Monday, May 25, 2015

Review: One Night by AJ Pine

One Night by AJ Pine
Series: Only You #1       
Published: April 21st, 2015
Publisher: Intermix
248 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary New Adult
Acquired this book: Via NetGalley in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Kobo}

{Read my review of What If (If Only #2)}

When she lost it all, Jess decided to cope by living a lie.

But you can’t keep on pretending forever…

Twenty-one-year-old Jess used to have everything—a loyal best friend, a boyfriend she loved, and a future that was right on track. But in a single night, her whole world changed.

Now, Jess lives for the impersonal connection of drunken hook-ups and to-go coffee cups in the morning. All she needs is one night to pretend everything is fine…until she meets Adam.

Thanks to a sports injury, gorgeous, charming basketball star Adam Carson is stuck in physical therapy at the hospital where Jess interns—giving her the perfect opportunity to see his sweet, considerate nature and making her realize that maybe she does want something more.

But while Adam might be the best thing that’s happened to Jess in a long time, letting him past her carefully constructed walls means letting him know what happened...and why he'd never want her for more than one night.

I adored AJ Pine’s first two books, If Only and What If. She writes great, complex characters with real life issues, and One Night was no exception. One Night is an emotional story about two people who were broken in their own way, but who helped each other learn how to heal.    

Jess is haunted by many personal demons. Her life changed two years ago, and since then she’s kept people at arm’s length to keep her heart safe. She never fully let herself heal and recover from the trauma in her past, and it’s affected her entire life, even though she doesn’t realize it. Jess wasn’t always easy to like throughout the book. I’m all for flawed characters, and while I sympathized with Jess and felt horrible for the things that happened to her, I went back and forth between really liking her and wanting to throttle her. In closing herself off, she became self-centred and almost all her actions had selfish motivations. She didn’t care about anyone else because she was so busy focusing on her own problems - or more accurately, avoiding her problems. That being said, I fully believe you don’t have to like or agree with everything a character does if there’s a reason for it. Jess learned a lot about herself through the course of the book and changed her self-destructive, hurtful, selfish behaviour. Her first inclination was always to push people away and not let anyone get close, but Adam and her roommate Zoe slowly took down her defenses and forced her to see some ugly truths about herself that made her want to change. I loved that Zoe wasn’t afraid to call Jess on her shit and tell her how selfish she was; sometimes it takes someone to point something out to you before you fully realize it and try to change the behaviour. I appreciated and enjoyed Jess’s growth, even though it took awhile and was frustrating to watch at times.

While I had issues with Jess, I thought Adam was pretty damn close to perfect. He was strong, patient, and determined. Being a basketball star, he had girls falling all over themselves for him, but he was focused on his career and overcoming his injury so he could keep playing through the end of college. He was sweet and funny and his charm and openness drew Jess in, despite her desire to keep her guard up. I loved the chemistry between these two and thought they were great together. Their interactions ranged from fun, funny, and flirty to frustrating to sexy. Despite Jess’s actions making me want to scream sometimes, I never stopped rooting for these two. It was obvious they really cared about each other, and that Adam’s love had a healing affect on Jess’s broken heart. 

Other things I loved about this book: the side characters, especially Zoe and Regan. They were fleshed out well, and they each had something important to teach Jess. I loved all the little touches in the book that were like a running joke and kept me grinning, like the shitty coffee, the cake, the Chinese food, and Vampire Diaries. They made me feel like I was part of the story, like I was actually hanging out with Jess and Adam and Zoe. I also loved how depression and trauma were dealt with in a believable, compassionate, respectful manner, and that ultimately Jess wasn’t ashamed to get help and make sure she had the tools to heal completely and live a full, happy life.

One Night was a love story in every sense of the word. It was about learning to love yourself, learning to love others, and learning to let others love you, even when it’s not easy, and even when it hurts like hell. It shows that horrible, life-altering, agonizing things can happen to you, but if you have the strength and a great support system, you can overcome anything. Love and friendship really do have healing powers, and One Night explores that in a beautiful, realistic way. This was another great book from AJ Pine, and I’m eager to read whatever she writes next.

