Monday, March 30, 2015

On the Topic Of...My High School Experience

Though I’ve been blogging for close to 5 years now, I don’t often find myself getting particularly personal on the blog. Sure, if you’ve been following my reviews for a while or if you follow me on Twitter you probably know some things about me outside of what I like to read and what I like to watch in terms of TV shows and movies. But I haven’t necessarily shared that much beyond that. Not because I have anything to hide or I want to protect my identity. Considering my name is quite easy to find on the Internet because of the blog or my job, that ship sailed a long time ago. 

But I thought I would do something a little different today, share a little more about me that might give you more insight into why I read the books I do or why I react to things the way I do. This is not going to get overly dramatic or dark. At all. So here’s the thing, at some point over the course of the last almost five years, you might have seen me mention going home and that typically involves planes. That’s because compared to most people, I didn’t exactly have a typical middle/high school experience. I say that in the sense that from the age of 11 onwards, I went to an international school because my parents’ jobs led to us moving overseas. 

So what does that actually mean? Well for starters, I went to the same school from grade 6 until I graduated high school. But even though I went to the same school for 7 years, I didn’t even come close to graduating with people who I had known since grade 6. Because that’s the nature of an international school, people come and go, often never staying for longer than 3 or 4 years. So I got really good at saying goodbye to friends and making new ones. So the idea of having grown up with someone, of meeting someone in kindergarten and still being friends with them when high school graduation? Completely lost on me. I would be hard pressed to tell you the name of even one person I went to kindergarten with. But it’s not just the constant rotation of people that made my high school so different from what is considered to be “typical” or like the ones I see in book. My high school was basically this little bubble. Everyone knew each other because there were barely over 100 people in my graduating class, barely over 400 people in grades 10 through 12. And sure there were different “groups,” I had my group of friends I hung out with most of the time, but everyone was pretty much friends with everyone. It might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s really not. 

On my surface, my high school looked like any other, but when you dig a little deeper, it really wasn’t. I was on the track and cross-country teas and I had meets every weekend. But instead of competing against schools in our region/district/county/etc., my meets involved travelling to other countries for the day. And instead of having state championships at the end of each season, I had European championships where I competed against other international schools in Europe. The same thing applies about the field trips I went on. I would go on weeklong field trips to other countries, often related to what we were studying. When we were studying the Renaissance we went to Italy, when studying the World Wars we went to Normandy. It was definitely a different experience than what I would have gotten if my family had stayed in Canada.

And as you might have guessed, going to an international school meant going to school with people from all over the world. Sure there was an large American population at my school, but there were people from all over Europe and many from Asia thrown in for good measure. Just within my main group of friends, there were people of 13 different nationalities and those people are now spread out all over the world. Literally. Luckily my best friend ended up going to school about 5 hours away from me, but for the most part people are now all over the world. Most of them I haven’t seen since we graduated six years ago. Not because I haven’t wanted to see them, but because it’s just not feasible because of geography. 

Whenever I read books, and this is especially true of contemporary, I see these events the characters go to, or the relationships that some of the characters have and they’re often things I’ve never experienced. I thought about that when I read Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You. The relationship that Paige has with her three best friends is something I’ve never had. Of course I have friends. And being in my twenties, some of those friends are ones I’ve had for a long time now. But I can’t say that I have the kind of friendship with my friends that Paige has with her’s. That feeling of knowing everything about your friends because you’ve lived through it with them, of having someone who knows exactly what you’re talking about because they were right there with you for it. I have some of that, but never to the extent that I often see in books.

And then there are the books about sports. I’m drawn to those to begin with because I consider myself to be a pretty athletic person and I was involved with sports in school, but there’s more to it than that. It’s always interesting for me to see how into sports and school spirit students and their community can get. My school had a football team. And they had games that people went to. But to be completely honest, the bleachers were often pretty sparse and for most of my time in middle and high school, our football team wasn’t exactly the greatest. So seeing a whole town go all out for a football game the way you see in Catching Jordan or for a baseball game like in Play On is completely foreign. My school’s understanding of Homecoming was that all the sports team had home games that weekend. There was no dance involved, no huge football game (just a regular one that drew a slightly bigger crowd). For the most part, it was just a weekend like any other. 

So what’s the real point of this post, you might be wondering. My experience doesn’t even come close to what I read in most YA books, which is why I can find them so interesting. And my background probably affects my reviews of those books. I can relate to some aspects, but for the most part what I read is so completely different from what I experienced. There aren’t really any books out there that reflect my experience. Or at least I haven’t found them. Anna and the French Kiss and Isla and the Happily Ever After sort of come close, but my school wasn’t a boarding school and it wasn’t open to people of just one nationality. So even then, it’s still not really the same. To my knowledge, there aren’t really any YA books that accurately represent going to high school overseas the way I did. If you know of any, please let me know because I would love to read them!

