I'll be gone from June 16th - 30th, travelling from London to Paris to Rome! I have a few posts scheduled for the two weeks I'm gone, so be sure to stop by regularly and I'll visit you when I get back! If you want to follow along with my trip while it happens, follow me on Instagram at SweetMarie_83 or Twitter at SweetMarie83.  


Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Reading 2015






There are so many books I want to read this summer, I thought it would be a good idea to make a list so I can keep track of my progress. I highly doubt I'll get all of these read in the next few months, and I'll probably add in a few more, but these are the books I want to read the most.


    
What books do you hope to read this summer? Have you read any of the ones on my list? Let's talk here or on Twitter!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Series: Standalone
Published: March 10, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
pages (hardcover)
Genre: Contemporary young adult/mystery/LGBTQ
Acquired this book: From the library
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}


Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she's fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that'll take years to kick.

The second time, she's seventeen, and it's no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina's murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina's brother won't speak to her, her parents fear she'll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina's murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.


Far From You is one of those quietly powerful books that deals with big issues and leaves you feeling a mixture of emotions. It was heartbreaking in so many ways, but also inspiring and hopeful.

Sophie has been through a lot. She’s been torn apart physically and mentally, but she’s a fighter. When her best friend is murdered and it’s covered up to look like a drug deal gone wrong, Sophie is sent to rehab, where she’s forced to bide her time until she’s free to investigate Mina’s murder herself. Despite being clean for months, no one believes Sophie when she swears she hasn’t relapsed, and they blame her for Mina’s death. I felt horrible for Sophie and the injustice of what she had to go through. I can’t imagine watching someone you love be murdered right in front of you and then being blamed for it and having no one believe you. I also appreciated that she was different, having gone through a terrible car accident and being left with physical side effects and chronic pain. I liked Sophie a lot and admired her strength. 


The story was told alternately between the past and the present. I liked this for the most part, because it was an interesting way to get to know Mina, plus Sophie’s history with her and with other side characters. Their relationship was easy to imagine. They had the type of close friendship where they depended on each other, would do anything for each other, and seemed to share everything, but they both held tightly to secrets, big and small, and sometimes dangerous. They were best friends, but they were also so much more. They loved each other and hurt each other and needed each other. Reading about the past, knowing Mina’s fate, was bittersweet. Everything in Sophie’s life was tied to Mina, and knowing everything she’d already gone through before losing Mina was just so heartbreaking.

But...because of the way the story was told, it was hard to get truly invested in their relationship. Maybe it's because we know going in that Mina dies, or maybe it's because we see a lot of the negatives of their relationship, the unhealthy parts that make it hard to imagine them figuring things out in order to be together openly. If this had been a regular contemporary, minus the murder and the subsequent mystery, I think it would have been easier to want to see them together. In theory, I appreciated it - falling for your best friend, wanting more, being unsure, wishing things could be different, loving someone so deeply - but we only see bits and pieces of it. The whole thing left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was hard to look past how unhealthy their relationship was, but on the other hand it was a realistic portrayal of teenage love, and of bisexuality, which is often either glossed over, ignored, or changed into something different and often inaccurate.

Overall, I had mixed feelings about Far From You. Part of me really enjoyed it, but I did have some issues with it. The mystery was interesting, but for the most part, the book was really slow and I felt like I spent a lot of time waiting for something to happen. Despite that, the story kept me wondering, and I think I suspected just about everyone and yet still ended up mostly surprised when the mystery was resolved. Toward the end, it got really exciting, and I liked how everything was resolved.

Far From You is a story about love in its many forms, friendship, loss, and perseverance. It’s emotional and bittersweet, and deals with a lot of serious, real-life issues. While I didn’t love it, I’d recommend it to fans of contemporary, mystery, and LGBTQ books.


 
  
Have you read Far From You? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Let's talk here or on Twitter

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: Doubting Abbey by Samantha Tonge

Doubting Abbey by Samantha Tonge
Series: Doubting Abbey #1
Published: November 10th, 2013
Publisher: Carina
433 pages (ebook)
Genre: Chick lit
Acquired this book: From the Ontario Library Service
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}


Look up the phrase ordinary girl and you’ll see a picture of me, Gemma Goodwin – I only look half-decent after applying the entire contents of my make-up bag, and my dating track-record includes a man who treated me to dinner…at a kebab shop. No joke!

