Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids
Author: Sarah Ockler (website | twitter)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Expected publication: June 2015

Sometimes, there are no words…

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them . . .



I know fall is coming on super fast, but I can't keep myself from looking at beautiful summer-y books...for next year. And this one is a Little Mermaid adaptation! When I was a kid, I was completely obsessed with the Disney movie - it was the second movie I ever saw in a theatre, and I sang Part of Your World constantly afterwards.


I really, really like the sound of this concept - I like how modernized it is, how it plays with the fantastical elements of the original fairy tale and makes them contemporary. As a singer myself, I obviously connect to Elyse's passion for music. And even though the boy is sounding a touch too "new adult love interest",  I like how he's a bit more of a go-getter than Eric from the Disney movie.

I haven't read any Sarah Ockler yet, but you can bet that if this is the first one, it's getting my full attention next summer. And yay for diversity on the cover!

Have you heard of THE SUMMER OF CHASING MERMAIDS? Are you a Sarah Ockler fan? Are you a Disney or Little Mermaid fan like me? What do you think of this concept? What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"We Are Family" Early Review: Reluctantly Royal by Nichole Chase

Reluctantly Royal (Suddenly #3)
Author: Nichole Chase (website | twitter)
Publisher: Avon Romance
Genre: New Adult/Adult Romance
Source/Format: eARC provided by publisher on Edelweiss (thank you!)
Publication date: August 26, 2014 
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Maxwell Jameson Trevor, prince of Lilaria, hates his royal role. Despising the limelight, he takes solace in his art studio and steers clear of any drama. But when one of the newly discovered royals passes away, Maxwell's brother Alex asks him to break the news to the old man's granddaughter. Though he hates to be the bearer of doom and gloom, he doesn't want the poor girl to find out from the tabloids. For Maxwell knows all too well how devastating that could be.

Coming from a broken home and modest background, newly ordained Lady Meredith Thysmer has seized her chance to make a better life for herself and her son. She's not afraid to use her best assets to get what she wants. But when the unpretentious yet devastatingly handsome Max delivers his news, her plans for the future come crashing to a halt. In the challenging days ahead, Max's compassion, humor, and steadfast loyalty to Meredith and her son win her over. She quickly finds herself doing something she swore would never happen again: falling in love. And yet Maxwell still refuses to completely drop his guard. Somehow Meredith's got to find a way to seduce this reluctant royal.


Review:


Reluctantly Royal is the last of Nichole Chase's Suddenly series, the first of which was such an enjoyable romance for a royalty sucker like me. The first book, Suddenly Royal was originally self-published, and did so well that Harper Avon picked it up for another two books.

I really enjoyed the first book, which was steamy and kind of like The Princess Diaries. The second book, Recklessly Royal, was a bit disappointing, because I felt like it didn't live up to the beautiful fairytale of the first book. This last one falls somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed it more than I did Recklessly Royal, but there were a few hiccups that stopped me from really loving it.

First, the good: I liked the feistiness of the female characters, especially the MC, Meredith Thysmer. One thing Chase does very well is create women who aren't afraid to stand up to their male counterparts, and who are strong enough to take some tough times. Meredith has an alcoholic father, her mother died, and she grew up fairly poor. Before the book starts, you know that she's the grand-daughter of one of the recently found dukes of Lilaria, the country where the whole series takes place. Meredith sees her newfound royalty and wealth as an opportunity for her to pursue her dreams of being a musician, while being comfortable enough to take care of her son Marty.

Unfortunately, Meredith's grandfather has recently passed away and it's up to Prince Max of Lilaria to deliver the bad news. Max is known as the slacker prince because he avoids the limelight at all costs. He's a painter who tries to stay away from the media, and because of that, he's been a bit isolated and cold. In this book, you see how close he is with his family, though.

Family is a big theme throughout the series - Lilarians believe family comes first no matter what - and I liked that this book was really about both Max and Meredith trying to find a place for themselves as royal family members. I also liked that Meredith had a son - it was a different take on romance than the other two books because of Marty, and I enjoyed how Max developed a relationship with him.

Unlike the other two books in the series, which were narrated by the female MCs, this book alternated between Max and Meredith's point of view. I thought that worked pretty well, and they had fairly distinct voices, although there were a few times I got a bit lost in the book and unsure of who was narrating.

