Friday, December 30, 2016

Review: Christmas Under the Stars


Over the years Karen Swan has become synonymous with Christmas books. This year's winter offering is Christmas Under the Stars. A wintery book that's set in Canada? I'm in.

Here's the synopsis:
Worlds apart. A love without limit.
In the snow-topped mountains of the Canadian Rockies, Meg and Mitch are living their dream. Just weeks away from their wedding, they work and play with Tuck and Lucy, their closest and oldest friends. Meg and Lucy are as close as sisters - much to Meg's sister's dismay - and Tuck and Mitch have successfully turned their passion for snowboarding into a booming business.
But when a polar storm hits, tragedy strikes. Alone in the tiny mountain log cabin she shares with Mitch, Meg desperately tries to radio for help - and it comes from the most unexpected quarter, a lone voice across the airwaves that sees what she cannot.
As the snow melts and they try to live with their loss, the friendship Meg thought was forever is buckled by tensions, rivalries and devastating secrets. Nothing is as she thought and only her radio contact understands what it is to be truly alone. As they share confidences in the dark, witnessed only by the stars, Meg feels her future begin to pull away from her past and is forced to consider a strange truth - is it her friends who are the strangers? And a stranger who really knows her best?
I've never been to Banff but it's somewhere I'd like to travel to. If you don't know what that area of Canada looks like, look it up and start planning your trip. So. Beautiful. Anywho...I don't think I've ever read a novel that's set in Banff so I was excited about that. Even though I haven't been there myself, I felt that Swan managed to capture the essence of the city. Apart from a few word choices and terms, it really felt like I was in Canada and I loved that. But those few words and terms irked me quite a bit, unfortunately. Canadians do not use the term "ice-hockey", OK? We call it hockey, full stop. We use Celsius for temperature, not Fahrenheit, and while we're taught metric weights in school now, we tend to use pounds, not kilograms. Here's a big one: Canada has provinces, not states so don't have a Canadian ask someone when they last left the state, please. And yes, I did check my ARC against a finished copy (and you should be glad I did because there were two major mistakes in the advanced copy that were thankfully fixed in the published book). Oh, and my one final annoyance...the characters go to a Stanley Cup quarter final game in Calgary. The Flames are playing against, wait for it, the Toronto Maple Leafs. First of all, the Leafs are sucking so they wouldn't make it to the quarter finals. (OK, so that's just mostly a dig at the Leafs haha) Second, these two teams would not be playing each other in the quarter finals because one is an Eastern division team and the other is a Western division team. Am I reading too much into this? Maybe. But this is a novel about my countrymen (and countrywomen) and I want it to reflect my country properly, you know?

*breathes* OK. Time to be positive because the book had a lot to offer.

This story twisted and turned in so many amazing ways. It wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be and that was amazing. Swan is able to write these heart wrenching, drama filled stories that keep you interested and turning the pages right to the very end. I actually could not believe how the story ended up. I do believe my jaw dropped! 

The book wasn't all about the drama though. There was a romance woven throughout that was so sweet and such a slow burn, which it needed to be. Meg was in no place to start dating but, bit by bit, she realized that maybe she could open herself up to love again. Jonas seemed to be such an incredibly smart and decent man and I really wanted that for Meg.

I really loved that Meg and her sister, Ronnie, rediscovered their bond over the course of the novel. They were close growing up but something shifted as they got older. I'm pretty close with my sister (which I'm sure she'd agree with when she's not annoyed with her big sister haha) so I always enjoy books about sisters. It was great to see Ronnie help Meg emerge a little bit more from her grief when Meg visited her in Toronto.  

I know I'm posting my review after Christmas (and I hope everyone who celebrated had a wonderful holiday!) but you can definitely still read this book now that Christmas is over. Even though the holiday is right in the title, it doesn't have any holiday spirit. The book is written so you know what the date is for every chapter. Christmas Day is actually skipped right over. I'm glad I wasn't reading this looking for a festive novel because I wouldn't have gotten it. But it's a wonderful winter read that is perfect for reading by the fire while looking out at the snow. Or, I suppose, giving you a great image of snow if you live somewhere that doesn't get the frosty white stuff (lucky you!). 

It might not seem like it, but I did enjoy Christmas Under the Stars. Karen Swan has written a book unlike one I have ever read before. Even with the few things that annoyed me, the unique story and setting really helped me like Swan's latest novel. 

*An ARC of this novel was provided by Publishers Group Canada in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Monday, December 19, 2016

Review: Miracle on 5th Avenue


Miracle on 5th Avenue is the third and final book in Sarah Morgan's From Manhattan with Love series. I wrote about the first two books (Sleepless in Manhattan and Sunset in Central Park) earlier this year. OK, maybe "wrote" isn't strong enough..."gushed" might be more accurate. I just adored this series and was both sad and happy to finally read the last story.

Here's the synopsis:
It will take a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this perfectly festive fairy tale of New York!Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she's given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn't expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.
Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife's death looming, he's isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn't appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?
I knew even before I read the synopsis of this book that Eva was going to be paired with Lucas, who also happens to be one of Eva's best friend's favourite authors. I could sense how Morgan was setting it up in the first two books but I was looking forward to seeing how she was going to have the pair actually meet. And seeing how on earth they'd get along. Eva is all sunshine and sweetness and Lucas is a crime writer who tends to see the worst in the world. Talk about opposites attract!

And attract they did! It's almost always amusing to be the reader and know that both the heroine and the hero are attracted to each other but aren't doing a damn thing about it and/or trying to deny their attraction. Why they tried to resist it, I'll never know but I did love reading as the attraction between Eva and Lucas grew. And grew...and grew...until they finally gave in.

I'll admit I was very worried about Eva because she's such a sweet character. But don't confuse sweet with boring or helpless. She is a strong female who just loves love and tries to be positive as much as possible. I did like that Morgan allowed Eva to finally grieve some more for her grandmother without feeling so guilty about it. I was worried because I knew there would come a time in the book where Lucas would inevitably hurt her (I'm no newbie to romances...I know the formula and don't mind it as long as the author makes me want to keep reading. And Morgan always makes me want to keep reading) and I didn't want to see her hurt. Of course, I also knew I'd get the Happily Ever After I wanted :)

I had put off reading the third book in the series for a couple of reasons. I like to give myself a break between books when I know the main characters are going to change. I fall in love with them and I want to keep reading about them and I know if I switch too soon then I won't love the next pair as much as I should. I also wanted to wait to read this until closer to Christmas because I knew it would help get me in the holiday spirit. It's not so Christmassy that you can't read it at any time of year but it has enough festive cheer to make it a fantastic read for the season. Decorations, holiday galas, New York in December, and the magic of Christmas...it just all works so well for romance novels!

I don't know how much else I can say about Miracle on 5th Avenue that I haven't already said about the first two books in Sarah Morgan's series. I loved it and didn't want it to end because I just adored spending time with Eva, Lucas, and the rest of the characters (though I found they don't make as many appearances in this book as in the others...perhaps because Lucas isn't part of their group and he's holed away trying to finish his novel). I highly recommend the From Manhattan with Love series. In fact, the first book would make a great stocking stuffer for the romance lover in your life!