The only extraordinary thing about me is that I look EXACTLY like my BFF, Abbey Croxley. Oh, and that for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve agreed to swap identities and pretend be her to star in the TV show about her aristocratic family’s country estate, Million Dollar Mansion.

So now it’s not just my tan I’m faking – it’s Kate Middleton style demure hemlines and lady-like manners too. And amongst the hundreds of fusty etiquette rules I’m trying to cram into my head, there are two I really must remember; 1) No-one can ever find out that I’m just Gemma, who’d be more at home in the servants quarters. And 2) There can be absolutely no flirting with Abbey’s dishy but buttoned-up cousin, Lord Edward.

Aaargh, this is going to be harder than I thought…


Doubting Abbey is one of those books that’s fun to read in between serious, heavy books where you don’t want to use a whole lot of brain power or experience many ups and downs emotionally. It was light, funny, and fluffy, with a few touching moments thrown in, especially toward the end.

Gemma Goodwin’s best friend and roommate, Abbey, is well-educated and from a good family. When her family enters a Million Dollar Mansion reality TV show, they need her help, but she promised her boyfriend she’d go to Africa on a mission to help orphans. Well, as it turns out, Gemma and Abbey just happen to be nearly identical, so Abbey and her aunt cook up a scheme for Gemma to pose as her, go to Applebridge Hall, her ancestral home, and help the family win the competition. I liked the idea behind the story and thought it was a fun premise. I haven’t read many books with a reality show premise. Gemma had to think about how the public would react, what they might want to see, and also be careful about appearing ladylike and not tarnishing her friend’s reputation. 

I’d love to visit (or live in) a place like Applebridge Hall. It was easy to picture, and I enjoyed the bits of history we learned about the place and its former inhabitants. There were some good side characters in the book, but my main issue was the main character and the love interest. Gemma could be really annoying. Her speech drove me crazy at times. Everything was ‘mega’ or ‘amaaazin’’. There was a part of me that liked her and understood why she did certain things, but then the other part of me thought she was absolutely ridiculous. But then maybe that was the point? I think that's why a lot of chick lit gets a bad name, unfortunately. Heroines who are silly, ridiculous, and act like bumbling idiots. Then there was Edward...the journal entries from his perspective drove me bonkers. They were completely unnecessary and didn’t add anything to the story. I’ve blogged for almost half my life in some form or another, and new to it or not, nobody would blog the way he did, with the conversational additions like ‘um’, ‘er’ and all the ellipses and stumbles and bumbles. Plus whenever something happened, he’d say in a vague way that he had to sign off, but if I heard a gunshot on my property, the last thing I’d do is wait until I’d finished typing about it and hit send on my blog before going to investigate. I had trouble getting invested in their relationship, mostly because there was little chemistry and Edward seemed so back and forth and hot and cold.

Doubting Abbey was light and fun. It wasn’t exactly realistic and there were parts that were way over the top, but sometimes those books are exactly what you need. I think I’m curious enough to read the second book, From Paris With Love, especially because it’s set in Paris. This one had as many pros as cons for me, but overall I enjoyed it and it was a nice break from some of the heavier books I’ve been reading lately.


  
Have you read Doubting Abbey? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you enjoy chick lit? Let's talk here or on Twitter

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday ~ Travel Quotes

 

*Please note, this is a pre-scheduled post, as I'm currently in Europe!*

Last week, I posted these images of some of my favourite travel-related quotes on the blog I co-run with a group of author friends, The Authorteers. I thought they'd be fitting for a Wanderlust Wednesday post too, so I hope you enjoy them!

http://suabroad.syr.edu/interestedstudents/
 
https://www.ricksteves.com/



http://www.liveluvcreate.com/image/more_than_seeing_the_sights-565028.html

http://ellenbarone.com/the-internal-traveler/new-year-new-chapter-20-quotes-about-life-creativity-and-tra.html

http://www.fodors.com/news/travelquotetuesday-on-seeing-sights-6270.html


  
Do you have any favourite travel-related quotes? I'll be back from Europe on the 30th, so if you comment, I'll visit you in return after that. Let's talk here or on Twitter!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Today's the Day - I'm Going on an Adventure!



Today's the day! At 8:40pm (EST) I'll be on a plane taking off for London, England!