I did have a big quibble with the the insta-love/timing of the romance. It's very quick and very intense, and while I get that they're dealing with extenuating circumstances that bring people closer...it's just a little too fast. I didn't find it believable. The entire book lasts approximately three days, and since it's a romance, you know that the "L" word is going to be uttered, and it's just too soon.

I also found it hard to believe that Max, being the slacker prince, seemed to change so instantly from being a no-commitment guy to full-on committed to Meredith. We are told many times that Max is not into commitment, but the second Meredith needs help, he's there. It was a little baffling.

Still, there was definitely some chemistry between Meredith and Max. This book isn't going to knock your socks off, but it's a fast romp (har har!) when you're looking for a quick romance.

Bonuses: 


Sexy Times: The romance was definitely upped a notch from the second book in the series - there are quite a few sexy scenes, and they're pretty smoking.






Cameos: If you enjoyed the other two books in the series, please indulge, if nothing else but to get an update on the other characters' lives! Samantha, Prince Alex, and Princess Cathy are all instrumental to bringing Meredith and Max together, and it's very cute and I enjoyed the family ribbing alot.



The Final Word


Reluctantly Royal is a cute romance, and it's definitely a beach read. I am glad I read it to find out more about the rest of the characters, but I don't know if it has a lot of reread potential. Still, a fun escapism read that I recommend for days when you need to believe in love at first sight.

RELUCTANTLY ROYAL comes out today! Are you interested in reading it? Have you read the other two books in the series, Suddenly Royal and Recklessly Royal? Do you read romances? Are you obsessed with reading royalty books like me? Hit the comments and let me know!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

GIVEAWAY & Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (no spoilers!)

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss #3)
Author: Stephanie Perkins (website | twitter)
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin Canada)
Source: Pre-ordered from Mabel's Fables in Toronto
Format: Hardcover, 339 pages
Publication date: August 14, 2014
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.


Review:

This review is a bit of a comparison between Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door - there might be some gentle spoilers for Lola and Anna here, so if you haven't read them and you're deathly afraid of being spoiled, please skip to my final thoughts!

Here's what you need to know about Isla: this is a different sort of story from Anna and Lola. While those two were mainly unrequited love stories, Isla is a full-fledged couple-y story. Where Anna and Lola are strong personalities, Isla is shy and unassuming. And where Anna and Lola are confident, Isla is uncertain.

Both Anna and Lola had a fantastical quality to them - Anna was just learning about Paris in her book, so the city became the landscape for her romance. And being a film buff, her story had a bit of a cinematic quality, culminating in a perfect moment. Lola's life, meanwhile, was a sweet, adorable fairytale, with her love for colour, her picture-perfect house, her dreaming out the window at the moon, and yes, the magic of falling in love with the boy next door.

Isla, though, is a realist - both the book and the person. She's a city girl who grew up in both New York and Paris, and she immediately tells you that the School of America in Paris is only for people who are pretty well off. As soon as you get that sentence from her, you know that this is going to be a different kind of book.

For me, Isla was the most difficult to get to know of the three characters - but also, the most real. She really reminded me of myself at her age: she's a bookish nerd, a bit shy, with a love of fashion, and a real drive to be the best student in her class. She's not the most popular girl, but she has friends and family around her that she really loves. With Anna and Lola, I loved them immediately, but they were both kind of loners. Like me, and like most people I know, Isla brings with her all the baggage of family, friends, and past lovers.

Isla is also, unlike Anna and Lola, totally unsure of what she wants out of life, and that lack of a goal plays strongly in how she and the book develop. In fact, I didn't feel like I fully knew Isla until about two-thirds of the way into the book, and I know that was a deliberate choice on Stephanie Perkins' part. If you feel this, PLEASE KEEP READING, because the book is worth it, and I think a lot of girls will see themselves in Isla.

Josh, too, is much more of a realist than either St. Clair or Cricket. With St. Clair, I always felt like he was larger than life, but tempered that a bit because of his (sigh!) love for Anna. Cricket, like Lola, sort of floated around in a dream world, where he could make automatons that amazed and delighted.

When we meet Josh for the first time in this book, he's not in the greatest state. All of his friends have graduated and he's depressed and lonely. And the book goes much more into his problems in school.


This is the book in the trilogy where external forces - and people - encroach the most into the characters' lives. Because Josh and Isla seem like opposites, despite Isla's insane crush on him. Josh is seen as a slacker, and Isla is the top student in her class. Josh is from a political family where he is the only child and his parents seem to have little time for him, and Isla has a loving family, and a boy best friend.

