the day Samantha March's FOURTH book, Up To I Do, is published! Yay!

I had the opportunity to beta-read this one a few months ago and it's so exciting that it's finally out in the world! 

Here's the synopsis of this new book:
Emerson Sinclair, twenty-seven year old hotel heiress, has said yes. With just over a year to plan her extravagant, over the top nuptials to Logan Worthington, it’s all hands on deck with the wedding plans. A Sinclair marrying into the Worthington family is the talk of their small New Hampshire town, and ideas include filming the wedding for a TV segment. But as the items get checked off the list, plans start to go ... not as planned. From not getting a designer dress to a selfish bridesmaid and unaccountable best man, Emerson is afraid her wedding will be more a joke than anything.
When both her mother and sister seemingly begin to lose interest in her wedding plans in favor of their own personal lives, Emerson fears her big day will turn into the forgotten wedding. With the pressure to pull off a beautiful and elegant event that everyone expects from their respectable families, Emerson starts to forget the reason why she is saying I Do in the first place.
Doesn't it sound like fun? This is the first time March has written a chick lit book (her others are more women's fiction) and I think she does a pretty damn good job. (I'll have a review up soon once I have the chance to go through the final copy.)

A promo isn't a promo without a giveaway!
(Please note that I'm not entirely sure if the giveaway is international. Canada doesn't even have half the stores! Due to a family emergency, Samantha wasn't immediately available for me to doublecheck. For my Canadian friends, enter away and we'll work something out if you win!)

Interested in getting the book? (You should be.)
Barnes and Noble

And don't forget to add it to your Goodreads list!

About the Author
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 beauty related. In 2011, she launched her independent publishing company, Marching Ink, and has four published novels—Destined to Fail, The Green Ticket, A Questionable Friendship, and Up To I Do. 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.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review: The Summer Without You

Guys, I am kicking myself for not reading Karen Swan's The Summer Without You last summer when it was sent to me. I could have been recommending this novel to people for a whole year! Especially those who have been looking for vacation or beach or honeymoon reads. The shame! I'm glad I finally did read it because I freaking loved it.

Here's the synopsis:
Rowena Tipton isn't looking for a new life, just a new adventure, something to while away the months as her long-term boyfriend presses pause on their relationship before they become engaged. But when a chance encounter at a New York wedding leads to an audition for a coveted houseshare in The Hamptons - Manhattan's elite beach scene - suddenly a new life is exactly what she's got. Stretching before her is a summer with three eclectic housemates, long days on white sand ocean beaches and parties on gilded tennis courts. But high rewards bring high stakes and Rowena soon finds herself caught in the crossfire of a vicious intimidation campaign. Alone for the first time in her adult life, she has no-one to turn to but a stranger who is everything she doesn't want - but possibly everything she needs...
I would say that The Summer Without You is the perfect summer read. At first glance it could seem like a total fluff book (which you all know I love) but there's so much more to it. I don't want to give much away because I think it's nice to be surprised but I will say there's an intense end to the novel that I didn't see coming. This book is perfect for your next vacation or beach day because it has a great setting (Hamptons, anyone?) and a completely engaging storyline. 

So here's a bit of a problem for me with this book. Swan, the author, is English, as is Ro, the main character. I've read a ton of English books so I know a few phrases and words that are unfamiliar to some Canadians and Americans. That's not the issue...the problem is when the American characters are using British phrases. It happened a few times throughout the book but the one instance that really stuck out for me was when one of the roommates used the term "torch" when they were out at night. An American would not use "torch", they'd say "flashlight". It's not a huge deal but it was still a wee bit of an annoyance. (Note: While the copy I read was an ARC, I did check a final copy of the novel and this error was not caught in the final editing process.)

I really liked reading about Ro and her roommates. The story wouldn't have been as fun or enriching had it not been for her roommates. They were all so smart, fun, and sweet (in their own ways) that I found myself wishing for Happily Ever Afters for all of them (as you do when you're reading a novel like this!). I liked that all of the characters who were introduced had an important part to play in the plot. There was a lot going on, and much that you don't even realize is important, so having unnecessary characters would have been annoying. Every character had a journey to go on and I loved that. I almost wish that Swan would take us back to the Hamptons to revisit some of the characters, especially Hump, because I don't feel like everyone's story is finished. 

