Monday, 14 August 2017

Sebastianisms Vol 4

Chatting with a 5 year old is often pretty adorable. He's at a stage where he does a lot of self-talk and self-encouragement. Here are a few gems we've overheard recently.

"I'm making such beautiful pictures that you can't even believe!"

"I'm pretty incredible, right?"

"I'm getting a roll." (He meant to say that he was "on a roll".)

-----

These are a few things he's said to us lately:

"You're so kindful."

"It really appreciates me." (He meant "I really appreciate it.")


-----

Lastly, my dad was teasing him a few weeks ago, and he said "Your nose is bigger than the whole house." To which Sebastian replied, "Your nose is bigger than the whole university!"

xo
Jenn


For more, here are Sebastianisms vol 1, vol 2, and vol 3.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The One Piece of Lingerie You'll Actually Want to Wear



I recently got rid of nearly all of my lingerie. I tossed out 4 little nighty things that I had accumulated around the time of my wedding.  I rarely wore them. They felt fun for about half a second and then I just felt self-conscious and cold. Minus the slit up the front, they basically resembled this:




I kept only one. It's the Lace T-back Tank Dress Chemise from Fleur't




It's super soft, long enough to feel comfortable (it hits just above the knee), and has this magic elastic built into the fabric and the lace. This chemise is especially supportive for ladies with large busts. Yes, I just said "supportive" when talking about lingerie.

The hot pink colour I bought a few years ago isn't available anymore, but I love this dark-denim colour. There is also a light-lavender colour that happens to be on sale if you prefer it.

So, you're welcome. I promise you, when you slip this nightgown on, you'll feel sexy, comfortable and you'll want to wear it for you, not just for your partner.

xo
Jenn

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor - Book Review


1917...It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true - didn't it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs' authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovering offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later... When Olivia Kavanagh finds and old manuscript in her late grandfather's bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls' lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself? (synopsis via Goodreads)


I knew absolutely nothing about the Cottingley Fairies before reading this novel, so I loved learning about their history and the role the photographs of the fairies played in England during the first world war. This is why historical fiction holds such a special place in my heart. Novels like The Cottingley Secret transport me to another place and time and I am able to learn more about that era. There are pictures of the actual Cottingley fairy photographs included in the back of the book as a reference.

The Cottingely Secret was also my first Hazel Gaynor novel. I loved her beautiful prose, her characters, and the pace of the story. I also enjoyed the creative use of a found memoir as a vehicle for the flashbacks to 1917. A true story within a story.

I did find it a bit helpful to draw myself a family tree for Olivia so I could more clearly see how she ended up connected to the Cottingley fairies.

Though a century apart, Olivia and Frances were both in situations where they didn't feel fully in control of what was happening around them. Frances felt locked into the secret she was keeping with Elsie, and Olivia was torn between dealing with her grandfather's death or her rocky engagement. While reading, it jumped out at me that the feeling of choice was important to both girls, and I think one message for the reader is about choice, especially when it is connected to our reactions to what is happening around us. We can choose the path of negativity, or we can choose the path of hope. Of faith. Maybe even of magic.

The Cottingley Secret is a must-read not only for those who enjoy historical fiction, but also for fans of Sarah Addison Allen and those who remember to keep their eyes open for the magic in the everyday.



Connect with the Hazel Gaynor on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

The Cottingley Secret is available wherever books are sold.  You can get it on Amazon or directly from HarperCollins.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a copy of The Cottingley Secret courtesy of TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

The Case for the Happy Ending





SPOILER ALERT! 


This post contains spoilers for Allegiant by Veronica Roth and A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas. Consider yourself warned.



The first book club I ever belonged to was called "Oprah-type fiction". I loved that book club, and I loved the books that were selected. We read hard-hitting books that mainly fell into the genres of women's fiction or historical fiction. After awhile, one of my book club friends had had enough. She said, "Most of the books we read are about people's shitty lives, that just get shittier." And she wasn't really wrong. We read a lot of books with tragic endings or, at the very least, extremely awful moments.


At the time I didn't really think much of her comment. It was just fiction after all. It's not real. No reason to stress.


