Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Bookish Box Review - Fairy Tale Edition



What was in the mail this week? The latest Bookish Box! The Bookish Box (from Appraising Pages) is perfect for any bibliophiles out there who love literary goodies. Each month you'll receive a t-shirt and bookish treats based on a particular theme and your favourite reads.

This month's theme was fairy tales.

Cost - $29.99 USD. Shipping to Canada is $10.00.
There is also a no-shirt option for $18.99 if you'd prefer just the goodies, but I really do love the shirts. They are stylish, soft, and very unique. I'm a size large for reference.

What was inside the box??
The photo above shows a picture of the t-shirt that has quote from the book A Court of Midst and Fury by Sarah J. Mass. I've been seeing this book everywhere, and this quote really makes me want to read it soon!



Next was a Peter Pan necklace from Appraising Pages. Not really my style personally, but it will make a cute gift.


Next is a mug inspired by the book Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Created by Evie Seo, the mug image wraps around to both sides and has the quotation, "I would rather die because I betrayed them than live because I betrayed you." My friend Dani has been telling me for months to read this book, so now that I have a mug inspired by Cinder, it's even more motivating to finally pick up a copy.

Then there are post-it notes with the Walt Disney quotation, "Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams are forever." I can always use more post-it notes at work, so these are coming to school with me asap!



I saved my favourite for last. It's a hand-painted Beauty and the Beast bookmark from Lexy Olivia. This bookmark is so beautiful and every time I look at it I just get more and more excited for the new Beauty and the Beast movie coming out next year!!


This has been my second Bookish Box, and I think the value is fantastic. I'm not certain, but I estimate the retail value of the items to be about $55. I love that the items are a mix of new and old fairy tales, and that it also reminded me of a few books I've been meaning to add to my TBR pile.

If you're interested in signing up for The Bookish Box, you can check out their website. Next month the theme is "literary ladies". Fun!

xo
Jenn

Monday, 22 August 2016

Fresh Brewed - Book Review and Givewaway

Fresh Brewed is the second book in Pamela Ford's Continental Breakfast Club series.



Bree has been looking forward to a relaxing summer vacation with her friends Allie and Megan for months. Both to enjoy the summer after a busy teaching year and as a distraction from thinking about her ex-boyfriend. Unfortunately, a hurricane thwarts their plans leaving their hotel damaged and the girls without a place to stay. While Bree and her friends try to decide what to do, they meet and befriend Kristen. Kristen is headed for a vacation at her family's beach house and invites the girls to come along.  The catch - Bree needs to pretend to be Kristen's brother's girlfriend, which should be pretty simple considering the brother, Ethan, won't even be there.

Bree discovers that playing the role of fake girlfriend for Kristen's family is not really as easy as it sounds. Everyone is asking questions, especially Kristen's other gorgeous brother, Adam. Bree's description of a head over heels in love, romantic, Ethan just does not fit the heartbreaker his family has always known. And what is going to happen when unexpectedly Ethan shows up? He knows nothing about this charade!

Just like, Over Easy, Fresh Brewed is an exceptionally charming read. There are laugh out loud moments and moments of sweetness which make for the perfect chick lit (Best enjoyed with a cup of coffee or on decks with heart cutouts).



I have completely fallen in love with the characters from The Continental Breakfast Club! They are always fun, funny, and highly entertaining. The friendships and relationships that form feel real and heartwarming. Fresh Brewed is a fast-paced read that I enjoyed probably even more than the first book. The reader is drawn immediately into the story and can't help but root for Bree to sort out all of these hilarious antics. Fresh Brewed is the perfect light literature to enjoy while we soak up the end of summer!

If you missed my review of Book 1 in The Continental Breakfast Club series, Over Easy, you can check it out here. Book 3, Honey Glazed, is due out in September (and I can't wait to order my copy!). All three books can be read as standalone novels.

Fresh Brewed is available for purchase here from Amazon.

xo
Jenn

About the author
Pamela Ford is the award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance. She grew up watching old movies, blissfully signing over the romance, and reading sci-fi and adventure novels, vicariously living the action. The combination probably explains why the books she writes are romantic, happily-ever-after with plenty of plot - and often lots of laughter.

