Friday, December 22, 2017

Review: The Christmas Secret

Another year, another Karen Swan Christmas novel! I admit that I don't really consider Swan's winter releases as Christmas books anymore. The holiday might be in the title but it's not really in the story. Now that I'm approaching them that way, I enjoy them a lot more. Swan's most recent, The Christmas Secret, was lovely and is probably my favourite of all of her holiday novels! 

Here's the synopsis:
Alex Hyde is in demand. An executive coach par excellence, she's the person who the Great and the Good turn to when the pressure gets too much - she can change the way they think, how they operate; she can turn around the very fortunes of their companies.
Her waiting list is months' long, but even she can't turn down the highly lucrative crisis call that comes her way a few weeks before Christmas, regarding the troublesome - and troubled - head of an esteemed whisky company in Scotland. Lochlan Farquhar, CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, is a maverick, an enigma and a renegade, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees.
It should be business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only, when she gets to the remote island of Islay, with the winter snow falling, Alex finds herself out of her comfort zone. Memories she would rather forget come back to haunt her. For once she's not in control, but with Christmas and her deadline fast approaching, she must win Lochlan's trust.
Yet as she fulls ever closer to him, boundaries become blurred, loyalties loosen and Alex finds herself faced with an impossible choice as she realizes nothing and no one is as they first seemed. 
I loved Alex. She was a bit difficult to like and that's why I loved her. I'm glad Swan wrote such a strong, successful, confident woman. Alex kicks ass and takes names and has nothing to apologize for (you don't see Lochlan or any of the other men running Kentallen Distilleries apologizing for being successful now do you?) Even though I liked her right away, the more I learned about Alex, the more I liked her. She starts to let her guard down a little bit and it was so nice to read as she realized that it's ok to open up to others and make friends and lasting connections.

Speaking of Alex opening up...I think the only thing that drove me a bit batty with this book was how long it took to explain Alex's background. I was fine with the other mystery taking awhile to be completely unraveled (I think I had it mostly figured out but it was still a bit of a surprise when it was all unveiled!). I think that was because it was an actual mystery whereas Alex's secret was something that she didn't feel she could or should share, even when she was starting to open up with Lochlan. But the historical secret that impacts so much of present day? I loved it and it added an extra depth to the overall story.

I was surprised at how much I loved the setting of this novel. I don't know family is Scottish so I'm always drawn to books set there. But a story set at a distillery was really interesting. I learned a bit about the whisky making business (and I hope Swan did a lot of research - you know the kind ;) - while writing this book!) but it wasn't so overwhelming that I felt like it was all whisky, all the time. It was unique and definitely one I'll think about for awhile yet.

The Christmas Secret was a really lovely and enjoyable read. I did not want to put it down! I was sad when it was over but Karen Swan wrote such a great story with an ending that left me feeling fulfilled. The last few Swan novels have been so great and I'm really hopeful her next one will be just as fantastic!

*An advanced copy was provided by the distributor, Publisher's Group Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe

I'm a big Jane Austen fan so when I realized Melissa de la Cruz had written Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, an updated, Christmastime, gender swapped version of Pride and Prejudice, I was sold. Happily, I really enjoyed it even though it's a super fast read.

Here's the synopsis:
Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones—one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her dad and little brother.
Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32 and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?
I had taken a quick look at Goodreads to see what others thought of this book and one comment stuck out for me: that the synopsis doesn't quite match with the actual story. Though it really doesn't have much to do with my overall thoughts on the novel, I do think the synopsis should reflect what's actually happening in the book. I don't think it's ever mentioned in the story that she has multiple cell phones (she adores her assistant), she doesn't meet Luke at the party because they went to school together, Luke is not a slacker, and they don't have a one night stand. They literally sleep together after Darcy passes out from a few too many drinks. I think most people who are reading this for a Pride and Prejudice retelling won't care too much about the discrepancies because, if they're anything like me, they didn't even pay too much attention to the synopsis in the first place. But someone else who's going into this not knowing much about the original story might be frustrated with the story they ended up with.

The novel is quite short - just over 200 pages - so it couldn't faithfully follow Austen's novel. But I actually really liked how de la Cruz updated and tweaked the story to suit her needs and the present day. Characters were added (Darcy has a bunch of brothers instead of just one opposite gender sibling) or taken away (there's no Lady Catherine de Bourgh in this story but Darcy's dad sort of plays that role), and some even changed pretty drastically (Darcy's BFF Bingley is still a man but Jane became Jim so there's a gay romance in play too). Even with all the changes, it all seemed to work for me. I liked that I knew how the story would play out but wasn't totally sure how it would do so. It's not quite Lizzie Bennet Diaries level amazing but it's pretty good as far as adaptations/retellings go.

This was a really easy read for me. I read it in about two hours over the course of two days. Part of that is because I'm a super fast reader, but I think it's also because I already sort of knew how the story would play out and also because it was written in such a way that wasn't too difficult to read.

Like most Christmas books these days, the holiday aspect of the book isn't overpowering. The book begins around Christmas and there is a big fancy Christmas party as well as some caroling. Plus, mistletoe does play a pretty big part in Darcy and Luke's relationship. So, if you want Christmas, you've got it. If you'd rather the holiday didn't play a part, well, know that it's not a huge one. I personally love Christmas stories so I always want more festive cheer than less but I can understand why it's usually played down in books.

Overall, Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe was a fun holiday read. Like I said, I'm a Jane Austen fan so I came into it with that lens and knowing the original story fairly well but I'd be really interested to see what those who haven't read Austen's novel think about it. Melissa de la Cruz's latest is a good one to pick up during the holidays not just because it's a good read but also for its hints of Christmas cheer.

*An advanced uncorrected proof was provided by the distributor, Raincoast Books, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Monday, December 18, 2017

Review: Moonlight Over Manhattan

It's been an absolute delight reading Sarah Morgan's From Manhattan with Love series. I brought the latest one, Moonlight Over Manhattan, with me on a recent vacation because I knew it would be the perfect beach read and because it would help me get in the holiday spirit while on said beach. Though, I must say, reading a Christmassy book while in Australia was an interesting experience!

Here's the synopsis:
She'll risk everything for her own Christmas miracle...
Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family. But when dog walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list--dealing with Madi's temporary dog sitter, gruff doctor Ethan Black, and their very unexpected chemistry.
Ethan thought he was used to chaos, until he met Madi--how can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple--he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide twenty-four-hour care. But there's nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel.
Ethan's kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all--letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?
I had the warm and fuzzies as soon as I started reading this book. I loved the way Harriet and Ethan met! It was such a sweet meet cute and I loved the twist Morgan threw in that had them come together once again. Their second meeting was a bit tough to read - and I don't think this will be too spoilery - as Ethan's anger at the way his day had gone resulted in him yelling at Harriet. If you've read the other stories you'll know that Harriet had a really rough childhood and his anger triggered her stammer. But Morgan knows how to write her heroes and Ethan quickly figured out that he was the issue and he worked hard to correct his behaviour. Harriet didn't trust him right away - rightfully so - but she could see that he was genuine in his desire to make things right. It was really sweet to read.