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

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cover Reveal: Until It Fades


If you know me, you know that I am a HUGE K.A. Tucker fan. I've met her a few times over the last two years and she is so great! Because I absolutely adore her books, I'm thrilled to be a part of the cover reveal for her upcoming novel Until It Fades.

Here's what the book, which will publish on May 2, 2017, is about:
Twenty-four-year-old truck stop waitress and single mother Catherine Wright has simple goals: to give her five-year-old daughter a happy life and to never again be the talk of the town in Balsam, Pennsylvania: population three thousand outside of tourist season. And then one foggy night, on a lonely road back from another failed attempt at a relationship, Catherine saves a man’s life. It isn’t until after the police have arrived that Catherine realizes exactly who it is she has saved: Brett Madden, hockey icon and media darling. Catherine has already had her fifteen minutes of fame and the last thing she wants is to have her past dragged back into the spotlight, only this time on a national stage. So she hides her identity. It works. For a time. But when she finds the man she saved standing on her doorstep, desperate to thank her, all that changes. What begins as an immediate friendship quickly turns into something neither of them expected. Something that Catherine isn’t sure she can handle; something that Catherine is afraid to trust. Because how long can an extraordinary man like Brett be interested in an ordinary woman like Catherine…before the spark fades?

Gah. I cannot wait. 

I won't make you wait (or scroll) any longer. Here is the gorgeous cover of Tucker's Until It Fades!


You're hooked, aren't you? Good :)

Here are the all important pre-order links:

About K.A. Tucker 
K.A. Tucker writes captivating stories with an edge.
She is the USA Today bestselling author of 14 books, including Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water, and her latest Adult Suspense novel, He Will Be My Ruin. Her books have been featured in national publications including USA Today, Globe & Mail, Suspense Magazine, and Publisher's Weekly.
K.A. Tucker currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and a Chug.

Connect with Tucker

Website ** Twitter ** Facebook ** Novel Goodreads ** Author Goodreads ** YouTube ** Pinterest ** Instagram



Friday, December 2, 2016

Review: What Light


I haven't read Jay Asher's other novels (Thirteen Reasons Why, The Future of Us) so when I heard about What Light wanting to read it was based on the synopsis alone. In its favour? It's a contemporary YA (pretty much the only YA books I'll read these days) and it's set at Christmas! Plus, the cover is freaking adorable.

Here's the synopsis:
Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it's a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.
Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.
By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb's past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.
I will read pretty much any Christmas book that even hints at a romance but most of the time (almost always, in fact) they're adult novels. Sometimes Christmas books hardly mention the holiday and sometimes it's all Christmas, all the time. What Light was a perfect balance and had just enough Christmas spirit. 

What helped a lot with the holiday spirit was that Sierra's parents own a tree farm and they sell their trees in California for a month or so before Christmas. They're such an integral part of Christmas for so many people and they absolutely love it. It sounds so cheesy, that they really look forward to seeing who their trees go home with every year, but I absolutely love that sentiment. The family isn't just trying to sell trees for a profit (in fact, Sierra thinks this Christmas might be the last one they are able to sell at their lot), they're trying to supply families and individuals with one important part of Christmas. 

I struggled a lot with Caleb's past and how I felt about it. I completely understood why all the parents in the story were concerned (is that a sign that I'm an Adult? Identifying with the parents in YA novels?) but I could also see why Sierra wasn't at all concerned. She felt that she could see the damage it had done to Caleb and how he was still trying to make up for it. But, once you met the other person involved in the event from the past (no spoilers here, folks!), you realize that it should be a non-issue at this point. Now, a few days after finishing the book, I think I've settled on feeling like Sierra's parents...concerned but with trust in Sierra to make sound decisions. 

What Light is one of those YA novels that adults can totally read and love (hello, I was thrilled with it) but there are those few moments that had me smiling and thinking, thank god I'm no longer a teenager. Heather, Sierra's BFF in California, is so distraught with her boyfriend situation (he's just so dull!) that she's determined to break up with him after the holidays. Grown women don't always know what they want in relationship but there's a certain adoreableness (yes, I'm making up words here) to this particular dilemma because Heather is still so naive. It was actually kind of a sweet reminder what it really was like to be a teenager in love. But no. I do not want to go back to being 17!

Jay Asher's latest novel is exactly the book to pick up this season if you love sweet and real Christmas stories. What Light is an easy read but it will make you feel a little bit of everything - happy, sad, nostalgic, romantic. The Christmas spirit is in every single one of these pages and I adored that. It's definitely a book for the Christmas and book lover in your life (and I won't tell if that's you!). 

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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Review: Heat Wave


Karina Halle is, by far, one of my favourite contemporary authors. I'll read pretty much anything she writes and was thrilled when I heard what Halle's latest novel, Heat Wave, was all about. The good news was the story lived up to the synopsis!

Speaking of the synopsis, here's what this new novel is all about:
They say when life closes one door, another one opens.This door happens to lead to paradise.And a man I can never, ever have. Still grieving the loss of her sister who died two years ago, the last thing Veronica "Ronnie" Locke needed was to lose her job at one of Chicago’s finest restaurants and have to move back in with her parents. So when a window of opportunity opens for her – running a kitchen at a small Hawaiian hotel – she’d be crazy not to take it. The only problem is, the man running the hotel drives her crazy:Logan Shephard.It doesn’t matter that he’s got dark brown eyes, a tall, muscular build that’s sculpted from daily surfing sessions, and a deep Australian accent that makes your toes curl.What does matter is that he’s a grump.Kind of an asshole, too.And gets under Ronnie’s skin like no one else. But the more time Ronnie spends on the island of Kauai, falling in love with the lush land and its carefree lifestyle, the closer she gets to Logan. And the closer she gets to Logan, the more she realizes she may have pegged him all wrong. Maybe it’s the hot, steamy jungles or the invigorating ocean air, but soon their relationship becomes utterly intoxicating. There’s just one major catch. The two of them together would incite a scandal neither Ronnie, nor her family, would ever recover from. Forbidden, Illicit, off-limits – sometimes the heat is worth surrendering to, even if you get burned.
My absolute favourite thing about Halle's books is she features such real and flawed characters. Too many novels are all about pretty much perfect characters and that's kind of boring. Halle's characters have deep issues they need to work out over the course of the novel. 

Those flaws and issues make for a totally heart-wrenching read - especially in the case of Heat Wave. I don't usually enjoy feeling anxious (who does?) but the emotions I was feeling mirrored the characters' and that made my reading so much better. Halle does such an amazing job of really making you feel what her characters are feeling.

I've always wanted to go to Hawaii and this book did not help my wanderlust! :) Hawaii and Moonwater are almost other characters in this novel. I loved picturing where the characters were and it didn't matter that I've never been to Hawaii. Halle sets the stage so well so I really did feel like I was there with Veronica and Logan and the rest of the Moonwater crew. Speaking of the Moonwater crew...I adored the whole idea of making your own family. The group at the hotel were so great. They really were ohana.

