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

PS - This is totally separate, but I'm running a little giveaway on Instagram for anyone interested!

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

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

So Many Book Birthdays!



It is seriously a banner day for book publishing. There are 4 blockbuster books out today!

If you follow me on Instagram, the past few months have basically been a love letter to this series by Sarah J. Maas. Well, not entirely, but since January I have read A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury each twice. I'm currently reading A Court of Wings and Ruin half holding my breath the whole time because I'm so terrified for the characters. If you need to get lost in an amazing book series, I highly recommend this one.

I fangirl over all of Jennifer Robson's books, and Goodnight From London was no exception. I was grateful to have been gifted an early copy of this book to read, and I've been recommending it to all of my friends. If you love historical fiction with a little bit of romance and a strong heroine, check this one out. You can find my full review of Goodnight From London here.

3. Confessions of a Domestic Failure
If you're familiar with The Honest Toddler or her viral Facebook page, then you know that Bunmi Laditan writes in a way that connects with moms hard. Confessions of a Domestic Failure is Laditan's first novel about a new mom who's trying to be perfect, ends up a hot mess, and loves her children fiercely along the way. I was so excited to win a copy of this via Goodreads and will be starting it as soon as I'm finished with ACOWAR.

4. Into The Water
Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train, has her next book out today as well. Into the Water is about a series of strange deaths along a river. Secrets, small towns, and even witchcraft are all woven together in this literary suspense novel.


Which of these would you read first?
xo
Jenn

Monday, 1 May 2017

Sebastian: 5 Years Old and 20 Questions


Every year, Rob and I do a little interview with Sebastian. Here's the 5-year-old edition!

1. What is your favorite color? pink (for the third year in a row!)
2. What is your favorite toy? Shopkins
3. What is your favorite fruit? strawberries
4. What is your favorite tv show? Shopkins
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? hamburgers
6. What is your favorite outfit? footies
7. What is your favorite game? I Spy books
8. What is your favorite snack? watermelon 
9. What is your favorite animal? cheetah
10. What is your favorite song? Chirp theme song
11. What is your favorite book? I Spy books (also third year running)
12. Who is your best friend? Mommy and Daddy
13. What is your favorite cereal? Rice Krispies 
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play golf
15. What is your favorite drink? water
16. What is your favorite holiday?  Christmas
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Mommy 
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? waffles
19. What do you want for dinner? cereal like Vavo sometimes does (Vavo is one of his grandmothers)
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? helping Daddy do his work

And here are his answers from his 4th birthday and 3rd birthday.

xo
Jenn 

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Worth the Wait



Before I was pregnant with Sebastian, I had two miscarriages. One of them was particularly difficult. I remember thinking when I was pregnant with Sebastian that there was no way I would really be able to fully love this child. I remember thinking that he was our backup baby. That the baby I loss in my first miscarriage was my "real child".

Remembering these thoughts haunts me. I know they were a product of the grief I was feeling for those babies that were never to be, and I carry guilt when I think of how I used to feel about being pregnant with Sebastian. Because now when I look at Sebastian as he turns five years old, I know in the depths of my heart and soul that he was the child I was meant to have.  

I do still wonder about those other babies. I remember them and send warmth and love their way, wherever they are now. I ask myself sometimes what they would have been like. Were they boys or girls? Would they have been better sleepers at night? Would they have loved Pokemon, and Shopkins, and I Spy books with Sebastian's passion? How would I be different if I hadn't had that year of loss in my life? Would I have still struggled with postpartum depression

When these questions come and threaten to spiral in me, all it takes is one of Sebastian's smiles, hugs, or laughs and I know that he was entirely worth the wait. Worth the pain. Worth the tears. And I know that my fears of being unable to love him fully were unfounded. 

Now I feel that we are so blessed to be his parents. If I hadn't experienced those two losses, Sebastian wouldn't be here, and I wouldn't have gotten to be his mom. He would have never known the joys of life, and we would have never known the joy of him and who he is and the gifts he has to offer.

It's hard to feel thankful for loss, but for the path that lead me to him, I will be eternally grateful.

xo
Jenn



Thursday, 27 April 2017

Sebastianisms Vol 3


If you've ever spent any amount of time with a pre-schooler, you know they can say the cutest things. Here's a collection of a few of Sebastian's gems lately.


Sebastian loves books (I wonder where he gets that from hehe). When we talking about having one of his friends over to play, I told him that we could invite someone for a playdate, and he responded with, "...or for a read-date."