I absolutely loved getting to know Harriet more. Especially because she was trying so hard to become more assertive and less shy. I can totally identify with that and am in awe at some of the things she made herself do. She didn't want to rely on her (super amazing) support system so much and that's admirable but I also think that, at times, she pushed them away too much. It was like she swung too far into the "I am going to do this on my own and I absolutely cannot accept any help from my siblings." I think that was a bit of a mistake but I can understand why she was feeling like that.

Morgan has worked her series Puffin Island, into this series before so I wasn't too surprised to see the O'Neil Brothers pop up in this story. Unsurprising, maybe, but not unwelcome. I thought the setting of the ski lodge was perfect (note to self: read more books set at ski lodges) and seeing Harriet and Ethan bond even more in such a picturesque setting was lovely. I especially love the date idea Ethan came up with. It was perfect! ( date spoilers here.) And, even though I've only read one of the O'Neil Brothers series (always wanted to read the rest but just never found the time), it was really nice to catch up with the family.

Like most Christmas romances, this book isn't overly Christmassy. The focus in this book was more on how Harriet was trying to stand on her own two feet and allowing her siblings to have Christmas with their new significant others. She knew she could have gone to see her grandmother in the Hamptons, or stayed with Fliss and Seth (their story was Holiday in the Hamptons and you can read my review here if you missed it) but she wanted to stay in New York City for the holidays. Now, I've never been in NYC for Christmas (only ever been once in my life) but I've read enough holiday stories and seen enough movies to know that it really does look like a magical place in December. (And, yes, I'm aware these shows and books show it as picture perfect and it's probably not but let me have this vision, ok?). I could see why Harriet would want to stay in the city and enjoy all that it has to offer during the holiday season. Plus, it allowed for a really sweet scene with Harriet and Ethan later on in the book!

Small sides note: if you're a dog lover, you'll love this one. Harriet understands dogs at a whole other level and Morgan is able to write her in such a way that you can really see how talented she is at working with animals.

I really hope there's going to be another From Manhattan with Love novel but I have a feeling Sarah Morgan has reached the end of the stories she has to tell from New York City. Ever story in this series has been so heartwarming, sweet, funny, and a little sexy. If it is the end, Moonlight Over Manhattan was a great novel to end on. It very well might be my favourite of the six! If you want a nice Christmas-ish read this holiday season, this is one to pick up!

PS I really did bring it to the beach!

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Blog Tour: Holiday Wishes

We're getting closer and closer to Christmas which means reading even more Christmas romances! It's one of my favourite parts of the holiday - bonus if I can curl up in front of fireplace with a peppermint (or spiked) hot chocolate. I love when I can find a good novella or short story with a holiday theme and I was happy to come across Holiday Wishes by Jill Shalvis. I only just read my first Heartbreaker Bay novel recently (another Christmas one, of course, and you can read my review here) but really enjoyed the group of friends I met. So, I was happy to get to know another couple better in Holiday Wishes.

Here's the synopsis:
It’s Christmastime again in Heartbreaker Bay!
When Sean O’Riley shows up at the Hartford Bed & Breakfast for his older brother’s bachelor weekend, he’s just hoping to make it through the weekend. What he’s not expecting is to come face to face with the woman he lost his virginity to a decade ago—a woman he’s never really forgotten.
The last time Lotti Hartford saw Sean, she told him she loved him while he said nothing. Now, ten years later, she’s just looking for a good time. For once, she wants to be the wild and free one, and Sean – the good time guy – is the perfect candidate.
But as the weekend continues, Sean realizes that after a lifetime of being the hook-up king, he’s ready to find happily-ever-after, and he wants it with Lotti. But will she open her heart to him again? As Christmas sweeps through the little B&B, he can only hope love and magic are in the air.
I feel like I say this all the time in my Christmas book reviews but this novella didn't beat you over the head with holiday spirit. Well. That's not strictly true. I think sometimes these books actually capture the spirit Christmas is supposed to have, what it used to have. You know, the sort of cheesy being surrounded by friends and family and spending time with each other instead of the things you felt you had to buy each other kind of feeling. In the case of Holiday Wishes, it was so lovely seeing how much Sean and his friends care for each other and how close they were. They had made their own family and I loved that.

I'm a big fan of second chance romances (do you ever wonder sometimes why your favourite tropes are your favourites? Am I trying too hard to psychoanalyze myself?) so I really liked that Sean and Lotti knew each other when they were teenagers. I'm proud of Lotti for standing up to Sean and not falling back into his arms just because he was there. Of course, I was also frustrated that she didn't give him a fair enough chance to explain that he had changed. She just couldn't believe it. But then he starts to show her how he changed and oh how he worked to woo her. It was really sweet.

I absolutely loved the setting of the novel. I guess I'm a sucker for quaint hotel/B&B set stories too (I adored Nora Roberts' Inn BoonsBoro novels and someday I will stay at the real Inn!). I also liked that Lotti was running her own business and had a lot of pride in it. 

Holiday Wishes is perfect for you if you want a sweet hit of Christmassy romance this holiday season. Jill Shalvis has written a pretty good (but not great) novella. It can stand alone but I think it might be nice had you read Sean's brothers novel. All in all, I'm glad to have read it but it wasn't a romance that totally knocked my Christmas-themed socks off.

About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website,, for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Connect with Jill
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest * Tumblr * Goodreads *

Buy Holiday Wishes
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*An eARC was provided by the publisher, HarperCollins, for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Friday, November 17, 2017

Review: Bad at Love

I've been reading Karina Halle for a long while now and I'm thrilled that she's been writing more contemporary romances lately. She is one of the best at writing romances that are realistic, heartwrenching, sweet, sexy, and funny. It sounds like a tall order but she does it well! Bad at Love had all of those elements and was a really enjoyable read.

Here's the synopsis:
She's bad at love, but he's even worse...
Marina is hot, blonde, and wickedly smart, but when it comes to men? She's hopeless. Between her quirks and her lack of filter, there isn't a man in Los Angeles that will stick around after the third date.
Her handsome, charming friend Lazarus has the opposite problem. Everyone wants to be his girlfriend, but he gets bored and moves on quickly.
There's only one way to figure out why neither of them has cracked this love thing-- they'll date each other. On paper, it's the perfect experiment. But in reality, things between Marina and Laz get complicated quickly.
They might be bad at love, but they are even worse at being friends.
The main characters in Bad at Love were really interesting. Their career paths were ones that I definitely hadn't read about before. Marina is a beekeeper and Laz fronts a Depeche Mode cover band and is an Instagram famous poet. They're both still working hard to make it in their respective careers which I could identify with as I'm about the same age they are.