I can't end a review about a Halle novel without discussing the romantic relationship. She's written steamy scenes before but, holy monkey, I don't think I've read anything that steamy from her before. *fans self* Of course, the relationship between Veronica and Logan is more than just sex and Halle is able to make the reader see what it is that makes the pair drawn to each other despite the massive obstacles in their way.

Overall, Heat Wave was a fantastic read. I'd definitely recommend it to every contemporary reader - especially those who love books set in travel destinations. Read it! Meanwhile, I'll be over here not-so-patiently waiting for Karina Halle's next novel!


*An eARC of this novel was provided by the author and publicist in exchange for an honest review as part of a blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

On Blogging for Six Years


It still hasn't really hit me that today is my sixth blogiversary. Maybe because blogging is such a part of my life that it doesn't register that I've been doing it for so long. Or maybe it's because I haven't been a very good blogger over the past year. Or maybe it's because I tend to want to skip over November...usually it's crummy weather and there isn't much going on in Canada except snow prep and Remembrance Day. But no matter what the reason my anniversary snuck up on me actually is, the fact remains that on this day in 2010 I hit publish on my first Books Etc. post. And that is still so crazy to me.

The past year has been really great and really hard all at the same time. Last year's blogiversary post was scheduled well in advance because I was busy cruising on the ship my sister was working on. Coming back from that vacation set in motion a crazy few months (or year, actually...). I came home to a broken laptop and it took ages to get it sorted out. Being a blogger without a laptop is pretty much impossible. With the Christmas season came a third job as I worked at David's Tea throughout the holiday (I love the company which helped as I gradually began to remember how hellish working in retail at Christmas is) on top of my office job at a souvenir shop and a local library. 2016 brought two of those jobs to an end but I did get full time at the souvenir store in March. Finally! But summer is crazy busy where I work (Niagara Falls) so I felt like I didn't have any time to breathe let alone write. I also review books for a magazine which gets me a bit of extra money but also means about 12 books a year are dedicated to Niagara Life and not Books Etc. Add in visiting the gym as much as possible to make sure my back doesn't get messed up again, weddings, vacations, binge watching various TV shows (Gilmore Girls, baby!!!), and trying to spend time with friends and family, and, well, blogging has took a very sad back seat.

Are these excuses for not blogging nearly enough over the last year? A little bit. I get frustrated at myself almost every day for not taking the time to sit my ass down and write some reviews. I have been reading a lot - I've read 87 books in 2016 so far and read 110 in 2015. Doing cardio on a recumbent bike is super helpful for my back and reading time! It's just putting the time into writing about those books that seems to be hard. I don't know if it's because my brain is so tired by the time I get home from work and the gym that I just want to spend the three-ish hours I have left in my day doing nothing (along with eating and showering and looking after my rabbit). I haven't been able to find that groove of working full time and blogging, if I ever had it to begin with.

One of the things I've been struggling with when it comes to my lack of blogging is how it affects my relationships with publishers and authors. It's not good. I've finally managed to cut down on the number of books I request but that also means a few months could go by when I don't ask for anything from a certain publisher. Have I completely dropped off their radars? I used to have an amazing relationship with one publisher but over the last three years it's been harder and harder to keep a relationship going due to turnover there. And forget face to face events because I never get invited to them any more. (Indulge my "poor me" stories for a bit, ok?) I live just over an hour outside of Toronto. It's easy to get to but I have to really want to make the effort and spend the money to get there. A launch for a book I only kinda want to read or haven't had time to get to yet won't be something I make that effort for. A preview for the upcoming season? Hells yes, I'd go into the city for that. The really insecure part of me sometimes wonders if no one thinks my blog is any good and I suck as a blogger and I'm so rude for not reviewing books on time. (I get it publishers - trust me. I am so mad at myself.) But the other part wonders if it's as simple as they don't invite anyone outside of a certain geographical area. It can be kind of lonely being a book blogger in Niagara these days.

And all of these crazy thoughts don't even include what's happening with book blogging in general. There always seems to be some kind of drama unfolding on social media but it's usually involving the YA side of things which I'm not involved in (and which I sometimes think is why my blog isn't "bigger" than it is). I don't like getting into the drama online so I stay the hell out of it. There are almost always very valid points but they get lost in the knee-jerk reaction tweets that can sometimes make bloggers look petty and unintelligent. (Related: I'm hoping like hell I'm not coming off that way in this rambling post!)

I'm hoping today's blogiversary is the kick in the ass I need to finally get around to writing long overdue reviews and maybe, just maybe, completely overhauling the blog. Books will be the main thing of course (they're my most favourite thing and since I apparently can't find a paying job that allows me to play with them all day, I have to have the blog!) but I'm thinking of expanding a bit. Of course this means research into hosting and designs and budgeting but it's something I've wanted to do for awhile now. A refresh is in order, I think. (And tips are so very welcome!)

Thank you for sticking around until the end of this post and for reading my reviews over the years. I know I am incredibly lucky to be a book blogger and it is so much fun to read books and then flail about them (or, on the rare occasion I hate a book, warn people off it) here and on social media. I'm going to continue reading what I love even if they are genres that get slammed all the time (women's fiction, romance, chick lit, anything contemporary that's not YA) and I will really try to not be bothered that some other blog is getting more books/more invites/more anything because, hello, we're not in high school any more and blogging really shouldn't be a popularity contest. There are enough of us out there (and yes, maybe there are too many of us) that we should embrace what we really love because that will come out in our writing. Again, thank you. And happy reading!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review: Sunset in Central Park


I told you I'd have the review of Sunset in Central Park done in a more timely fashion! This is the second book in Sarah Morgan's From Manhattan with Love series (the first is Sleepless in Manhattan and you can read my review here) and it was just as delightful as the first. (So, pretty delightful!)

Here's the synopsis:
In the chaos of New York, true love can be hard to find, even when it's been right under your nose all along…
Love has never been a priority for garden designer Frankie Cole. After witnessing the fallout of her parents' divorce, she's seen the devastation an overload of emotion can cause. The only man she feels comfortable with is her friend Matt—but that's strictly platonic. If only she found it easier to ignore the way he makes her heart race…
Matt Walker has loved Frankie for years but, sensing how fragile she is beneath her feisty exterior, has always played it cool. But then he uncovers new depths to the girl he's known forever and doesn't want to wait a moment longer. He knows Frankie has secrets and has buried them deep, but can Matt persuade her to trust him with her heart and kiss him under the Manhattan sunset? 
As with most series like this - where each book follows a different couple - I was worried that I wouldn't like it as much as the first. Happily, I really enjoyed Frankie and Matt's story. It's been interesting that both couples have been very similar - in personality, work ethic, and so on. I have a hunch that Eva, the third friend who will get her Happily Ever After, will be matched with someone very different. Perhaps a certain favourite author of Frankie's? (PS I just read the synopsis of the third book...score one for me.)

As I mentioned in my review of Sleepless in Manhattan, I like that I get to see how the couple in the previous book was doing after their story wrapped up (ie once they realized they wanted to be together forever and got engaged). What I especially like about this series is it kind of ties into Morgan's Puffin Island series (I've only read and reviewed one story of the three but really liked it because, hello, small town romances are my favourite). I didn't notice it as much with book 1 but in this book, Matt and Frankie actually head back to Puffin Island, where they grew up, for a wedding. Whose wedding? The couple from First Time in Forever, the first book in the Puffin Island series. How fun is that?