All of these things play into the romance between them, and it's beautiful and heart-rending to see how they wrap themselves around Isla and Josh, who WANT to have a fairytale romance, but who find that they can't always achieve that perfection. 

Don't get me wrong, the romance is no less lush than in the first two books. You will feel all the feels, I promise! But Isla and Josh's story feels so grounded in reality to me - we don't just get to see them get together, we see them come together, how their friends and schoolmates react, and how their own foibles and insecurities play into their lives. Their issues were ones that I experienced in my first big relationship, and I'm really grateful for that portrayal of how relationships can sometimes be.

I'm being very vague, but what I most want to say is that I really applaud Stephanie Perkins for taking on a different kind of love story, and I'm glad to say that the final book in this trilogy warms my heart, but also feels very close to my heart.

Bonuses: 

From Joann Sfar's The Rabbi's Cat
Les Bandes Dessinees and Art: Josh is a comic artist, as you probably knew from Anna, and he and Isla share an admiration for French comics. It's really cool to see how Perkins brings alive that love of this art form.

I Want To Go To There: I don't want to spoil anything, but there's quite a bit of travel in this book, and one particular trip that is VERY memorable. Something I noticed much more in this book than the last two was just how great Perkins is at travel writing - her descriptions of places had me enthralled.

The Giggles: Like Anna and Lola, there are some seriously funny bits in this book. Stephanie Perkins is a master at banter and witty comebacks and I totally laughed out loud a few times.

Source: yulia7
Cameos: I can't say anything more, but my heart may have swelled a few times...

Heart-Squeezing Romance: I mean, come on. This is Stephanie Perkins, guys!

The Final Word: 

Isla and the Happily Ever After is like me and my favourite bookish people - she and the book are a little shy, and it takes awhile to warm up to her/them. But don't be put off by this. The romance is delicious, but what's even more wonderful is discovering Isla slowly. She has a lot to offer - as a character, AND as a book. Once you do know her, I think you'll adore her, and I think you'll see how nicely she fits into this YA trilogy. Stephanie Perkins was already an auto-buy and favourite author for me, and I'm very sad that this is the end, but man, what a beautiful ending.

ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER came out on August 14th! Have you read it yet? Did you read and love Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door? Are you as sad as I am that this trilogy is over? Let me know in the comments and check out my giveaway of an ANNA-LOLA-ISLA tote below!

Want to win one of these?! Sign up below!
I stole this image from Stephanie Perkins - I hope she doesn't mind!


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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Movie Review: Boyhood directed by Richard Linklater


In another director’s hands, the movie Boyhood could have been cheesy or gimmicky. The very idea of it sounds a bit hokey: "a movie where you literally watch a boy grow up before your eyes." Filmmaker Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, Dazed and Confused, dozens of other great movies - also my favourite director) filmed it a few weeks a year, over twelve years, from when the starring actor was five to when he turned eighteen. The actors are the same throughout the twelve years, and you watch them age and change, and a story of a family develops.

In Linklater’s hands, this conceit works. It more than works. Watching Boyhood is like living life, 12 years of it, sped up into 3 hours. Like many of Linklater's works, the focus is on putting the spotlight on those little, imperfect, mundane moments that don't feel like they deserve to be talked about or seen.

At the end of the movie (this isn't really a spoiler, it's just a line), one character says to another, "You know how everyone is always saying to 'seize the moment'? I think it's just the opposite." And the other character, admittedly a little stoned, answers, "Yeah, it's like, moments are always seizing us." And then they both kind of laugh, because they are high and life is good and right and just for a moment, beautiful.

What they say about moments seizing us is very much what the movie itself wants to do. It wants to show you those little moments and seize your heart. It wants to remind you that those moments where you chat with your mom over a bowl of cereal, where you're jumping on a trampoline with your siblings, where you're playing Wii with a new friend...those moments matter. And that every moment, even if you don't realize it, is beautiful enough to capture on film.

There's so much to say about this film. There are scenes and moments that my husband and I discussed over and over during dinner. And there are questions to ask about how it was filmed, why certain cuts and edits were made, why choose this moment over that.