But now, 10 years later, I can totally see it. I can see what she means with these heavy endings and this unavoidable death. These stories that we end up carrying around with us even when we are not reading. 


This particular friend was one of the first of us to become a mother, so, as a mom now, I wonder if that was part of where she was coming from. I wonder if that's when there was a shift in my own reading life as well. 


Allegiant by Veronica Roth destroyed me. I was finishing the book well past midnight, I was crying, the next morning I had a headache, and I felt like I was in a fog. It was a book hangover in the most literal sense. I admit that I am emotional when it comes to books and movies. I get easily attached to characters. And I'm usually okay with it. But Allegiant is the first time I remember thinking "NO! This is NOT how this story ends." 


I read all three of the books from the Divergent trilogy together, so, thankfully, I wasn't one of the many readers who were waiting with bated breath for the final instalment of Tris and Four's story. But I was fully invested in this series. It kept me up late at night, and I would wake early in the morning to get in a few chapters before the day began.


When I began reading Allegiant, I couldn't help but think that the entire book was one upsetting event after the other. And it felt particularly like the author was upset with Four for some reason because his character is beaten down over and over and over again throughout the novel, with no redemption in the end. He has very little goodness in his life from the beginning, but he does love Tris. However, his divergence was taken away from him, he gets caught up with the wrong crowd and ends up kind of accidentally killing his friend, and then he loses Tris when she dies. To say the ending of that trilogy was a disappointment would be a massive understatement. 

Most of the time, I read for pleasure. It's the the thing I love most to do for fun and to relax. So, if an author is taking me through a novel, or three (or even more in some cases!) and rip me apart along the way, I am trusting them to put me back together again by the end.

There is plenty negativity and tragedy in the world. I amjust at a point where I can no longer invite it into my life as entertainment.

I know one of the main arguments is that happy endings are not real life, and that books that end perfectly with everything packaged up like a gift with a bow aren't realistic. 

But I say bring it on.

I am fully aware that the book I'm reading isn't real life. That's why I'm reading it.

When did quality literature become synonymous with sad endings? I don't believe it has to be this way. 

Don't get me wrong. I love a good cathartic, ugly cry as much as the next girl. The ones where your nose is running and the tears are dropping onto the page. That can be some good stuff right there.

But this is where trust comes in.

The relationship between an author, a reader, and a book is a delicate one. Especially if there is a series involved. (Just ask any George R. R. Martin fan. They've been waiting 6 years for the next Game of Thrones book. And there is supposed to be one more after that!)

This January I finally read A Court of Thorns and Roses as well as A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. Just like Tris and Four, I was cheering Feyre and Rhys on hard.

I had many of my friends and co-workers reading these books. We fangirled about this series harder than I ever remember fangirling over a book. The final piece to that trilogy was due out in May and I was counting the weeks until my preorder copy would arrive. We couldn't stop talking about what had happened, what we thought was going to happen, and, especially whether we thought either Feyre or Rhys were going to die.

My friends and I could see how it fit the personalities of both Feyre and Rhys to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Neither of them would hesitate to die if they could save Velaris, the Night Court, and all of Prythian. It was terrifying to know this. But I just had to believe that Sarah J. Maas was not going to do that to her readers. I trusted that she wouldn't make us fall so passionately in love with Feyre and Rhys only to take one of them away in the end.

A Court of Wings and Ruin brought it all. There was redemption for Jurian and (some) for Tamlin. Rhys' battle speech, that sounded much more like a goodbye speech, had me weeping. The Suriel dies. The Bone Carver dies. Amren dies. And then Rhys dies. By that point I was simply gaping at the book in shock. All of my tears had run dry. But there were pages remaining, and I held onto that trust that things would somehow be right in the end.

And then the Courts come together to bring him back. On top of that, Rhys is able to pull Amren back as well. My blood pressure regulated, and that was the moment I fell in love with Sarah J. Maas for good. Now I look forward to reading the next two books of the Throne of Glass series even more (because, let's be real, the ending of Empire of Storms is torturous), and I will happily devour whatever she puts out next.

Like I said earlier, I am okay with authors tearing me apart along the journey the characters face, but I need to be put back together in the end. 