Even though I knew why Marina and Laz were bad at love and what was going to happen by the end of the book, I was still completely drawn into their story. The people who say romances are boring or terrible because they're so predictable obviously haven't been reading the right romances. Halle writes the right kind of romances. They're sweet but steamy. They're dark but light. Some have more elements of one than the other but they're always balanced perfectly. It's one of the reasons I keep coming back to Halle's books again and again and again.

In fact, dark and light played a big part in this story. Marina is all light and sunshine and honey whereas Laz is dark and brooding and a bit mysterious (I think it's the poet/musician persona). At one point someone (it might have been Marina's best friend Naomi...maybe?) mentions how Marina and Laz really balance each other because neither is fully dark or light. Marina has her shadows and Laz can be a goofball too. It was so perfect and really shows how right the two of them are for each other.

There's more to the story than just Marina and Laz finally figuring out how they feel about each other. They each have issues and, because they're such good friends (which, by the way, I'm really glad they were friends for so long before they started "dating"), both Marina and Laz aware of the other's issues. However, they're each still holding back and part of their relationship building is fully letting down those walls and allowing the other to fully see who they are and help the other to move past their...demons, shall we say. It was really interesting (and a bit heartbreaking) to read but I was rooting for the two of them the whole way.

Bad at Love was another wonderful read from Karina Halle. I was really glad I got the chance to read it and get to know Marina and Laz (even though my heart was being broken in some parts). Definitely get your hands on this one if you like romances that have a little bit of everything and are well-written!

Meet Karina 
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, Love, in English, The Artists Trilogy, Dirty Angels and over 20 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 Root Literary and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.

Connect with Karina
Facebook * Amazon * Instagram * Join her Reader Group * Website 
Stay up to date with Karina by signing up for her newsletter here

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Review: The Boyfriend Swap

I love Meredith Schorr's books and, I'll be up front and honest, I love her, too. Over the past few years, I've read all of her novels, have met her in person twice, and have emailed and messaged her countless times. I might be a bit biased but if you know me you'll also know that I'll be honest with my review even though I consider Meredith a friend. So when I say I adored The Boyfriend Swap it's because it really is another fantastic read from Schorr.

Here's the synopsis:
Is Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year? New Yorkers Robyn Lane and Sidney Bellows aren’t so sure.
Robyn has always dated struggling creative types. For once, her parents would love her to bring someone with health insurance and a 401(k) to their Chrismukkah celebration. Her actor boyfriend doesn’t qualify. While across town, Sidney’s professional life already belongs to her parents. She’s an attorney at her father’s law firm and she works tirelessly to keep her love life private. If she brings her lawyer boyfriend to their annual Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have the wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.
A mutual friend playfully suggests they trade boyfriends for the holidays. The women share a laugh, but after copious amounts of wine, decide The Boyfriend Swap could be the perfect solution. This way, Robyn can show off her stable attorney boyfriend and Sidney’s high-society family will take no interest in her flakey actor beau.
It’s a brilliant plan—in theory. In practice—not so much. When Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years, and Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe, one thing is certain: The Boyfriend Swap might just change their lives forever.
The Boyfriend Swap is full of Schorr's trademark (yep, I'm calling it a trademark) humour and heart. She manages to create characters that I always want to be best friends with and are so totally realistic. None of her heroines are perfect and some are far from it. Sidney, for example, is a real piece of work. She's tough, always needs to be in control, and is actually pretty difficult to like. But there's a certain something in her that has the reader hoping she'll redeem herself by the end of the novel (you'll just have to read it to find out if she does). Robyn, on the other hand, is the "good girl," a point that's driven home when it's revealed that it was Will who came up with her high school nickname of Snow White. I will say that I found Robyn to be a touch too much like Kim, Schorr's heroine in her Blogger Girl series. I love the series and Kim so I loved Robyn but they are definitely very similar characters. Maybe it's just because they're both sweet, smart, sassy women. Nothing wrong with that, right?

The main plot of the story - swapping boyfriends for the holidays - had the potential to end up being really cheesy but Schorr makes it work. Maybe because not everyone is super into the idea. Sidney has to work to convince Robyn and especially Will that it's a good idea. It proves that Sidney is a damn good lawyer and can argue her way to a win in just about anything. But, as you can imagine, it also shows the cracks in the established relationships. Schorr does an awesome job of writing these relationships so they feel realistic even in a bizarre situation.

There was a bit of an unbalance in the stories for me but that wasn't exactly a bad thing. I didn't really connect with Sidney (or Perry) but I wonder if that was to be expected. There's one line that I absolutely love from Perry when they're discussing the swap. He says to Sidney, referring to the two of them, "We're definitely the villains in this story." To me that line says that Schorr maybe knows that Sidney and Perry aren't the main reason you're still reading and that, maybe, that's ok.

I had totally forgotten that Will was Robyn's high school crush so I was pleasantly surprised by that reveal. It was sort of like a second chance romance, which is one of my favourite tropes. And Will himself? Oh my goodness, swoon. I adored him. I felt a bit like Robyn's mom did, constantly wanting to tell Robyn that I just loved him. He was smart and had interests that were all over the board. And he really seemed to understand Robyn and what made her tick.

And for fans of Christmas stories (like me!) the main portion of the story takes place over the holidays in December. There's just enough cheer to make it a holiday story but not too much that you can't read this in, say, July.

I could probably keep gushing about The Boyfriend Swap but I should probably leave a little mystery for when you read it yourself (and you will, right? You should.). I loved Meredith Schorr's latest novel and am already waiting for her next one!

*An eARC of this novel was provided by the author and publisher, Henery Press, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest (I promise) and my own.*

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Review: Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse

It's now November so it's time to promote and read all of the holiday novels! Yay! I adore Christmas and romances so Christmas romances are some of my all time favourite books. I've read a lot of bad ones over the years and some that are absolutely amazing. Three years ago I read and reviewed The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman, an author I really enjoy. This year Gorman published some cozier stories under the name Lilly Bartlett. She and her publisher decided that the feel-good The Reluctant Elf actually worked really well as a Bartlett novel so they've republished it as Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse. To help promote the relaunch of the book I'm reposting my review from three years ago (with a few small tweaks). Enjoy!