The many faces/changes of Boyhood star Ellar Coltrane
After watching, my husband and I discussed everything from the actor who plays the boy, Mason - who was at the screening we were at, and who was lovely and articulate and kind of calm but overwhelmed by how people were reacting - to how the parents could have been the central figures in the story with just a few tweaks in editing.

This film is an achievement - not just because of the sheer amount of planning and the grandiosity of believing you can get the same actors together for twelve years - although that is a giant achievement in itself (Ellar Coltrane told us at the screening that you can only contract people for seven years, so they did that, and then Linklater just hoped that they would still be interested in filming).

For me, it's an achievement because it feels like it conveys the truths that Linklater the filmmaker believes about life and its meaning. In movies like Before Sunrise, Dazed and Confused, and Slacker, Linklater showed bits and pieces of his philosophy, but he has never been more subtle or successful in what he does. Boyhood presents life, the rawness and the pain, the bumps and nicks, and the triumph and beauty of simultaneously living in the moment and being completely unaware of the perfection and beauty of life.

Have you watched Boyhood? If not, would you watch it? Are you interested in the conceit of the movie? Have you watched any of Linklater's other movies (if you haven't, PLEASE go now!)? How much do you notice or think about the little moments in life? Sound off in the comments!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Blitz: Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas


Hi guys, today I'm helping promote Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas, aka Abby McDonald. Normally, I don't participate in blitzes without reading the book first (my ARC TBR is crazy right now), but I've long been a fan of Abby's work, especially Sophomore Switch and The Popularity Rules, which are both really smart feminist books. She's an author who really looks at how women are portrayed and what matters to them, and she's great at turning typical plot points on their heads in surprising ways. 

I haven't read Dangerous Girls yet, but this companion sounds like a fantastic, twisty thriller. I've only heard amazing things about DG, so if you're at all interested, check out this new release by one of my faves, out today (she's self-publishing this one as an eBook, and it's only $5.99)!



Three teens venture into the abandoned lake house one night; hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage. Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding; the other is left to burn, dead in the fire. But which brother survives? And is his death a tragic accident? Desperate self-defense?

Or murder? 

Chloe is the only one with the answers. As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece together the story of how they got there-a story of jealousy, twisted passion, and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful of faces…



Early Praise

Dangerous Boys is a taut, compelling thriller balanced on the razor's edge of suspense. I could not put it down, and could not stop grinning wickedly as I raced through the pages." -- Leah Raeder, USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable

"Abigail Haas is a master at her craft! This is a special book and a special author. This is the kind of storytelling and writing that stick with you no matter how much time passes." -- The Book Geek Blog

"As with Dangerous Girls, the closing left me with a huge, admittedly rather twisted smile on my face. I don't know how Haas manages to turn me into such a gleefully evil creature." -- Dahlia Adler, blogger.

"Dangerous Boys was an intense, psychological read which was full of suspense and drama,...Abigail Haas has a way of writing books which reel you in and keep you there, hooked and addicted until the very last page." -- Goodreads.com

About Abigail Haas

Abigail Haas has written two adult novels and four young adult contemporary novels under the name Abby McDonald. Dangerous Girls is her first young adult thriller. She grew up in Sussex, England, and studied Politics, Philosophy & Economics at Oxford University. She lives in Los Angeles.


Are you interested in reading Dangerous Boys? Do you like reading thrillers or suspense books? Have you read Dangerous Girls or any other Abby McDonald books? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Our Love Belongs To Everyone Who Loves Us" Review: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

After I Do
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid (website | twitter)
Publisher: Washington Square Press (Simon & Schuster)
Genre: Adult Fiction
Source/Format: Library eBook
Publication date: July 1st 2014
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

From the author of Forever, Interrupted—hailed by Sarah Jio as “moving, gorgeous, and at times heart-wrenching”—comes a breathtaking new novel about modern marriage, the depth of family ties, and the year that one remarkable heroine spends exploring both.
When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.
Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?
This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game—and searching for a new road to happily ever after.


Review:

This book was not on my radar at all until Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) mentioned it, then I read reviews from Estelle (Rather Be Reading), Alexa (Alexa Loves Books), and Hannah (So Obsessed With) and knew that I needed to put this at the top of my TBR (thanks, ladies!)

The reason? This year has been a hard one for me and my husband - we've gone through a ton of ups and downs, starting with getting our stuff stolen on our honeymoon and my depression in the fall to a very hard house hunt, a ton of renovations, and finally, our move. So it's fitting that this, my first review in my new house, is an adult fiction book about the trials of marriage.

