Monday, 12 February 2018

Sweet Reads Box - February 2018



For Canadians, a quality book subscription box is not easy to find. I was delighted to come across Sweet Reads Box and was eager to see if they were able to fill this niche market.

The tagline for Sweet Reads Box is "me time. delivered." and their boxes are curated each month to include:

  • a bestselling novel
  • a delicious drink
  • a sweet treat
  • an item (or items!) connected to your novel 
  • a card explaining each item and why it was selected

Sweet Reads Box aims to provide you with everything you need to for some quality alone time with an excellent book.

The cost per box is $49.99 CAD + shipping, and there are discounts if you purchase 3 or 6 month subscriptions. At this point, they only ship within Canada.

Let's check out what was in the February box!



The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill - Two orphans are abandoned in Montreal. As they grow, one becomes a piano prodigy, the other is gifted in dance and comedy. They perform together and dream of creating the most extraordinary circus imaginable. The pair is separated as teenagers and must use their unique gifts to survive on their own within the underground of Montreal in the 1930s. When they unite again, will their dreams eventually all come true?

Salted Caramel Popcorn from the Toronto Popcorn Company

Love You More Than Chocolate Mug and Baby It's Cold Outside Hot Chocolate Package from Gourmet du Village

Starry Glow Stars String Lights from Indigo

I Read Past My Bedtime magnetic bookmark from Crafted Van

Gold Dust Face Mask from Oh K!



The first thing that stands out to me is that value of this box is really good. When I did a quick price check online, I came up with a value of $67 which is well above the cost of the box. I also believe the thoughtfulness of selecting items that are connected to the book adds even more value.

The other piece that stands out for me with this Sweet Reads Box is that all but one of the vendors are Canadian. There are so many excellent large and small businesses in Canada, and I loved seeing a good range of them represented here.

You can subscribe for their next box on the Sweet Reads Box website. They've been growing quite a bit recently and selling out a month or so in advance, so be sure to claim your spot asap!

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary box for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are true and entirely my own.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Winter Reads for When You're Snowbound

I love chatting about books, especially over on Instagram, and someone there recently asked me for recommendations for non-Christmasy winter reads. Challenge accepted! Here are six that I've either read and loved or have on my TBR pile at home.



Beartown by Fredrik Backman - This novel about a small town hockey team was one of the most powerful novels I have read in a long time. If you have already read Beartown, preorder the sequel, Us Against You. It's out in June!

Hunted by Meagan Spooner - Hunted is a dark and twisty Beauty and the Beast retelling, and I really enjoyed it. You can read my review here.

Make Me Stay by Rebecca Brooks - This romance between city girl, Samantha Kane, and injured Olympic skier, Austin Reede, is scorching hot!



Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones - A fantasy world to get lost in where love and evil battle to co-exist. This one is still on my TBR pile, but I've heard the writing is beautiful!

The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms - What if you thought you received an annulment, but learned ten years later, that it wasn't finalized? If you're looking for a cozy women's fiction novel, try this one.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis - Confession - I haven't read this yet. Even Sebastian has already read it in school! I really look forward to reading this whole series soon.

xo
Jenn

Monday, 29 January 2018

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn - Book Review

The Woman in the Window is the debut novel from A.J. Finn. A Hitchockian-inspired psychological thriller, The Woman in the Window introduces us to Anna Fox. Anna is agoraphobic and is unable to leave her home. Heavily medicated, both through prescription meds and her own drinking, she believes she sees a crime through her window inside the home of one of her neighbours.

But did she really?



Anna is an unreliable narrator, and it's easy to question what she has to say. I found The Woman in the Window to be a quick read, and I was dying to find out if Anna was telling the truth or not. It certainly kept me turning the pages!

One of the twists near the end was something I actually had a wonderment about early on in the book, so it was a fun surprise to see it come to fruition.

Importantly, The Woman in the Window brings forward the theme of mental health in an accessible way. Whether we've suffered trauma or not, we each have our own hidden story, the story no one can see. There's the version of our story we show people, and then there is the version that is real. And how do we judge each each other based solely on what we think we know?

The movie rights to this book were actually sold before The Woman in the Window was even officially published, and I can absolutely see why. This should also make for a very gripping film!