I've talked primarily about YA novels here, but this same feeling applies to the women's fiction and historical fiction I read in my book club. I used to read historical fiction nearly exclusively. I was a bit of a book snob that way. But now I find that genre so challenging. I know these stories are real, and it's not that I don't appreciate the gravity of WWII or the slave trade or other difficult periods of history. I know these pieces of of the global story need to be shared, and they do not have happy endings. It's not that I don't feel sympathy. It's almost that I feel too much.

One thing I've learned growing older is that our reading life evolves as well. Who we are as readers at 25 may not be who we are as readers at 35. I never thought this would be the case, but it has clearly been a shift in me. 

xo
Jenn

PS - After being shattered by Allegiant, I found this piece of fanfiction called Determinant. It is a complete, alternative third book to the Divergent series and is well worth the read. Now I just believe this to be the ending of the trilogy in my mind :)

Monday, 24 July 2017

Donate Life: How I Lost A Kidney And Found My Faith (Guest Post)

Please welcome to the blog today Mary Katherine Backstrom from the fantastic Mom Babble. She's here to share a story of bravery and faith. I hope you love it as much as I do.



Proverbs 16:8: The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
The hospital room smelled of gauze and alcohol. As my body was scrubbed clean with a harsh orange soap, a nurse walked in twirling a Sharpie. I changed positions on the bed and fidgeted with my bright green bracelet. Donate Life, it said. I’d been wearing it for a month; a badge of honor I hadn’t yet earned.
“You are donating your right kidney, correct?” Sharpie Nurse asked without really needing an answer.
“That’s what my kidnappers said,” I cracked, as she pulled aside my hospital gown. She scrawled a big YES on my right side and a NO on my left. I felt cold. The color was draining from my face. The nurse snapped the marker top back on and paused to look me in the eye.
“Honey, are you sure you want to do this?”
Was I sure? I had prayed and fasted and cried and wrestled over this decision. From the day my mother was ruled out as a possible donor, there was a tug at my heart. A silent whisper that spoke to me saying, “Step forward. Have faith.”
Stepping forward, it turned out, was the easy part. Having faith…?
“Yes, of course I’m sure,” I croaked, sounding anything but.

I was terrified. I knew exactly what God was asking of me, but still doubted every part of His plan
.
I hadn’t even started a family. Would this cause risks to my future pregnancies? What if I got sick in adulthood? What if my husband did? What if I needed this kidney I was giving away? What would the scars look like? Could I handle the pain?
Jeremiah 29: 11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
In pre-op, Ian hovered over my bed. His blue eyes held a sea of worry, but he offered only assuring smiles and a kiss on the forehead. He told me he loved me, how brave I was, and how proud he was to have married me.
I smiled, drooled a little, and asked if he would go buy me a double cheeseburger. The drugs were kicking in. My husband’s floating head was the last thing I saw.
When I woke up, there was a hole where an organ used to live. It screamed inside of me. The inflation gas from surgery had dissipated and settled in my shoulders, burning like coals beneath my skin. I’d never known such pain. For 12 hours, I drifted in and out of a narcotic sleep, crying for my mother.
There was a knock at my door.
“MK, there is somebody here to see you. He wants to know if you can go for a walk.”
“No freaking way,” I grumbled, reaching to press the button that released meds into my blood stream. Then I noticed something. A lime green bracelet had found its way back on my wrist. Donate Life, it said.
And holy crap, I had done it.
My heart filled with gratitude as I recalled God’s voice encouraging me. “Step forward. Have faith.”
Slowly, carefully, I hung my legs over the side of the hospital bed. I placed one foot in front of the other and I walked toward my uncle, whose cautious smile hinted at something he hadn’t known in a while: Hope.
We shuffled our way around the Nephrology unit, making small talk between gasps of pain. Uncle Mikey had a new craving for Starbucks. The very idea of coffee disgusted me.
“Must be the kidney!” we laughed.
My uncle had a new lease on life. I had a new set of scars. He had a new kidney. I had a lime green bracelet.
But in that moment, walking around the hospital wearing IV bags and puppy dog slippers, I learned a powerful lesson about God and giving.
Because it wasn’t my Uncle Mikey who had received the greatest gift that day.
Acts 20: 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Through all of my fear and doubt, my anguish and physical suffering, God was leading me to one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Not because I had done something to be proud of. Not for the accolades or the gratitude of my family.