Hopefully this post wasn’t too long and rambly, and hopefully you learned a little more about me! I am curious though, have you been able to find books that are pretty representative of your own high school experience?

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

Title: The Start of Me and You
Author: Emery Lord
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Following her pitch-perfect debut Open Road Summer, Emery Lord pens another gorgeous story of best friends, new love, & second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school…and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

Emery Lord wrote one of my favourite books of 2014. As a result, I couldn’t possibly been more excited about her new book, The Start of Me and You. So much so that I’ve already read the book twice and it still isn’t out for another few days. But that’s the kind of book The Start of Me and You is, a book you can reread over and over again, and each time it gets even better.

For the past years, Paige Hancock has been dealing with her grief, trying to move one from being the girl whose boyfriend died in a freak drowning accident. But it hasn’t been easy. Everywhere she goes, people give her That Look. The look that tells Paige people feel pity for her. And she hates. With the start of a new school year, Paige decides that it’s time for her to start living her life again. So she makes a plan and it should all be simple enough. Find a way to go out with Ryan Chase, the guy she’s been crushing on since the sixth grade, join a club, make new friends. It’s all simple enough. But then Ryan’s cousin Max transfers back to their school and Paige’s plan starts to go off track. But in deviating from her plan, Paige just might start living more than she thought she would, and learn all about second chances.

Open Road Summer was one of my favourites of 2014. I just couldn’t say enough good things about it, and it left me absolutely desperate for more from Emery Lord. And then I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of The Start of Me and You. As much as I wanted to wait until closer to the release date, I couldn’t help myself and pretty much read it right away. And I ADORED it. And then this past week I read it AGAIN. And loved it even more. That’s just the kind of story Emery Lord wrote, one you can read over and over again and never get tired of it. If anything, it will get even better every time. And that’s just because the story itself is absolutely beautiful and perfect. And there’s so much to love in this story. Yes there’s romance, but that’s not really the point of this story. When I was reading it felt like The Start of Me and You was so much more about the friendship than it was about the romance. It was about the longtime friendship between Paige and her girlfriends. It was about her new friendships with Ryan and Max. And to some extent it was about her friendship with the members of her family. And I absolutely LOVED that about the book. I loved seeing all the friendships grow and develop. And I loved how it led to the best and most satisfying slow burn romance I’ve read in a long time. The romance between the characters didn’t come as a surprise, not in the least. That was the point. But I still loved seeing it all happen.

I can’t even begin to explain how much I loved Paige. Right from page one, she was someone I wanted to be friends with. If I’m being completely honest, I would love nothing more than to become part of her group of friends so I could hang out with Morgan, Tessa and Kayleigh. Those girls’ friendship is a friendship I would love to have. But Paige was also her own person outside of her friends, even if she struggled with figuring out who exactly that was. And I loved seeing her figure it out. Especially with Max along for the ride. And Max was just perfect. Well, he wasn’t actually, but that’s what really made him perfect. But in all seriousness, Max was the nerdy guy of my dreams. As much as I love reading about bad boys or athletes or broody guys, the nerdy ones are my favourites. And I have made it my goal to find myself a real, live Max. Apart from my love of him, I loved seeing the relationship grow and evolve between Paige and Max. Seeing them go from being friends while Paige still thinks she wants to be with someone else. And then seeing them come to the realization that they were becoming more than friends. All of it just warmed my heart and the adorableness was almost too much to handle at times. Just read the book, you’ll understand what I mean.

With The Start of Me and You, Emery Lord has easily become one of my favourite authors and one whose books I will automatically buy. Just do yourself a favour and buy a copy of the book because you’ll just fall in love with this story. And if you need some more convincing, I’ll leave you with this quote from the book. It’s perfectly describes how I felt rereading The Start of Me and You.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Where Sea Meets Sky by Karina Halle

Title: Where Sea Meets Sky
Author: Karina Halle
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
A new adult novel that perfectly captures the existential angst of your early twenties with raw wit, fresh insight, and true feeling from a critically adored USA TODAY bestselling author.

Joshua Miles has spent his early twenties spinning his wheels. Working dead-end jobs and living at home has left him exhausted and uninspired, with little energy to pursue his passion for graphic art. Until he meets Gemma Henare, a vivacious out-of-towner from New Zealand. What begins as a one-night stand soon becomes a turning point for Josh. He can’t get Gemma out of his head, even after she has left for home, and finds himself throwing caution to the wind for the first time in his life.