3.75 stars

Have you read One Night? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Have you read any of AJ's other books? Let's talk here or on Twitter

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday ~ Rome To-Do List Edition


4 weeks until my trip to Europe!!! *freaks out*

This is my final to-do list for the trip. Last week I shared my Paris To-Do List and the week before that I shared my London To-Do List.

The Contiki tour we're doing is a bit different from their normal tours. A huge group of us will be doing London and Paris together, but some people go home after that, some stay in Paris, some go on to Amsterdam, and some of us go on to Rome. Since Rome is Krista's dream, we picked the Rome extension. Something else different about the tour: the 'tour' ends in Paris. Our flight from Paris to Rome and our transfer to the hotel are included, along with a 3-day Metro pass, but other than that we're on our own. I'm really hoping by then we'll have made friends with the people doing the Rome extension and we can all hang out as a group. Krista didn't think the 2.5 days we had in Rome for the tour would be enough (and I agreed), so we booked an extra day so we'd be sure to see and do (*cough* and eat) as much as possible. Note that Krista actually has about a dozen other things on her list that I still need to research, so I’m sure my actual list 4 weeks from now will be quite a bit bigger!

Things We Plan to do in Rome
In no particular order

  • Visit the Colosseum
  • Visit the Roman Forum
  • Visit the Trevi Fountain and cry that it’s under construction and I won’t get to throw a coin in, then buy several postcards and possibly photoshop myself into them when I get home
  • Visit the Spanish Steps
  • Visit the Pantheon
  • Visit the Vatican and see St. Peter’s Basilica (I'm kinda terrified of the narrow, windy steps going up to the dome, but the view looks amazing, so I might suck it up, pay the 5 Euros, and hope I don't have an attack of claustrophobia)
  • Visit Santa Maria del Popolo church
  • Visit Capitoline Hill
  • Visit as many piazzas as possible
  • Attempt to order and drink coffee like the Romans do (in other words, quickly and at the bar)
  • Flirt with hot Italian men
  • I’ve never had tiramisu, so I figure Rome is a good place to try it. And biscotti, which I technically have had but it was crappy, rock-hard store-bought stuff. I'd also like to try limoncello and prosecco
  • Wander around, soak in the beauty, culture, and history, take a gazillion pictures, work out the dozen or so story ideas I have...and try not to melt in the heat ;-)
Have you been to Rome? Have you done any of these things? How much of this stuff would be on your to-do list if you were going to Rome? Have I missed anything? Let's talk here or on Twitter!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review: Lion Heart by AC Gaughen

Lion Heart by AC Gaughen 
Series: Scarlet #3
Published: May 19th, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
348 pages (eARC)
Genre: Young Adult Historic Fiction
Acquired this book: Via NetGalley for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

{Read my review of Scarlet || Read my review of Lady Thief}

Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince's clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate—and her heart—won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

My love of all things Robin Hood began when I was a very little girl who fell in love with the Disney version of the classic legend. I’ve always loved the idea of this charming, heroic outlaw who outwitted the nefarious Sheriff of Nottingham and wannabe king, Prince John, and swept Maid Marian off her feet. So when I discovered Scarlet a few years ago and found out it was a completely new twist to the Robin Hood legend, I was intrigued...and as I read it, I fell in love with AC Gaughen’s tale of Robin, still a clever, swoonworthy figure, but also so much more, and I also fell in love with Scarlet, a strong, kick-ass, determined heroine we don’t see enough of in books. There were familiar elements of the Robin Hood legend, but it was also twisted it in many ways, turning it on its head and making it something completely, wonderfully new and magical.

I loved Scarlet and Lady Thief, and I was equal parts excited and sad to read Lion Heart. I was eager to see how things would turn out (and worried, too, after the events of Lady Thief) and sad because I didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters I’d grown to love so much. Lady Thief was one of the most painful books I’ve ever read. I basically cried my way through the entire book and had to stop reading a few times because it hurt so much and made me so uncomfortable (not in a bad way, which I know sounds weird...I gave the book 5 stars). It was beautiful and brutal and heartbreaking, and I was afraid of what Ms Gaughen would put these characters through before the end.