Once you've finished The Woman in the Window, I recommend reading Connected Underneath by Linda Legters. You'll enjoy some similar themes with a protagonist housebound in a wheelchair, but read an entirely new story.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a copy of The Woman in the Window courtesy of HarperCollins Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

My Little Sis Got Married!

My little sister got married the the first week of January. Both her and her husband are in the Navy, so their time off together is limited. It was a small, beautiful ceremony right in my parents' home, and I am so happy for them both. Amanda is now also officially a step-mom to an energetic little 9-year-old boy who played so well with Sebastian the whole week. I am grateful for him especially because now I get to be an Aunt!!

Here are a few of my favourite pictures from the wedding day:

Getting Ready












Ceremony



If you can, have kids at your small wedding. They make for the very best ceremony commentary! Here are some of the gems we heard:
- Is there a snack?!
- Why does she get to sign something! I want to sign my name!
- I want those rings back! I was just borrowing them to you!







Reception






Congratulations, guys!
xo
Jenn

Monday, 22 January 2018

3 Journals that Moms Will Love

Because I can't do just one thing, I actually have three journals on the go this year.

"OMG Jenn! How do you even have time for this?! I don't always wash my face before bed, how am I supposed write in three different journals too?! Crazy woman."

But wait! Just hear me out. I promise, even if you don't jump into all three like I did, I bet one of these journals will pull at your heart. And I also promise that no matter which one(s) you pick, you will feel good about writing in them each and every day.



First things first - Gratitude

Disclosure - I won this beautiful gratitude journal from Indigo in December. I've tried gratitude journals in the past because research proves that showing gratitude actually makes us happier people, but I've never been able to make them stick. I've been using this one for nearly a month, and while I don't get to it every single day (I'm probably at about 5 or 6 times a week), thinking of three wonderful things that happened to me or my family is a nice way to end the day.



I also have a non-journal version of this that Rob, Sebastian, and I have done for a few years now. At dinner, we almost always make a point to each share our "favourite thing" from the day. And if you have a child who's favourite thing is usually his latest iPad game, we ask for one "favourite thing" that involves a screen and one "favourite thing" that does not.


Second things second - Reflections on motherhood

Are you familiar with the Q and A a Day: A 5-Year Journal? How this journal works is that there is a question or prompt assigned to every day of the year. Then, on each page, there is space for 5 answers. The idea is that you jot down one short answer each day and then at the end of the year, you begin again. At a glance, you see how your answers change over the years (or maybe they won't!).



At a Penguin Random House event in the fall, one of the women showed me Q and A a Day for moms: A 5-Year Journal and during the holidays I ordered a copy for myself. The cover is gorgeous (because moms are gorgeous creatures, so they should have journals to match), and I am absolutely in love with the prompts inside. Sometimes they're serious. Sometimes they're not. But they're aways meaningful and relatable.




Third things third - Conversations with your child

I have been enjoying the 5-Year Journal for moms so much that a few weeks ago I reading more about these books and discovered there is a children's version! Q&A a Day for Kids is a 3-year journal designed in a similar fashion. At the top of each page there is a question or prompt you ask your child, and then there is space for you to fill in their answers for three years.

They recommend using this journal with children between the ages of 4 and 9. Sebastian is five and a half, and we have both been already having so much fun filling it out! He looks forward each day to "doing the question" together. I just know this is going to be a special book that Rob and I will treasure for years to come.




All in all, it probably takes me about 10 minutes to complete the prompts in all three journals. As I mentioned above, I'm not at 100% as far as daily writing goes, but I'm pretty close, and the Q&A a Day journals are easy to catch up with when necessary.

And while the Q & A journals are dated January - December, you can easily jump in at any point of the year. We did a bit of a "catch up blast" on the first day, and went through the first dozen questions or so to get on track (because Seb's mama is too-organized for her own good and starting a year-long journal on January 12th made her twitchy).

Which of these journals is your favourite? Do any of them sound like they'd be a good fit for you?
xo
Jenn

Friday, 19 January 2018

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter - Book Review

If Erin Brokovich and The Girl on the Train had a baby, it would be this book. Bonfire is the debut novel from actress Krysten Ritter. I have actually not followed Ritter's acting career closely; however, the premise of her novel sounded intriguing to me.



Here's a synopsis from Goodreads:

Should you ever go back?

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town's most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?