It’s not long before Josh is headed to New Zealand with only a backpack, some cash, and Gemma’s name to go on. But when he finally tracks her down, he finds his adventure is only just beginning. Equally infatuated, Gemma leads him on a whirlwind tour across the beautiful country, opening Josh up to life, lust, love, and all the messy heartache in between. Because, when love drags you somewhere, it might never let go even when you know you have to say goodbye.

Books that feature travel are some of my favourites to read. So whenever I hear of a book where the characters are travelling, it automatically gets added to my to-read list. That’s how I found myself being interested in Karina Halle’s Where Sea Meets Sky. I knew the travelling alone would hold my attention. Though it didn’t hurt that the story completely grabbed me as well.

On the night he met Gemma, Josh never expected that his life would take an unexpected turn. Until that night, he was working dead-end jobs, saving money in the hope of being accepted to art school in order to pursue his dream of being a graphic artist. But after meeting Gemma and spending a night with her, Josh’s life changes. He can’t get the New Zealander out of his head, and before he has time to overthink it, Josh hops on a plane to New Zealand, hoping to see Gemma again. In New Zealand, Josh finds Gemma and together they go on a road trip, exploring the country. On the road together, Gemma and Josh can’t deny the connection they feel, but will they be willing to let the other in when they know whatever they have will end once Josh leaves?

I’m not going to lie, the traveling aspect of the story is what initially drew me to Karina Halle’s Where Sea Meets Sky. Well, that and the fact that it was New Adult. I read the description and it sounded interesting beyond just the traveling around New Zealand aspect. I figured this was a story that, if nothing else, I would likely enjoy. What I didn’t expect was how much I loved it and how much some of the themes and characters resonated with me. First and foremost, I would say that Where Sea Meets Sky is a love story. This is about Josh and Gemma opening themselves up to the idea of falling in love and basically falling in love in the process. But it was also about two individuals trying to figure out their lives. That’s the part that really resonated with me. Both Gemma and Josh are in this sort of transitional period, where they mostly know what they want to be doing with their lives, they’re just struggling with how to get there. That idea of having a goal and working towards it because that’s what you feel like you should be doing even if it’s not really what you want to be doing. That, right there, resonated with me so much. It’s the point I’m at in my life. I have a university degree, I have a job that’s related to my degree, but is it really what I want to be doing? I have goals, I more or less know how to make them happen, but I’m not necessarily going to extra lengths to make them happen. And Where Sea Meets Sky got me thinking about that. It got me asking myself what I’m doing with my life. And if only for that, I loved this story. There’s nothing better than a story that makes you think and question your own life. So needless to say that because of that, I was able to relate quite a bit to Josh and Gemma.

I was a little skeptical about Josh and Gemma when I first started reading. I mean, things between them happen pretty fast and escalate pretty fast. But granted, that’s the nature of a one night stand. Which is what both of them thought it was. Except it wasn’t really. And that’s where I got a little skeptical. Because both of them kind of became very much focused on the other even though they knew they would likely never see each other again. But even though I was skeptical, I admired Josh for his impulsive decision to just go for it. To hop on a plane to New Zealand and go for what he wanted. So often, I wish I could be like that. But I’m not. Though like I’ve said, the book definitely got me thinking about it. But as much as I admired Josh for that, Gemma I had a tendency to get a little more annoyed with. I wanted her to once and for all make a choice about who she wanted to be with and stop jerking Josh around. And I wanted her to stand up for herself and realize that she deserved so much better than her ex. But as the story moved along, I started liking her more and more as I understood where she was coming from and what she was trying to move on from. And I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that by the end of the book I was completely rooting for Josh and Gemma.

Karina Halle’s Where Sea Meets Sky took me completely by surprise. This story made me think in ways I didn’t expect and gave me characters I could relate to in ways I didn’t know I would. I can't wait to read the companion, Racing the Sun, and finding out more about one of the characters I met in this story. In the meantime, excuse me while I go look up flights to New Zealand…

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Blog Tour - We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach + Giveaway

Title: We All Looked Up
Author: Tommy Wallach
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Release Date: March 31st, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.

They always say that high school is the best time of your life.

Peter, the start basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.

Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I was curious about Tommy Wallach’s We All Looked Up when I first heard about it. Mostly because I didn’t know what to make of it. But then more and more people were talking about it and I knew I had to read it. And I am more than happy that I did.