After graduating from college with a degree in Advertising, Pam merrily set off to earn a living, searching for that perfect career as she became a graphic designer, print buyer, pantyhose sales rep, public relations specialist, copywriter, freelance writer - and finally author. Pam has won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best, the Laurel Wreath, and a gold medal IPPY in the Independent Book Publisher Awards. She is a Kindle Book Awards finalist and a two-time Golden Heart Finalist. She lives in Wisconsin where she is working on her next novel.


You can connect with Pamela Ford on GoodreadsFacebookTwitter, and her website.

Giveaway!


Pamela Ford and iRead Book Tours have prepared a fantastic giveaway for you with 5 different winners. (Closes September 17, 2016)

1 winner will receive a copy of both Over Easy and Fresh Brewed with a $25 Starbucks giftcard
2 winners will receive a copy of Over Easy with a $10 Starbucks giftcard
2 winners will receive a copy of Fresh Brewed with a $10 Starbucks giftcard

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer – I received a copy of Fresh Brewed from the author and iRead Book Tours in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To check out what other bloggers had to say about The Continental Breakfast Club series, here is the full book tour. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Over Easy - Book Review + Author Interview and Giveaway


What is the best way to meet eligible men? At the gym? In a coffee shop? How about dropping in on a continental breakfast at a fancy hotel? That's the new plan for friends Allie, Bree, and Megan.

After exhausting their typical avenues to try and meet "the one", Allie, Bree, and Megan decide they need to do something creative, so Megan suggests they get dressed up and sneak into the continental breakfast of a posh hotel nearby. They would find men travelling on business, and it's a well-known fact that men always wear their wedding rings at continental breakfast, so the girls could quickly determine marital status. Thus, The Continental Breakfast Club was formed.

Feeling confident, Allie goes first, walks into breakfast. She sits down and strikes up a conversation with Colin Hughes. Allie things things are going well, and they make a date to see each other at a local bar that evening. Allie has no idea that Colin is a jewel thief and thinks she is his contact!

Instead of finding true love, Allie, Bree, Megan, and innocent bystander, Jax, find themselves in the middle of a jewel heist, and everyone is certain that Allie has the missing million dollar diamond.

Who really is Colin? Who else is after these jewels? Where is the missing diamond? And, most importantly, can Allie really find her happily ever after?


"But the stars were twinkling love, and the breeze was whispering romance, and I knew I should say something before it all got too awkward." - Allie, Over Easy


Over Easy was such a delightful read! Calamities and misadventures follow Allie and her friends wherever they go throughout this laugh out loud book. Part mystery, part chick lit, part suspense, part romance, The Continental Breakfast Club is sure to please anyone who love fun, quirky characters! Over Easy is also a fun read for dog-lovers. Allie is a dog-groomer, and her dogs play a key role in the story.

I love reading stories that have tight girlfriends working together, and this story definitely delivers in that respect. Allie, Bree, and Megan are wonderful, and their friendship feels so genuine. Pamela Ford's writing is funny, sweet, and very engaging. Over Easy is a quick read, perfect for the end of the summer or any weekend getaway. While reading this book, I kept thinking that Over Easy would make a hilarious and adorable romantic comedy movie!

Over Easy is book #1 of The Continental Breakfast Club series, can be read as a standalone novel, and is available for purchase here from Amazon. It's currently free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

I'm reading Fresh Brewed next so stay tuned for an upcoming review of the next book in this series!

xo
Jenn

About the author
Pamela Ford is the award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance. She grew up watching old movies, blissfully signing over the romance, and reading sci-fi and adventure novels, vicariously living the action. The combination probably explains why the books she writes are romantic, happily-ever-after with plenty of plot - and often lots of laughter.