This was a little while ago, but I remember after one busy day he said, "I am soaking tired!"

As a French teacher, this one hurt my soul a little...
Sebastian (looking at a French book) : What is this book called?
Me : says title in French
Sebastian : What's it called in real words?


This past weekend, we were at a baptism for my friend's son. To give you an idea of how often we don't attend church, here were a few of Sebastian's questions during the mass:
"Which baby is going to get a head dunk first?"
"Why can't I have a treat?" (meaning the host)
"How long until the show is over?"


Talking with this little guy is always a highlight in my day. He's turning 5 next week, and I just want to bottle up all of his curiosity and adorableness and keep it forever!

xo
Jenn

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

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

I Found You by Lisa Jewell - Book Review + Giveaway


Synopsis:

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgement, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, 21 year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

23 years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable - and it's not just that he's playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with "beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets" (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.



I'm not quite sure what I was expecting when I started reading this book, but I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. The suspense is slow-building (in a good way, not a slow-but-I-really-mean-boring way), and by the end, I could have easily stayed up late into the night finishing this one.

I always love novels that have a few storylines that meet up near the end, and I Found You really winds the three plotlines together beautifully. The characters were each odd and quirky in their own way, but I cared for them. I really wanted "Frank" to regain his memory, and at the same time, I was also was terrified of finding out who he really was. Is it possible that he killed someone? Is Alice being too trusting by letting him stay at her home? And my heart broke for Lily, who was in a new country where she didn't know a soul, and then her loving husband completely vanished. And what does a tragedy from 20 years earlier have to do with anything?

Fans of Paula Hawkins or Liane Moriarty will enjoy reading I Found You. It would be an excellent vacation read this summer for sure. And while this was my first Lisa Jewell novel, I already have The Girls in the Garden on my bookshelf and TBR pile!


Enter below to win one of three print copies of I Found You. And you connect with Lisa Jewell on TwitterFacebook, and her website.

xo
Jenn

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Disclaimer - I received a copy of I Found You 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.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Our Trip to Mexico According to My iPhone

Over March Break, Rob, Sebastian and I headed to Cancun, Mexico. In a dozen or so years of being a teacher, I have never traveled anywhere warm for March Break, and after the challenging Christmas break we had this year, I was so grateful we had already booked this trip for a serious dose of rest and relaxation.

We booked a week at the Crown Paradise Club. My requirements for booking a resort were these: not too far from the airport, super kid-friendly, serves daiquiris, and has hot weather. The Crown Paradise Club met all of these, even beyond our expectations. This resort is perfect for families. I actually would probably not go here unless I was with children, because there were kids everywhere. In a great way though. There was a ton for them to do.

Here's a quick recap of our trip according to my iPhone!


This was me mid-packing. I spent more time thinking about the books I wanted to bring than I did about the clothing. I ended up reading Queen of Shadows, Empire of Storms, and The Girl Who Chased the Moon throughout our trip.

While in Mexico, I pretty much lived in this J. Crew bathing suit and cover up, and these Gap shorts (in blue denim). I also brought and loved this dress from Old Navy and a tank similar to this one from Lululemon.

#becauselife, I ended up insanely ill the morning we left for Mexico. I was nauseous and sick and I, quite honestly, barely made it onto the plane. I'm not sure if I ate something bad the day before or what, but I spent the first two and a half days of our trip basically living in our hotel room, drinking water, and eating soda crackers. Thankfully, this was the view from our balcony.


Rob and Sebastian did a ton of fun activites at the resort though. The kids club there has organized and supervised activites all day long and a massive kids waterpark. They had water ballon fights, piñata-making, a chocolate eating contest, cookie decorating, and different movies in a real movie theatre each night. The staff there were very friendly and knew Sebastian by name within a day or two.

Tip - if you want to leave your child/children for the themed evening activity, you need to pre-register. There's no cost, but that is the only time the kids club is not drop off.





Sebastian especially loved the rainbow drinks and elephant towel!









Finally, on Day 4 of our 7-day trip, I was feeling better.



The last four days we swam, beached, and played a boatload of mini golf. There was a course right at the resort, and it was one of Sebastian's favourite activities.