The gift, you see, was in the giving. And all I had to do was step forward and have faith.

For more information on becoming a tissue and organ donor, please visit Donate Life.

For more from Mary Katherine, be sure to visit her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and especially her blog. She is one of my favourite writers!

xo
Jenn

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery - Book Review + Author Interview

Kelly Murphy's life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine - up at dawn, off to work, lather, rince, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett - Tulpen Crossing's prodigal son, who's set his sights on Kelly - and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone.

But Olivia's return isn't as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. SHe's determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family...whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now.

While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other - and themselves -and redefine what it means to be sisters?
(via Goodreads)


Secrets of the Tulip Sisters is my first Susan Mallery novel, and I really enjoyed it! This story weaves together themes of love, family, friendship, hurt feelings, divorce, trust, and the ties that bind us all together.

I enjoyed the playful and fun writing, the love story (stories!), and I was quickly engaged in this book. I especially loved Griffith, how direct he was, and how much he secretly loved Kelly even though he kept saying he didn't "do love" anymore.

This is a love story, but not only between couples searching for their happily ever after. This is also very much about the bond that can disappear, and then grow again, between sisters. The relationship between Kelly and Olivia was central and so important for them both to work through before they could finally create their own true paths in life. I particularly appreciated how the author didn't make Olivia a typical mean girl. I feel like Mallery quite easily could have chosen that path for that character, but instead we learn Olivia is broken because of decisions made for her at a young age, and she is sincerely trying to figure things out, so she can mend her relationships for the better. She's desperate for a place to belong, and you can't help but cheer her on.

Lately in my reading life, I've been focused on choosing novels I can really trust to leave me with a happy ending. I don't mind bumpy rides or being torn apart through my novels, but I just want to make sure I'm put back together again at the end, and Secrets of the Tulip Sisters fit perfectly.





I had the opportunity to ask Susan Mallery a few questions about Secrets of the Tulip Sisters. I hope you enjoy reading the interview!

What inspired Secrets of the Tulip Sisters?


I live in Washington State, where there's a Tulip Festival every spring in Skagit Valley. A couple years ago, my husband and I were driving through these breathtaking fields of tulips, just completely enveloped in the beauty, when I started to think about how much work it must be to harvest the flowers and get them into the hands of florists around the country. (I know, a very practical, unromantic thought for a romance writer.) That led me to think about the people who would do that work—farmers—and that led to the conception of the farmer's daughters. One loves the land as much as her father, and one left when she was young and hasn't been back for ten years.

Here's the twist—Olivia didn't just leave. She was sent away… and, although she didn't know it, her banishment was her sister's fault.

Ultimately, what inspired me were not the fields of tulips, pretty as they were, but the idea of complicated beauty, such as that of friendship and family.

 

Do you have a favorite scene?


I love the emotional midpoint of the story, when the secrets that have been lurking in the characters' minds begin to spill out, and everything they thought they knew about each other—and about their own pasts—turns on its head.

 

Did any of the characters surprise you along the way?


Yes! OMG, yes. I wrote a character named Sven, who was supposed to be just a walk-on. I didn't even give him a last name! But boy, he walked on, and I couldn't let him go. I fell in love with Sven to the point that I commissioned an illustrator to create three fabulous illustrations of him. If you want a laugh, visit Sven-the-Viking-God.com. Seriously. Go check it out and then come back. I'll wait.


See? Sven is fabulous. That apron picture came straight from a scene in the book. I can't wait for readers to meet him.

 

What would you like readers to take away from this book?


A pure sense of emotional satisfaction, something that will leave them feeling happy and uplifted and more prepared to face the challenges of real life. My stories are meant to reinforce readers' belief in the world as a good and just place, where decent people work through their problems and achieve happiness. I want readers to know that happiness is possible.

 

As a reader, any recent book favorites you can share?


Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that while I’m writing a book, I can’t read a book in the same genre because it gets in the way of my own story. Since I’m almost always writing—four new books this year, plus a novella—I don’t get nearly as much time to read as I’d like. When I finish a book and before I start the next one, I try to squeeze in a few stories. Category romances are great for this because I can finish one a day and get that wonderful intense focus on the romance. I recently read The Maverick Fakes a Bride! by Christine Rimmer. So good! It’s a friends-to-lovers story and a fun twist on the marriage of convenience trope.