Just like in Sleepless in Manhattan, there is a lot of history between the main characters, with one, Frankie, carrying a heck of a lot more baggage. I liked getting to know Frankie more as Matt did. I, like Matt, knew she had her issues but had no idea they ran so deep or affected her so much. I appreciated that Matt wasn't trying to "fix" her, he just wanted her to be her best self and to acknowledge and deal with her problems.

Even though I have the follow up to Sunset in Central Park, and the final book in the From Manhattan with Love series, I'm trying to hold off reading it. I want to have some time to really enjoy Frankie and Matt's story and also because Miracle on 5th Avenue takes place around the holidays. Must exercise great willpower! It's hard though because I really enjoy the characters Sarah Morgan has created and the big city world they live in. The romances are so sweet and real that I just cannot wait to read Eva's story. Romance lovers, take note of this series!

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Review: Sleepless in Manhattan


Sleepless in Manhattan is the first book in a new series from Sarah Morgan. This one actually published back on May 31 and even though I read it before the pub date, I just never wrote a review. Which was silly because I totally adored it! Since the second book in the From Manhattan with Love series is now out (Sunset in Central Park, released August 30 and also lovely - stay tuned for a slightly more prompt review), I figured I should get my book reviewing butt in gear!

Here's what the first book is all about:
Cool, calm and competent, events planner Paige Walker loves a challenge. After a childhood spent in and out of hospitals, she's now determined to prove herself—and where better to take the world by storm than in the exhilarating bustle of Manhattan? But when Paige is let go from the job she loves, she must face her biggest challenge of all—going it alone.
Except launching her own events company is nothing compared to hiding her outrageous crush on Jake Romano—her brother's best friend, New York's most in-demand date, and the only man to break her heart. When Jake offers Paige's fledgling company a big chance, their still-sizzling chemistry starts giving her sleepless nights. But can she convince the man who trusts no one to take a chance on forever? 
I've read a lot of series that focus on a group of friends and has each book follow a different male or female as they get paired up. Some may say it's an overdone trope but I quite enjoy it. It makes me feel like I'm a part of their group, like I'm one of their friends. I also like it because it allows me a new couple to learn about in each book but I also get the chance to see how the other couple(s) are doing after their story has sort of concluded.

I also really enjoy books about event planners. I actually took an event management post-grad course and have worked a few events at various jobs I've held over the years. So, it's something I understand and enjoy. I liked that Morgan had the girls make lemonade out of lemons and launch their own planning company after the company they worked for had cutbacks. Their niche was an interesting one. They called their business Urban Genie and essentially want to make their client's every wish come true, whether that's arranging for doggie daycare or throwing a bridal shower. Neat, eh?

But we have to get back to the romance! It wasn't hard to see who Paige was going to end up with but I wasn't sure how Morgan was going to get Paige and Jake together because there seemed to be so much in the way - family, history, their stubbornness. Their relationship is steamy, it's sweet, it's so perfectly them. I loved reading about Paige and Jake!

Sarah Morgan has come up with fun, smart, wonderful women who deserve their own Happily Ever Afters. Sleepless in Manhattan had me hooked on their stories and diving into the rest of the From Manhattan with Love series will be such a delight. If you're a fan of sweet and easy romances, you definitely want to check out this series!

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

Friday, September 30, 2016

Readalong: Stop in the Name of Pants! & Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?


It's well past time to share my thoughts on the final two Georgia Nicolson books but the tail end of summer was busy! (More about the challenge and why I'm rereading the series here at The Paper Trail Diary.) Stop in the Name of Pants! and Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? were typical Georgia madnosity that had me giggling and shaking my head. Sometimes at the same time.

The synopsis of Stop in the Name of Pants! is here on Goodreads and Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? is here.

This is a totally delayed and random observation that I'm finally remembering to share because it's in the synopsis of Pants: I need to start working the term "nip-libbling" into my conversations. Simply because it amuses me. Though I really have no idea how that's going to work out...

It's a bit of a sad state of affairs when I'm trying to write a review on two books and I don't have many thoughts. After eight other reviews of the same kind of book...what else is there to say? Georgia is still pretty awful to her parents and her friends. There are still questionable comments made about gays and lesbians. She's still incredibly self-absorbed (but what teenager isn't, I suppose). And she can't figure out that she's not meant to be with Robbie or Masimo because she's not true to herself with them like she is with Dave. Who, as it turns out, is a bit of an annoying dude. Which is a shame. I always loved Dave the Laugh.

The only real thing of note in Stop in the Name of Pants! happened with Angus. This will be a spoiler but it doesn't exactly spoil the overall story. If that makes sense. Angus is a loony toon cat (and I love it) and he, as Georgia's mum says, loved to chase cars because he "thought they were big mice on wheels." And those big mice got him. Yes, Angus gets hit by a car - but don't worry! The crazy cat survives! The scenes where Georgia is so worried about him are heartbreaking and is one reason I can't say I dislike Georgia. She's just a teenage girl but, deep down in her hormonal heart, she knows what's most important in life.

Everything gets wrapped up nicely in Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? There aren't any loose ends and all the characters are set on the paths that are best for them. Of course, I do have to say that it's, as Georgia would say, vair vair annoying that the book ended when it did. I needed more of that last scene so I could see how it all worked out! I also have to say I wish Georgia had come to her final realization about Dave and Masimo and who she "belonged" with differently. It's not like she really chose one over the other. It was sort of like one made a decision that prevented her from being with him so she decided, why not, and ended up with the other. I know that's the way of teenage girls (hell, I'm pretty sure I did something similar when I was a teen) but it's still a tad frustrating.

As always, there were funny moments throughout the books. Georgia has a way with words that is well and truly unique. She's kind of completely bonkers but she's usually pretty quick with a retort or joke. Thank goodness because if I didn't find some humour in these books I may not have been able to finish them.

So, there we have it, friends. Our Georgia Nicolson Readalong is complete. I've been lucky with a lot of the books I've reread in the last while because I still adore them. The Georgia books, though? Jessica and I agreed they may have been best left in the early 2000s when we were still teenagers. I am glad I finally got the chance to finish the series though and see the HEA (as "ever after" as things can be when you're a teenager!) I wanted for Georgia. I'm sure I haven't convinced anyone to pick up these books but what can ya do? Are there any books you read as a teen that you've reread and wondered what your younger self was thinking? I think Georgia and her Ace Gang were great for when I was a teen but these days there are better role models out there for young girls. Of course, not many of them talk about a mad cat name Angus and snogging! Thanks for following along with our readalong!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: The Bookshop on the Corner


As soon as I read about Jenny Colgan's latest novel, The Bookshop on the Corner, I knew I had to read it. It's a book about - and for - book lovers. How could I say no?

Here's the synopsis:
Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more. 
Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling. 
From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.
What I absolutely loved about this book is that it's a story of following your dreams no matter how crazy they may seem. That's a scary and hard thing to do and I love that Nina did it. She fought against some things (not wanting to stay in the small town with the van at first) but gradually came to realize that things were unfolding in a way that made perfect sense for her new venture and her new life.