After graduating from college with a degree in Advertising, Pam merrily set off to earn a living, searching for that perfect career as she became a graphic designer, print buyer, pantyhose sales rep, public relations specialist, copywriter, freelance writer - and finally author. Pam has won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best, the Laurel Wreath, and a gold medal IPPY in the Independent Book Publisher Awards. She is a Kindle Book Awards finalist and a two-time Golden Heart Finalist. She lives in Wisconsin where she is working on her next novel.

You can connect with Pamela Ford on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Author Interview With Pamela Ford


There’s an old saying, “Write what you know.” Does that mean you know all about fencing stolen jewels?
No, thank goodness! But, I grew up in a family that had a great sense of humor, with a group of girlfriends who were always laughing. And I have three daughters who also embrace their “silly” sides. So writing screwball romantic comedy comes pretty easily to me!

What do you find is the hardest thing about writing?
Ha! It’s all hard. Although, once I started learning more about plotting; setting each character’s GMC (goal, motivation, and conflict); and determining turning points and black moment, the process got easier. I’ve found that doing more work up front on the book’s skeleton makes it easier to write the story. But, a lot of the time, it’s still hard!

What is your favorite motivational saying?
Sometimes you just have to take the leap and make your wings on the way down. (Kobi Yamada)

What advice would you give your younger self?
Stop letting yourself get waylaid by other projects. Years disappear more quickly than you can even imagine, so stay focused on your goal and on making your dream become reality.

How much of your plots and/or characters are drawn from your own life?
Plot ideas will come to me in all sorts of ways, but typically not from my own life. Sometimes I’ll borrow a scene from my life, or an interesting character trait from someone, but I never model any characters directly after people I know.

What are five words you would like to be remembered by as an author?
Funny, inspiring, entertaining, unique, compelling

Do you have a favorite childhood book?
I had lots of favorites, but there was one book I enjoyed so much that it would come to mind even when I was an adult. Unfortunately, while I hadn’t ever forgotten the book’s basic premise, I had forgotten the title. Several years ago, I finally posted the question on a librarian website, and the answers came rolling in. The title was: The Great and Terrible Quest. I immediately checked it out of the library and read it again!



Giveaway!


Pamela Ford and iRead Book Tours have prepared a fantastic giveaway for you with 5 different winners. (Closes September 17, 2016)

1 winner will receive a copy of both Over Easy and Fresh Brewed with a $25 Starbucks giftcard
2 winners will receive a copy of Over Easy with a $10 Starbucks giftcard
2 winners will receive a copy of Fresh Brewed with a $10 Starbucks giftcard

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclaimer – I received a copy of Over Easy from the author and iRead Book Tours in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To check out what other bloggers had to say about Over Easy here is the full book tour. Enjoy!

Monday, 15 August 2016

What Should I Read Next? Part 2

Inspired by Anne Bogel's podcast What Should I Read Next?, Sara sent me 3 books she loves, 1 book she hates, her current reads, and then I suggested 3 books she should read next. Now we're switching roles!



THREE BOOKS I LOVE
1. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
This book is about a woman who is forcefully brought from Africa to the United States at the time of the American Revolution. She arrives in America as a slave, but this is a story of how she forges her path to freedom. To me this is such a perfect book. I love historical fiction, especially from the 19th and 20th century, and this book has always stayed with me. Hill's writing is fantastic, and the story pulled me in from the very beginning.


2. Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan
I read Brain on Fire last year and was totally fascinated by Susannah's story. She was only 24 when she woke up in a mental institution missing one month of her memory. She was labeled as psychotic, violent, and as a flight risk. Why? What happened? Her memoir tells about how she descended into madness, the life-saving diagnosis that nearly didn't happen, and how she struggled to reclaim her identity. I love a good memoir, and as long as I live I will never forget this story. It's scary and heart-wrenching, yet you know the ending will somehow be okay because Susannah is telling her own story.

3. Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson.
This book is about a young woman who works as an ambulance driver during WWI. She is in love with her brother's best friend who works as a doctor on the front lines. I've already said that I love historical fiction, and Jennifer Robson's books are all set around the time of WWI and are extremely well-researched. Plus I've been reading a lot of romance novels lately, and the love story is definitely a central element of the plot. You can totally judge this book by its cover. It's wonderful!