Here's the synopsis:
Put your feet up and tuck into the mince pies, because you won’t have to lift a finger to enjoy this Christmas!
Too bad the same can’t be said for single mother and extremely undomestic goddess, Lottie.
When her beloved Aunt Kate ends up in hospital just before Christmas, Lottie and her seven-year-old daughter rush to rural Wales to take over her B&B. A picky hotel reviewer and his mad family are coming to stay, and without the rating only he can bestow, Aunt Kate will lose her livelihood.
But Lottie can barely run her own life, let alone a hotel. How will she manage to turn the falling-down guesthouse into the luxurious wonderland the reviewer expects? And could mysterious taxi driver, Danny, who agrees to help her, turn out to be the real gift this season?
As the snow sparkles on the trees and hot chocolate steams in your hand, snuggle into the delicious magic of Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse.
The thing I didn't love was that the story seemed so outlandish. I couldn't understand why Aunt Kate would agree to have a reviewer stay when the B&B was in such disarray (that was an unintentional, and not very good, rhyme!). I think if the place had only been slightly messy and/or run down I could have accepted it but that wasn't the case. 

Putting that negative out of mind (I wish it had been easier to do), made the rest of the story enjoyable. I loved Lottie's daughter (I think she could be described as precocious!) and reading about their little family. Single moms (and dads) have it tough and I liked that Bartlett made sure to show both sides of that life. It's hard to raise a child on your own but the relationship between parent and child can sometimes be extra special because it's just the two of them.

And, of course, I loved the love story. Was it predictable? Absolutely. But that didn't make it any less fun to read about. Reading as Lottie and Danny learned more about each other was so great. They become strangers to friends to something more. The progression is quick but it totally made sense. It was just so sweet!

If you like humorous and sweet stories, pick up Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse by Lilly Bartlett. It's a great novella to ease yourself into Christmas reading since it's not over the top Christmassy but it still embraces the spirit of the holiday.

Happy reading!

*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, Notting Hill Press, in exchange for review consideration.*

Friday, October 27, 2017

Cover Reveal: Bad at Love

I'm so excited to share the cover of another Karina Halle novel! Her covers are usually so freaking gorgeous that it's fun to be involved in the official reveal. Bad At Love is coming at you in just under three weeks - it publishes on November 16. Because my life has been just a tad insane lately, I actually missed the initial announcement about this novel. But now that I've caught up? Cannot. Wait. 

Here's what Halle's new contemporary standalone novel is all about:
She's bad at love, but he's even worse... Marina is hot, blonde, and wickedly smart, but when it comes to men? She's hopeless. Between her quirks and her lack of filter, there isn't a man in Los Angeles that will stick around after the third date. Her handsome, charming friend Lazarus has the opposite problem. Everyone wants to be his girlfriend, but he gets bored and moves on quickly.
 There's only one way to figure out why neither of them has cracked this love thing-- they'll date each other. On paper, it's the perfect experiment. But in reality, things between Marina and Laz get complicated quickly. They might be bad at love, but they are even worse at being friends.
It sounds like such a Halle book - funny, steamy, and full of heart. 

Now...are you ready for the cover? It's yet another one designed by Hang Le which should tell you that it's going to be beautiful and perfectly capture Halle's story.

Drum roll please....

Gah. I absolutely love it. This is definitely a book I want to take on vacation next month because I feel like I'm on vacay just looking at it.

What do you think? Do you think you'll buy this one? At the very least, you should add it to your Goodreads shelf!

Meet Karina 
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, Love, in English, The Artists Trilogy, Dirty Angels and over 20 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 Root Literary and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.

Connect with Karina
Join her Reader Group
Stay up to date with Karina by signing up for her newsletter here

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Review: London Can You Wait?

At some point in 2016 I started hearing about a book called London Belongs to Me. It was a debut novel and it sounded really good. One day it came up on sale so I snapped it up on my ereader and then, a few weeks later, I was asked to review it for the other blog I sometimes review for, Novel Escapes. (You can find my review here.) Clearly I had wanted to read it so I agreed to review it for some extra exposure for the author. And guys? I adored it. It wasn't perfect but it was really good. So good, in fact, that I bought a Kobo gift card for my sister (who was working on a cruise ship at the time) so she could buy it too (she's a sucker for stories set in London). I was so excited when I learned Jacquelyn Middleton would be writing a sequel. London, Can You Wait? was just as delightful as the first book!

Here's the synopsis:
Alex loves Mark. Mark loves Alex. But is love enough?
Since moving to London from the US, twenty-four-year-old Alex Sinclair seems to have it all: a coveted job writing for the theatre, supportive friends, and the man of her dreams—gorgeous Irish actor, Mark Keegan. But in the year since the acclaimed debut of her play, Alex and Mark’s lives have been turned upside down.
Thanks to his role on a smash-hit British TV show, Mark is catapulted to stardom. Alex couldn’t be happier—until her boyfriend’s popularity and insatiable drive to succeed means they’re apart more than they’re together. Forced to share Mark with showbiz heavy-hitters, intrusive press, and unrelenting fangirls, Alex’s hopes for a stable and committed life with him start to fade. Her struggles with panic attacks, career uncertainty, and Mark’s increasingly worrisome behaviour make her wonder: how much more can she bend before she breaks?
A passionate tale of secrets, loss, and ambition, London, Can You Wait? is the eagerly-awaited sequel to Middleton’s debut novel, London Belongs to Me.
The story starts about a year after London Belongs to Me ended. Mark and Alex are totally in love and Mark's acting star is rapidly rising. I can't imagine how it would feel to be dating an actor let alone a super famous one who is hardly ever around. I've done the long distance relationship thing and it is not easy - and we weren't even dealing with the added stress of fame. I totally understood all of Alex's emotions when it came to missing Mark and being frustrated that he was constantly putting work first. She wants to be supportive because she loves him so much but how can you be supportive when it seems like your partner doesn't care enough to be around to support you? I could even understand why she wouldn't want to have that tough conversation with Mark to explain how she was really feeling (hey, tough conversations are no picnic). But I really wanted her to. I hated that both she and Mark were hiding so much from each other. That is not a recipe for a healthy relationship.

This next part will be a tad spoiler-y but it's to be expected because it's a novel about an established couple so you know there's going to be some relationship issues. I was not thrilled with how Mark was handling his fame or what he does (and doesn't do) that ultimately breaks the pair up. But, it helped them finally face their issues and build an even stronger foundation for their relationship.

Even though it was a novel about a girl who's dating a famous actor, I found the story to be pretty realistic. Alex's relationship fears were valid and her career struggles were also authentic. Most younger twentysomethings (including myself when I was Alex's age) either have no idea what they want to do with their life (me) or know what they want to do and have trouble gaining more than a toe-hold in their industry of choice (Alex). I also loved that even though the story mostly revolved around Alex and Mark's relationship, Alex's career played an important role. This isn't just a love story which makes the novel oh so much better.