Thought everyone always says high school is the best time of your life, most can’t help but think about what life will hold for them once high school is finished. There’s a whole world to explore after graduation. Whether that’s going to college or just trying to figure out who you are, there all these possibilities. But what if those possibilities suddenly disappear. For four high school seniors, that’s exactly what happens. As they get ready for their final semester of high school, an asteroid is flying to space, straight for Earth. There’s no way to know if they will survive or if the asteroid will wipe away everyone. In those final weeks, Peter, Anita, Eliza and Andy figure out how they’re going to be spending their last days on Earth.

Here’s the thing about We All Looked Up. It wasn’t what I expected at all. Not in the least. But I pretty much loved it because of that. The synopsis does give a sort of idea of what this story is going to be about. But at the same time, it doesn’t. And that’s really for the best. If I had known everything I needed to about this story before I started reading, then I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. And it definitely wouldn’t have packed the same punch. This story sort of creeped up on me. For a while, I didn’t know how it was going to all fit together. But then everything clicked and I couldn’t stop reading. I was afraid of what would happen to these characters, to what happened to the planet, but I couldn’t look away. It was just so interesting to see the way the world was reacting in the face of the impending end of the world. Not only that, but it also got me thinking, about what I would do if I were ever put in the situation all those people were put in. What would I do if I knew that there was a pretty strong chance that I would be dying along with the rest of the world in just a few weeks? I don’t know what I would do. And to be completely honest, I’m hoping I never have to find out. I’ve said already that We All Looked Up wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. And the ending has a lot to do with that. The ending was not the one I thought it was going to be, not even close. This ending, and what comes before it, will punch you in the gut and leave you a little raw. Or at least that’s what it did for me.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about having this story told from four different perspectives. I just wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to work. Having now read the book, I couldn’t imagine the story told any other way. It just worked to have this story told from Peter, Eliza, Andy and Anita’s perspectives. These were four people who never would have really spent any time together if it weren’t for the impending end of the world. I really enjoyed seeing how the four of them were brought together because of their circumstances, and I couldn’t help but wonder if these people would have found each other without an asteroid coming for them. Regardless of that, I just loved seeing the friendships grow, and the romance develop between some of them. And much like with the story as a whole, none of these characters were who I thought they were going to be. When I was first introduced to each of them, I inevitably went to typical stereotypes and I was later happy to be proven wrong about each of them. Anita was so much more than just a Type A overachiever. Andy was more than just a skater and he deserved so much more credit than people gave him credit for. There was a lot more to Peter than a basketball-playing jock. And to say that people had Eliza pegged completely wrong would be a gross understatement. At the end of the day, these four teens were just trying to figure out their lives, hoping to be able to do so before the world ending. No pressure.

Tommy Wallach’s We All Looked Up was different from what I expected in the best way possible. This story got me thinking, got me questioning what I would do if I were faced with the world ending. And this book punched me right in the gut. Again, in the best way imaginable. 

Favorite Quotes

As part of the tour, I was asked to share some of my favorite quotes from We All Looked Up. This is the kind of book that has so many amazing words and passages and it made it hard to pick just a few. So here are three of my favorites.


Win 1 of 3 finished copies of We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach. To enter, just use the Rafflecopter form below. US ONLY.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Leaving Amarillo by Caisey Quinn

Title: Leaving Amarillo (Neon Dreams #1)
Author: Caisey Quinn
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Nashville meets New Adult in Neon Dreams, a dramatic, sexy series from bestselling author Caisey Quinn, about a country band’s rocket road to fame—and the ambition, dreams, and love of the people who make the music.

Dixie Lark hasn’t had it easy. She lost her parents in an accident when she was young and grew up in a ramshackle house on a dirt road in. Amarillo with her ailing grandparents and overprotective older brother. Thanks to her grandfather, Dixie learned to play a mean fiddle, inspired by the sounds of the greats—Johnny and June, Waylon, and Hank. Her grandfather’s fiddle changed Dixie’s life forever, giving her an outlet for the turmoil of her broken heart and inspiring a daring dream.

Ten years later, Dixie and her brother, Dallas, are creating the music they love and chasing fame with their hot band, Leaving Amarillo. But Dixie isn’t enjoying the ride. All she can think about is Gavin, the band’s tattooed, tortured drummer who she’s loved since they were kids. She knows he feels the connection between them, but he refuses to see her as more than his best friend’s little sister.

Convinced that one night with Gavin will get him out of her system, Dixie devises a plan. She doesn’t know that her brother has forbidden Gavin from making a move on her—a promise he swore he’d always keep…a promise that once broken will unexpectedly change the future for Dixie, Gavin and the band.