The water was beautiful and warm and the sunsets were extraordinary. There was bar right on the beach, and often we could get service right to our beach chairs. You do need to play the game of reserving your lounge chairs by the main pool or the beach (if you want a cabana to provide some shade) by 7 or 8am. We also really loved the covered pool. It's not as busy, and still has plenty of sunshine.


 



We would absolutely go back to the Crown Paradise Club. There was a whole teen section we didn't even get a chance to explore with a larger waterslides, a rockclimbing wall, and a zipline.

And, mostly, it was so lovely to get away somewhere warm together as a family.

xo
Jenn



Monday, 3 April 2017

Goodnight From London by Jennifer Robson - Book Review


My friend and fellow writer, Lia Davis Munro, has a term for strong and determined female characters in literature. She calls them "gutsy heroines." Ruby Sutton, from Goodnight From London by Jennifer Robson, is absolutely one of these gutsy heroines.

Ruby is a young American journalist. As WWII breaks out in Europe, Ruby is sent to London, England to work for a local magazine covering the war. Even during wartime, Ruby is excited about this new opportunity to start fresh across the ocean and leave the secrets of her past behind. In London she forms bonds with many new friends at her work, especially as they live through the nightly horrors of the Blitz. Ruby depends on the kindness of strangers to help her keep going both as she takes on new projects in her magazine and as she falls for a captain in the military who has his own secrets to hide.

Redbook described Goodnight From London as, "An enchanting historical fiction reading experience that will break your heart only to put it back together again, Goodnight From London is the ultimate trifecta of suspense, romance, and unputdownable prose." I couldn't agree more. I have been a Jennifer Robson fan for awhile, and Goodnight From London was just as wonderful as I had hoped it would be.

This book is a tribute to the entire generation of World War II. Whether they were on the battlefield or at home waiting for loved ones to return, men and women all over London fought to endure during a time when they were faced with darkness each and every day. Ruby's story is a story of hope, a story of friendship, and a story of love.

Finally, I always love learning about how authors are inspired for the different stories that they write. What is interesting to keep in mind while reading Goodnight From London is that parts of the story are inspired by the wartime experiences of Jennifer Robson's own grandmother.




Goodnight From London comes out April 11th in Canada and May 2nd everywhere else. It is available for preorder here. Be sure to check out more from Jennifer Robson on Facebook and her website. And if you are in Toronto on May 9th, Jennifer Robson has a free speaking event at one of the local Toronto Public Libraries. Here are the details.

If this book sounds like something you'd love, also check out my review of Jennifer Robson's Moonlight Over Paris.

xo
Jenn

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

My New "Go To" Dessert (that is wicked simple, but seems fancy at the same time)

We visit Collingwood, Ontario a few times a year, and I always try to stop by the Collingwood Olive Oil Company. This adorable little store has over 50 different olive oils and balsamic vinegars to try!

My mom introduced me to all of these delicious oils and vinegars a few years ago. I love their basil-infused olive oil, and when I was at the Collingwood Olive Oil Co this weekend, I tasted their Neapolitan Herb Balsamic.

My absolute favourite though is their Decadence duo. This pair turns a simple bowl of ice cream into a yummy and unique dessert. The Decadence Duo is made up of a bottle of Blood Orange Olive Oil and a bottle of Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar



Begin with a bowl of regular vanilla ice cream.


Top with 1 teaspoon of blood orange olive oil first. Then add 1 teaspoon of the dark chocolate balsamic vinegar.




And voilà! The easiest, three ingredient dessert you ever did make. Fancy enough to serve at a your next dinner party and yummy enough that it also passed the 4 year old's taste test.  I'd garnish with sliced strawberries or clementine pieces.

The best way to check out the Collingwood Olive Oil Company is if you are able to visit the store and taste their products; however, they also ship within Canada. The Decadence gift set is $10 (+ shipping). 

xo
Jenn

Friday, 10 February 2017

Celebrate Valentine's Day With a Harlequin Prize Pack!



Last week my friend and I attended a romance author event at a local library. We started reading romance a few years ago (and even took a road trip to stay at Nora Roberts' actual Inn Boonsboro). We weren't sure what to expect when we went to the library event, but we ended up having so much fun!

We listened to award-winning author Molly O'Keefe talk about the role that romance books have played in her life and how she became a romance author herself. Though it was not an especially large event, there were certainly women there of all walks of life. I think Dani and I were actually the youngest people there!

Yet, instantly we felt welcomed and connected through our shared interest in the genre, and this author event ended up being a place for everyone to talk about romance in a non-judgmental environment. 

