Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: British Fandom Edition


My trip to London, Paris, and Rome in June gave me a lot of ideas for Wanderlust Wednesday posts. With a few exceptions, I'll likely spend the rest of the year doing trip-themed posts every Wednesday. I hope you'll enjoy them!

This week's post is dedicated to fandom-related discoveries in London. Three of the things I love most are Sherlock, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who, and I got to see things related to all of them!

221B Baker Street, Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station, and the TARDIS!

Our first fandom-related stop in London was North Gower Street, where BBC's Sherlock is filmed. We got to see the facade of Sherlock and John's apartment, as well as Speedy's Sandwich Bar and Café, which you see in every episode of Sherlock. It was so exciting to know we were right where Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman film the show! Note the crooked knocker on the door of 221B - this made me laugh, because Mycroft is always straightening it and Sherlock purposely knocks it off-centre.

The next day, we went to Baker Street, where the Sherlock Holmes Museum is. We purposely went after it was closed so it would be quiet around for taking pictures. After peering in the windows and seeing a bit of the inside, I decided the museum will be on my list for the next time I'm in London. Sherlock and John Watson may be fictional characters, but after years of watching movies, TV shows, and reading countless Sherlock-related books, they're very real characters to me, so I loved getting to visit Baker Street.

That night when we went out for dinner, treacle tart was on the dessert menu, and I've always wanted to try it because it's Harry Potter's favourite dessert. It was delicious!

The souvenirs I bought at Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross: a Hogwarts Express train ticket, a Ravenclaw pin, and a billfold. 
If you go to Platform 9 3/4, prepare to wait in line quite awhile. Once you get up there, you can choose a house scarf and wand, and there's a pair of Harry's glasses you can wear. There's a professional photographer who takes pictures that you can buy inside the gift shop (they're crazy expensive), or you can have someone take pictures on your own camera/cell phone, which is what we did. It's a fun experience, and I'd say it's a must for any diehard Harry Potter fan.

If you're in London and looking for the TARDIS, it's outside Earl's Court tube station!

Do you like Sherlock, Harry Potter, and/or Doctor Who? Have you been to any of these places? What's the coolest fandom-related thing you've ever done/seen? Let's talk here or on Twitter

Monday, July 27, 2015

Release Day Guest Post: Patricia Josephine Talks About Writing a Polyamorous Relationship

Happy release day to Gabriel, the fourth and final book in Patricia Josephine's Path of Angels series! I've read and loved all four of these books and highly recommend them. Patricia is here today to talk about writing a polyamorous relationship in Gabriel's book. This story was an epic conclusion to a fantastic series, and Gabe's relationship was one of my favourite aspects of the book. I'd never read a polyamorous relationship before, and I think Patricia did a great job. 

Polyamory by Patricia Josephine 

Out of all the relationships in the series, Gabriel having two love interests was a bit scary to write. I’ve read a few stories with multiple partners, but they were considered ménage. It was more about “Woohoo! Threesome!” I did have a scene where I kind of went that way, but that sex got cut. I wasn’t fond of it because I wasn’t sure how to write three people being intimate. Plus, I didn’t want it to seem like they were only together because of sex.

Early on, I knew Gabriel was poly. He always saw himself with more than one person. Of course, being the stubborn guy he is, he didn’t want that known. Part of his journey was accepting his path and accepting himself. I think I grappled with that as much as he did. I’m still not sure how the relationship will be received. I wasn’t attempting to be shocking or out there. It’s just how the story turned out for me.

I think that’s why the sex scene needed to go. That made the relationship too cliché, too much like a shallow sex scene. I do actually know someone in a polyamory relationship. It felt like I was disrespecting that person and their partners by reducing Gabriel to sex. Who am I to judge others?

{Add to GoodReads ~ Buy on Amazon}
The end is in sight.

To stop Uriel from freeing Lucifer, Gabriel and his brothers must fall and go to Hell. It is a sacrifice Gabriel is not entirely ready to make. Will he fight alongside his brothers or forge his own path? There is only one choice.

Alexander doesn’t want to help Uriel nor does he trust him, but the angel has promised him a better life. He swore to protect Charlie, and he’ll do whatever it takes. When he meets the archangels and learns the depth of Uriel’s lies, he understands the true meaning of sacrifice. If there’s any hope of stopping Lucifer from being freed, Alexander, Charlie, Zephyr and Lake will have to get to Hell and help Gabriel and his brothers in the fight against Uriel.
The path is finally ending, but the price may be too high.

 photo PatriciaLynneAuthorwithbook.jpg
Patricia Josephine never set out to become a writer. In fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was all about art. On a whim, she wrote down a story bouncing in her head. That was the start of it and she hasn't regretted a moment. She writes young adult under the name Patricia Lynne. 

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow, and an obsession with Doctor Who. 