Emotions run high in this novel and I appreciated how Swan wrote the story so I was feeling everything the characters were. Though I was feeling some annoyance at Ro because she hadn't clued in to what had really happened with someone and I hated how she was jumping to conclusions. Actually, Ro kind of annoyed me a lot throughout the book. Her behaviour was questionable at the beginning and I wasn't really sure how I was going to feel about her. Once she started to live her own life, things started to change for the better, thankfully!

I loved The Summer Without You for so many reasons. Karen Swan has written an emotionally engaging novel that is so much more than its cover suggests. It'll hook you like it did me - I couldn't stop thinking about it! You need to pick up a copy and add it to you beach bag! 

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

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Review: How Do You Know?

There are a few authors who are on my "I don't care what you write, I will read it" lists. Meredith Schorr is one of them. Her novel Blogger Girl is one of my all time favourites (review here) so when she asked if I would review her latest, How Do You Know?, I immediately said yes.

Here's the synopsis:
What if you were approaching the end of your thirties and all of the life milestones you took for granted in your youth suddenly seemed out of reach?
On the eve of her thirty-ninth birthday, Maggie Piper doesn't look, act, or feel much different than she did at twenty-nine, but with her fortieth birthday speeding towards her like a freight train, she wonders if she should. The fear of a slowing metabolism, wrinkling of her skin, and the ticking of her biological clock leaves Maggie torn between a desire to settle down like most of her similarly-aged peers and concern that all is not perfect in her existing relationship. When a spontaneous request for a temporary "break" from her live-in boyfriend results in a "break-up," Maggie finds herself single once again and only twelve months from the big 4.0. In the profound yet bumpy year that follows, Maggie will learn, sometimes painfully, that life doesn't always happen on a schedule, there are no deadlines in love, and age really is just a number.
I knew I'd like this book but what I wasn't sure about was if I would be able to identify with the heroine. Meredith, and most others who pay attention to what kinds of stories I do and do not enjoy, knows that I'm not always a fan of reading about a woman who is in her late thirties or older, particularly if she's a mother. So, when she pitched the book to me she said that she knew I liked younger characters but I would still enjoy reading about Maggie. She was right. While Maggie is older, she is still struggling with some of the same issues I, at 28, am. It was easy to relate to her and I always enjoy a story more when I love the main character.

I liked that I wasn't always sure what the end of the book would look like. I didn't know what would happen with Maggie's romantic relationship status and I loved that. I knew what I was hoping for but I still loved experiencing all the twists and turns along with Maggie as she tried to figure out her love life.

One of the main points, or themes, of the novel goes back to my preference for reading books about younger characters. This book made me realize that it's not the age of the characters that throw me off or make me enjoy one story over another. It's about the life, the feelings, the experiences of the character. I've learned, just like Maggie, that age is just a number. It's a good lesson to take with me as I approach the end of my twenties. Stop comparing your own life to others. There's no set timeline for when you should or should not have done something. Embrace your own life. I may not want to do things exactly like Maggie did but she's a damn good role model for me.

As with all of Meredith's novels, How Do You Know? is both thoughtful and funny. It's well-written and features so many awesome characters that you can't help but fall in love with. Plus, the storyline is so realistic that you will have no problem identifying with it and the characters. It's hard to focus on specifics with this novel because it's just such an all around great book. There's no need to look any further for your next fun and engaging read. Pick up How Do You Know? by Meredith Schorr. You won't be disappointed!

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Book Acquisitions

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.

Us bloggers get a lot of books. I don't receive nearly as many as other bloggers but I still found this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic really easy! I've listed the last ten books I've received, and where I got them from. And it's really only from June and July! Almost all were for review but there's one purchase, two library books, and a book loan in there too. What was the last book you got? Did you buy it or borrow it? Or is a book for review? Links will lead to Goodreads or review.

Broken Promise - Linwood Barclay
Book 1 of 3 waiting for me after I got home from BEA. This was an ARC I received for review for Niagara Life, the magazine I also review for. From Penguin Random House Canada 

In the Unlikely Event - Judy Blume
Book 2 of 3. Judy Blume's latest! Need I say more? Also from Penguin Random House Canada.

China Rich Girlfriend - Kevin Kwan
Book 3 of 3. My most anticapted read of 2015. And it totally lived up to my expectations. Also from Penguin Random House Canada.

PS I Still Love You - Jenny Han
This was one I borrowed from my local library, which is where I get most of my YA books! I just had to find out what was going to happen with Lara Jean!

Finding Audrey - Sophie Kinsella
Yet another book from Penguin Random House Canada. I was really interested to see how Kinsella approached YA.