A BOOK I HATED
Allegiant by Veronica Roth. This book was terrible. I loved Divergent, but this was such a disappointing ending to the series. I was so angry and confused with how Four's character is knocked down at every turn in this book and, without spoiling the ending, the choices the author made on how to end this book made me ugly cry in the very worst way. I don't mind plot twists or emotional endings, but I feel like a lot of it in this book was done for shock value, and that doesn't make for a good story. Unfortunately, it made me completely lose trust with this author.


CURRENT READ
I can only read one book at a time, so I'm currently reading Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. I'm only a few chapters in, but I really enjoy it so far. A wonderful story about friendship, family, and love with a dose of magic in the form of a sacred garden. It reminds me of the book The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, which I also really enjoyed.

The book I read before Garden Spells was Fresh Brewed by Pamela Ford. I have a full review coming soon to the blog, so I won't give away too much, but this was extremely fun chick lit, and I totally loved it.

So, Sara.....What should I read next?!


Let me start off by saying that I love your choices! I have read The Book of Negroes (and it's one of my all time favourites to be honest. I almost had it on my list too), but I haven't read the other two, although I will be adding Somewhere in France to my list now! Like me, it seems like you also enjoy reading about strong female characters, and from your selections, you also appreciate women who persevere through adversity, in both fiction and non-fiction. I haven't read a lot of non fiction, but I have found myself becoming more open to it lately. 

So, without further ado-my recommendations!!
I picked this for you because it is a work of historical fiction based on the life of Josepehine Bonaparte-the first wife of Napolean Bonaparte. It is in epistolary format-diary entries- and gives you a (fictional) sneak peak into her life from 1777 (at the age of 14) to her marriage to Napoleon in 1796 at 32 years old. 

It's been quite some time since I read this book, but I absolutely loved reading about this time period, especially in the format of diary entries. I can only imagine what life must have been like for Josephine, and have so much respect for what women had to go through to make their way in life at that time. One of my favourite things about this book-it's the first in a trilogy (book 2 Tales of Passion Tales of Woe, and book 3 The Last Great Dance on Earth).

This is another historical fiction novel, this time alternating between Trudy, an American woman in present day Minnesota, and her mother Anna's experience as a German woman during the Holocaust. As I had mentioned in my first post to you, I love reading books set in this time period, and this one is different from most I have read because Anna's experience is as a German non-Jewish woman, not someone who was targeted by the Nazi party as well as her eventual relationship with an SS officer. 

It is a story that I think we can both relate to as mothers (although when I read it I was not yet a mother). Imagine if YOU were living in Germany at that time, as a single mother, trying to take of your child. What would you have done (and what would you do) to keep your child safe? An emotional read for sure, but well worth it.

OK this one is NOT historical fiction! As I mentioned, I'm not much of a non-ficiton reader, but because one of your top books was a memoir I really wanted to include one for you!

3. A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhoutt
I will preface this by saying that this is not my favourite book, but, based on what you like about Brain on Fire, I feel like it could be the book for you (although it does feel weird to recommend something I didn't love). A House on Fire is Lindhoutt's memoir from growing in up in Sylvan Lake Alberta, to becoming a world traveler, and eventually a journalist, who is kidnapped and held hostage in Somalia (for 460 days!). 

I feel bad saying this, but I was rather unimpressed with Lindhoutt's attitude, and travelling choices she made, however in retrospect, I truly admire her ability to be candid about her motivations and decisions. Her experience as a hostage will show you the many ways one can be strong in the most dangerous of situations. It is also scary and heart-wrenching, however as with Brain on Fire, we know the author survives as she is the author of the book- but not only does she survive- she is stronger for it. It was interesting to read about how this experience has shaped Lindhoutt, and her decision to choose forgiveness or bitterness, and actually founded the Global Enrichment Foundation, an organization established to provide university scholarships to Somalian women.

So Jenn-Have you heard of any of these books? Read any? What do you think? What will YOU read next!!

Thank you so much for these suggestions, Sara! I haven't read any of them, and they totally sound like they are each right up my alley. 