The romance in this novel is pretty predictable (at least it was for me) but that's ok. It wasn't really the point of Nina's story. I think everything that happens to her (no spoilers here, folks!) is needed to make her realize that she is worthy of a great love and especially worthy of someone who treats her with respect.

The Bookshop on the Corner is funny with a healthy dash of silliness - in the best possible way. Nina gets herself into a few scrapes but she has so much heart. She's lovable, real, and so much fun to read. Plus, she's such a quiet, almost forgettable character at the beginning of the novel and it's so wonderful to see her changing into a strong woman.

Jenny Colgan is an author who has so many books on my TBR list and after reading The Bookshop on the Corner I'm definitely going to make time to read from her extensive backlist! I also wouldn't mind at all if Colgan decides to visit Nina and her friends again in another novel someday soon. I kind of miss them! PS Keep scrolling for an excerpt from this new book and a giveaway! (The giveaway is US only as per the publisher...sorry!)

About the Author
Jenny Colgan is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, including Little Beach Street Bakery, Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, and Christmas at the Cupcake Café, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.

Connect with Jenny Colgan

Excerpt from The Bookshop on the Corner:

The problem with good things that happen is that very often they disguise themselves as awful things. It would be lovely, wouldn’t it, whenever you’re going through something difficult, if someone could just tap you on the shoulder and say, “Don’t worry, it’s completely worth it. It seems like absolutely horrible crap now, but I promise it will all come good in the end,” and you could say, “Thank you, Fairy Godmother.” You might also say, “Will I also lose that seven pounds?” and they would say, “But of course, my child!”
            That would be useful, but it isn’t how it is, which is why we sometimes plow on too long with things that aren’t making us happy, or give up too quickly on something that might yet work itself out, and it is often difficult to tell precisely which is which.
            A life lived forward can be a really irritating thing. So Nina thought, at any rate. Nina Redmond, twenty-nine, was telling herself not to cry in public. If you have ever tried giving yourself a good talking-to, you’ll know it doesn’t work terribly well. She was at work, for goodness’ sake. You weren’t meant to cry at work.
            She wondered if anyone else ever did. Then she wondered if maybe everyone did, even Cathy Neeson, with her stiff too-blond hair, and her thin mouth and her spreadsheets, who was right at this moment standing in a corner, watching the room with folded arms and a grim expression, after delivering to the small team Nina was a member of a speech filled with jargon about how there were cutbacks all over, and Birmingham couldn’t afford to maintain all its libraries, and how austerity was something they just had to get used to.
            Nina reckoned probably not. Some people just didn’t have a tear in them.
            (What Nina didn’t know was that Cathy Neeson cried on the way to work, on the way home from work—after eight o’clock most nights—every time she laid someone off, every time she was asked to shave another few percent off an already skeleton budget, every time she was ordered to produce some new quality relevant paperwork, and every time her boss dumped a load of administrative work on her at four o’clock on a Friday afternoon on his way to a skiing vacation, of which he took many.
            Eventually she ditched the entire thing and went and worked in a National Trust gift shop for a fifth of the salary and half the hours and none of the tears. But this story is not about Cathy Neeson.)
            It was just, Nina thought, trying to squash down the lump in her throat . . . it was just that they had been such a little library.
            Children’s story time Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Early closing Wednesday afternoon. A shabby old-fashioned building with tatty linoleum floors. A little musty sometimes, it was true. The big dripping radiators could take a while to get going of a morning and then would become instantly too warm, with a bit of a fug, particularly off old Charlie Evans, who came in to keep warm and read the Morning Star cover to cover, very slowly. She wondered where the Charlie Evanses of the world would go now.
            Cathy Neeson had explained that they were going to compress the library services into the center of town, where they would become a “hub,” with a “multimedia experience zone” and a coffee shop and an “intersensory experience,” whatever that was, even though town was at least two bus trips too far for most of their elderly or strollered-up clientele.
            Their lovely, tatty, old pitched-roof premises were being sold off to become executive apartments that would be well beyond the reach of a librarian’s salary. And Nina Redmond, twenty-nine, bookworm, with her long tangle of auburn hair, her pale skin with freckles dotted here and there, and a shyness that made her blush—or want to burst into tears—at the most inopportune moments, was, she got the feeling, going to be thrown out into the cold winds of a world that was getting a lot of unemployed librarians on the market at the same time.
            “So,” Cathy Neeson had concluded, “you can pretty much get started on packing up the ‘books’ right away.”
            She said “books” like it was a word she found distasteful in her shiny new vision of Mediatech Services. All those grubby, awkward books.
Nina dragged herself into the back room with a heavy heart and a slight redness around her eyes. Fortunately, everyone else looked more or less the same way. Old Rita O’Leary, who should probably have retired about a decade ago but was so kind to their clientele that everyone overlooked the fact that she couldn’t see the numbers on the Dewey Decimal System anymore and filed more or less at random, had burst into floods, and Nina had been able to cover up her own sadness comforting her.
            “You know who else did this?” hissed her colleague Griffin through his straggly beard as she made her way through. Griffin was casting a wary look at Cathy Neeson, still out in the main area as he spoke. “The Nazis. They packed up all the books and threw them onto bonfires.”
            “They’re not throwing them onto bonfires!” said Nina. “They’re not actually Nazis.”
            “That’s what everyone thinks. Then before you know it, you’ve got Nazis.”
With breathtaking speed, there’d been a sale, of sorts, with most of their clientele leafing through old familiar favorites in the ten pence box and leaving the shinier, newer stock behind.
            Now, as the days went on, they were meant to be packing up the rest of the books to ship them to the central library, but Griffin’s normally sullen face was looking even darker than usual. He had a long, unpleasantly scrawny beard, and a scornful attitude toward people who didn’t read the books he liked. As the only books he liked were obscure 1950s out-of-print stories about frustrated young men who drank too much in Fitzrovia, that gave him a lot of time to hone his attitude. He was still talking about book burners.
            “They won’t get burned! They’ll go to the big place in town.”
            Nina couldn’t bring herself to even say Mediatech.
            Griffin snorted. “Have you seen the plans? Coffee, computers, DVDs, plants, admin offices, and people doing cost–benefit analysis and harassing the unemployed—sorry, running ‘mindfulness workshops.’ There isn’t room for a book in the whole damn place.” He gestured at the dozens of boxes. “This will be landfill. They’ll use it to make roads.”
            “They won’t!”
            “They will! That’s what they do with dead books, didn’t you know? Turn them into underlay for roads. So great big cars can roll over the top of centuries of thought and ideas and scholarship, metaphorically stamping a love of learning into the dust with their stupid big tires and blustering Top Gear idiots killing
the planet.”
            “You’re not in the best of moods this morning, are you, Griffin?”
            “Could you two hurry it along a bit over there?” said Cathy Neeson, bustling in, sounding anxious. They only had the budget for the collection trucks for one afternoon; if they didn’t manage to load everything up in time, she’d be in serious trouble.
            “Yes, Commandant Über-Führer,” said Griffin under his breath as she bustled out again, her blond bob still rigid. “God, that woman is so evil it’s unbelievable.”
            But Nina wasn’t listening. She was looking instead in despair at the thousands of volumes around her, so hopeful with their beautiful covers and optimistic blurbs. To condemn any of them to waste disposal seemed heartbreaking: these were books! To Nina it was like closing down an animal shelter. And there was no way they were going to get it all done today, no matter what Cathy Neeson thought.
            Which was how, six hours later, when Nina’s Mini Metro pulled up in front of the front door of her tiny shared house, it was completely and utterly stuffed with volumes.