Importantly, romance has allowed women's sexuality to be talked about in a positive way and encourages optimism in how relationships work out. Whatever kind of problem or experience you are having in your life right now, you can find a romance novel with that theme and then be able to read a story of a heroine who perseveres. As readers, we want the authors to take us on an emotional journey, but reading is our way to relax and with this genre we can always trust the authors to deliver a happily ever after. Some of my favourite romance authors are Bella Andre, Nora Roberts, and Sarah Morgan.

In the spirit of love, Valentine's Day, and happily ever afters, Harlequin Books is giving away a fantastic prize pack to one of my readers! 




The prize pack includes:

  • 4 newly published paperback books 
      • Forged in Desire by Brenda Jackson
      • The Last Di Sione Claims His Prize by Maisy Yates
      • Her Secret Fortune by Stella Bagwell
      • Courting the Cowboy by Carolyne Aarsen
  • 1 newly published e-book
      • Rough & Tumble by Rhenna Morgan
  • Fringe Studio Water Studies Sunrise Square Soap
  • 1 Heart Stud Pouch

To enter fill out the Rafflecopter below. Open to residents in the U.S. and Canada (excluding Québec, unfortunately.) Contest closes February 15th.

xo
Jenn

Thursday, 9 February 2017

A Certain Age - Book Review



The bestselling author of A Hundred Summers, brings the Roaring Twenties brilliantly to life in this enchanting and compulsively readable tale of intrigue, romance, and scandal in New York Society, brimming with lush atmosphere, striking characters, and irresistible charm.

As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. An intense and deeply honorable man, Octavian is devoted to the beautiful socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband. 

But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor. Engaging a longstanding family tradition, Theresa enlists the Boy to act as her brother’s cavalier, presenting the family’s diamond rose ring to Ox’s intended, Miss Sophie Fortescue—and to check into the background of the little-known Fortescue family. When Octavian meets Sophie, he falls under the spell of the pretty ingénue, even as he uncovers a shocking family secret. As the love triangle of Theresa, Octavian, and Sophie progresses, it transforms into a saga of divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists that will lead to a shocking transgression . . . and eventually force Theresa to make a bittersweet choice.

Full of the glamour, wit and delicious twists that are the hallmarks of Beatriz Williams’ fiction and alternating between Sophie’s spirited voice and Theresa’s vibrant timbre, A Certain Age is a beguiling reinterpretation of Richard Strauss’s comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, set against the sweeping decadence of Gatsby’s New York.


Synopsis via Goodreads

As a lover of both historical fiction and Downton Abbey, I was delighted to pick up a copy of A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams. It opens with a newspaper article for a murder trial and then we are taken a few months back in time to begin the story. For me this was a very atmospheric read. Gatsby-esque with romance and a murder mystery. I particularly loved the strong female characters who had me rooting for them throughout the novel. I also enjoyed the writing style. I love it when a book speaks directly to the reader now and then, like a cheeky little secret. It adds an element of fun to the story. It did take me 40 pages or so to settle into this book, but overall if you're craving a book about the roaring 20s, this will certainly be the perfect read for you!


You can connect with Beatriz Williams on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and her website.

A Certain Age is available for purchase from Amazon and HarperCollins.

xo
Jenn



Disclaimer - I received a copy of A Certain Age courtesy of HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 30 January 2017

La boîte à bonbons



If you're one of those "new year new me" people, this may not be the post for you. But if you're like me, and think that the very best thing that goes with report card writing are fancy candies, then read on!

La boîte à bonbons is a French Canadian subscription box service. Each month you receive 1kg of candy made up of four different flavours in your box. When you select your subscription, you can choose either sour, soft, or a mix. I was happy to receive a mixed box!

I loved the gummy strawberries and sour cherries the best. Sebastian enjoyed the black and white gummy penguin candies!

Cost - $25/month with a subscription. $30 to try a single box. Shipping is free within Ontario and Quebec.

These made the perfect treat while I've been trying to write 120 report cards this week! All of the candy was delicious and very fresh. There was quite a good amount in each bag, so it's lasted us a while :)  This is the perfect treat for any candy lover.

xo
Jenn




Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Help Them Heal - An Infographic of Childhood Grief and Trauma

One issue that has become close to my heart in the past month is that of childhood grief. It's not a topic we ever hope to have to learn about, but it is important information to be aware of should a tragedy happen in the life of a child we know.