Lion Heart had all the elements I loved about the first two books: action, romance, intrigue, friendship, humour, and yes, even those moments that make your heart ache. I laughed and cried and fell even more in love with the characters. And what an amazing cast of characters! Besides Scarlet and Robin, I adored Much, Allan, David, Bess, and Eleanor. Even the detestable Prince John makes a great character in his own sick, evil, power-hungry way. He’s always the villain in Robin Hood, but we’re often just told he’s the villain and we see bits and pieces of his evilness, but in this series, he’s a true villain, completely unredeemable and horrible. As for Eleanor, I think Ms Gaughen made a brilliant choice by adding her as a character in the second and third books. I’ve always been fascinated by Eleanor of Aquitaine, and I think Scarlet needed someone wise and steady, but also someone who wouldn’t be oppressed, who wouldn’t back down, and who fought for what she believed in and the people she loved. Eleanor and Scarlet were two fierce, brave, kick-ass ladies, and I admired them so much. 

There’s not a whole lot I can say about the plot without getting into spoiler territory, but I loved this book so, so much. I loved that Scarlet didn’t wait around to be saved, she didn’t sit around wringing her hands and feeling sorry for herself, she leapt into the action, and used her intelligence and her physical abilities to help herself and those around her. She and Robin made my heart ache in the best possible ways, and together, they were unstoppable.

Lion Heart was the perfect end to a fantastic trilogy. Scarlet is one of the books I recommend the most, and now I’ll be recommending the entire trilogy...often and loudly. ;-) I've read countless versions of the Robin Hood legend, but the Scarlet trilogy is hands down my favourite, and certainly the most memorable.
Scarlet, Robin, and their band of Nottingham residents will always have a special place in my heart.

*Please note, all quotes are taken from the uncorrected proof of Lion Heart.  No copyright infringement intended*

"Rob's and my love had always been made in the cracks, the jagged little edges that came from the ruin of something else. It were a place that weren't supposed to be filled with love, but that's how it had always been. Our love filled the broken bits and made us whole again. There weren't no perfect time to love him, not ever, and it had always been with the threat of death and hurt hovering round us. And we'd love each other anyway. Sure, and true."

"Scars never left, even when you couldn't see them." 

"His grin grew broader, wider, fuller, like he were pulling stars down from Heaven and tucking them into his smile."

"I think life becomes a fabric of choices, interwoven, all related." 

"My heart holds my love, my hope, and my faith. My heart is unyielding, my heart is stalwart, and my heart is true."

"There's a funny thing about light and darkness - like hope, you can never blot out either one completely. They always exist, side by side, bright light making shadows darker, darkness making the light more beautiful, a tempting siren call. I can't hate the darkest parts of myself. They are the things that showed me how special and rare the bright flames of trust, loyalty, friendship, and love were. My darkness showed me how to love Rob. But now I choose light and fire and love. Now I choose freedom."

Have you read any of the books in the Scarlet trilogy? What did you think? If you haven't read them, do you plan to? What's your favourite Robin Hood incarnation? Let's talk here or on Twitter

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Hop Against Homophobia, Bi- and Transphobia 2015

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Follow the Hop Against Homophobia, Bi- and Transphobia between today and May 24th for lots of great posts and giveaways.

3 things you can do to help combat homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia
  • Eradicate homophobic words from your vocabulary, whether it's meant as a slur or as a joke. I can't tell you the number of times I still overhear people jokingly saying 'that's so gay' or people saying to their friends 'you're such a fag'. I've even seen teenagers refer to their group of friends as 'their faggots'. ARGH!! Just don't. It's not a joke, it's not funny. There are a thousand other words you can use without offending/isolating an entire group of people.
  • Respect a person's sexual and gender identity. If someone identifies as gay or bisexual or queer or whatever the case may be, don't question it. People don't need to hear 'but you like guys and girls, shouldn't you be bi and not queer?' How a person identifies is their business. Similarly, respect a person's gender identity. If someone associates as him/he or her/she, respect that even if you don't quite understand. Most people, regardless of their sexual or gender identity just want to be accepted, understood, and loved.
  • Ask questions. I think a lot of people would rather have an honest, open discussion than have people make assumptions or judgements, or be cruel. If you're not comfortable asking questions or don't think a person would be comfortable with your questions, or if you simply don't personally know anyone to ask, educate yourself. Find websites, find literature, find blogs that talk about the things you're curious about. People will appreciate you going that extra mile, and it can never hurt to be educated about anything, but especially something so important.