Thank you so much to Susan Mallery for answering my questions! You can connect with her via Facebook, Twitter, and her website for more. Secrets of the Tulip Sisters is available pretty much anywhere! Check it out on Amazon.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of Secrets of the Tulip Sisters from the publisher and TLC Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To hear what others had to say about this lovely novel, you can visit the whole book tour here

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

A Paris All Your Own - Book Review

If you're ready for some first-rate wanderlust, you are going to love my latest read.

Edited by Eleanor Brown (The Light of Paris), A Paris All Your Own is a charming collection of 18 Paris-themed essays written by bestselling female authors who have each published novels set in the City of Light. Authors like Paula McLean - The Paris Wife, Julie Powell - Julie and Julia, and Michelle Gable - A Paris Apartment.

In this anthology each woman was asked to share their own personal stories of Paris.

And Paris, with all of her sophistication and experience, is not a simple city. She is kind to some and not to others.



There were romantic stories solidifying our understanding of why Paris is the city of romance and love, and then other stories that pretty much went the way you'd imagine them to go if you were thinking about dragging sleepy teens around Paris.



I've been to Paris a handful of times (As a French teacher, I have a soft spot for France) and reading these stories brought me back to so many places I remember. The Eiffel Tower. Montmartre. The cobblestone streets. And then this book also gave me new ideas of what I'd like to do next time I visit. (Mainly, my next goal would be to sit beside the Seine with a bottle of wine, bread, some macaroons, and watch the world go by.)

Apart from allowing me to daydream about my next trip Paris, I really enjoyed learning about the research phase of the writing process many of the authors described. Some visited the city before writing, some while writing, and others didn't visit until after their books were complete. Nonetheless, it was fascinating to learn about the role that Paris played in their lives and in their careers.

As a final bonus, upon reading A Paris All Your Own, you instantly have the titles of more than 18 Paris-themed books by these authors to add to your "to be read" list! Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler, is one of the new titles I'm interested in checking out.

Whether you've travelled previously to Paris or not, you will love to visit it from the coziness of your own home through A Paris All Your Own.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of A Paris All Your Own from Penguin Random House Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 10 July 2017

5 Netflix-Inspired Parenting Television Shows (Guest Post)

Here's a special treat! Gail Hoffer-Loibl from Maybe I'll Shower Today is here sharing her ideas for how to make a few parenting-inspired alterations to popular Netflix shows. Enjoy!



I have few loves in life, my husband, my kids, and, of course, my Netflix. Give me a night with Francis Underwood or the ladies of Litchfield any day. And, while those shows are fantastic, they don’t always reflect the everyday mundane reality of parenthood. Just like I offered some parenting-inspired tweaks to some popular network programs, I thought Netflix could use some of its own.
1. Orange Is The New Food My Kid Won’t Eat 




Will it be oranges or will it be mashed potatoes? Tune in to each episode of this riveting drama to find out which food your child now hates.


2. 13 Reasons Why My Kids Are Bored




They have a million toys, T.V., three different tablets and it's a beautiful day outside, yet they have nothing to do. And you will hear about it. 


3. House of Crayon-Covered Walls


The parents think they have control of the house, but one crayon-wielding toddler is out to prove them wrong.
4. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Has Kids

She survived life in a bunker and a crappy New York City apartment, but can she survive a 30-minute tantrum at Target?
5. Stranger Things I Never Thought I’d Do As A Parent


A woman enters an upside down world where she allows T.V. before two, snacks that aren’t organic, and children to sleep in her bed.
Which show would you like to see on Netflix?
*This post was originally published on Gail's blog, Maybe I'll Shower Today. For more from Gail, follow along with her on Facebook.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me - Book Review


I just finished reading Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me (What My Favourite Book Taught Me About Grace, Belonging & the Orphan in Us All) by Lorilee Craker. It is a charming true story that weaves together the author's passion for Anne of Green Gables, her own adoption story, and the adoption story of her daughter.