Five Ways to Fall - K.A. Tucker
I don't own all of Tucker's Ten Tiny Breaths series (something I wish my wallet would allow for!) so I had to borrow the last one from the library.

All Inclusive - Farzana Doctor
This was a surprise ARC delivery from Dundurn Press and it came with some awesome swag, too.

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster - Scott Wilbanks
Sourcebooks sent me this one to review as part of a blog tour. Isn't the cover delightful?

Christmas in the Snow - Karen Swan
I gifted this one to my boyfriend's mom for Christmas and when we went to visit last weekend she sent it home with me to read. Since I just read one of Swan's, I'm really excited.

Chasing River - K.A. Tucker
I was able to buy a copy of this one the weekend before it officially went on sale. I cannot wait to dive in.

Bonus: The Blue - Lucy Clarke
I'm adding this one in because I didn't take a picture of it when I got it so I'm not sure when it showed up. I also want to get the buzz started because IT IS SO GOOD. It'll be published in August. This ARC was from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Review: In the Unlikely Event

I have a bit of a confession to make...I didn't read a ton of Judy Blume books growing up. At least, not that I can remember. That didn't stop me from being excited about her new book though. She is a legend. In the Unlikely Event lived up to the hype, in my opinion, and is one book you'll want to get your hands on this summer.

Here's the synopsis: 

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

I think the only thing that would bother some readers is the number of points of view we get in the book. Miri is our heroine but each chapter features several different characters. Some, like Christine and Mason, have their perspective shared more often. But others may only get one chance at providing their POV. Once I got used to the way the story was told, I started to enjoy it. Except when I realized that, like I said, some characters are only featured once and that sometimes meant they were on one of the doomed flights. It's hard to read but it's an effective way to tell the human side of the story.

I enjoyed that this book was a historical one for me (I actually wasn't even quite yet born at the time of the "thirty five years later"!). Early 1950s America is not really a time period I'm familiar with since I'm Canadian and didn't pay nearly enough attention in history class (ever wish you could tell your younger self to smarten up?) to remember what it was like it my own country in 1951 let alone another. I liked that it was historical in the sense that it was a great story that just happened to be taking place in another era. I didn't find any of those moments where I was obviously supposed to be learning or needed the author to over-explain something that modern me just didn't get. Maybe that was due to the fact that it's recent history and quite similar today's world. 

What I liked especially was that, amid all the plane crash horrors and everything else, Miri was going through the same things and having the same feelings as all teenage girls have. She's having the rush of feelings that accompany your first love - the giddiness, the insecurity, the "how am I supposed to be feeling and acting?" questions - that all of us should be able to identify with. She's also learning how to deal with situations as an adult - how to analyze them and how to think for herself and come up with her own opinions - but she's still being stifled by authority figures. I really liked the coming of age part of this novel. It especially helped that I adored Miri!

This was actually a really hard review for me to write. In the Unlikely Event is a book that makes it hard to explain why it's so good. Sure, I can say the writing is excellent and it packs a crazy emotional punch, but that doesn't quite do the trick. I wish I could just shove the book in your hands and say, "Read it!" and be done with it! I do hope that what I've managed to cobble together here has convinced you to pick up Judy Blume's new book. In the Unlikely Event has a story you won't soon forget.

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

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review: Emma

The latest Jane Austen novel to get updated by the fine folks at The Austen Project is Emma. Acclaimed author Alexander McCall Smith was tapped to rewrite this novel for today's audience. I went in with the hope that I'd enjoy Emma more if she were modern. Nope. Still not a fan of that girl!

Here's the synopsis:
Prepare to meet a young woman who thinks she knows everything
Fresh from university, Emma Woodhouse arrives home in Norfolk ready to embark on adult life with a splash. Not only has her sister, Isabella, been whisked away on a motorbike to London, but her astute governess, Miss Taylor is at a loose end watching as Mr. Woodhouse worries about his girls. Someone is needed to rule the roost and young Emma is more than happy to oblige.
At the helm of her own dinner parties, and often found either rearranging the furniture at the family home of Hartfield, or instructing her new protegee, Harriet Smith, Emma is in
charge. You don’t have to be in London to go to parties, find amusement or make trouble.
Not if you’re Emma, the very big fish in the rather small pond.
But for someone who knows everything, Emma doesn’t know her own heart. And there is only one person who can play with Emma’s indestructible confidence, her friend and inscrutable neighbour George Knightly – this time has Emma finally met her match?
Ever alive to the social comedy of village life, beloved author Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma is the busybody we all know and love, and a true modern delight.
I first read Austen's Emma for a university film class. We had to read the book, watch the Gwyneth Paltrow adaptation, then Clueless, and finally write an essay. I seriously disliked it. It wasn't the writing or the time period - it was Emma herself. She's nosy and annoying and thinks she knows all. I was really hopeful that the updated Emma would be slightly less insufferable. No such luck. All of her frustrating qualities seem to transfer over to the modern age!