Krista and I have been planning this trip for almost a year. After talking about it for awhile and deciding which tour we wanted to do, our official countdown started with 40 weeks to go. 40! And now the day is finally here. I'm still in shock. Every time I talk about it, I feel like I'm talking about someone else, or a story I'm writing or something. I keep saying I probably won't believe this is really happening until we're sitting on the plane. I've dreamed and wished and hoped and planned for this for so long, and now my dream is coming true!
I won't be updating the blog while I'm away, but I do have a few posts set to go up during the two weeks I'm gone. I might be quiet for awhile when I get back and adjust to 'real life' again, but then I'll have a bunch of posts about my trip, with lots of pictures! I plan to collect little bits and bobs while I'm away so I can host a fun giveaway for you guys. 

If you want to see what I'm up to over the next two weeks, follow me on Instagram or Twitter, or follow the hashtag #MarieAndKristaDoEurope.


 Wish me luck! See you guys in July!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone


Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Series: Standalone
Published: June 16th, 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
368 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Acquired this book: Via NetGalley in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

 

{Read my review of Time Between Us ~ Read my review of Time After Time}
  

If you could read my mind, you wouldn't be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can't turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn't help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she'd be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam's weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet's Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more "normal" than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.


I can’t remember the last time I felt compelled to stay up half the night to finish reading a book, but I did that with Every Last Word. I couldn’t put it down; I had to keep reading and find out how things would work out. When I finally finished at almost 3am, teary-eyed and smiley-faced, I had no regrets over losing a few hours of sleep. Every Last Word is incredible. It’s emotional and realistic and romantic and inspirational. I read Tamara Ireland Stone’s first two books, Time Between Us and Time After Time and while I thoroughly enjoyed them, it’s Every Last Word that has bumped her to my auto-buy list.

I connected with Sam early on and felt like I really understood her. Even though she started out kind of shallow and focused on superficial things, it was easy to understand in a way. She’d only ever known her small group of friends, all of whom were concerned with little more than makeup, clothes, boys, parties, and concerts. They were tight-knit, but it wasn’t necessarily about feeling a deep emotional connection or having a lot in common, it was the type of friendship that comes from convenience - they were thrown together at an early age and have known each other their whole lives. So because they’ve known nothing other than always being in each others’ pockets and wanting each others’ approval, Sam hasn’t ventured far outside that life. She likes what they like, does what they do, what they want, what they expect, and what they would approve of. But that’s not the real Sam. The real Sam is much deeper than that - she has interests of her own, she has a big heart, she has the capacity to be an amazing friend. It would be easy to say ‘get new friends’ or ‘leave the group’ but it’s not that simple. In high school, it can feel like you ARE who your friends are. Your friendships are part of your identity, good or bad. I completely understood her resistance to/fear of/uncertainty about leaving the group. I’m almost twice Sam’s age, but this was one way I really connected with her. For me, this has been a year of cutting toxic people from my life. A couple of those people are friends I’ve had my entire life. I wish them well and would be cordial to them if I ran into them, but I have no desire to have them in my life, spewing their negative toxicity and making me feel like I can never live up to their expectations. So this particular aspect of the plot hit close to home for me, because I could imagine how hard it was for Sam.

And then there was AJ. Oh AJ. *swoon* He was quiet and kind and gentle, a great friend, and just overall amazing. He and Sam were so good together. I loved the progression of their relationship from ‘not friends’ to friends to more. It was sweet and romantic and made me grin and swoon and even tear up. They were each exactly what the other needed, and they helped each other in so many ways, plus they had fantastic chemistry. 

I loved watching the changes in Sam and seeing her become her true self. She learned so much about life, friendship, love, and being true to yourself. She wanted so badly to be ‘normal’, to hide her OCD so people wouldn’t think differently of her. I appreciated and respected how her OCD was handled, and it was obvious the author had done her research (which she talks about at the end of the book in an Author’s Note). Sam really felt like a friend who was telling me about all the things happening in her life, and I was so, so proud of her progress and the things she learned. I enjoyed her therapy sessions, and I hope there will be people who truly need a book like this and need the encouragement to seek help. Sam shows that there’s no shame in getting professional help, and a therapist or a mentor or a doctor is there to help give you the tools to lead a fulfilling life.