I'm giving away an e-copy of my book, Take Them by Storm, which is female/female New Adult. Here's a bit about the book:
GoodReads || Amazon || Kobo || B&N 
Sadie Fitzgerald has always been different, and not just because she makes her own clothes and would rather stay home watching Doctor Who than party with kids her age. When it’s time to leave Angel Island for college, Sadie is eager to put her old life behind her. Small-minded people and rumors have plagued her for years, but with the love of her adoptive family, the O’Dells, Sadie has learned to embrace who she is. Now she’s not afraid to admit the rumors about her are true: she’s gay.

For the first time in her life, Sadie feels free to be herself. She dives into college life and begins volunteering at the local LGBT center, where she discovers her small-town upbringing left holes in her education about life outside Angel Island.

The world is a bigger and more accepting place than Sadie ever imagined. She’s finally found where she belongs, but with the reappearance of someone from her past, an unexpected new friendship, and a chance at love, Sadie soon realizes she still has a lot to learn about life, friendship, and love.

This giveaway will end when the hop does on May 24th. Open internationally. Must be at least 16 to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to check out the other people participating in the hop!

Do you have any thoughts on how to combat homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia? Let's talk here or on Twitter! Be sure to check out the #HAHABT hashtag.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fantastic Friday #4

Fantastic Friday is a new feature here on Ramblings of a Daydreamer. Each Friday I'll showcase fantastic things from the past week - could be things I've done, places I've gone, a new song I like, a movie I've seen, books I've read, blog posts from around the blogosphere - anything at all!

Last week was crazy, busy, and stressful, so I didn't have a chance to put together a Fantastic Friday. Because of that, this one is two weeks' worth of fantastic stuff, mostly in picture form. 

I got to see Avengers: Age of Ultron the day after it came out. My friend Krista drove an hour just to see it with me - isn't she awesome? It was SO good. Action-packed, hilarious, emotional. I can't wait to see it again!

Spring has arrived in my city and it's absolutely gorgeous. The grass is green, trees and flowers are blooming, and everything looks fresh and new. The weather has been weird, though. Last week it got so hot we beat records two days in a row, but this week it's been so chilly I've had to keep the windows closed most of the time. That's spring for you though I guess! I'm enjoying the cooler weather while it lasts, and even more than that I'm enjoying all the beautiful blossoms everywhere since they don't last very long.

We had Mother's Day dinner here at my place last Sunday. The picture on the left is a family selfie (sister-in-law, almost 2-year-old niece, almost 13-year-old nephew, Mum, 5-year-old nephew, and me). My brother had already left by then so he missed the family pic, but I got one of him and our mum before he left.

This week I got to meet an online friend, Tammy, in person for the first time. My sister-in-law, niece, Tammy, and I went to the outskirts of town and hung out in the gorgeous area pictured above, then went out for lunch. It was so much fun.

And finally, my weekly Europe countdown: 5 WEEKS!!!

What did you find fantastic this week? Tell  me in the comments below, chat with me on Twitter, or feel free to link me to blog posts, articles, pictures, songs, videos, or whatever you thought was fantastic that you want to share!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday ~ Paris To-Do List Edition


My Euro trip is just 5 weeks away now - eep! Last week I shared my London To-Do List, and this week I'm sharing my list of things I hope to do in Paris. Next week will be my final to-do list, and that'll be for Rome. 

We only have about two and a half days in Paris, which isn't much time, but we're going to try to cram in as much as possible. By this time we'll be with our Contiki group, and there are a few planned activities, but we're on our own most of the time. I went to Paris when I was 17, so I've seen most of the main sights, but since it was such a long time ago, and since it's Krista's first time in Paris, I'm going to treat this like it's my first time and see, do, and experience as much as I can.