I adored this book right from the very first page. As the author takes us through her own journey and connections to Anne's story, it made me think of my own. While adoption is not a piece of my story, I think we can all relate to Anne Shirley's struggle to find her place with the people she hoped to love, and she hoped would love her in return. Anne of Green Gables is possibly the very first book that I ever truly fell in love with (certainly Gilbert Blythe was the my very first book boyfriend), and I have always identified with Anne as someone who was never "popular", who disparately yearned for close friends, and as someone who sincerely enjoyed school.



Any Anne of Green Gables fan will love revisiting many anecdotes from the novels, and I also learned more about Lucy Maud Montgomery herself. We used to live in New Brunswick, right around the time I was first falling in love with Anne, and my parents took us camping a handful of times to Cavendish, PEI. We visited Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery's birthplace, the beautiful red beaches, and Craker's memoir brought back many of those childhood memories for me.




The writing in this book is beautiful. The author's stories and prose brought me to the brink of tears multiple times (saved solely because I was reading in public). And chapter 7! This one just pulled at my mama heart so much. The chapter on Gilbert Blythe/Jonathan Crombie gave me all the feels.  All of them. I fell in love with Gilbert all over again and, again, mourned the much too early loss of Jonathan Crombie.




Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me has filled me with the desire to re-read all of her books, re-watch all of the movies, and travel back to PEI. While a trip to Prince Edward Island is not likely to happen in the near future (although I promise myself to return one day), I have made it a priority to visit Lucy Maud Montgomery's Ontario home. It's not too far from me, and it is where she wrote, among others, two of the Anne novels - Anne of the Island (1915) and Anne's House of Dreams (1916).


This book speaks to the Anne in each of us and importantly illustrates how our favourite redhead is still relevant today. Craker best summarizes one of the key messages in her book when she says,

"Through Anne, Maud speaks volumes about the desire we all have to belong and to matter to the people we love."

I don't know how some gems get lost in the mountain of publishing, and you likely won't find this book in your local library (I know the Toronto Public Library doesn't have a copy), but I promise you won't be disappointed adding this one to your permanent bookshelf. It is available for purchase from Amazon and Chapters Indigo.

xo
Jenn

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Spotlight on Blue Mountain Concepts




My parents have always been crafty. I grew up watching them make beautiful creations out of wood or fabric. Hope chests, grandfather clocks, the coziest pyjama pants around. They each have a gift.

Now that they are retired, my parents have even more time to put towards their projects, and because their creations are stunning, they are now selling their products. Their business is called Blue Mountain Concepts. From Blue Mountain Concepts, you can get quality, handmade items for your home.

Here are some of my favourites:

End Grain Cutting Boards ($125-$230)

Tip - these double as really pretty cheese boards!
Here are two of the designs available and custom requests are also taken. 









Cork Trivets ($25-$45)

Cork trivets are made from "experienced" corks (hehe) and come in small square or large rectangle sizes. 




Microwave Bowl Cozy ($10)

We have 5 of these in our house and they get used multiple times a week. Microwave bowl cozies are useful for anytime you need to heat something up in the microwave. The cozy prevents you from burning your fingers when you're removing the hot bowl. They clean up easy with your dishtowels in the laundry.



Microwave bowl cozies come in a variety of colours and patterns. 


You can check out the full Blue Mountain Concepts inventory on their website, and you can place an order by contacting them at bluemountainconcepts@outlook.com.

You can also follow connect with them on Facebook

xo
Jenn

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Read The North

In celebration of Canada's 150th birthday this week, I've rounded up a list of my favourite Canadian authors and books for a little focus on Canadian literature.



Jennifer Robson - I've gushed about Jennifer Robson here and here already. She's the author of Somewhere in France, After the War is Over, Moonlight Over Paris, and, most recently, Goodnight From London.
Perfect #canlit read for: anyone who enjoys a love story woven into their historical fiction.

Alan Doyle - Former frontman of the band Great Big Sea, Alan Doyle has also penned two memoirs. Where I Belong is his first, and A Newfoundlander in Canada is due out this October.
Perfect #canlit read for: fans of Great Big Sea or anyone who's ever visited the east coast.