There's a massive cast of supporting characters in this novel. You'd almost expect it to be overwhelming but Middleton manages to keep everyone and everything sorted and in check. Of course, I did kind of forget who some of the characters were (it's been awhile since I read LBTM after all) but I eventually got it all sorted out in my head. Lucy is an amazing best friend to Alex and it was awesome to get to see her succeed as well. And Alex's family (her dad, step-mom, and grandmother anyway) are so supportive of Alex and I'm glad that she has them in her corner plus we, as readers, got to spend more time with them as well.

Also - that cover? Love.

I don't know what else I can really say about London, Can You Wait? other than - buy the book and read it. (But also, read London Belongs to Me first because you really will enjoy this book so much more.) It's a great read with really amazing characters who you will completely fall in love with and who you'll root for even when they're being idiots. I cannot wait to see what Jacquelyn Middleton writes next!

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Review: Holiday in the Hamptons

I received my ARC of Holiday in the Hamptons on August 11. I had the book finished on August 12 and I had a wedding that day. So, I suppose it's very fair to say I was really looking forward to the next installment in Sarah Morgan's From Manhattan With Love series. (And also very fair to say that I'm way behind with my blog reviews but major life events have gotten in the way.) This is a romance series I fell in love with when I read the first book, Sleepless in Manhattan (review here), and have been eagerly anticipating and then devouring each of the following books. 

Here's the synopsis:
Professional dog-walker Felicity Knight loves everything about New York...until her ex-husband starts working at her local vet clinic. She hasn't seen Seth Carlyle in ten years, but one glimpse of him--too gorgeous, and still too good for her--and Fliss's heart hurts like their whirlwind marriage ended yesterday. So when her grandmother in the Hamptons needs help for the summer, it seems the ideal way to escape her past.
Their relationship might have lasted only a few scorching months, but vet Seth knows Fliss--if she's run away to the Hamptons, it's because she still feels their connection and it terrifies her. He let her go once before, when he didn't know any better, but not this summer! With the help of his adorable dog, Lulu, and a sprinkling of beachside magic, Seth is determined to make Fliss see that he's never stopped loving her...
I know I've said it time and time again but I adore second chance romances. So, the fact that Fliss and Seth were reconnecting after so many years apart was a huge draw for me. The pair were so young when they first got together (and married) that I was excited to see how grown-up them would deal with a relationship. Not so well, in Fliss' case but that was to be expected based on her prickly personality.

I loved that Seth seemed like such a solid guy (but I guess that shouldn't be too surprising since it is a romance and the hero is almost always wonderful and swoonworthy). I think I appreciated that because I had sort of gotten to "know" Fliss over the past few books of this series and knew that she needed someone amazing who could tame her prickliness. You could tell that Fliss has a big heart hidden behind her less than warm personality - a lot of that is based on how she is with her siblings and the dogs she walks - and that makes you root for her Happily Ever After.

As the synopsis mentions, Fliss goes to the Hamptons to run away from her problems and to help her grandmother. Unfortunately, she's so insecure and unwilling to believe she is a great human being that she pretends to be her twin sister, Harriet (who she considers the "good twin"). Fliss' constant negative thoughts about herself kind of got to me and I wished she would realize that she has so much to offer the world. Seth could see that - and could actually, really see her and (this isn't really giving anything away) could tell that she wasn't Harriet. (Which I totally loved, by the way.) But he allowed her to pretend for awhile but finally pushed back when he knew the charade had gone on far enough. Fliss needed that push and Seth wasn't going to let her sell herself short.

Holiday in the Hamptons was really fun and sweet and I loved getting to know Fliss and Seth more. I wouldn't call this installment one of my favourites in the wasn't bad by any means but I felt like there should/could have been more...well just more...between Fliss and Seth. Sarah Morgan still remains one of my favourite contemporary romance authors and I cannot wait to read Harriet's story, Moonlight Over Manhattan.

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

Review: Chasing Christmas Eve

It may be Thanksgiving here in Canada (Happy Thanksgiving, friends!) but I'm getting the holiday spirit going already with Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis. This is the latest in her HeartbreakerBay series but you don’t have to read the others to enjoy Colbie and Spence’s story. Of course, if you’re like me and haven’t read them you’re probably going to want to go back and visit the stories Shalvis has already written. That’s how much fun and how sweet this novel was!

Here’s the synopsis via Goodreads:
Meet cute...Run for the hills—temporarily. That's Colbie Albright's plan when she flees New York for San Francisco. Wrangling her crazy family by day and writing a bestselling YA fantasy series by night has taken its toll. In short, Colbie's so over it that she's under it. She's also under the waters of a historic San Francisco fountain within an hour of arrival. Fortunately, the guy who fishes Colbie out has her looking forward to Christmas among strangers. But she's pretty sure Spencer Baldwin won't be a stranger for long.
Make merry...Spence's commitment to hiding from the Ghosts of Relationships Past means he doesn't have to worry about the powerful—okay, crazy hot chemistry—he's got with Colbie. Just because she can laugh at anything, especially herself... just because she's gorgeous and a great listener just because she gets Spence immediately doesn't mean he won't be able to let Colbie go. Does it?
and hope for a miracle.Now the clock's ticking for Colbie and Spence: Two weeks to cut loose. Two weeks to fall hard. Two weeks to figure out how to make this Christmas last a lifetime.

It was really easy to see why Spence would fall for Colbie. I loved her too! She was smart, funny, and down to earth. She had issues – which reared its ugly head a few times over the course of the novel – but she seemed committed to working through them. After running away, of course. I do wish she was more firm with her mom and brothers at the end because they really were taking advantage of her. I get that she’s a fixer – I kind of am myself – but she was so focused on that that she couldn’t see that maybe her life could be different and oh so much better with Spence and San Francisco.

It was also easy to see why Colbie loved San Francisco. I’ve never been but it’s on my travel bucket list. The area Spence and his friends live in sounded so great and had a nice small town vibe in the middle of a big city.

Spence had a really awesome, loyal group of friends which are his self-made family. I loved the friendship between all of them. They’re super protective of him because other people from his past have taking advantage of him. For the most part, that’s sweet. But sometimes their protectiveness became a little extreme. I get that they might assume Colbie is a reporter since they know virtually nothing about her but I also couldn’t quite see why there was so much fuss about Spence. Sure he’s crazy smart and rich and good-looking but…I don’t understand why the media was crawling all over him. I also really didn’t understand why Elle was so crazy Mama Bear protective of Spence. It was honestly annoying to read and I wish she, and some of the others, gave him the chance to fall in love instead of blocking his relationship with Colbie whenever they could. They liked her – and it was sweet that the ladies of the group immediately took Colbie under their wing – but instead of allowing her to share her background in her own time, they forced the issue.

The romance was totally believable in this story, even if it happened really quickly. Colbie and Spence had so many common personality traits and differences where it mattered that it made so much sense for them to fall for each other.