I love country music. I love the TV show Nashville. I love New Adult. And I love romance. So really, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I would be interested in reading Caisey Quinn’s Leaving Amarillo. And it also shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I got hooked on this story, really enjoyed it and it left me asking for more.

Since her parents’ death, the only thing Dixie Lark has ever really wanted was to play fiddle for the band she formed with her older brother, Dallas, and Gavin, their best friend. And after a few years of playing whatever gigs they could get, they are finally getting their chance at a big break. It’s everything Dixie should want. But instead, she can’t stop thinking about Gavin, about the connection she feels between them, wondering if he feels it too. Dixie believes that if she can have just one night with Gavin, she would be able to get him out of her head and focus on the music. And she has a plan to make it happen. But her plan has unexpected consequences. Consequences that affect her, Gavin and the band.

This is not necessarily a well-known fact about me, but I love country music. Granted I’ve only just really started listening to country music in the last few years, but it’s quickly become one of my favourite genres of music. But me loving country music is not the point of this post. The point of me saying that I love country music is that it’s what originally drew me to Leaving Amarillo. The moment I heard it was about a country music band and it was compared to the TV show Nashville, I knew I had to read it. Add to the fact that it’s a sexy NA and I was sold. Once I started reading, I was sold on this story. I was sucked in, and couldn’t stop reading, getting all caught up in the band drama and the romantic drama and just everything about this story. And the romance was HOT. There was some serious chemistry between these characters and it leapt off the page. Or at least it did for me. There was this one scene that involved ice cream, and well, let’s just say that it got me thinking about ice cream in whole new ways. My only issue with Leaving Amarillo, which is not really an issue all things considered, is that when the story ended I immediately wanted more. It’s the first book in a series, and the sequel can’t come soon enough. I NEED to know what happens next.

I really liked Dixie. And I really liked Dixie’s descriptions of Gavin. But I’ll get to that in a moment. I enjoyed reading Dixie’s story. How all she really wanted was to play music with her brother and her best friend. How she always worried about her grandfather. She was just someone trying to find her place while also dealing with her romantic feelings for her best friend. And I could totally understand her feelings for Gavin. I would have gladly just read descriptions of Gavin, because, well, he was majorly hot. Or he was the way I pictured him in my mind. But it was about more than just the fact hat he was hot. I wish that I could have read some of this story from his perspective because I wanted nothing more than to find out more about him. He was incredibly sweet with Dixie, but he also had this edge to him and I wanted to know more about where that edge came from. And I’m hoping I’ll get what I want in future books. And speaking of future books, I’m a little worried about Dallas, Dixie’s older brother. He seems to have the best intentions where his band and his family are concerned, but I’m afraid of what he might do to get to where he wants. And I’m afraid of what his actions might do to the people around him. But I’ll just have to wait and see and keep my fingers crossed that everything works out.

If you love country music and sexy new adult books than you definitely want to check out Caisey Quinn’s Leaving Amarillo. I really enjoyed this story and I’m curious to see where it will go in the next books, Loving Dallas and Missing Dixie.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles

Title: Read Between the Lines
Author: Jo Knowles
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Does anyone ever see us for who we really are? Jo Knowles’s revelatory novel of interlocking stories peers behind the scrim as it follows nine teens and one teacher through a seemingly ordinary day.

Thanks to a bully in gym class, unpopular Nate suffers a broke finger—the middle one, splinted to flip off the world. It won’t be the last time a middle finger is raised this day. Dreamer Claire envisions herself sitting in an artsy cafĂ©, filling a journal, but fate has other plans. One cheerleader dates a closeted basketball star; another questions just how, as a “big girl,” she fits in. A group of boys scam drivers for beer money without remorse—or so it seems. Over the course of a single day, these voices and others speak loud and clear about the complex dance that is life in a small town. They resonate in a gritty and unflinching portrayal of a day like any other, with ordinary traumas, heartbreak, and revenge. But on any give day, the line where presentation and perception meet is a tenuous one, so hard to discern. Unless, of course, one looks a little closer—and reads between the lines.

Until now, I hadn’t read any of Jo Knowles’s previous books but they had always caught my eye. So when I was given the opportunity to read Read Between the Lines I decided to take the plunge. The premise sounded interesting and though it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, I still really enjoyed reading this story.

Life in a small town is never easy. Who you are in kindergarten is who you will be for the rest of your life. Or so it seems when you’re in highs school. Breaking out of people’s perceptions of you is easier said than done, and sometimes might not even be worth it. It might just be easier to be who people want you to be until you can get out. If you can get out. The truth about small towns is that everyone has something they are trying to hide, a way they wish other people would see them. And on any given day, whether they want it or not, people’s lives intersect in ways that can’t be predicted to mixed results.