1. The Many Lives and Sorrows of Josephine B. I have a weakness for French history and trilogies, so I'm adding this to my reading list immediately. I also love books that are written in letters or diary entries and haven't read one in awhile, so I'm sure I will love this.

2. Those Who Save Us I feel like this book will make me cry something fierce, but I will certainly still read it. Anything about parents protecting their children always gets me, and I do love historical fiction from this time period. 

3. A House in the Sky This is the one book of your recommendations I have seen before. I haven't read it yet, but I remember when her story came out. It sounds like a very harrowing experience. 

I think next chance I'll get, I'll pick up Those Who Save Us and give it a try (with a pack of Kleenex nearby). I kind of feel like suggesting it as my next pick for our book club. If I'll going to read it, I need others to cry along with me!

xo
Jenn

*If you missed part 1 of this post from last week, you can find it here. Then be sure to check out Anne Bogel's podcast, What Should I Read Next?

Friday, 12 August 2016

Fire Brand - Book Review + Giveaway


He’ll risk his whole heart to save her from the past 
Gaby Cane was always a bit afraid of her attraction to Bowie McCayde. Even when she was fifteen and Bowie’s family took her in, she had sensed his simmering resentment. Now ten years later, she’s an aspiring journalist who can hold her own with any man professionally, the dark shadows of years gone by far behind her. Then Bowie strides back into her life—only this time, he needs her, and the pull of loyalty to his family is too strong to ignore.
When Bowie asked Gaby to help save his family’s Arizona ranch, he never expected the girl he once knew to return transformed into a stunning, successful woman. As they work together, Bowie is shocked to find that her innocence and beauty stir a hunger he can’t deny. But the rogue rancher can sense something holding her back, and he’s determined to uncover the terrible secret Gaby is fighting to keep hidden…



Ever since I watched The Longest Ride on Netflix I've been craving cowboy romance novels, so I was looking forward to reading Fire Brand by Diana Palmer. This is a republication of the original novel from 1989. It was a quick read, and I generally liked Gaby as the lead female character. She may not have a lot of experience with men and relationships, but she sure didn't back down from Bowie when she disagreed with him professionally.

My favourite part came early on when the Palmer is describing Gaby.

"Her figure was a perfect twelve - not quite voluptuous, but very noticeable - which was why she spent so much time camouflaging it. She didn't like men staring at it. On the other hand, it didn't bother her to think of Bowie looking at her." - Diana Palmer, Fire Brand

"...a perfect twelve"!!! Yes! I loved this so much. Maybe that's one of the benefits of reading a book from another generation. Societal expectations shift and sway so much and not always for the better.

While I thought Gaby was a good character, I really struggled with Bowie. Though it is clear that he cared for Gaby, I did not like how he spoke to and treated Gaby most of the time. Even when he finds out her secret, he tries to be understanding, but he comes across as pretty immature about it.

I appreciated that the communication between Gaby and Bowie was honest. There was no all-too-common "misunderstanding" that we see in romance books. Bowie knew that Gaby had a secret and loved her anyways, even if I felt he could have showed his love and support for Gaby differently.

Keep scrolling for a $25 Amazon gift card giveaway :)
xo
Jenn

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclaimer – I received a copy of Fire Brand from the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To check out what other bloggers had to say about Fire Brand and read a few excerpts, here is the full book tour. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

What Should I Read Next? Part 1

One of my favourite podcasts is What Should I Read Next with Anne Bogel. Anne asks her guests to share three books they love, one book they hate, and what they're currently reading. Then Anne performs some "literary matchmaking" and offers recommendations to her guests.




Since it was my good friend, and former book blogger, Sara who got me hooked on this podcast, I thought it would be fun for us to do some "literary matchmaking" for each other. I asked Sara the same questions. Three books she loves, a book she hates, and her current reads. Here's what she had to say.

Welcome Sara!





What should I read next?!?!

I fell in love with the podcast “What Should I Read Next” when my beloved “Books on the Nightstand” podcast decided to call it quits and they had an episode where they recommended other book­ish podcasts to listen to. I am obsessed!!! I told Jenn about it because I know she loves reading, and when she suggested we do this for each other I immediately said yes!