Lawrence Hill - The Book of Negroes is one of my all time favourite historical fiction novels. The Illegal is also sitting on my TBR pile.
Perfect #canlit read for: lovers of historical fiction (The Illegal focuses on a refugee story, so that may be a little less "historical" and a little more "current" fiction.)

Emily St. John Mandel - Station Eleven is a phenomenal novel. The opening scene is set in Toronto and just makes the rest of the story feel just that much more eery. What would happen if a virus wiped out 99% of the Earth's population? What would that look like in Canada and the U.S.?
Perfect #canlit read forfans of dystopian literature like Cormac McCarthy's The Road, but slightly less dark. 

Nathalie Prézeau - Prézeau has 3 different books of planned urban strolls you can take throughout the city of Toronto. Her most recent one focuses on public art in the city.
Perfect #canlit read for: travellers or anyone in the greater Toronto area.

Bunmi Laditan - Author of bestselling The Honest Toddler, Laditan has a new book out this year called Confession of a Domestic Failure. It's her first novel. I read it this spring and laughed out loud so much throughout!
Perfect #canlit read for: any mama who's ever felt even just a little bit overwhelmed by it all.

Lori Lansens - Whenever I pick up a Lori Lansens book, I always know I'm going to read a storyline I've never read before. Her recent publication, The Mountain Story, is my favourite of hers, but I also really enjoyed The Girls.
Perfect #canlit read for: someone who loves novels with fascinating characters.

Roméo Dellaire - My favourite form of non-fiction is memoir, and Roméo Dellaire's Shake Hands With The Devil offers a terrifying account of the Rawandan Genocide. It's not a hopeful read by any stretch of the imagination, but I certainly learned a lot reading this one, and it is very well-written.
Perfect #canlit read for: anyone interested in history/current events around the world.

Margaret Atwood - I only have a few Margaret Atwood books under my belt, but they are always fascinating. I'm currently rereading The Handmaid's Tale. I read it 20 years ago in high school, and it is so interesting to read again so many years later.
Perfect #canlit read for: those who love dystopian fiction with a focus on the role of women, or fans of Neil Gaiman.

Lucy Maude Montgomery - Anne of Green Gables was the book that made me fall in love with books. I also like to think of this series as some of the original YA out there.
Perfect #canlit read for: YA fans. This one has it all - a misfit protagonist, an enemies to lovers romance, and BFFs.

Kenneth Oppel - Kenneth Oppel is another author I haven't yet read a ton of, but I did read The Nest last year, and it scared the crap out of me. And it's a middle grade novel. Your kids may enjoy this one! I know my students loved it.
Perfect #canlit read for: if you loved Coraline by Neil Gaiman, you'll probably enjoy The Nest.



There are a few Canadian authors that are still on my to be read pile. In particular, I'm interested in reading The Secret Path by Gord Downie and Still Missing by Chevy Stevens.

xo
Jenn

Monday, 29 May 2017

The Bookworm Box - April 2017 Review


The Bookworm Box is the amazing brainchild of author Colleen Hoover. It is run nearly exclusively by volunteers, and they donate 100% of their profits to charity.

Each box includes a minimum of two books signed by the authors. I've noticed they are usually romance novels, and this month I received Tapping the Billionaire by Max Monroe and Emerge by S.E. Hall. In addition to the two books, The Bookworm Box always includes a bit of swag. In my box was a Bookworm Box pen, magnet, and tea towel, along a few bookmarks from other authors.

Most of the books included are donated by the authors and so there may be many different versions of The Bookworm Box in a given month, depending on their supply of books.

Sometimes they even include a third book with the intention for you "pay it forward" and donate the third book to a friend or library in need.

Cost - $39.99 + shipping

To date The Bookworm Box has donated nearly one million dollars to different charities and organizations.

This April alone, The Bookworm Box was able to donate $10,000 to each of the following charities:
1. Good to Go Mobile Soup Kitchen
2. Read Alliance (early tutoring for at risk students)
3. Design Outreach (a group of engineers who designed a durable water pump handle for water wells in third world countries)

Unfortunately for me international shipping is pretty steep (because books are heavy y'all), but if you live in the continental US this is an awesome way to give back while treating yourself to some good reads at the same time!

xo
Jenn

Monday, 22 May 2017

Slow Burn Cowboy - Book Review + Giveaway


Everyone needs a fun summer romance novel to keep in their pocket for road trips or late nights on back decks, and Slow Burn Cowboy by Maisey Yates is a good one to try.