When I first read the premise for Read Between the Lines, I was definitely curious about the idea of a story that looks at ten different people and the way their lives intersect or are connected. I had some ideas about what that kind of story might look like but not real definite picture. However, I couldn’t have predicted the story that I ended up getting. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. At all. In a way, this story almost feels more like you’re reading ten short stories that are all connected to one another. That’s because each of the ten “sections” of the book is told from a different person’s perspective. I’m not going to lie, at first the format confused me a little. each of the section sort of felt like they ended abruptly and I wanted to know wha would happen next to that person, but I never really got to see that. Instead, the story moved on to the next person and what was happening in their lives. And that definitely took some getting used to. But after reading a couple sections, I realized that people who were mentioned in passing in one section were then the main focus of one of the following sections and they would continue popping up in the other parts the book. So when you look at them separately, the different sections of the book don’t really make much sense. But when looked at as a whole, Jo Knowles has painted a pretty accurate portrait of what life in a small town can be like. How nothing is never really as it seems, and everyone has misconceptions about everyone. It was just really interesting reading and seeing how it was all connected, how every seemed linked to each other through the smallest of things. It was definitely a different read for me, but it was still one that was interesting and that I really liked and enjoyed.

If you’re looking for something a little different, I would strongly recommend Jo Knowles’ Read Between the Lines. This story will definitely get you thinking about passing judgement and being judged. Though it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, I still really enjoyed this story. 

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson

Title: Trust the Focus (In Focus #1)
Author: Megan Erickson
Publisher: InterMix
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Indigo
With his college graduation gown expertly pitched into the trash, Justin Akron is ready for the road trip he planned with his best friend Landry—and ready for one last summer of escape form his mother’s controlling grip. Climbing into the Winnebago his father left him, they set out across America in search of the sites his father had captured through the lens of his Nikon.

As an aspiring photographer, Justin can think of no better way to honor his father’s memory than to scatter his ashes at the sties he held sacred. And there’s no one Justin would rather share the experience with more than Landry.

But Justin knows he can’t escape forever. Eventually he’ll have to return home and join his mother’s Senate campaign. Nor can he escape the truth of who he is, and the fact that he’s in love with his out-and-proud travel companion.

Admitting what he wants could hurt his mother’s conservative political career. But with every click of his shutter and every sprinkle of ash, Justin can’t resist Landry’s pull. And when the truth comes into focus, neither is prepared for the secrets the other is hiding.

It’s no secret that I love Megan Erickson and her books. Her Bowler University books were among my favourite reads last year. I was so excited when she first announced Trust the Focus, even knowing that it wouldn’t be for everyone because of the nature of the romance. But I loved it and it’s now my favourite Megan Erickson book.

Justin is ready put college behind him and hit the road with Landry, his best friend. Together, Justin and Landry are driving across America to the places his father found sacred. But the trip isn’t just about spending one last summer escaping before real life sets in. For Justin, this trip is about saying goodbye to his father, honouring him by recreating some of his photos. But this trip is also about Justin coming to terms with who he is, finally admitting to himself that he’s in love with his out and proud best friend. Admitting his feelings out loud could mean losing Landry. What if he doesn’t feel the same way? But the more time the two spends on the road, the more secrets are bound to come out and both Justin and Landry have both been holding back. 

If I thought I loved Megan Erickson’s books before, it’s nothing compared to how I feel about Trust the Focus. Guys, this book. There’s just so much I want to say but I just don’t know if I’m going to be able to say it all in a coherent, or even mildly coherent, way. But I’ll do my best. First things first, I know that this is a book that won’t appeal to everyone because it is a mature m/m romance. And the fact that some people won’t read it just because of that makes me incredibly sad because this is such a beautiful and touching story. Trust the Focus is a story about grief, it’s a story about finding yourself, it’s a story about acceptance, it’s a story about friends and about love and so much more. This story is just hard to put into words. I loved every aspect of it. Seeing Justin grieve for his father hurt my heart, as did seeing him struggle with accepting who he is. But then seeing the relationship he had with Landry, friendship or otherwise, just warmed my heart. Because that’s what this story was really about. It was about these two boys travelling together across the country and coming to terms with who they are as individuals, and what kind of future they might have together.