The premise of a small town scandal initially drew me into this book. I grew up in a small town about the same size as Barrens, Indiana and could easily imagine my own high school when Ritter described the cliques and dynamics of being in a place where absolutely everyone knows you. I enjoyed Ritter's writing, and the slow-burning suspense kept me engaged and turning the pages. The flashbacks to the past worked well to help build a picture of what could really be going on in Barrens today. I especially couldn't wait to find out what really happened to Kaycee.

The storyline with Optimal Plastics felt a little too similar to Erin Brokovich at times, especially in the beginning, so that was the only part of the story that left me a bit wanting.

Bonfire is a quick read and, overall, I'd say it's worth checking out if you're in the mood for a small town suspense novel and especially if you're a fan of the author, just to get a sense of her other now-not-so-hidden talent.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of Bonfire courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 8 January 2018

The Unread Shelf Project and My 2018 Reading Goals


While I did make it through a solid chunk of my 2017 reading goals, there were inevitable additions/distractions. Plus, I read the 1800 page A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy. Twice.

I have 193 unread books in my house. 221 if you count e-books. And our house is not that big! Last year I started out with 150 unread books in the house. I read 30 of them (plus a whole host of others) and have somehow ended up with more books in the end!

To help me tackle this situation keep my husband from banning me from bookstores entirely, I've joined #theunreadshelfproject2018 on Instagram to help me meet my reading goals this year. Mainly, my hope is that there are less unread books in my house by December 31st.

The Unread Shelf Project 2018 is co-hosted by @theunreadshelf@katereadsbooks_,  and @calsreads.  There are weekly and monthly challenges to help you reacquaint yourself with your unread books and motivate you to actually read them! You can find out more about The Unread Shelf Project and the challenges by checking out the three co-hosts and by following the hashtag #theunreadshelfproject2018.

The first challenge was to count all of your unread books (see above 🙈 ). The second challenge was to feature an unread book each day for seven days over on Instagram. I've had fun with both of these challenges and look forward to seeing what comes up next.

What I love about the philosophy behind the Unread Shelf Project is that we aren't putting a full stop to buying or borrowing books for the year, but we are trying to be more mindful about our buying and borrowing right now. This way we can show our own books a little more love and probably discover some gems we didn't even know we had!

You can follow me along with my Unread Shelf Project here on Instagram @jennbairos.

In the meantime, I've put together a plan:




Books I already own by authors who have a last name that starts with F, G, H, or I

To give you another clue as to how many unread books I have hiding at home, this pile unread of F-I books is currently sitting at a ridiculous 40 titles. And then there are an additional 10 or so on my Goodreads TBR list. 🙈 🙈

This seems like kind of an obsessive way to tackle books, but I started working through the alphabet of my books a few years ago and one thing I like about reading my unread shelf in alphabetical chunks is that it is usually a manageable pile to start with. Then I can really go through which books I want to read and which ones I just need to unhaul into the free little library on our street. I always end up straying from my pile, so I keep relatively flexible about it all. I also usually alternate between reading a romance novel and then something that's not romance.

Outlander

The Outlander series has been a reading goal of mine forever. It will happen this year!

2018 releases

  • Sarah J. Maas has four books being published this year. I can't wait to devour them all. I will also probably reread the Throne of Glass series next summer in anticipation of the final book being released in September!
  • Jennifer Robson has also been dropping hints on her social media pages that she has a new book coming out later this year. She's another auto-purchase author for me. She writes beautiful historical fiction with touches of romance. I love everything she's written.
  • The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross (review to come)
  • The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
  • Just Between Us by Rebecca Drake
  • The Other Mother by Carol Goodman (review to come)
  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black


Holiday Books

I enjoy reading Christmas-themed books during the holidays. This past Christmas I was gifted a few, so I've already got these books ready to go for December!


Other books high on my TBR pile


A few friends and I just started a new book club as well. Our first official meeting is later this week, and we're discussing The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne. I just finished it, and it was so amazing! I look forward to seeing what gets picked next.

I read a lot of non-fiction last year, so this year I'm taking a bit of a non-fiction break. I have a couple shorter non-fiction books that I'll probably read, but I've really just been craving fiction to escape in lately. I'm setting my Goodreads Challenge at 100 books. We'll see what happens!!

xo
Jenn

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