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*An eARC of this novel was provided by the publisher, HarperCollins, in exchange for a review for a blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own*

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cover Reveal: Heat Wave

I'm pretty sure I haven't made it much of a secret that I'm a wee bit obsessed with Karina Halle's contemporary novels. (And if it's not obvious to you maybe I haven't been beating you over the head on social media enough!) She writes all sorts of books - including paranormal and really dark, twisty stories - but I'm a bit set in my genre ways and tend to stick to slightly lighter stories. What I love about Halle's books, the ones I've read anyway and I'm up to nine now so I think I know what I'm talking about, is they have a (usually steamy) romance but a freaking amazing storyline and real, flawed characters you simply cannot stop reading about. So what's my point? My point is I'm thrilled to share that Halle has a new book coming out on November 3 called Heat Wave and I have the cover to share with you today!

This is the synopsis of the upcoming novel:
They say when life closes one door, another one opens.This door happens to lead to paradise.And a man I can never, ever have. Still grieving the loss of her sister who died two years ago, the last thing Veronica "Ronnie" Locke needed was to lose her job at one of Chicago’s finest restaurants and have to move back in with her parents. So when a window of opportunity opens for her – running a kitchen at a small Hawaiian hotel – she’d be crazy not to take it. The only problem is, the man running the hotel drives her crazy:Logan Shephard.It doesn’t matter that he’s got dark brown eyes, a tall, muscular build that’s sculpted from daily surfing sessions, and a deep Australian accent that makes your toes curl.What does matter is that he’s a grump.Kind of an asshole, too.And gets under Ronnie’s skin like no one else. But the more time Ronnie spends on the island of Kauai, falling in love with the lush land and its carefree lifestyle, the closer she gets to Logan. And the closer she gets to Logan, the more she realizes she may have pegged him all wrong. Maybe it’s the hot, steamy jungles or the invigorating ocean air, but soon their relationship becomes utterly intoxicating. There’s just one major catch. The two of them together would incite a scandal neither Ronnie, nor her family, would ever recover from. Forbidden, Illicit, off-limits – sometimes the heat is worth surrendering to, even if you get burned.
Now, are you ready for the cover?

*drum roll*


Gah. I love it so freaking much. The colours are just so swoonworthy. 

You can already add the book to your Goodreads shelf. And you should...right now. I'll wait.

I am so so so excited for this book and hope you are now too!

Curious about Karina? Read her bio below and follow her on social media. She posts some great pics on Instagram - she lives in a gorgeous area of BC and always seems to be traveling. 

Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Racing the Sun, Sins & Needles and over 25 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.
Halle is represented by the Waxman Leavell Agency and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.
Hit her up on Instagram at @authorHalle, on Twitter at @MetalBlonde and on Facebook. You can also visit www.authorkarinahalle.com and sign up for the newsletter for news, excerpts, previews, private book signing sales and more.

LINKS:

Monday, September 12, 2016

Review: The Woman in the Photo


There are a number of themes and nuances to Mary Hogan's latest novel, The Woman in the Photo. You can choose to analyze and consciously ponder your thoughts on DNA, social class, adoption, and natural disasters (to name a few), or you can get completely lost in a well told, interesting historical novel. I admit I was mostly in the latter category but I definitely found myself thinking about nature vs nurture while I admired the strength of the two heroines in this novel.

Here's the synopsis:
In this compulsively readable historical novel, from the author of the critically-acclaimed Two Sisters, comes the story of two young women—one in America’s Gilded Age, one in scrappy modern-day California—whose lives are linked by a single tragic afternoon in history.
1888: Elizabeth Haberlin, of the Pittsburgh Haberlins, spends every summer with her family on a beautiful lake in an exclusive club. Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains above the working class community of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the private retreat is patronized by society’s elite. Elizabeth summers with Carnegies, Mellons, and Fricks, following the rigid etiquette of her class. But Elizabeth is blessed (cursed) with a mind of her own. Case in point: her friendship with Eugene Eggar, a Johnstown steel mill worker. And when Elizabeth discovers that the club’s poorly maintained dam is about to burst and send 20 million tons of water careening down the mountain, she risks all to warn Eugene and the townspeople in the lake’s deadly shadow.
Present day: On her 18th birthday, genetic information from Lee Parker’s closed adoption is unlocked. She also sees an old photograph of a genetic relative—a 19th century woman with hair and eyes likes hers—standing in a pile of rubble from an ecological disaster next to none other than Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. Determined to identify the woman in the photo and unearth the mystery of that captured moment, Lee digs into history. Her journey takes her from California to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, from her present financial woes to her past of privilege, from the daily grind to an epic disaster. Once Lee’s heroic DNA is revealed, will she decide to forge a new fate?
The synopsis had it right - The Woman in the Photo really was "compulsively readable." In fact, it may have helped me have an even better cardio workout than usual. I was totally riveted before the flood took place in the story but I knew reading about the actual event would be pretty intense. I got to that part as I was on the exercise bike at the gym and I was so tense and heartbroken for the characters that I pedaled a little harder than usual. My boyfriend jokingly said I was trying to outrun the flood but, in a way, I think he was right. I was so completely immersed in the story that I think I was trying to urge characters to move faster, to get out of harm's way because I knew what was coming. Does that sound a little ridiculous? Maybe. But trust me when I say they were very powerful chapters. 

I wasn't really sure why Elizabeth's POV was first person while Lee's was third. I also wasn't a fan that all of a sudden we no longer had Elizabeth's perspective. I don't know why Hogan wrote it like that but I was a little sad when I realized she wouldn't be going back to Elizabeth. All that being said, I did enjoy the dual perspectives. It would have been interesting to read a novel purely from either character but joining the two brought a much deeper meaning to the story.

Mary Hogan hooked me at the start with a story about a historical event I knew nothing about and kept me engaged with characters whose lives intrigued me. The Woman in the Photo is so much more than a fictional retelling of a horrific natural disaster though. Hogan weaves together a captivating story about two different young women that will keep you turning the pages until there are no more to turn.

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Readalong: Startled by His Furry Shorts and Love Is a Many Trousered Thing


I'm very behind on the Georgia Nicolson Readalong! (More on the readalong here at The Paper Trail Diary). But, I have a good (ish) reason. I've been requesting each book from my library to show up at the branch closest to my house and they've all shown up within a couple of days. I asked for Startled by His Furry Shorts...and waited...and waited...and waited. Finally I check my account and the catalogue and realize, horror upon horrors, the book is lost! I'm not surprised the library didn't know it was missing - it's a ten year old book, after all - but I was annoyed that I didn't know sooner because the interlibrary home took forever to arrive so I didn't get it read in time. Ah well.