I know this isn't a book that is going to appeal to everyone, and definitely not my usual readers. It's a book focused solely on one marriage, and it is very emotional and deliberately unsubtle.

The thing is...sometimes you need a book like this. Sometimes you need to read something where the characters are going through something very close to your heart, and the writing is pragmatic and speaks to you like it's you saying the words. After I Do isn't didactic, but for me, it felt like a self-help book that I desperately needed.

After I Do very cleverly starts at the beginning of one of the worst fights that Lauren and Ryan have, then cycles backwards so we see the beginning of their relationship together, and the major milestones. These are people who love each other dearly, who really complement one another, but as the years go on, you can see how miscommunication, habit, and neglect wear down on them.

After I Do somehow manages to be both a very emotional read as well as a solid one. And it's a book about more than just marriage - it's about family. Each and every one of Lauren's family and friends had a perspective on relationships, and particularly, on her relationship, and it was fascinating to see all of those opinions and how they changed as the year went on. The backstories were great, and as I read, I felt like I was part of Lauren's family. I was just as invested in what would happen to her brother, sister, mom, and grandmother as I was in her.

But Lauren. Wow. She's almost too relatable. Reid isn't afraid to put all of her foibles out on display, and every thought she has is one I've had - or been afraid to have - in my one year of marriage. I can't even count how many passages I highlighted, because her realizations spoke to me so clearly. No matter who you are or where you are in your relationship, I think you'll relate to Lauren as she deals with pain, heartbreak, and realization in her year alone. It's really cathartic to go through it with her.

This is a book to read when things get rough in your relationships. It's a book that will stir your heart and remind you of all the good and the bad in relationships, and maybe, make you fall in love with your significant other all over again.

Bonuses:


Life Lessons: You really get the sense that the author, Taylor Jenkins Reid, put her soul on the table with this book. This is writing that comes from the heart, and comes from a place of deep learning and searching and sharing of wisdom. I was inspired by how much she gave of herself and how much that resonated.




The Final Word:

After I Do is one of the most realistic portrayals of love I've read. It got to the heart of everything: the really hard stuff, the little moments in between, and the moments of sheer joy. It's not a read I'd recommend for all the time - but it's one that I will recommend and give to friends in moments of need, when just need to just believe again - in yourself, in your relationships, and in family.

Are you interested in reading AFTER I DO? Do you read adult fiction? Do you have books that you read when times get rough? How much do you draw inspiration or relate to what you read? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Blog Break: Moving!


Hi all, very quick update to let you know that I'm not going to be posting or responding much in the next two weeks because I'm moving! Evan and I recently bought our first house (it's a bit of a fixer-upper) and it's been crazy busy this last month prepping for the move and getting the house renovated and ready to move into.

You will probably see one or two reviews in the next weeks, but I won't be doing my usual amount of tweeting or replies.

I'm definitely looking forward to getting into my house and getting my 10,000 bookshelves put up! If you're curious and want updates, I'll probably be Instagramming the whole thing.

Have a great few weeks and hope your summer is full of beaches, ice cream, and lots of reading!

Love,

Tiff

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

It feels a bit silly to be waiting on a Christmas book in the heat of July, but...

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories
Editor: Stephanie Perkins 
Authors: Holly Black, Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire,

Expected publication: October 14th 2014

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. 

LOOK AT THAT CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR LIST! I mean, aside from the fact that the lovely Stephanie Perkins edited and wrote for the anthology, this is basically cribbing from my top 20 YA authors of all time. I'm obviously super-excited to read short stories from some of the greats on this list (Gayle Forman, anyone?) but I'm also excited to find some new authors to love.

That's what's great about anthologies like this: you can test the waters without making a big commitment to a series! Plus, you get stand-alone stories that break up the reading time between other books - at least, that's how I read anthologies.

I definitely have a thing about cheesy holiday/winter stories - even though they're sometimes predictable, they definitely leave you in the right spirit to go bake cookies, or go ice-skating, or just curl up with a hot drink and the perfect read.

Are you excited for MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME? Who's your fave on the list of contributing authors? Do you like holiday anthologies, books or movies? Let me know what your fave is in the comments!

Friday, July 18, 2014

In Which I Get Personal and Philosophical: Early Review: Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore

Just Like the Movies
Author: Kelly Fiore 
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's (Penguin Canada)
Source/Format: eARC via Edelweiss from publisher (thank you!)
Expected publication date: July 22, 2014 
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars. 