Earlier this week I shared that one of my students, along his family, died unexpectedly over the holidays. My friends, colleagues, students, and I have been walking through this challenging time together, and the support of the grief counsellors available has been exceptional. In the past few weeks, my awareness about and experience with childhood grief (and adult grief for that matter) have been at the forefront of my day.

And as an example of how the universe works in mysterious ways, unaware of my own personal experiences these past few weeks, a social worker from Early Childhood Education Degrees reached out to me to ask if I'd be open to sharing this infographic with my readers. I responded with telling her how this has quickly become an issue that is very close to me, and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to share this information with as many people as I can.

Childhood grief and trauma is so hard to think about, but I hope you take a few minutes to look over the infographic or even bookmark it and should you ever need it, it's here.

xo
Jenn

“Childhood



Source: Early Childhood Education Degrees.com

Monday, 16 January 2017

What An Author And A Tragedy Taught Me About My To Do List



Last summer my friend and I went to hear Emma Straub speak about her new book, Modern Lovers. She gave a lovely interview at a local library, speaking easily about her books and her life. Afterwards, I purchased a copy of Modern Lovers which she signed personally with little hearts decorating the first page. While the book sits, unfortunately still unread, on my bookshelf, there is a message from that evening that I have since carried with me.

I don't remember the question she was asked exactly, but I think it had something to do with her transition to motherhood and how she felt with this new stage of life. This was her response:

"I realized I am now fully in my life. There is no more practise. No more waiting."

She said it in a very light-hearted way, but her comment has stayed with me for months.

Emma followed with,
"The idea that we will at one point 'arrive into our lives' and everything falls into place is a myth."

These two thoughts have really struck a cord in me. As someone who loves notepads, calendars, lists, and agendas, I have always thought that if I could just finish my to do list, if I could just get X number of things done, I would finally be able to begin my life. But, as Emma so clearly says, this is a total myth. There will always be something to do and something to deal with. Some of it wonderful, which is the very best part of life, and some of it not so wonderful.

Not long ago, I attended the funeral of a family I knew. A whole family. Two of my students and their parents died in a cottage fire on Christmas Eve. Listening to the eulogies for four gentle, kind, and generous people in a row who had all died unexpectedly was profoundly heartbreaking. I am certain that there was not a single person who left the church that day unmoved. Without some sense of the preciousness of time which we have been given.

In the days that have followed, I have shed tears for this family for so many different reasons. I am so sad for this loss in not just in my life, but in the lives of so many other people I know who were close with this family, most of them children. I have been reminded just how much energy it takes to be strong for the ones we care about and how scary it feels when we fall apart. Practically, I am terrified that trauma could happen within my own family. I have asked myself what exactly brings me joy in my life and how I can make sure to fill my life as much as possible with those things. My priorities have been realigned.

Just so we're on the same page, this is not a carpe diem post. We all have days where things are hard and we'd rather close the book on the day rather than seize it. This is okay. As Glennon Doyle Melton says, "I can't even carpe fifteen minutes in a row, so a whole diem is out of the question."

We must give ourselves permission to have these hard days. But, we do need to recognize that if we're living in the mindset of simply "what's next?" we'll never stop to enjoy what is. Our to do lists will never really end, so we need to carpe the wonderful moments when they come to us. Even, and maybe especially, amidst the chaos. These moments of joy will not appear on our to do lists, and they cannot be goals attained only when "everything else" is finished. They almost always appear organically.

So I encourage you, and have tried doing this more myself, to see more of the good moments within the business of the day. Have an extra cup of coffee in the morning or glass of wine in the evening. Read your book now and not later. Stop and look at your children. Like really see them. What are they saying? Spread kindness around like confetti and make someone's day when you can. Travel. Smile. Because this is it. This is the good part. We are now fully in our lives. And even on the bad days, the heavy days, however many or few they may be, let's allow ourselves to feel what we are feeling with no guilt. And then get up the next day and try again.

xo
Jenn

PS - Anyone looking for resources to help with childhood grief and trauma can start here.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Hunted by Meagan Spooner - Book Review



I'm so excited today to tell you about one of the books I read over the holiday break!

Hunted, by Meagan Spooner, is a dark and twisty retelling of Beauty and the Beast. After her family loses their estate, Yeva, whose childhood nickname was Beauty, her sisters and her father are forced to move into a hunting cottage at the edge of town. Her father tries to hunt for them, but after he fails to return one day, Yeva sets out to search for him. Unfortunately, she is captured by the Beast who is certain that Yeva is the key to releasing him from his curse.