I’m finding that most Christmas romances these days aren’t really too Christmassy. So it wasn’t that weird reading a book set in the three weeks leading up to Christmas when it was October and unseasonably warm here in Ontario. But, had I been reading this in December and wanted a romance with all of the Christmas trimmings, I may have been disappointed. As long as you don’t expect Santa or tinsel at every turn, I think you’ll enjoy the hints of holiday throughout this book.

All in all, Chasing Christmas Eve was a really nice read. Jill Shalvis is so talented at creating worlds that are sweet and so much fun to read about. I read this one really quickly and my heart was full at the end for Colbie and Spence. I’d consider that a win.

At the unexpected sight of Spence, Colbie startled hard. How was it that he was the one who needed glasses and yet she’d not seen him standing against the window? “No, I don’t kill a lot of people,” she said cautiously because she was wearing only a towelin front of a strange man. “But I’m happy to make an exception.”
He laughed, a rough rumble that was more than a little contagious but she controlled herself because, hello, she was once again dripping wet before the man who seemed to make her knees forget to hold her up.
“I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said and pushed off the wall to come close.
She froze, but he held up his hands like, I come in peace, and crouched at her feet to scoop up the clothes she hadn’t realized she’d dropped.
Leggings, a long forgiving tee, and the peach silk bra-and-panty set that hadn’t gotten so much as a blink from the TSA guy.
But it got one out of Spence. He also swallowed hard as she snatched them back from him.
“Hold on,” he said and caught her arm, pulling it toward him to look at her bleeding elbow.
“Sit,” he said and gently pushed her down to a weight bench. He vanished into the bathroom and came back out with a first aid kit.
It took him less than two minutes to clean and bandage the scrape. Then, easily balanced at her side on the balls of his feet, he did the same for both her knees, which she hadn’t noticed were also scraped up.
“You must’ve hit the brick coping as you fell in the fountain,” he said and let his thumb slide over the skin just above one bandaged knee.
She shivered, and not from the cold either. “Not going to kiss it better?” she heard herself ask before biting her tongue for running away with her good sense.
She’d raised her younger twin brothers. Scrappy, roughhouse wild animals, the both of them, so there’d been plenty of injuries she’d kissed over the years.
But no one had ever kissed hers. Not surprising, since most of her injuries tended to be on the inside, where they didn’t show. Still, she was horrified she’d said anything at all. “I didn’t mean—”
She broke off, frozen like a deer in the headlights as Spence slowly lowered his head, brushing his lips over the Band-Aid on her elbow, then her knees. When he lifted his head, he pushed his glasses higher on his nose, those whiskey eyes warm and amused behind his lenses. “Better?”
Shockingly better. Since she didn’t quite trust her voice at the moment, she gave a jerky nod and took her clothes back into the bathroom. She shut the door and then leaned against it, letting out a slow, deliberate breath. Holy cow, she was out of her league. He was somehow both cute and hot, and those glasses . . .

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Review: Wild Card

Via Goodreads
I've been reading Karina Halle's books for ages now and, lucky for me, she's an author who publishes books really frequently. Due to time and funds, I've skipped buying the last few she's written but once I saw what Wild Card was about I knew I had to have it. Small town? Canadian? Second chance romance? Sign. Me. Up. And guess what? It totally delivered. I loved it!

Here's the synopsis:
What would you give up to have a second-chance at a once-in-a-lifetime love?
Wild Card is a STANDALONE SECOND-CHANCE ROMANCE from the NYT bestselling author of The Pact and Before I Ever Met You.
Rough, raw & rugged.
As the man in charge at Ravenswood Ranch, Shane Nelson has never been afraid to get his hands dirty. His sculpted physique isn't the product of a gym, but of years of hard labor under a relentless sun. His straightforward, alpha tendencies come from a man who knows what he wants and goes after it.
And what he wants is Rachel Waters.
He's never stopped wanting her.
They were childhood best friends, then teenage lovers who evolved into soulmates. But on one fateful night, Shane made a grave mistake, breaking both their hearts in the process.
Now, after six years, Rachel is back in the small, wild mountain town of North Ridge, BC.
Ready to face her past.
Ready to face Shane.
Ready to face his dark secret.
But is a second-chance at a one true love in the cards? Or will their wild hearts be broken once again?
WILD CARD is a complete standalone novel and the first book about the Nelson brothers of North Ridge.
First things first, as the synopsis says, Wild Card is the first book in (I assume) a trilogy about three brothers. It's a sort of series in that the books are connected but you don't have to read each book. Not into second chance stories? That's ok. Wait for Maverick's novel. I'm a bit of a series purist though so I'm going to read each in the order they're written.

Halle has an amazing talent of writing romances that are about so much more than the love story. Her characters are so developed and multi-layered. Their stories will grab hold of your heart and not let go. Seriously, I finished this book hours ago (yesterday, by the time this post will be published) and I've barely been able to stop thinking about it. 

Rachel has a past that is far from sunshine and roses. She's suffered and that pain really came through the pages. So much so that I found myself close to tears in some points. Heart-wrenching in the best way. (That sounds weird to anyone who isn't a reader but readers will understand!) There were a few flashback sections and I was so glad Rachel had Shane when she was younger. There was so much awareness in that little boy and he made it his mission to protect Rachel and make sure she had the best possible life. Until, of course, his secret causes them both unimaginable pain. 

Their love story, though? Swoon. It's hot, it's heavy, it's romantic, it's heartbreaking, it's the stuff of fairy tales. And, best of all, it felt real

It's rare that these types of stories are placed in Canada so I loved that Halle, Canadian herself, placed the story in BC. 

I cannot wait for the next books to be released. I need to know how Rachel and Shane are doing and I'm really looking forward to seeing how Fox and Maverick's love stories end up. If you are looking for a great read that really pulls you in and you will not want to put down, you need to read Wild Card. If you're a fan of Colleen Hoover and KA Tucker, Karina Halle should definitely be on your TBR list. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: The Second Chance Café in Carlton Square

A few months ago, HarperCollins started a campaign asking #WhoIsLilly. Lilly Bartlett was a debut author but she was the pseudonym for another, more established author. I took part in the campaign, tweeting out clues over the course of week or so, until the big reveal was made. Lilly Bartlett, author of the new book, The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square, is actually Michele Gorman! I've been reading Gorman's books on and off throughout the years so it was so much fun to take part in the campaign. I never did manage to read the first Lilly book but did dive into The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square.