Pretty and popular track star Marijke Monti is confident about almost everything – she’s got great friends, a great family, and she’s on her way to the State Track Championship. In fact, the only thing Marijke isn’t confident about is her relationship with Tommy Lawson.

Lily Spencer has spent her entire high school career preparing for the future – she’s participated in every extracurricular activity and volunteer committee she could. But, at home, she watches her mother go on date after date with dud-dudes, still searching for “the one.” Lily realizes that she’s about to graduate and still hasn’t even had a boyfriend.

While they live on each other’s periphery at school, Lily and Marijke never seemed to have much in common; but, after a coincidental meeting at the movie theater, Lily gets an idea – why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they set up their perfect romantic situations, just in time for their senior prom, using movie techniques?

Once the girls come up with the perfect plans, they commit themselves to being secret cohorts and, just like in the movies, drama ensues.



Review: 


Warning: this is going to be one of those deeply personal reviews for me - I'm not even sure it's a review, it's...I don't know what it is. An essay? Philosophical thoughts? I don't know. But I hope you'll read on and find out why this book affected me so much, and why it might work for you. 

Just Like the Movies is one of those books that would normally be a really cute, light summer romance for me. It's a book that you can read really quickly (I finished in about 2.5 hours!), and just soak in the fun. Normally, it would probably get a "fun, but not super memorable" rating from me...except for the fact that one of the characters was exactly like me as a teenager.

When I first heard about this plot, I knew I had to get my hands on this novel, because I asked that question everyday in high school and during my first year in college: "Why isn't life more like the movies?" As a teenager, I soaked in stories - I lost myself in movies and I read books voraciously, and I dreamt of love like I saw in Ever After or 10 Things I Hate About You. I really wanted to make my life like a romance movie, because I wanted every moment of my life to have meaning.



When I got this ARC, I knew I'd be reading about characters who were like me, who always wanted to make those perfect scenes happen, and even though I knew that the book reenactments probably wouldn't turn out as perfectly as the characters hoped they would, I knew I was going to connect with the characters right away. Throw in the fact that the writing was super-engaging, and I was completely on board.

I definitely identified with Marijke in her one-sided relationship with Tommy, and the fact that he took her for granted. I admired and saw myself in some of the gutsy moves she made in order to keep her relationship together: at one point, she commissions a flash mob to show Tommy how much she loves him (a throwback to lots of rom-coms, but especially Friends with Benefits). She's strong and sassy and a genuinely nice character.

HOWEVER. Very rarely do I come across a character who is literal representation of who I was as a teenager. Lily is just that - she's a bit sarcastic, definitely self-deprecating; a brainy girl who does a ton for the school, but despite how much she does, she's pretty much invisible to everyone. She's not part of any crowd. She doesn't know how to dress. She has "people she's friendly with, but not actual friends."

The book alternates between Lily and Marijke's points of view, and I can't get over how many passages in Lily's parts I highlighted. They were the things I thought in high school. They were the things I felt in high school. I thought I'd be squirmy over them, but they kind of made me a bit teary because, guys, Kelly Fiore GETS me. She gets why I think the way I do, and she made Lily real to me.

"It's kind of weird to be such a big part of things but not a part of things at all," Lily narrates early on in the novel. "At least not enough to be recognized. Most of the time, I just try to convince myself that I don't care." This was me in high school. I was the girl who was involved with everything, who organized a lot of things, but I was never really a part of things. Those lines are exactly how I lived through my high school experience, and it was both painful and cathartic for me to see myself represented through this book. Even when Lily takes a chance on Joe later on in the book, it reminded me of my own experience asking a boy to prom for the first time.

Fiore makes Lily completely visible, centre stage in a novel, and I'm so grateful, because, like Lily, I always thought of myself as a secondary character - someone who helps along the plot for the hero and heroine by making the school dance happen. In high school, I never thought I could be a main character.

This book made me realize that maybe, just maybe, someone was noticing me in high school. Because for Fiore to write such a marked, perfect description of who I was...she was watching, and I am just...so grateful for it. Even as an adult, I felt empowered and just...noticed, because I mattered enough to be a main character in her novel.