Justin and Landry are responsible for so many of the feelings I had while reading Trust the Focus. Just thinking about them and their story warms my heart and tears start threatening to fall. That’s how much these two boys affected me. It was just so great to read their story. Both boys were just so great. Right from the start, I loved Justin. I could see his pain and his struggle with accepting himself and all I really wanted to do was give him a hug because it felt like he could really use one. I just wanted everything to be okay for him. Actually, I wanted everything to be more than okay for him. And Landry just leapt off the page. The story might not have been from his perspective, but I felt like I got to know him just as much as I did Justin, thanks to the blog posts he wrote and the way Justin talked about him. But the best part about Justin and Landry was their relationship with each other. I loved their friendship, how in tune they were with the other and how much they wanted to be there for the other. And when that relationship started becoming more than friendship, I loved them even more. Seeing them go from best friends to something more was just incredibly heart warming. Sure, there were moments along the way that were absolutely heartbreaking, but by the time I finished reading, my heart was just filled with so much love for them. Just all the #JusLan feels.

I can’t help but want for everyone to read Trust the Focus. I just know this will be one of my favourite reads for 2015 and I intend to push it on everyone I know. In the last year, Megan Erickson has quickly become one of my favourite New Adult authors and I can’t wait to read whatever comes next from her. 

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Surf & Surrender by Riley Edgewood

Title: Surf & Surrender (Summer Love Series #2)
Author: Riley Edgewood
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: February 23, 2015
Source: ARC from Author
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Kobo
She wants to forget he ever existed. He’d never give up her memory.

Quinn Westwood is completely over Sawyer Carson. He broke her heart years ago and disappeared from her life without a word. So yeah. She’s over him. Never even thinks of him. In fact, she’s spending her college summer break surfing and lifeguarding in the Outer Banks, while nursing a bruised heart from a different relationship gone wrong. She doesn’t have room in her mind or heart for Sawyer—until she runs into him at a beach bonfire and the sparks that fly between them are way hotter than the flames heating the sand.

Sawyer never got over Quinn. The only thing stronger than what he feels for her is the secret keeping them apart, but sharing it would estrous more than just his life—it’d ruin hers, as well. Still, he can’t seem to keep away form her, can’t seem to keep his hands off of her soft, tempting skin. Especially since she has even less self-control when it comes to reigniting the physical side of what made them perfect together.

But secrets have a way of slipping out, and when Sawyer’s is revealed it threatens to shatter everyone involved. He’ll have to face walking away a second time, and Quinn will have to decide if fighting for him is worth it when the fallout could affect more than just her heart, but also those of the people she loves most. 

Late last year, I read Riley Edgewood’s three-part debut Rock & Release and I absolutely loved it. I was so excited to hear that the next book in her New Adult series would be coming out soon after and I was even more excited to be reading it. Needless to say that I liked Surf & Surrender even more than I did the first book.

Quinn has spent the past four year getting over Sawyer Carson. It’s not like she’s had much of a choice. He was there one day and gone the next with no explanation and no matter what Quinn did she couldn’t find a way to get in touch with him. So now she’s over him. Finally ready to move on. And Quinn would definitely be over Sawyer if she hadn’t run in to him a bonfire, reigniting all those old feelings she thought she’d gotten rid of. Sawyer hasn’t been able to move on from Quinn. The time and distance away from her have done nothing but make his feelings stronger. Now that he’s back in town, he wants nothing more than to be with her, but he knows that he can’t. No matter what, Sawyer has to stay away from Quinn. He just doesn’t know if he has the self-control to stay away. And that would be fine, except Quinn has even less self-control. Both Quinn and Sawyer have their secrets and those secrets might tear them apart a second time. 

Guys, Surf & Surrender was addicting. Like read it in day, addicting. And I say that because that’s totally what I did and I don’t regret it. I couldn’t help it though. Every time I told myself I would stop after just one more chapter, I couldn’t do it. And then the next thing I knew an hour had gone by and I was still reading, still telling myself that I would stop after one more chapter. And so the cycle went, until I had read the entire book. But other than being addicting, this story was GOOD. I loved reading about summer in the Outer Banks (I might have also started planning a hypothetical vacation there while reading…) and seeing how everyone was connected. And of course the romance did not disappoint me. Right from the start there is tension and chemistry between Sawyer and Quinn and it just leaps off the page. And thanks to Riley Edgewood I will never look at a surf shop in the same way. Ever. Who knew they could be that sexy? Though that might have had more to do with Sawyer and Quinn.