Follow Patricia on Twitter | Goodreads | Google+ | Website | Wattpad

~Happy release day Patricia and Gabe!~

Have you read any of the books in the Path of Angels series? What did you think? If you haven't, do you plan to? Have you ever read a book with a polyamorous relationship? Let's chat here or on Twitter!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: My London-Paris-Rome Trip Recap!


It's taken three weeks, but I finally did it - I have a trip recap! Warning: it's a really long post! I tried to keep it as short as possible, but it is two weeks' worth of stuff, and I didn’t want to leave anything out. I hope this will interest some of you and that a few of you might even get through the whole thing. ;-) I've highlighted the highlights in case you don't want to read the whole thing, but just want to know what I did, where I went, what I saw, etc. There aren't many pictures, but most of my Wanderlust Wednesday posts from now on will be themed posts about my trip, including lots of pics. Next week’s WW is the British Fandom Edition, where I’ll share pictures of 221B Baker Street, Gower Street, Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station, and the TARDIS we found! In the meantime if you want to see more pics, visit my Instagram, because I posted some pics as we went, and I'm still posting pics there fairly regularly.

Here we go! 

Marie and Krista Do the UK and Europe
Day 1 - Bye bye Canada!

  • We left around 3pm for Pearson International Airport in Toronto, which is about a 2-hour drive. Checked in, got through security (I'd been worrying about security for months, not knowing what to expect, but we breezed through it in minutes and it was super easy, proving that I am often neurotic for no reason). Grabbed some food, charged our phones, people-watched, then boarded our plane. We didn't want to pay $35 each for reserved seats when we booked our flights, so we ended up sitting on opposite sides of the plane - boo! I sat with a lovely woman and her teenage daughter from Texas, and Krista sat with a guy from London, so she got lots of tips and tricks for the trip, which was great. We had a yummy dinner (I always hear how plane food sucks, but I thought the food was delicious), I watched Paddington, slept a bit, and overall had a pretty good flight.

Day 2 - London, baby!

  • We arrived at Heathrow shortly after 8:30am, got through customs, grabbed our bags, then went through the airport to the tube (subway), where we bought our Oyster cards (a travel card you put money on and then simply tap to ride the trains - best thing ever, for so many reasons. If you're travelling to London and you're curious about this - or anything else I talk about in this post - please don't hesitate to contact me to ask questions). Luckily the tube runs straight from the airport to our stop, so we didn’t have to change, but the ride took about an hour, and we ended up standing, balancing against our luggage, for the whole ride. We went straight to our hotel (less than a five-minute walk from Russell Square station, yay!) and miraculously were able to check in right away, despite check-in technically being at 2pm. We were both tired and felt gross (my eyes were so tired and dry, I could barely see), so it was nice to get settled into the room. We had planned to do a ton of stuff that day to avoid jet lag, but unfortunately, we were both so out of it, it took us ages to work up the energy to leave the hotel.
  • We finally dragged ourselves out and wandered around the area. I was specifically looking for Gower Street, where BBC’s Sherlock is filmed, since I’d read it wasn’t far from the hotel. We kept getting turned around, but we ended up seeing some really pretty parks and interesting buildings, and finally ended up at Gower Street by accident. It was so cool to see the facade of the building where Sherlock is filmed, plus Speedy’s Café, which you can see in every episode. Very cool! From there, we grabbed the tube. We’d intended to get to Tower Hill, but ended up in Leicester Square, where we decided to wander around. We discovered we were in the City of London, which was one of our goals; Krista's brother sent her this video before we left, explaining the difference between London and the City of London, and we were fascinated. We were completely lost, looking for a place to eat, and I just happened to see one of the City of London crests, so that perked us up right away. We finally found a place to eat (my first meal in London? Fish and chips, naturally!), then headed back to the hotel.
Day 3
  • Took the tube to Piccadilly Circus. Wandered around, stopped at Caffé Nero, had a real British scone, complete with clotted cream and a tiny pot of strawberry jam - heaven! I also had my first ever macchiato, which was also really good.
  • Went to the Household Cavalry, saw the cavalry guard, went through the museum
  • Saw Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey went through St. James Park (where we stopped for ice cream and sat to watch the birds and ducks), saw Buckingham Palace, Wellington Arch
  • Around 5pm we went to meet my friend JK. She moved to London last November and is working as a librarian in a school on a 2-year visa. We met her after work at Baker Street tube station, went to see 221B Baker Street (the museum was closed, but we hadn’t intended to go in anyway, although now that I’ve seen the outside and peeked in the windows, going inside is on my list for my next trip to London), then went for dinner, wandered around Oxford Street, and then parted ways since it was getting dark and we were all tired.