I’ve picked three books that I absolutely love and have recommended to other people, and I think they also represent some of my favourite genres (but not all!).

Without further ado.....





BOOK 1: The Divine Secrets of the Ya­Ya Sisterhood byRebecca Wells. A fantastic movie, but an even better book (which is USUALLY the way). I LOVE books that delve into the relationships between women, especially mothers and daughters, and also friendship. This book has it all!!! It’s not that I identified with any one character in particular, but that the characters are so realistic.

There were aspects of each of them that I felt I could really understand, and I often felt like I was right there with them­, both the older and younger generations. It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one, and I think it’s about time for another visit!

BOOK 2: Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. Ugh. I remember reading this and feeling devastated. Like ugly headache inducing crying. Doesn’t that make you want to read it?!?! This book jumps back and forth between Paris during World War 2 and present day America. In 1942, 10 year old Sarah hides her little brother in a cupboard and promises to come back for him, as her and the rest of her Jewish family are taken away in the middle of the night. In present day America, Julia, an American journalist, stumbles upon information that leads her to Sarah’s secret. Devastating as I said, but so amazing. I have always been fascinated by the experience of Jewish girls and women during World War 2 (I’m looking at you Anne Frank). The strength and courage to persevere in the most horrific of circumstances is unbelievable, and can really put things in perspective.

BOOK 3: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This book! It was the first book I read in 2015, and it basically ruined everything else I read the rest of the year. I actually met the author last year as this book was selected for our first ever community book club (Red Deer Reads), and I told her that her book ruined all other books for the rest of year. Ha, I hope she took it as the compliment I intended it as!! I don’t really want to say what this book is about because most people hear ”Post apocalyptic” and “Shakespeare travelling symphony” and think “not for me”. WRONG! IT IS FOR YOU!!! The inside cover describes it as “ a novel of art, memory, and ambition. Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it”. This is exactly what I love about it. It’s like a blend of science fiction and literature. I LOVED IT!

A BOOK I HATE : The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larson. I. HATED. THIS. BOOK. I do not like crime, mystery, thriller, or detective noels, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. But it seemed like everyone was reading it, and even self-proclaimed “I don’t like to read” readers loved it, so it felt like a good idea at the time. It wasn’t. Way too graphic and violent for my liking. I couldn’t stand ANY of the characters, and I realized that it is important that at least one character resonates with me. I thought it was terrible ­for me. If you like that genre, or my descriptors then this book might be for you, but not me. Just in case I wasn’t clear about that.

READING NOW:

I’m sort of reading Porch Lights ( as an ebook on my iPhone) by Dorthea Benton Frank­ which I selected for the cover because it seemed like an easy summery chick lit beach read­ but haven’t had a chance to really get into it yet.

I am reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to my 5 year old son. I have always loved reading a big series, and I think this is one reason why. WE are both REALLY into it, and try to sneak as much time alone with it as we can.

I just finished “A Fatal Grace” by Louise Penny. This is book #2 in the Inspector Gamache series and goes directly against most of what I said about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This series kept coming up in conversations, and on the podcast, and my dad has been a big fan for years. A friend in my book club started reading them, and we have fairly similar tastes in books, so I decided to give it a go. I LOVE THEM! The series is set in a Three Pines, Quebec and each book deals with a different murder investigation. It is NOT gory or graphic at all, and the book focuses a lot on the people of the town and their relationships with each other. It’s basically a cozy mystery, but not quite. If that makes any sense. I can’t get the 3rd book in the series at the library so ay have to try to buy it at a used book store. I will likely work my way through this series as I read other books, so I am for sure not looking for anything else in this genre right now.

SOOOOOO.......WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT!?!?!?

- Sara

Okay, Sara. What amazing book choices! I have also read and loved both Station Eleven and Sarah's Key. When looking at your books, I feel like you love strong female characters, so it doesn't surprise me that you wanted to give Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a try. It also seems like it's important that you are emotionally connected to the story.