What I loved about Quinn and Sawyer was that they had a history before this story started. It made reading about them all the more interesting. I wanted to know more about their past, about what happened that brought them to where they are today. And they had some pretty awesome chemistry, no matter how hard they tried to fight it. Did I mention a certain surf shop scene? Because that’s only the beginning of it. And as much as I loved Sawyer and Quinn together, I liked them on their own too. They were both trying to make the best of the situation they were in. I wanted so much for them to get that they wanted, and for them to catch a break. Especially Sawyer. Because I may have developed a soft spot for Sawyer. Beyond just Sawyer and Quinn, Surf & Surrender also had some fantastic secondary characters. I would love to read more about Sawyer’s family, especially his brother because he seems to have so much going on and I want more of him, especially if it meant I got more of Sawyer in the process. And I’m crossing my fingers for a story about Gianna, Quinn’s best friend, because I would read that and I’m pretty sure I would love it.

Surf & Surrender was a great follow up to Rock & Release. The story had just the right mix of sexy, drama and heart. I can’t wait to read whatever comes next from Riley Edgewood.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Blog Tour - The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

Title: The Orphan Queen (The Orphan Queen #1)
Author: Jodi Meadows
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.

She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Will and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Will can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh hours. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.

Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.

If you’ve been following me here on the blog or on social media for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t tend to read much fantasy. Especially in recent months, I haven’t strayed too far away from contemporary. But every so often I will stray and find myself surprised by how much I’m enjoying a book that’s not contemporary. And most recently that happened with Jodi Meadows’s The Orphan Queen. 

Ten years ago, Wilhelmina watched, helpless, as her parents were killed right in front of her. Now, she and the other One-Night War orphans are the Ospreys, determined to get their kingdom back with Wilhelmina rightfully in her place on the throne. But taking back the kingdom isn’t easy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, have to sneak into Skyvale Palace and assume new identities in order to observe their enemies. Everything would be going according to plan if Wil didn’t continually cross paths with the mysterious Black Knife. Black Knife isn’t who Wil thought he was, but that doesn’t mean she can be honest with him about her identity. And she especially can’t let him, or anyone, know the truth about her magic.

Before I get into all the things I loved about The Orphan Queen, allow me to take a moment to explain why I so often struggle with fantasy. When I read, I am very much a character person. Sure I care about the plot and the world, but not as much as I do about characters. With fantasy, though, it tends to be about the world as much as it is about the characters. And it makes it harder for me to get into the story, especially since it tends to be told in third person. But The Orphan Queen was different. For starters, it was told in first person which meant I was able to get right into the story. Not only that, but it was relatively light on long-winded descriptions (which is usually where most fantasy reads lose me). It didn’t hurt that the story in The Orphan Queen was captivating and engrossing. It really didn’t take long for me to get dragged in. There were so many mysteries that needed solving and I was curious about all of them. I JUST HAD TO KNOW what was going on. I can’t help it, I’m a naturally curious person. And can we take a moment to talk about that ENDING. If the mysteries throughout the story weren’t enough, that ending has me pretty much begging for the next book. But what really kept me reading this story, what really drew me in, were the characters that Jodi Meadows introduced in this story.

Wil was a pretty badass character if you want to know the truth. I mean, this girl watched her parents be brutally murdered while she couldn’t do anything and has spent the decade since their death trying to get back the kingdom that was taken away from her. No matter how much she has had to go through, she doesn’t stop fighting for what she believes in and protecting the people she cares about. Granted there were times when I wanted to yell at her a little because I knew what she was doing wouldn’t end well. I couldn’t help it, I wanted her to be okay and to make it through everything alive. And sometimes things got really dicy. As awesome Wil was, the supporting characters were just as great. All of them felt fully fleshed out and lie real people while I was reading. And then there was Black Knife. For most of the book, I had no idea who he was. I mean, I had my theories, but because of other things happening my theories didn’t seem possible. Needless to say that I was a strong supporter of Black Knife and because of that there are some things that happened that did not make me happy and make me afraid of book two. And that’s all I’ll say on the matter.

Though I don’t normally read a lot of fantasy, Jodi Meadows’s The Orphan Queen was an absolutely fantastic (pun fully intended) read for me. It’s rare that I get this excited about fantasy and I honestly cannot wait to see where the story will go next.

Be sure to follow the rest of the Canadian The Orphan Queen blog tour!

March 2 - Emilie's Book World
March 3 - Hiver et Cafe
March 4 - Conversations of a Reading Addict
March 5 - Bookish Serendipity
March 6 - A Glass of Wine
March 9 - Stuck in YA Books
March 10 - Read My Breath Away
March 11 - More Than Just Magic
March 12 - Kelsey's Cluttered Bookshelf
March 13 - Lost at Midnight Reviews

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