Day 4 - Day trip out of London
  • We left early in the morning to meet up with a tour going to Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge.
  • We did a tour of Windsor Castle, which was huge and beautiful. AND...Queen Elizabeth was in residence! We were there during the Royal Ascot, and I guess the queen is always at Windsor (her favourite home) for that. It was exciting knowing she was there. On our way out, we saw part of the changing of the guard, but we were in a hurry to catch the bus, so we couldn't stay long. I definitely want to go back to Windsor, do a more thorough tour of the castle, see the chapel, and check out the town itself.
  • From there we drove to Bath. We saw the cathedral from the outside, and got to do a tour of the Roman Baths. Krista and I both drank from the spring, which is apparently full of minerals and healing properties. It was hot and gross, but it’s fun to say we did it! Next time I go to England, I’d love to spend at least a full day, if not a couple days in Bath. It was so beautiful, but we didn’t get to do anything other than the Roman Baths.
  • From there, we drove to Stonehenge. I’ve wanted to see Stonehenge my whole life, and it didn’t disappoint. We took our time doing a full loop of the circle before making a mad dash back to the bus.
  • After that it was time to head back to London. It was a whirlwind day, and it didn’t feel like we had enough time to see everything properly, but considering it was a 12-hour day and we spent over half of that just driving from place to place, it would have been impossible to spend more time in each place. I’m happy I got to see what I did, plus our tour guide was incredible, and gave us several tips for things to do in London, some of which we actually ended up doing.
Day 5
  • We met JK in the morning and headed to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard
  • Wandered the streets for awhile (okay, we got totally turned around, but we ended up seeing some pretty cool things, including the London Ritz, where I’d love to go for high tea someday).
  • Said goodbye to JK, then Krista and I headed for the British Museum. We were there for several hours, then got some yummy waffles from a cart outside and sat and watched people come and go.
  • 6pm: Contiki group meetup! We met our tour manager and the people on our tour, then had a group dinner before meeting our coach driver and setting out for a quick tour of London. We ended up at Buckingham Palace at dusk, which was nice because there were only a few people milling around instead of the usual massive crowds.