When it comes to books that are fairy tale retellings, I have high expectations. Classics are classics for a reason. Especially one like Beauty and the Beast that is in the spotlight this year because of the upcoming movie.

In Hunted, I think that the author did an excellent job of retelling a story we all know well and adding in other elements to make it unique and captivating. Interwoven into this Beauty and the Beast story is also the Russian fairy tale "Tsarevitch Ivan, the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf."

Yeva is a strong character, and her connection to the Beast is not Disney-fairy-tale-like in any way, which I really appreciated as a reader. I think it's important to acknowledge that your readership knows a complicated relationship when they see one, and that making love overly simple will be a turn off.

Most of this book is told from Yeva's point of view. Then, after each chapter, we read these beautiful, short, haunting pages told from the Beast's perspective. You see his character's evolution and struggle as both man and beast throughout the novel.



And don't be concerned like I was when you see Hunted #1 as a title online. I was worried there would be a cliffhanger ending, but that's not the case. I am curious where the story will go next though if a Hunted #2 coming our way in the future!


The parallel themes of being taken to an unfamiliar, predatory world, as well as a heroine's inner struggle to both provide for her family and forge her own path will ensure that fans of Sarah J Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses enjoy this book. Yet, the worlds created by Maas and Spooner are also different enough that they are certainly each their own story.






Hunted is available here on Amazon.

You can also connect with Meagan Spooner on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, and her website.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did! I think fantasy YA is going to be my preferred genre of 2017 :)

xo
Jenn

PS - My beautiful Beauty and the Beast bookmark is from Lexy Olivia.


Disclaimer - I received a copy of Hunted courtesy of HarperCollinsCanada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 9 January 2017

My 2017 Reading Goals



Last week I shared my 2016 Reading Recap, so now I'm ready to share my reading goals for 2017. Rather than focus on reading a specific number of books, I have certain authors and series I want to read. Plus I also want to focus on reading the books I have at home sitting unread on my bookshelves!

Series and groups of books

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (Along with A Court of Mist and Fury and then A Court of Wings and Ruin when it comes out this spring)

Throne of Glass series also by Sarah J. Maas. (This was very quickly bumped up much higher on my reading list, because I'm currently in the middle of the ACOTAR series I mentioned above, and it's so amazing. I hear this series is just as good.)

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (I think there are currently 8 published books in this series and each are about 900 pages long so......gulp!)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor (One of my friends has been begging me to read these books basically since I met her. I feel like since I'm on a series trend this year, it's a good time to finally get into this one too.)

Blogger Girl and Novelista Girl by Meredith Schorr (A cute duology about a book blogger!)

Veronica Mars - The Thousand Dollar Tan Line and Mr. Kiss and Tell (Rob and I binged this series in 2016, so I really want to see how the books pick up the story!)

One and Only by Lauren Sandler and Parenting an Only Child by Susan Newman (Since it's likely Seb will be an only child, I'm curious what other mamas have to share about their experiences raising only children.)


All of the unread books on my shelves by C, D, E, and F authors 

I have a terrible habit of picking up books and taking months years to actually read them. If for no other reason than to create space for new books, I really need to get a move on the unread stack of books in my house.

In one of my organizational sprees last year I sorted my books alphabetically, so I've picked out the unread books by authors with a last name that begins with C, D, E, and F and hope to read them in 2017.




Anything I haven't yet read by Sarah Addison Allen

The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Lost Lake
Waking Kate

Book Club, Blog Reviews, and other books I really want to check out this year

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson
The Self-Care Solution by Julie Burton
The Witches of New York by Ami McKay
A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams
A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
I Found You by Lisa Jewell

Ready Player One

Rob and I started reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline together last year. We had this great idea to read a chapter together before bed every so often, and only got a very small way into the book before Netflix took over. I really want us to finish it this year!

Holiday reading

I didn't get to them this year, so I already have these three books for 2017 Nov/Dec holiday reading:
1. Christmas in Cowboy Country by Janet Dailey
2. Coming Home for Christmas by Julia Williams
3. Tree of Treasures by Bonnie Mackay




Overall, my list is about 65 books long, and I've started with the Sarah J. Maas books. What about you? Did you make any reading goals this year?

xo
Jenn

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