I'm not going to include the synopsis for both books - it'd take up too much space - so check out the Goodreads page for book seven and eight for a description of each novel.

Honestly, I've completely forgotten what happens in Startled by His Furry Shorts. The main thing is Georgia's school performing MacBeth (or MacUseless as the Ace Gang calls it). It was pretty amusing reading the differences between the girls and how they approached the play. Georgia, as you could expect, couldn't care less about "Billy" Shakespeare. Jas, on the other hand, took her role as Lady MacUseless very seriously. Dave the Laugh and his mates help out with the play so Georgia has many confusing encounters with him. It's something I feel with every book, but I wish she'd realize that Dave is a solid (yet annoying) guy who is so much better for her than the Sex God or the Luuurve God.

I say Dave is annoying not because he is, exactly, but because I am 29 and he is a teenager. I totally understand Georgia's dilemma though. Two really good looking guys are into her and she's so blinded by their looks and interest and cool factor that she doesn't realize the steady, funny guy (who, by the way, is her own age) is the best for her. Ah, the things we don't understand as teenagers :) Though I hated that he called the Ace Gang his bitches (page 85 of SbHFS)

There were quite a few lines that had me giggling out loud while reading Startled by His Furry Shorts but I've realized they require too much context to share. So, I shall just say that I laughed throughout. :)

There continues to be unfortunate and constant nunga-nunga ogling from the younger boys Georgia encounters. In a way, I'm glad Rennison includes this kind of thing because it shows that teenage boys are idiots and always have been. But, for the most part, Georgia and the Ace Gang don't seem to be offended by the rude comments the boys make. They're annoyed, sure, but I don't think they realize how awful they're being. Though I doubt I would have been that conscious of this sort of sexism when I was a teen.

There are also way too many negative comments about gays and lesbians. Sigh. I find I'm skipping over these comments after an inner groan because they just keep happening. I'll have to just keep reminding myself that these books are 10+ years old (not that that's any excuse).

Finally, on the negative side, I am still frustrated at Jas who is still constantly implying Georgia is a tart for kissing all sorts of boys and not knowing who she likes. The slut shaming is hard to ignore. Teenage girls can really suck. :(

Getting back to the plot...there isn't much of one in Love is a Many Trousered Thing. Robbie (who surprised her and came home from New Zealand at the end of SbHFS) and Masimo are vying for Georgia's affection and Dave the Laugh won't get out of her head. There are, randomly, new Ace Gang trainee members (where did they come from all of a sudden and why are they there?). The big event in LiaMTT is a two night class camping trip. If you thought Georgia was less than thrilled about this you would be right. You could kind of see her finding some aspects of it fun though, which was nice.

I'm pretty sure I hadn't read Love is a Many Trousered Thing before so I'm looking forward to reading the next two books. Gosh. Only two more. I can't believe it!

I'm going to leave you with the most ridiculous and corny joke Rosie tells Georgia.
What do you call a French man in sandals?
Philippe Philoppe.

hahahahaha

The next book we'll be reading is Stop in the Name of Pants! and we'll be chatting about it on September 6.

Review of book one, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging.
Review of book two, On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God.
Review of book three, Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas.
Review of book four: Dancing in My Nuddy-Pants
Review of book five: Away Laughing on a Fast Camel
Review of book six: Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Review: The Regulars


I wasn't sure what to expect with The Regulars, Georgia Clark's new novel. What I ended up getting was an entertaining, thought-provoking, feminist novel that I did not want to put down. Bonus: it had a hint of magic which I loved and which, I think, makes it a novel that will stand out from the all the other books about twentysomethings in NYC.

Here's the synopsis:
Best friends Evie, Krista, and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They’re regular girls, with average looks and typical quarter-life crises: making it up the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent.
Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well...gorgeous. Like, supermodel gorgeous. And it’s certainly not their fault if the sudden gift of beauty causes unexpected doors to open for them.
But there’s a dark side to Pretty, too, and as the gloss fades for these modern-day Cinderellas, there’s just one question left:
What would you sacrifice to be Pretty?
It's been too long since I've read a contemporary novel with a magical twist. I hadn't realized I was missing stories like this! Everything about this novel is placed in reality - except for Pretty and it's side effects. I loved fantasy books as a kid but, as I got older, I found I wasn't reading them nearly as often. So, when I find a book like The Regulars, I'm pretty happy and it makes me want to look into more magic realism type stories. (Suggestions welcome!) Although...I have to say the way the girls turn pretty after taking the potion is...well, it's ridiculous. I'm not going to go into it because it's, er, messy, but even I found it far-fetched and unnecessary. 

There were a few things that I wished had been wrapped up or, at the very least, not glossed over. For example, Krista is an actress and when her supermodel gorgeous alter ego, Lenka, gets hired for a movie, she gives the HR department her, Krista's, social so she can get paid. The girls say that's probably fine because she can just say Lenka is a stage name. But (slight spoiler but you'll see it coming), Evie-as-Chloe gets hired to be the host for the webseries the magazine Evie works for is starting. There is no mention, that I found anyway, of her getting paid. I wouldn't have even noticed this if it hadn't been for Krista's comment. Also, Penny is the woman who gives Krista Pretty and her storyline is left wide open and that frustrated me. Mostly because I wanted to make sure she was OK (she was not in a good place). And what exactly did Jan and Marcello know? I feel like there were hints that maybe they knew about Pretty but nothing was ever really brought to light.

Those looking for sexually diverse characters should take note of this novel. Evie, who is sort of the main heroine, is bisexual. And you know what's great about this book? Her sexual orientation is Not a Big Deal. Is this because Clark herself is gay? (She thanks her partner in the acknowledgements.) Maybe. But equally likely is that the book world is slowly embracing different characters and allowing them out into the world. 

Final verdict? The Regulars was a good read. It has a few tiny issues (almost every book does) but it was fun, fresh, and full of flawed characters (which is great because, let's face it, we're all flawed.) Most of all, it's wicked smart. I should caution that is not a book for everyone. If you have to have likeable characters and cannot stand crude humour or sex scenes, skip this book. In the acknowledgements, Georgia Clark says her book was pitched as a "feminist fairy tale" and I absolutely love that. It's exactly the best way to describe it! 

*An ARC of this novel was provided by Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for review consideration.*

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: Going Down Easy


Carly Phillips is back with a new series, Billionaire Bad Boys. The first, Going Down Easy, was pretty much exactly what I expected. Damaged boy meets damaged girl and sparks fly. While it was quite predictable and not the best romance I've read, I was drawn in and am interested to find out what happens to the rest of the billionaire boys.