Me with my BFF in high school. We're not friends anymore,
but I'm grateful he was around at just the right point in my life. 
But then Fiore takes it one step further. When her main characters, Lily and Marijke hatch their plot and put their scenes into action, they become friends. And like my own life when I finally found a BFF in high school, that friendship is more meaningful than either of them realize.

More than anything, what Just Like the Movies celebrates is having a connection with another person. Finding someone you're able to tell everything to, and finding someone with whom you can be yourself. It's only when they fight that Marijke realizes what she's losing: "They say you can fall in love at first sight. What about falling into friendship? Can you become BFFs over the course of a few short weeks?"

Honestly, to me - and this is my one and only criticism of the book, and it might be kind of a SPOILER - the story should have focused on just Lily and Marijke's friendship, because that's enough. The book works so well with their realization of what they mean to each other, and how movies fit into that. The romance part is almost an afterthought.

But I think Fiore wanted to end on the romance because she wanted to remind us that we all do long for that movie script ending sometimes. We want things to magically resolve like a movie, or, dare I say it, like a YA book. As an adult who reads YA, I recognize that things aren't always like that, and that sometimes, YA and movies are mainly an escape from a gritty and unfair reality.

But at the same time, reading a book like Just Like the Movies makes me all the more grateful for the moments of magic that do exist in our lives - whether they be through discovering books or other stories, or through our own realities. Even though Just Like the Movies cautions you not to live your life hoping for that perfection or trying to create it, it also celebrates those moments when life does feel perfect, without you even trying.

Bonuses: 


Name A Rom-Com: It's pretty fun reading Fiore's descriptions of my favourite rom-coms and their best scenes - Easy A, Mean Girls, Never Been Kissed, The Cutting Edge (one of my personal faves, trailer above)...there are so many mentioned in this book, and it totally made me want to go and watch every one of them again.

The Final Word: 


Here's the thing: Just Like the Movies isn't super deep, and it's not meant to be. But it hit me hard because it reminded me so much of myself as a teenager . The novel is fun, fast-paced, and adorable, but it also has some wisdom that I think will really resonate with teens, and even with some adults. Some people will see it in the way Kelly Fiore gently pokes fun at the rom-com cliches. Some will see it in the characters themselves, like I did. And some people will see it as a reminder to seize those moments when life really does feel like the movies, and to hold on tight.

JUST LIKE THE MOVIES comes out on Tuesday, July 22nd. Will you be picking it up? Do you imagine yourself in rom-coms like I did? Do you have books that deeply affect you in a personal way? And how much do books and movies play into your ideas of what friendship and love are? Hit up the comments if you have thoughts!

Want to win Just Like the Movies or another July 2014 release? Stop by my July New Release Giveaway!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Go The Distance": Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally (Blog Tour & Review)


Hi guys, today I'm part of the Canadian blog tour for Miranda Kenneally's latest novel, Breathe, Annie, Breathe! This was a really great read, you guys - I've got an interview with Miranda and my review up, so check them out! 

Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks #5)
Author: Miranda Kenneally 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (Raincoast Books in Canada)
Source/Format: An eARC was sent by Raincoast in exchange for an honest review (thank you!)
Publication date: July 15th 2014 
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars. 

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.



Review:

Not sure how it happened that I, a self-professed mostly YA contemp reader, had never read a Miranda Kenneally book until this one. Believe me, I'd heard great things about Catching Jordan, Stealing Parker, Racing Savannah, and Things I Can't Forget, but somehow, I just never got around to reading one of her books.

I'm grateful that I was given the opportunity to be part of the Canadian blog tour for Breathe, Annie, Breathe, because it's fantastic. Annie is a seventeen-year old girl who is just graduating high school, and she's been through a lot in the past year. Her boyfriend Kyle died a year ago, and she's not over it. In order to honour his memory, though, she's running the Country Music Marathon in downtown Nashville - Kyle had always dreamed of finishing a marathon, so she's picking up his stead - but not without a lot of fear, dedication and guts.

Along the way, she ends up meeting Jeremiah Browne, who is her coach Matt's brother (Matt is the love interest from Things I Can't Forget). Their attraction to each other is undeniable, but Annie's not sure she's ready for anything new, nor does she know if she wants it given that she and Kyle were meant for one another.

Kenneally's approach to survivor's guilt, and moving on from death is what makes this book so special. Annie deals with a ton of stuff in BAB, from wistfulness at the end of high school, to the trepidation of starting university, but none resonated for me more than her perseverance and her attempt to move on.