So, with that in mind, here are my recommendations for you!

1. Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton.
A school is on fire, and one mother, Grace, sees the smoke and rush of people. She knows her teenage daughter is inside. Grace runs into the burning building to rescue her. Afterwards, Grace must find the identity of the arsonist and protect her children from the person who's still intent on destroying them.

It sounds like a bit of a mystery-crime novel, but there is so much more here about the power of a mother's love. Afterwards is told from a few different points of view which, I think, also adds to the story. There is also a slight, almost paranormal element to how this story is told, but I think you'll appreciate it in the same way you loved the extraordinary-ness of Station Eleven.

2. The Thread That Binds by Alice Hayes
The Thread That Binds is the story of five women who are either new mothers or mothers-to-be. These five women don't know each other at the beginning of the story, but through different circumstances, their paths cross and friendships form. Sherice is a new mom herself, coming to terms with an illness that is changing her own mother. Sylvie is a French woman who fell in love and now lives in the US. She and her husband are stricken by poverty as she tries to find prenatal care. Joanne is single and determined to have a baby, so enlists her gay best friend, Marty to help her. Payton is 17 years old, pregnant, and on the run from a family that has all but disowned her. And Gloria is trapped in a loveless and abusive marriage, in love with another, and pregnant with a baby that could belong to one of two men.

The Thread That Binds is also told using different points of view. All five women are able to tell their stories. The book is fast-paced and really kept me wondering how each of the women's stories would end. I loved how the women's lives wove together, and I could really see these women building new friendships with each other. The overall message is that kindness and empathy can triumph over situations that feel hopeless.

3. The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Steadman
After fours years on the front of WWI, Tom Sherbourne settles down with his loving wife Isabel as the lighthouse keeper in Australia. Tragedy strikes their family as Isabel suffers two miscarriages and a stillbirth. Then a boat washes up on their shore with a dead man and a small, living baby. Tom wants to report the baby, but Isabel so desperate for a baby that they decide to keep the baby and claim it as their own. What happens when they need to introduce their child to the mainland? How do they keep their dark secrets quiet? How can love actually destroy a life?

This is a powerful, unforgettable novel and a beautiful read. If you are looking for another historical fiction novel, guaranteed to bring out an ugly cry, be sure to check out The Light Between Oceans.

So, Sara....What do you think of those choices? Have you heard of any of them? What do you think you will read next?

Good call on the strong female leads!! You're also right about needing to feel emotionally connected to the characters - you've hit the nail on the head with that one!!  I am so excited about these recommendations (in case you couldn't tell by my liberal use of exclamation marks)!!!!

1. Afterwards - I haven't heard of it - and as I mentioned before, I wasn't really into crime-mystery novels, but this one seems to have the other elements I look for in a book - and I do love a little bit of the supernatural!!

2. The Thread That Binds - I haven't heard of this one either, but it sounds AMAZING!!!!! I love reading about different experiences with motherhood, and I love stories with alternating points of view!!

3. The Light Between Oceans - I have read this one. It was good and made me ugly cry until I felt sick!

I am currently halfway through Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which I must say took some getting used to as I don't usually read anything in play format - but this works out to my benefit because it will last longer. I also just started reading The Dinner by Herman Koch, and I am listening to I Must Say by Martin Short.

Once I work though those, I will for sure be picking up The Thread That Binds as that sounds like the perfect summer read for me!!

Now what about you, Jenn? What should YOU read next? I want to recommend some books to you!!

Stay tuned next week to see what Sara recommends for me!

xo
Jenn and Sara

PS - Don't forget to check out Anne Bogel's What Should I Read Next? podcast where we got our inspiration for this post!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Finding Time To Read




Finding time to read as a working parent with a young child at home is not always easy. There is dinner to prepare, laundry to do, sons and daughters who want our attention, maybe work to think about for your day job, lunches to pack, crafts to make, emails to answer, and you constantly feel like you should be doing all of the things. And then when 8pm rolls around and (fingers crossed) the littles are asleep, you fall on the couch with a glass of wine and watch Netflix.