Here's the synopsis via Goodreads:
One chance isn't always Enough
Everyone expects great things from Emma Billings, but when her future gets derailed by an unexpected turn of events, she realizes that getting back on track means traveling in a different direction.
She finds it in the closed-down pub on Carlton Square. Summoning every ounce of ingenuity, and with the help of her friends and family, she opens the Second Chance Café. The charity training business is meant to keep vulnerable kids off the streets and (hopefully) away from the Metropolitan Police, and her new employees are full of ideas, enthusiasm ... and trouble. They'll need as much TLC as the customers they’re serving.
This ragtag group of chancers have to make a go of a business they know nothing about, and they do get some expert help from an Italian who's in love with the espresso machine and a professional sandwich whisperer who reads auras, but not everyone is happy to see the café open. Their milk keeps disappearing and someone is canceling the cake orders, but it's when someone commits bloomicide on all their window boxes that Emma realizes things are serious. Can the café survive when NIMBY neighbors and the rival café owner join forces to close them down? Or will Emma’s dreams fall as flat as the cakes they’re serving?
While you don't necessarily have to read the first book about Emma, I would suggest it. I wasn't really confused about her life or anything like that but I wish I had been able to read how she and her now-husband Daniel, met and got married. I also suspect that would have given me even more insight into Emma's character instead of meeting her as she was a mother and trying to fit in opening a business around raising twins.

This novel is definitely a rom-com with more lighthearted laughs and silly scenarios than actual depth, but there is so much heart in this book that the seemingly superficial nature of the story doesn't really matter.

I'm not totally sure why Bartlett chose to start the story in the present, go back in the past, and then work her way forwards to explain the story. It worked just fine but I don't know if I necessarily needed to know (other than from the synopsis) that someone was sabotaging her business before I learned how and why she was opening the cafe.

I did love that Emma was so committed to her trainees. She had two - one teenage boy and one teenage girl. They had had a rough upbringing and at least the girl, Lou, has a record (she'd been caught stealing). Emma's a bit hesitant about the teens but her heart is so big that she really wants to help them succeed. It's equal parts sweet, funny, and frustrating to watch as she trains these kids and tries to give them the tools they'll need to succeed in their future.

The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square is a quick and sweet read that's for anyone looking for a fun and lovely story. It'll make you smile and cringe, and probably start hunting for a cafe in your neighbourhood that's just like Emma's. I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for that cafe - and for Lilly Bartlett's next book!

*I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: The Big Life

I just turned 30 this year and sometimes think I'm having the longest quarter-life crisis ever. I still don't know what I want to be when I "grow up" so when I had the opportunity to review The Big Life: Embrace the Mess, Work Your Side Hustle, Find a Monumental Relationship, and Become the Badass Babe You Were Meant to Be, I thought, hey, maybe this can help me get my act together. Ann Shoket's book obviously isn't magical so I didn't finish it and immediately know what I need to do to have my Big Life but it certainly gave me a few things to think about to help me get on that path to being a Badass Babe.

Here's the (very long) description of the book, courtesy of Goodreads:
Millennial women are changing what it means to be powerful and successful in the world―for everyone. Forever. You want The Big Life―that delicious cocktail of passion, career, work, ambition, respect, money, and a monumental relationship. And you want it on your own terms. Forget climbing some corporate ladder, you want a career with twists and turns and adventure. For you, success only matters if it’s meaningful. Ann Shoket knows the evolving values of young women more than anyone. She’s the voice behind the popular Badass Babes community, a sisterhood of young, hungry, ambitious women who are helping each other through the most complex issues around becoming who you’re meant to be. As the trailblazing editor-in-chief of Seventeen for the better part of a decade, Shoket led provocative conversations that helped young women navigate the tricky terrain of adolescence and become smart, confident, self-assured young women. Now that they are adding muscle to the frame work of their lives, she’s continuing the conversation with The Big Life.
The Big Life is packed with actionable guidance combined with personal advice from high-profile millennial women who have already achieved tremendous success, plus intimate conversations with a cast of compelling characters and Shoket’s own stories on her quest for The Big Life. You’ll learn to tackle all of the issues on heavy rotation in your mind such as:
  • How to craft a career that’s also a passion.
  • How to get respect from a boss who thinks you’re a lazy, entitled, and self-obsessed millennial
  • Why you need a “squad” of people who support you as you build your Big Life
  • How a side hustle will make you smarter, hotter, and more in control of your destiny.
  • Why work/life balance is a sham and you need to embrace the mess.
  • How to find a partner whose eyes light up when you talk about your ambition.
Written in Shoket’s friendly and authoritative style, The Big Life will help you recognize your power, tap into your ambition, and create your own version of The Big Life.
While there's no real age limit on this book, or searching for and having The Big Life, I think it's ever so slightly geared towards younger Millennials. Nowhere was that more obvious than on the very first page of the introduction as Shoket explained where The Big Life starts - in your bedroom at 16 years old. Shoket's version of this teen dreamed of being a digital influencer and imagined an Instagram-worthy first apartment. I had hardly mastered the Internet at 16 and Facebook wasn't even a thing yet (to be fair, it would be founded a year after I turned 16), let alone Instagram. But all that is ok. I'm still a Millennial and the stereotypes this generation fights against are ones I have to fight against too. 

Shoket is a huge believer that women can do bigger and better things if we help each other. I love that. It makes so much more sense than trying to take down another woman on social media or not assisting a co-worker when she has the opportunity to totally kick ass. Building up the females around you isn't going to hurt you. It can only help. Of course, that's easier said than done but it's definitely a thought to keep firmly in mind.

Something I found pretty interesting was when Shoket explained that Carrie Bradshaw's life and version of "having it all" has completely changed for today's young women. How we get ahead in life and in our careers is totally different than it was for the women in Sex and the City and everyone else in that generation. 

When you read this book you'll most likely find sections that really resonate and others that don't reflect your life at all. For me, I wanted to focus more on the career and side hustle sections of this book than the relationship and family side of things. I have an amazing boyfriend and we don't plan to have kids so there's no concern about pausing my career to pop out babies. But I don't really have a career to pause anyway, which is my problem. Sure, I have a job that keeps the bills paid but I'm still looking to be able to use my passions for the majority of my time instead of trying to fit them in around a 40-hour work week. 

There's a lot of Real Talk in this book and, for an introvert like me who hates criticism, it's hard to take a look at your own life and pick out what you could be doing better. There's nothing I'm doing wrong, per se, and Shoket definitely isn't saying anyone's current life is wrong, but I could be hustling more to help get me closer to that Big Life. On the flip side, Shoket also warns against comparing your life to those around you. You know you do it when you scroll through social media...I definitely do, especially when I've had a rough day or week. You also know that what's posted online is the shiniest version. You should be happy for your friends and jealousy shouldn't enter the picture. Instead, focus on how that woman has got to where she is. You probably didn't notice the hustle going on behind the scenes before she got to this point. I'm not saying I'm great at this but I'm definitely going to make a point of thinking about how those women - who seem to have it all together - got to where they are and how I can use their experiences for my own hustle.