Every Last Word is a beautiful, touching story. It deals with real life issues in a way that’s easy to empathize and connect with. It’s full of well-developed characters, emotion, and honesty. I’m grateful to Disney-Hyperion for granting me access to read this book early, and I’ll definitely be buying a copy for myself, because I know this is one of those rare books I’ll make time to read again. 

 
   
Have you read Every Last Word? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Have you read Tamara's other books? Have you ever read a book with a main character who has OCD? Let's talk here or on Twitter!
http://sweetmarie-83.blogspot.ca/p/about-me.html

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Review: Last Year’s Mistake by Gina Ciocca

Last Year’s Mistake by Gina Ciocca
Series: Standalone
Published: June 9th, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
313 pages (ARC)
Genre: Contemporary young adult
Acquired this book: From Simon & Schuster Canada for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Before:
Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey's parents decided to move away, she couldn't wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn't ready to let her go...

After:
Now it's senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David's family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey's second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.


I have mixed feelings about Last Year’s Mistake. I was instantly drawn in by the cover, curious about the synopsis, and even more curious by the mix of reviews I was seeing. There were elements of the book I liked, but there were also things that bothered me. I felt a bit of a disconnect throughout, like I could never quite get invested in the characters or the story, and I had trouble remembering what was going on whenever I set it down for awhile.

The book is told in alternating chapters between Kelsey’s freshman year and senior year. In freshman year she’s best friends with David, but things at school are rough, and she doesn’t really have any other friends. In senior year, we see her as one of the popular kids, with a hot boyfriend. When David comes back into her life, old feelings are stirred up, and Kelsey feels conflicted. She can’t forget their shared past, no matter how hard she tries, but she doesn’t know how to have a friendship with David because of things that happened before, and because her boyfriend and friends think she and David have feelings for each other. There’s basically a lot of misunderstandings and confusion, Kelsey being possessive of David, and calling most of the other female characters (even one of her supposed closest friends) a slut or a whore.

There were a few points where I connected with Kelsey. The stuff that was happening to her before she left Connecticut broke my heart, and I could imagine how hard it must have been for her. I think I had trouble connecting with the romance because neither guy seemed all that great and we didn’t learn all that much about them because Kelsey spent so much time thinking about her situation. There were moments I liked David, and I definitely preferred him over asshat Ryan, but I never got that swoony feeling I love getting when reading contemporary YA, especially ones that are as romance-centric as Last Year’s Mistake.

One thing I appreciated about the book was how Kelsey and David weren’t each other’s first, last, and only relationship. They each dated other people, which is realistic. I’m a romance junkie and I adore reading about first love, watching characters fall for the first time, and feeling like they could be together forever, but it’s not necessarily the most realistic thing. Kelsey had to watch David date another girl, and then when she moved she started dating someone else, and David eventually did, too. A lot of teens do date multiple people, some serious, some not, and I liked that that was worked into the story...despite the story involving a love triangle and cheating. 

I also liked that Last Year's Mistake shows how ‘starting over’ isn’t always as easy as simply moving away, not knowing anyone, changing your hair, or deciding to act differently. In theory it’s easy, and you can make changes on the outside and even to your behaviour, but you’re still the same person. Your past stays with you no matter what and shapes who you are. Kelsey got a fresh start in some ways when she moved, but her life was far from perfect, and even some of the things she thought she wanted (like her dad’s success, for instance) turned out different than she expected. 

I was curious about Kelsey's best friend Candy and was surprised by what a good friend she turned out to be, but we hardly see her at all. She’s just sort of there, and I would have liked to see more interactions between her and Kelsey, especially because it seemed like Kelsey really needed someone to talk to. I also would have liked to see more of her family, especially her sister, who seemed to really want to be part of Kelsey’s life, but who Kelsey only seemed to think of as her annoying, nosy little sister. Most of the side characters felt like they were there just to serve a purpose and weren’t really fleshed out.

Overall, Last Year’s Mistake was just okay for me. It didn’t offer anything particularly original, or characters that grabbed my attention, heart, or mind. Even if I’d been able to get past the love triangle and cheating, I just couldn’t connect with the characters or story. That being said, I know plenty of people who have thoroughly enjoyed Last Year’s Mistake, so if you’re looking for something light and quick, and if you enjoy stories about second chances with a strong focus on romance, you might want to give this one a try.

 
 

    
Have you read Last Year's Mistake? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? How do you feel about love triangles? How about books with cheating? Let's talk here or on Twitter!


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