Like in her runs, Annie deals with her grief step by step, breath by breath. She starts running to make herself exhausted so she doesn't have to think, but as she continues running, it's like every step falls into place and she's able to unravel her own feelings of guilt and remorse. It's a great parallel - the hardship of training for a marathon versus the hardship of dealing with death, and Kenneally makes the most of it without hitting you over the head with the subject.

Annie is a really complex, emotional character - she's a quiet soul, someone steadfast that you really feel like you can depend on, but someone who loves and feels things deeply. Oh yeah, and she's pretty sassy, too - I was really rooting for her throughout the book. When BAB begins, Annie is a bit of a loner because of how much she feels for Kyle, but as the book goes on, she really opens up and comes into her own. BAB really looks at Annie's relationships with her family and friendships, and how they've changed in the wake of her loss. It's fascinating and their interactions feel very real.

That opening up has a lot to do with Jeremiah, who is...really hot, and really into Annie. Their relationship is a bit "one step forwards, two steps backwards" but it works because of how cautious Annie feels like she needs to be. It's kind of a beautiful unfolding, because Jeremiah is dealing with his own issues that Annie opposes, and it's only through their love that they become more to each other and to the world.

It's hard for me to sum up how strong Breathe, Annie, Breathe is - it's one of those books where mood is everything, and where changes in character happen very subtly. It's a testament to Kenneally's writing that Annie and Jeremiah always stay true to who they are, but somehow, when I look back at the beginning of the book, they feel like totally different characters.

Bonuses: 


Crossover Characters: Readers of other books in Kenneally's Hundred Oaks series will appreciate the glimpses at some of the past MCs - Matt and Kate, Jordan and Sam, and Savannah and Jack all make significant appearances. Even as someone who hasn't read the earlier books, I noticed their appearance, and it definitely made me want to pick up the other books.


Steamy Scenes: This is my first Kenneally book, so I didn't expect some of the romance to be as...steamy as it was. But it is. This is definitely mature YA or possibly light NA territory, and it's written well and will definitely make you fan yourself.




Running Tips: I like running a lot, but I've never run seriously before, so learning about all the different things you need as a runner (Vaseline for chafing!) was pretty cool - I also liked reading about the atmosphere of races and even about Annie's weak stomach - it just made the sport part of the book that much more visceral to me.


The Final Word: 

Breathe, Annie, Breathe is one of those books that you want to keep reading and reading, not stopping for food or coffee. It's very compelling, and the characters are flawed and gorgeously wrought. I really enjoyed it, and I applaud Miranda Kenneally for writing such a meaningful and perceptive look into running and grief, and how those things change us and make us stronger.


About the Author: 


Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.

Visit her online at:

WebsiteTwitter FacebookInstagram







Interview: 


1. Why do you choose to write YA books? Have you ever considered writing other genres?

A: I'd love to write adult romance or historical romance. I might try writing adult romance one day, but I'm just too busy with my YA books right now. I also love sci-fi, and would love to try writing another one. I've written 3 sci-fis, but they aren't exactly publishing material! :)

2. Recently, there has been a huge trend with dystopian YA novels. Why do you choose to write realistic fiction?

A: To tell you the truth, I would love to write sci-fi or fantasy, but I've never been all that great at world-building. I love reading contemporary fiction, and people say you should write what you love reading.

3. If you could have a character from any book (or movie!) to make a cameo in your novels, who would you choose?

A: It would be pretty badass if Professor Dumbledore showed up out of the blue. He could conjure up a banquet, or help my characters apparate to the beach for a party or something.

4. Running the marathon for Kyle was Annie’s way of coping with her stress and grief. What advice would you give others in similar situations of grief or stress?

A: I would say give yourself time to heal. Recognize that everyone's healing process is different. Don't beat yourself up if you don't feel better in a certain amount of time; everyone heals in different ways. If you need to, talk to good friends, your guidance counselor, or a therapist.

5. What advice would you give yourself in high school?

A: Stop spending all your time pining for boys who don't like you back!

Are you interested in reading BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE? Have you read any of Miranda Kenneally's other books in the Hundred Oaks series? Are you into running or any other sports? Have you read any other books that deal with grief and resonated? Let me know in the comments!

Want to win Breathe, Annie, Breathe or another July new release? Come by and enter my new release giveaway!