Here's the synopsis:
Meet Kaden Barnes.
Alpha-licious in the most unexpected ways, Kaden Barnes always gets what he wants.
Enigmatic and exacting, he's unable to keep an assistant for long. Until Lexie Parker arrives. She's no-nonsense, efficient and all business… She’s also hot as sin and soon starring in Kaden's dirtiest fantasies.
When their passion for each other reaches a boiling point, Kaden may think he’s calling the shots, but for this billionaire bad boy, going down easy has never felt so good.
Both Lexie and Kaden are fighting battles with mental illness. One directly, the other indirectly. I appreciated that Phillips didn't shy away from mental health but didn't try to take too much of a stand, if you will. She presented it as a natural thing that many people deal with and worked it fairly seamlessly into the storyline. I say fairly because I kind of got frustrated with Kendall, Lexie's twin sister who hasn't quite figured out how to accept what she needs to change so her mental illness does not take over her life (and therefore the lives of her family members). Kaden has a few issues of his own but I didn't find that Lexie was presented as his savior.

Lexie was a smart, sassy heroine. I was really hoping Kendall would get her act together because I could see how much her mental illness was negatively impacting Lexie's life. Lexie was such a genuinely good person that she couldn't help but drop everything when her twin needed her. How can you not root for a woman like that?

As with most romances, there were instances that were just a bit too coincidental (I couldn't quite understand how Lexie's dad could have pulled strings to have Lexie work for Kaden) but I found I could easily roll with the issues and enjoy the overall story.

Carly Phillips is definitely an author to turn to if you want a smart and sexy romance. Going Down Easy did go down easy (I couldn't help it!) and was a really easy, quick read. The first in the Billionaire Bad Boys series is a great one to toss in your bag for some weekend beach or cottage reading.

Buy Going Down Easy
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About the Author

After a successful fifteen-year career with various New York publishing houses, and over 40 sexy contemporary romance novels published, N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carly Phillips is now an Indie author who writes to her own expectations and that of her readers. She continues the tradition of hot men and strong women and plans to publish many more sizzling stories. Carly lives in Purchase, NY with her family, two nearly adult daughters and two crazy dogs who star on her Facebook Fan Page and website. She’s a writer, a knitter of sorts, a wife, and a mom. In addition, she’s a Twitter and Internet junkie and is always around to interact with her readers. You can find out more about Carly at www.carlyphillips.com.


*A copy of this novel was provided by Rockstar PR in exchange for a review for a blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Readalong: Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers


I can't believe we're over halfway through the Georgia Nicolson readalong! I think we're almost at the point where the books will be new to me. Craziness! I mentioned last time that I was feeling more optimistic about the readalong and really remembered why I adored these books when I was a teen. This time, with Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers? Er. Not so much. This was, in Georgia's words, vair vair weird. Or as Jessica of Paper Trail Diary and the mastermind behind the readalong said, Georgia's latest story was full of randomosity.

Here's the synopsis of the sixth book in the Confessions of Georiga Nicolson series:
Let the overseas snogfest begin!
Georgia and Jas are off to Hamburger-a-gogo land! Georgia plans to track down Masimo, the Italian-American dreamboat, but after a long week in America, she only succeeds in learning importantish things -- like how to ride a bucking bronco. Will Georgia reel in the Italian dreamboat? Or is she destined to live forever all aloney on her owney?
The biggest plot point in this book was Georgia and her family, accompanied by Georgia's best friend Jas, traveling to America. Georgia was thrilled about this (so thrilled, in fact, that when she learned they would be going to Hamburger-a-gogo land at the end of the last book, she hugged her father) because her latest crush, Masimo the Luuurve God, was visiting family in the US. Of course she can't track him down in Manhattan from Memphis so she has to actually take part in her family vacation. There are glimpses of a loving, family and friend oriented Georgia in the beginning and she does end up having a good time on vacation.

But this is where the randomosity and vair vair weird comes in. I present you with Exhibit A:
As the olds went off to get last-minute pressies and Libby went to get something for the kitties, me and Jas made our small but meaningful tribute to our visit to Hamburger-a-gogo land. The only good thing about the nightmare trip to Gaylords was that we got to buy some souvenir bison horn hats. We were able to wear them for our farewell nuddy-pants photo session in the hotel room.
Um. What the what? I actually don't even have words for this.

There were also far too many gay/lesbian slurs in this book. Dave the Laugh implies, on several occasions, that Masimo is gay. And at another point Libby, Georgia's younger sister, is having two of her dolls kiss and if it wasn't for the fact that it was actually one male doll dressed up like a woman, it would be "lezzie snogging" and Georgia blames her parents "because of their lack of moral code." Really? This is really what teen books were like in the early 2000s? Reading that now is incredibly appalling.

I think I've just realized a big problem I have with this series. Georgia is so completely boy obsessed that she doesn't care about anything else. Not school, not (really) her family, not even really her friends. She needs everything to be about her and her thoughts are consumed with boys (and makeup and shoes and hair and clothes). I wasn't really that kind of teenager. Sure, I thought boys were cute and I wanted to wear what everyone else was wearing, but I still realized that there were things more important than snogging my latest crush. Of course, reading it now, at 29, is much more difficult because I want to shake Georgia and tell her she's being a little idiot. She'd likely just roll her eyes and lump my advice in with that of The Olds (her parents and their friends). But really. I sometimes have a hard time feeling sorry for and reading about a teenager who is so obsessed with finding out where her new crush is staying that she can't be bothered to learn how big the United States is.

Though I had about a gazillion problems with this book, I did find myself giggling at certain exchanges. How about this foreshadowing:
[Mum] said, "I'm really looking forward to this trip, aren't you? I wonder if we will bump into George Clooney. I hope we do! He's so...woof woof."
I said, "Mum, excuse me if I am right, but did you just bark like a dog?"
She laughed, "Well, you know, he's gorgeous, isn't he? And he might really like English women."
There was also this random exchange between Georgia and her father after he came home after drinking a few beers and decided that the family was actually Irish, not English:
I said, "Dad, when you say 'villainous English,' do you mean us?"
But he wouldn't be stopped. "They changed the name to Nicolson."
I said, "What, that grand old English name? NOT. Why would they change their name from an Irish one to a Scottish one? The English, ie, us, hated the Och Aye landers just as much as the Leprechaun-a-gogo folk. More. That is why we built Hadrian's wall at the top of England...to keep the ginger-beardy folk out."
Dad was still rambling on like Paddy O'Mad. "And another thing, we look Irish. That man in Memphis spotted it. ..."
"No, he didn't, Dad. He was an American - he doesn't know where anyone comes from unless it's Texas."
I also really enjoyed how none of the Americans they met could place their accent. It's a bit true of Canadians too...I have a hard time figuring out where people are from right away. I'd have to really listen hard before I could determine if they were English, Irish, or Australian. (Though I really couldn't tell the difference between Australians and New Zealanders...sorry. I know it's the exact same as people not being able to tell us Canadians from Americans.)

The rest of the book after their vacation was a rambling mess of chasing after boys and buying shoes that were three sizes too small and having to have the doctor come to cut them off her feet (I couldn't believe how stupid she was). I think I'm going to kind of pretend Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers didn't happen because it was just so utterly bizarre. Right to the end when Gordy the kitty was eating one of Georgia's fake eyelashes aka boy entrancers.

Here's hoping the next book, Startled by His Furry Shorts isn't quite so full of randomosity! We'll be reading that one for July 26.

Review of book two, On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God.
Review of book three, Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas.
Review of book four: Dancing in My Nuddy-Pants
Review of book five: Away Laughing on a Fast Camel