Things We Plan to do in Paris
In no particular order
* = things I did when I visited 14 years ago
  • *Go up the Eiffel Tower (this is included in the tour)
  • *Visit the Louvre                   
  • Visit the Musée d’Orsay
  • See/possibly visit the Palais Garnier
  • *Visit the Palace of Versailles (this is included in the tour)
  • *Visit Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Visit Shakespear & Co. Bookstore, buy a book, and get it stamped
  • Try some quintessentially French foods/drinks I’ve never had: creme brulée, éclairs, croque monsieur, real champagne, plus maybe some different types of cheeses and wines
  • *See the Arc de Triomphe
  • Visit Montmartre
  • Visit Sacre Coeur
  • Get some ridiculously expensive macarons from Ladurée and some ridiculously expensive hot chocolate from Angelina
  • Go to Moulin Rouge (this is an optional excursion during the tour, and even though it’s crazy expensive, I’ve always wanted to go, so I’m planning to do it - it includes a 3-course dinner and champagne)
  • Visit Fragonard perfume factory (this is included in the tour)
  • Have a picnic in a park
  • Visit Pere LaChaise cemetery
  • Sit in a café and people watch
  • Visit Place des Vosges
  • I love art, history, architecture, and food so I basically just want to wander around admiring buildings, bridges, parks, and museums, eating everything in sight, and soaking up all the beauty around me

Have you been to Paris? Have you done any of these things? How much of this stuff would be on your to-do list if you were going to Paris? Have I missed anything? Let's talk here or on Twitter!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Review: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Series: Standalone
Published: April 7th, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
320 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult/LGBTQ
Acquired this book: Via Edelweiss in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

I went into Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda feeling slightly wary. It sounded fantastic and like something I’d enjoy, but there was so much hype around it. I’m not one who usually avoids a book because of hype, but it made me nervous, especially when several bloggers I really admire and trust gave it 5 stars and gushed endlessly about it. So I started reading...and when I was already giggling like a fiend within the first few pages, I knew the hype was justified. This book continued to prove it was worth the hype right until the last page when I finished reading with a huge smile on my face and happy tears in my eyes.

I’ve been searching for a long time for a truly fantastic LGBTQ YA. I’ve found some good ones, but not one that I would undeniable recommend to anyone and everyone...until Simon. This book has everything - great characters, humour, feels, swoons, and real life situations. Simon is one of my new favourite characters. His voice was so authentic; I felt like he was a friend who was telling me what was going on his life. He’s hilarious and irreverent and smart, and the stuff he thought and talked about were so spot on. I’ve said before that I wished LGBTQ YA was more than coming out stories (even though I know how incredibly important and relevant coming out stories are), but Simon was different. Even though Simon’s sexual identity was a big part of the story, it was about so much more than that. I appreciated that we got to see his life before and after coming out, and how his coming out was seamlessly woven through with Simon just being Simon.

The side characters were equally fantastic. All the characters in this book had a purpose. Simon’s friends were great, and I loved the different dynamics with each person or group, and I especially loved his relationship with his parents and sisters. That’s something else that was really realistic - his parents were actually present, they wanted to know what was going on in their children’s lives, be part of it, and spend time together. The issues they had added to how realistic the whole thing was. Despite being giggle-inducing, this book had some truly poignant revelations about different aspects of growing up, being gay, and coming out. It showcased what I think is one of the hardest parts of growing up: changes. The changes people go through individually, and within friendships and families. Even when you don’t mean for things to change, or you don’t think they are, it happens, and when you realize it, it can be surreal and often really painful. Ms Albertalli captured that feeling perfectly.

Then there was Simon and Blue. Aaaah, these two. They were just so freaking cute. Their emails were alternately hilarious and sweet and touching. They talked about everything and nothing, and said so much even when they didn’t say much at all. And during the big reveal...I cried. Not even gonna lie. I basically cried happy tears through the last couple chapters of the book because it was just so unbelievably perfect and wonderful and lovely.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is pretty much the perfect coming of age and coming out story. It’s laugh out loud funny, adorable, touching, and clever. I think the fact that a book about the every day stuff in life - hanging out with friends, going to school, spending time with family, listening to music - can have such a huge impact is a testament to Ms Albertalli’s skill as a writer. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

I didn't have any Oreos (*sniff*) so Olaf was the next best thing 

Have you read Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? What's your favourite LGBTQ YA? What's the last book that made you giggle uncontrollably? Let's talk here or on Twitter!

 Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge
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