I do this too. We are all so busy.

But I am also passionate about reading, and I love taking in a good book.

Here is how I squeeze in reading time.

1. During swimming lessons
Sebastian is old enough that I don't need to go in the pool with him for his swimming lessons anymore, so I love swimming lesson time because I'm guaranteed 25 minutes of reading time. This isn't easy. I am often lost in the vortex of my phone during downtime. I'm working at putting my phone down more to capture these moments for myself.


So, whether it's swimming, soccer, basketball, or hockey, bring your book along and, after their practise has started, let yourself get a chapter in.

2. Reading before bed (or early in the morning)
I always try and read a bit before bed. If nothing else, that's usually a guaranteed time when it's quiet, I don't have much to do (or, more likely, I have no energy left to do all of the things). I'm not a stay up all night and read until the end type reader, but I will read until 11 or 11:30 if I'm especially captivated by the plot of a book.



And on the rare occasions I'm awake before Sebastian in the morning, I'll just stay put in bed and read a few pages. The alternative of actually waking up and doing things in the house is just way too risky. One creak on the floor near his room, and it's game over. I'll just stay in bed with my book.

3. When your child is busy with books, toys, or even the iPad

When Sebastian was younger, I used to try and read during nap time. I'd aim to give myself at least 30 - 45 minutes of pause from the craziness of the day and give myself that time to read, even if there were dishes to do and laundry to fold. It wasn't easy, and I had to force myself to take this break.

Now that Sebastian doesn't nap, I still need that afternoon break, so I try to encourage him to play with his books (I Spy readers that he can do himself are perfect for this, as are the Highlights Hidden Picture magazines).

And, if I'm being totally honest, sometimes it's not books or magazines or puzzles. Sometimes it's the iPad. And I'm working on letting go of my guilt about that. Let's not be too hard on ourselves. Our children don't need us in their face every waking moment of the day. It's ok to encourage them to play independently, if for no other reason than Mommy needs a break.



Sebastian loves sitting on our front porch, so sometimes he's doing his magazines and books and sometimes he's playing games on the iPad, and sometimes he's watching Octonauts. So in the summer when I'm not working, for an hour or so each afternoon, he does that while I read.

The other thing that is actually great about this is that Sebastian sees me reading. If I only read before bed, he wouldn't get to see me read, and it is important that our children watch us continue to be passionate about books and learning as adults. If we want our children to be readers, modelling this habit is essential. Sebastian will ask me questions about my book (he always wants to know who the villain is) and will ask me to "read one line" out loud to him. It's one thing to see a bookshelf full of "grown up books" in the house. It's quite another thing completely to see an adult actively reading those books.

4. On vacation
Next time you go on vacation, plan some downtime. I try to do this whenever we go somewhere. I love planning all of the fun things we're going to do wherever we are, but I always make sure there is also a healthy dose of downtime. This is made much easier if you travel with grandparents or aunts and uncles because they're delighted to entertain the little ones, but it's ok to have a couple shots of #3 from this list incorporated into your family vacation. Everyone gets a rest and is ready for more fun afterwards! Bonus points if you can plan a weekend away with your partner or a friend sans children. That would give you the most time to read!

5. Give yourself a reading goal
When you're motivated to achieve a goal, you will find time to complete it. I've heard of so many different types of reading goals. Mine this year is ambitious. I'm doing the 50 Book Pledge and trying to read 50 books this year.

Last year I worked on Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge. There are only 24 books on that list, so it's more manageable.

And I love the reading challenge my friend Nicole set for herself this year. Her goal for each quarter is to read one book for professional or personal growth and one book for pleasure.


Toni Morrison once wrote of her experience as a writer and single mother of two young boys, that she found the time to write "in the edges of the day." I think the same could be said for reading. I almost always have a book on me because I never know when I'm going to be able to steal away a few extra moments, a few extra pages. It's not even about reading a large quantity of books that is important. Find time to fall in love with any book and simply enjoy the story.


“Sleep is good, he said, and books are better.” 


xo
Jenn

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