Here's a synopsis:

After his grandfather passes away, Finn Donnelly is determined to keep the ranch running by himself. However, his grandfather has left the ranch in equal share to Finn along with his three estranged brothers. Finn's brothers descend upon the ranch to claim their share of the inheritance and property.

Meanwhile, Finn is completely in love with his best friend, Lane Jensen. He and Lane have been friends for over a decade, and he has been attracted to her from the beginning; however, as his friend's younger sister, he's always thought of her as off limits. But as the stress of his family frustrations gets to him, Finn is tired of hiding his attraction to Lane, especially when he thinks she may feel it too.


I thought that Slow Burn Cowboy was a super fun read. I loved Finn and Lane so much. When I read romance novels, I really prefer it when the lead male character isn't a jerk who gets all reformed by the end. It's just a nicer feeling when he is genuinely a good guy with some other conflict going on as part of his story, and I felt like Finn fell into this group nicely. Lane has her own complicated history, but she has a really supportive, strong group of friends in Copper Ridge to help her along.

I've been wanting to read a Maisey Yates novel for a little while now. I've seen her name around in many places, and was excited for the opportunity to try one of her books. She did not disappoint! I found her writing overall to be clever and witty and then sweet and super sexy in all the right places. I would absolutely read more from this author.

Slow Burn Cowboy is part of a 10 book series called The Copper Ridge series. It can be read as a standalone (that's what I did), but at the same time, the novel also gives you some background on other characters from books earlier in the series and begins to setup the stories for the characters that will be in the remaining books (who I predict will be Finn's three brothers!).

You can connect with Maisey Yates on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Before you leave, be sure to enter below for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

xo
Jenn

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclaimer - I received a copy of Slow Burn Cowboy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To hear what other bloggers had to say about this book, you can also check out the full book tour here.

Friday, 19 May 2017

The View From The Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman - Book Review

Neil Gaiman is one of those names in the bookish world that's nearly impossible to ignore. I had heard of him for ages, and last year I finally read two of his novels. Neverwhere was our summer book club selection, and then I read Coraline with my Grade 8 students as part of our school book club. Neverwhere I devoured and loved and can't wait to reread sometime soon. Coraline, on the other hand, actually terrified me (my students completely loved it, however).

And so began my entry into the genre of fantasy. Since reading Neverwhere less than a year ago, I have read no fewer than 10 books that fall solidly into the genre of science fiction or fantasy. And a handful of others that weave magic into their stories. It is these books that have taught me that who we are as readers at 20 or even 30 are not who we are going to be as readers our whole lives. Like anything, our reading life ebbs and flows in directions we may never have anticipated. And surprises await us if we are open to them.



In his introduction to The View From The Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman talks about his exit from journalism to write fiction. He says "...I wanted the freedom to make things up. I did not want to be nailed to the truth; or to be more accurate, I wanted to be able to tell the truth without ever needing to worry about the facts."

I love these novels. The ones that build the breathtaking worlds that our brains know can't possibly be real but in which our hearts feel their truth. It is this feeling that has connected me with Neil Gaiman, and what peaked my interest in his recent non-fiction collection. How do these storytellers see our actual world and how does that influence them when building their own?

The View From The Cheap Seats is selected non-fiction work of Neil Gaiman. It's a collection of speeches, essays, book forwards, and introductions. In a manner that is playful, insightful, serious, witty, and wise, Neil Gaiman discusses a variety of subjects that are meaningful to him. He shares his thoughts about literacy, libraries, various authors and books, America, mythology, ghosts, genre, and more.

I've been savouring each of the pieces included in this collection, reading them slowly to spend time with each of the ideas presented. It's long (522 pages) but deliciously so. Readers, writers, parents, and educators will be drawn into Gaiman's non-fiction work and find ideas and anecdotes that will reaffirm their love of language.

The View From The Cheap Seats is available for purchase on Amazon or HarperCollins. You can also connect with Neil Gaiman on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, tumblr, along with his website or his blog.

xo
Jenn

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