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.


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.


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 :)


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?


Monday, 2 January 2017

2016 Reading Recap

In January I pledged to read 50 books with the 50 Book Pledge. I ended up jumping into this pledge with every spare minute I could find because I have finished the year having read a total of 85 books!

Here's my year in books!

The Choice, Nicholas Sparks
The 5th Wave, Rick Yancey
The Infinite Sea, Rick Yancey (Book 2 of The 5th Wave trilogy)
Untamed, Nora Roberts

The Golden Son, Shilpi Somaya Gowda (full review here)
Something Like Love, Sara Richardson
The Mountain Story, Lori Lansens (Read this book!! It's so good!)
Emmy Nation, Lia Davis Munro (full review here)
UnSweetined, Jodie Sweetin

They Left Us Everything, Plum Johnson
Live With Intention, Mary Anne Radmacher
The Best of Me, Nicholas Sparks
Glory In Death, J. D. Robb
Somewhere in France, Jennifer Robson
In the Context of Love, Linda Sienkiewicz (full review here)

When I'm Gone, Emily Bleeker (full review here)
Holiday With The Best Man, Kate Hardy
Stranded With the Rancher, Janice Maynard
The Husband's Secret, Liane Moriarty
Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell
Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?, Timothy Caulfield

The O'Hurley Born - The Last Honest Woman/Dance to the Piper, Nora Roberts
Dear Emma, Katie Heaney
Rebel Sisters, Marita Conlon-McKenna (full review here)
The Last Star, Rick Yancey (Book 3 of The 5th Wave trilogy)
He Will Be My Ruin, K. A. Tucker (full review here)
The Widow, Fiona Barton
Connected Underneath, Linda Legters (full review here)

The Wife's Tale, Lori Lansens
The Quinn Legacy - Inner Harbor and Chesapeake Blue, Nora Roberts
Frosted Cowboy, Charlene Ross
Fatal Affair, Marie Force (full review here)
Sleepless in Manhattan, Sarah Morgan (full review here)

July (summer vacation!!)
With All Due Respect, Ronald G. Morrish
Neverwhere, Niel Gaiman
Dark Witch, Nora Roberts (Book 1 of The Cousins O'Dwyer trilogy)
Shadow Spell, Nora Roberts (Book 2 of The Cousins O'Dwyer trilogy)
Blood Magick, Nora Roberts (Book 3 of The Cousins O'Dwyer trilogy)
Cordina's Crown Jewel, Nora Roberts
Run the World, Becky Wade (full review here)
The Look of Love, Bella Andre
The Way You Look Tonight, Bella Andre
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Mindset, Carol S. Dweck

August (more vacation!!)
Jane Steele, Lindsay Faye
Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen
The Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen
The Sugar Queen, Sarah Addison Allen
Over Easy, Pamela Ford (full review here)
Fresh Brewed, Pamela Ford (full review here)
Fire Brand, Diana Palmer (full review here)
Come a Little Bit Closer, Bella Andre
Save the Date, Mary Kay Andrews
Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling

The Things We Wish Were True, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen (full review here)
Night Shield, Nora Roberts
All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
First Frost, Sarah Addison Allen
Coraline, Neil Gaiman

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh
The Sapphire Affair, Lauren Blakely
The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness, Maddie Dawson (full review here)
Her Halloween Treat, Tiffany Reisz
The Choices We Make, Karma Brown
Sunset in Central Park, Sarah Morgan
The Light of Paris, Eleanor Brown

The Nest, Kenneth Oppel
Cowboy in the Making, Julie Benson
I Just Want to be Perfect - Anthology by so many amazing bloggers
Miracle on 5th Avenue - Sarah Morgan (full review here)
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend - Katarina Bivald
Can't Help Falling in Love, Bella Andre
Counting by 7s, Holly Goldberg Sloan
Come Away With Me, Karma Brown

Under the Influence, Joyce Maynard (full review here)
My Brown-Eyed Earl, Anna Bennett
Marlene, C. W. Gortner (full review here)
Sleigh Bells in the Snow, Sarah Morgan
The Taste of Air, Gail Cleare (full review here)
'Twas the Week Before Christmas, Olivia Miles
Hunted, Meagan Spooner
Kiss Me Like This, Bella Andre

Also - if you track your books on Goodreads, they create a funky infographic with all of your books at the end of the year. Here are my highlights!

Stay tuned for my 2017 reading goals soon. Rather than focusing on a number, I have a few series and authors I'm hoping to target.