Some people might find it odd that Shoket, who is in her 40s, is writing a book on how to kick ass at being a Millennial woman. But think about this. She was the editor-in-chief for Seventeen during the time many younger Millennials were reading it (I was already in university by the time she took the helm). She successfully ran the magazine and that shows, to me, that she really understands what makes us tick. Plus, she's made it her mission to help young women succeed in and out of the workplace. And she's the boss to many Millennials and there were a few instances in the book where that Gen X insight was really helpful to change my frame of thinking. 

Overall, The Big Life is worth a read if you're really struggling with at least one aspect of your Millennial life. You'll definitely find tidbits in Ann Shoket's book that you'll flag and return to time and time again until your Big Life finally clicks. 

*A copy of this book was provided by the distributor, Raincoast Books, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review: Kim vs The Mean Girl

I don't read a ton of YA these days. There are so many adult titles out there that I only make time for important stories (think The Hate U Give) or my favourites (I will always read Sarah Dessen). But when Meredith Schorr, one of my favourite authors, writes a YA prequel to one of my all time favourite romcoms? Yeah, I'm gonna read it. Kim vs. the Mean Girl gives the origin story, if you will, of Kim Long from Blogger Girl (which I adored and reviewed here). I actually beta read this one for Meredith but I read the book again after it was officially published and I loved it each time.

Here's the synopsis:
High school sophomore, Kim Long, is no stranger to the “mean girl” antics of Queen Bee Hannah Marshak. When Hannah steals Kim’s diary and in front of the entire class reads personal (not to mention humiliating) entries Kim wrote about her crush, Jonathan, Kim vows to enact revenge.
Kim and her loyal best friend, Bridget, come up with the perfect plan to put the evil Hannah in her place once and for all. But will their scheming have the desired effect of getting even, or will Hannah emerge more celebrated by her peers than ever?
Kim vs. The Mean Girl can be read as a young adult standalone novel, but it is also a prequel to the popular Blogger Girl adult romantic comedy series and is set in 2000. Told in the duo perspectives of teenage Kim and Hannah, fans of the series will get an inside look into Kim’s early passion for reading, writing (and Jonathan) and find out why Hannah is so darn mean.
Like many authors, Meredith has dedicated beta readers she uses for every book. While I'm a huge fan of hers, she normally doesn't ask me to read the work in progress so I can have the full, finished, polished book to read and review. Kim vs. the Mean Girl was different. Why? Because it's about a teenager in 2000. I was just becoming a teenager myself at that time so I helped Meredith get into the mindset of a teen from that era. So much fun! I actually dug out my own diaries from that time *shudder* But, it helped remind me what my life was like. I also did a lot of online research and I'm so glad the fashion trends from those years haven't made any comebacks. If you read this one (and you totally should), a teeny part of the storyline was inspired by yours truly (hint: it involves Dawson's Creek). One final pat on the back: I was, well, kind of blown away by being mentioned three times in the acknowledgements. Thanks, Meredith! :) xo

I really thought Meredith did a great job of writing a YA story. Not only that, but it can stand alone while also giving Blogger Girl fans a really great story about Kim (and Hannah's) past. Her adult novels (the aforementioned Blogger Girl and Novelista Girl - which I read and reviewed here) allude to the girls' history but it was so cool to actually read about it. You get to see what Kim and Bridget's friendship was like back in high school, you meet Jonathan, and, yes, find out why Hannah is so mean.

I was pretty lucky in high school and didn't have any mean girls that really picked on me for no reason. But, I was still a teenage girl once and I know how they operate. Even if you're safe from the mean girls, they're still out there. Reading Hannah's portion of the stories was hard sometimes. Seriously, she didn't have to be so horrible and it hurt my heart every time she said something hurtful or snarky to anyone, especially her so-called friends. Meredith wrote those scenes so exceptionally well. (OK, she wrote every scene well, let's be real.) But, reading from Hannah's perspective gives so much insight into her world and why she was the way she was. There are no excuses for being cruel but it's a reminder that you don't really know what's going on it other people's lives.

Finally, I loved the little Easter Egg Meredith dropped in near the end of the story! Nope, I'm not giving you any more details. Read the books.

I don't think you have to have read Meredith Schorr's Blogger Girl series before reading Kim vs. the Mean Girl but I definitely encourage you to read all of them (well, all of Schorr's novels period as they're all fantastic). You also don't have to be a YA fan though they'll love this story that has a really contemporary feel (even though it's technically not contemporary since it's set in the past...). This is a great series to pick up this summer!

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

Cover Reveal: Things to Do When It's Raining

I read Marissa Stapley's debut novel, Mating for Life, almost exactly three (!!!) years ago. I absolutely loved it - you can read my review here. Since then, I've been (im)patiently waiting for her next novel. She's been busy writing book reviews for The Globe and Mail (I'm seriously envious of her for being able to do this...maybe someday that'll be me...) and, happily, working on her second book, Things to Do When It's Raining. The novel is being published in February 2018 and I cannot wait! I've been fortunate enough to see Marissa at several book events over the past couple of years (I actually just saw her on Wednesday night at K.A. Tucker's launch!) and she is just oh so lovely. So, since I love her work and her as a person, I'm thrilled to share her cover with you today!

But's what this upcoming novel is all about:
When secrets tear love apart, can the truth mend it?Mae Summers and Gabe Broadbent grew up together in the idyllic Summers’ Inn, perched at the edge the St. Lawrence River. Mae was orphaned at the age of six and Gabe needed protection from his alcoholic father, so both were raised under one roof by Mae’s grandparents, Lily and George. A childhood friendship quickly developed into a first love—a love that was suddenly broken by Gabe’s unexpected departure. Mae grew up and got over her heartbreak, and started a life for herself in New York City.
After more than a decade, Mae and Gabe find themselves pulled back to Alexandria Bay by separate forces. Hoping to find solace within the Summers’ Inn, Mae instead finds her grandparents in the midst of decline and their past unravelling around her. A lifetime of secrets that implicate Gabe and Mae’s family reveal a version of the past that will forever change Mae’s future.
From the bestselling author of Mating for Life comes a poignant generational story about family and secrets. With honesty and heart, Marissa Stapley reminds us of the redemptive power of love and forgiveness, and that, ultimately, family is a choice.
How good does that sound? I can't wait to curl up with it and a hot chocolate when it's released next year! (Though it's odd to think of drinking a cozy hot beverage when July is tomorrow...)

So...are you ready to see the cover? Of course you are!

I adore the blue and the red together (though...may I ask why the sky is blue when I think it should be raining?). I'm also a big fan of the simple font. I love me some handwritten titles (think Until It Fades, Tucker's book that I just reviewed this week) but the block letters just looks so crisp and lovely.

Go ahead and add Things to Do When It's Raining to your Goodreads shelf and mark your calendars for February 2018. Hopefully you're just as excited for Marissa Stapley's upcoming novel as I am!