As with some of the other updates I've read, I didn't really think McCall Smith did a great job of modernizing the story. Granted, I imagine it would be kind of hard when one of the biggest storylines is Emma staying at home with her father and eventually falling in love with a much older man. Too much stays the same (why does Emma still have a governess in modern day England? Unless that's still a thing?) and that disappoints me.

This is, clearly, a short review but I just couldn't think of anything to say. (Why beat around the bush, eh?) I didn't enjoy Jane Austen's Emma and I certainly didn't enjoy Alexander McCall Smith's retelling. I don't think it did what The Austen Project wanted it to do...though I'm beginning to wonder what that is...please, oh please, don't let them butcher Pride and Prejudice, which is up next. 

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Review: The Knockoff

Looking for the next The Devil Wears Prada? Authors Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza have you covered. Their new novel The Knockoff is a hilariously addictive novel that is similar to Weisberger's but with its own twist on the world of fashion magazines. It's such a delight to read!

Here's the synopsis:
An outrageously stylish, wickedly funny novel of fashion in the digital age, The Knockoff is the story of Imogen Tate, editor in chief of Glossy magazine, who finds her twentysomething former assistant Eve Morton plotting to knock Imogen off her pedestal, take over her job, and reduce the magazine, famous for its lavish 768-page September issue, into an app.
When Imogen returns to work at Glossy after six months away, she can barely recognize her own magazine. Eve, fresh out of Harvard Business School, has fired “the gray hairs,” put the managing editor in a supply closet, stopped using the landlines, and hired a bevy of manicured and questionably attired underlings who text and tweet their way through meetings. Imogen, darling of the fashion world, may have Alexander Wang and Diane von Furstenberg on speed dial, but she can’t tell Facebook from Foursquare and once got her iPhone stuck in Japanese for two days. Under Eve’s reign, Glossy is rapidly becoming a digital sweatshop—hackathons rage all night, girls who sleep get fired, and “fun” means mandatory, company-wide coordinated dances to BeyoncĂ©. Wildly out of her depth, Imogen faces a choice—pack up her Smythson notebooks and quit, or channel her inner geek and take on Eve to save both the magazine and her career. A glittering, uproarious, sharply drawn story filled with thinly veiled fashion personalities, The Knockoff is an insider’s look at the ever-changing world of fashion and a fabulous romp for our Internet-addicted age.
The Knockoff  (known as Techbitch in the UK and, I think, Australia) was one of those books that I enjoyed more the more I read. I found this novel a bit hard to get into, in part, I think, because I had some issues with the way the story was being told. Imogen is the main character but every once and awhile the story is told from another character's point of view. It was a bit jarring and it threw the flow off a bit. I liked having another side of the story explored but it just kind of hopped around with no real sense of whose POV we'd see next. I also sometimes felt it was very clear there were two's hard to explain but it goes back to the flow and there were times everything just felt a little off.

I went into reading this one expecting Imogen to be like Miranda Priestly. Personality-wise, Imogen is nothing like the aforementioned Devil. She's actually a nice person, someone you want to work for not just because she's a smart, savvy businesswoman, but because she's so lovely. I totally fell in love with Imogen. I liked that Sykes and Piazza made her so relatable, even to me, a twentysomething. I couldn't relate to Eve because, well, she's a psychotic bitch (and that's kind of the whole point to Eve...she's a hilarious parody and totally nuts). Imogen tries so hard to keep up with the tech world and does pretty well for someone who had had her head in the sand. It was actually pretty fun to read as she discovered Twitter and Instagram (she fails at one and is obsessed with another) and learned how to use them properly.

The Knockoff isn't a book about romantic relationships or family. It's about careers and the workplace and I found it refreshing. Bonus: the American/Canadian cover totally nails that feeling. I would have been upset if the designers had made it light and feminine. The UK cover is a bit softer but the title, Techbitch, creates a nice contrast.

Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza have written such a fun novel. The Knockoff should be put in everyone's beach bag (or on their ereader which will then go in their beach bag) because it is a book you need to read this summer. The characters are both relatable and extreme and the glimpse into the world of fashion is awesome. Check this one out and let me know what you think!

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