Day 6
  • We set out with some of the people from our Contiki group and started the day at the Tower of London. This little history nerd was very happy! We did one of the tours guided by a Beefeater, had ice cream while we waited in line to see the Crown Jewels, and then went up in the White Tower.
  • From there we went for lunch, then did a cruise on the Thames River. We got off at Westminster Pier, where we took the tube to King’s Cross Station and...saw Platform 9 3/4! We had to wait in line for quite awhile, but it was totally worth it once I was up there, wearing a Ravenclaw scarf, holding a wand, and going off to Hogwarts (at least in my own vivid imagination)! I got a few neat little things in the gift shop for myself and my nephews, then we headed back to the hotel to drop everything off and head straight back out to meet our Contiki group for...
  • A Jack the Ripper walking tour! We walked through the streets of Whitechapel, seeing the murder sites and the buildings from the 1880s that are still standing, and heard about the murders, theories about the murderer, and what life was like in the late 1800s in London. I’ve had this sick fascination with Jack the Ripper for years and our tour guide was fantastic, so this was definitely a highlight for me.
  • After the tour, we walked to a nightclub, where about half the group got in, but then the rest of us were turned away because it was too full. We headed down the street to a pub, which was PACKED. We were like 'meh' and so were the girls we were with, so we caught the tube at Piccadilly and headed back to the hotel, where we met up with a few other people who had skipped the bar, and we had dinner and drinks with them in one of the hotel’s restaurants.
Day 7 - Last day in London *sniff*
  • Did a tour of Westminster Abbey. We spent probably two hours exploring. I got to light a candle for my dad, Grama, and Poppy. Again, the history nerd in me was happy...and it was exciting to walk down the aisle where Duchess Kate walked to marry Prince William!
  • Had a delicious lunch at a pub near the Abbey (I had steak and ale pie, which was one of the best things I ate on the entire trip), then walked through St. James Park again, but it was a different section than Day 3 and we got to see pelicans! We just happened to be walking by and the guy who feeds them was coming out and they all rushed out of the water, along with a bunch of herons, for feeding time. They were massive! I’m so glad we got to see them.
  • Went back to the Household Cavalry (Krista’s obsession - cute, uniformed boys on horses), and this time we were in time to see the changing of the guard, so she was extra happy.
  • More wandering led us to Trafalgar Square
  • From there we went to Kensington Gardens and saw Kensington Palace
  • On our way back to the hotel, we ended up having to change trains at Earl’s Court, which is where our tour guide from Day 4 told us the TARDIS we did a lap of the station and found it! There was definitely some squeeing on my part!
  • Back to the hotel to get ready for a night out to see Mamma Mia! We knew a West End musical was included on our tour, but we didn’t know what it would be. Mamma Mia was my top choice/wish, since I love Abba and the movie is one of my favourites, so I was beyond excited, and it exceeded my expectations. 
Kensington Palace, current home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka Will and Kate) and their beautiful little munchkins Prince George and Princess Charlotte, as well as Prince Harry
Day 8 - Cheerio, London!
  • We left London early and drove to Dover to cross on the ferry to France...or at least that’s what we were supposed to do, but when we reached the port, we were told the workers in France were striking (something we’d soon learn they love to do), and we couldn’t cross.
  • Went to Dover Castle to put in time, then drove half an hour to Canterbury, where we spent a couple hours waiting for word on the border opening so we could leave England.
  • We ended up leaving Dover around 5:30pm, which was the time we were supposed to be arriving in Paris. It was a 90-minute ferry ride to Calais, then another 5-ish hour drive to Paris, where we arrived around midnight, checked into our hotel, and called it a night.
Day 9 - Oui oui, Paris
  • We were supposed to have a group dinner and a coach tour the night we arrived in Paris, but since we arrived so late, we were reimbursed for the dinner. Our coach driver had exceeded his driving hours the day before and wasn’t allowed to drive until later in the day, so we all hopped on the Metro to Trocadero to see the Eiffel Tower from a great picture-taking vantage. We were supposed to go up the Tower that morning, but they were striking (ha!), so we had free time.
  • Went to the Arc de Triomphe (which we climbed to enjoy the view of the city), then Notre Dame Cathedral. Saw the Louvre (we didn’t go in because we didn’t have time; luckily I went on my first trip to Paris in 2001, and Krista and the girls we were spending the day with ended up going in that night while I went to Moulin Rouge).
  • Met up with the group at Place de la Concorde (where they were setting up for the Tour de France) and had the city tour we missed the night before.
  • That night: Moulin Rouge! This was another highlight of the trip for me. A gourmet 3-course meal, wine, a glass of real champagne, and a show like no other. It was incredible. Afterward, the coach was there to take us back to the hotel or we could go out, so a bunch of us went next door to a famous bar called O’Sullivans for drinks and some dancing.
View of Paris + the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe
Day 10
  • Did a tour of the Palace of Versailles.
  • Went to the Musée d’Orsay. I love Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh, so this was another highlight for me.
  • That night we had our farewell dinner since we were all parting ways. Some people were going home, some were staying in Paris, some were going on to Amsterdam, and others were going to Rome. We climbed the stairs in front of Sacre Coeur Basilica, then went to dinner at a fancy restaurant in Montmartre.
  • How we ended our evening: Eiffel Tower by night! We finally got to go up, see the city, then watch it sparkle, which it does every hour on the hour from dusk.
Day 11 - Au revoir, Paris!
  • We flew from Paris to Rome, where our comedy of errors continued. There was a fire that morning at the airport we were supposed to land at, so we were detoured to the other airport in town, where we were supposed to be picked up, but there’d been a mix-up so we ended up camping out on the airport floor for several hours. It was actually kind of fun because we all bonded while we were sitting around sharing food and stories.
  • That night we went for dinner with some of our group. I was looking forward to eating ALL THE FOOD in Rome, and the gorgonzola pizza, tirimisu gelato, and prosecco didn’t disappoint.
Day 12
  • Country #4: the Vatican! Went to St. Peter’s Basilica, then climbed the dome, which seriously just about killed me. We took a lift partway, but still had to climb 320 stairs in an airless, tight, windy tower. I wanted to kill Krista for making me do it, but the view of St. Peter’s Square and Rome were incredibly, plus I was so freaking proud of myself when we got back down and I knew I’d accomplished something amazing and concurred a huge challenge.
  • Back to Rome, where we wandered around the ridiculously beautiful city, ate gelato, and visited Santa Maria del Popolo Square and the church.
St. Peter's Square (which, as you can see, is actually a circle) from the top of the Dome at St. Peter's Basilica
Day 13 
  • Roman Forum
  • Palatine Hill
  • Colosseum
*Both of us history nerds rejoiced yet again at all this incredible, ancient history, despite the crippling heat and the need to seek shade every 5 or 10 minutes. I got a wicked sunburn, despite applying sunscreen twice. That night, we were supposed to meet some of our group for dinner, but we somehow missed them, so we went out in search of food on our own. I'd seen a restaurant earlier in the day that looked good and wasn't far from the hotel, so we walked a bit and when I thought I saw it, we paused for a second outside, and a waiter swept out the door, said 'buona sera' and handed us glasses of free prosecco, so we were like 'ok, guess we're eating here' haha. We ended up having an incredible dinner (and more prosecco after our free glass). It was a great night.

Day 14

  • Spanish Steps
  • Trevi Fountain - There's a legend that if you throw a coin in the fountain and make a wish, you'll return to Rome one day. The fountain is under construction, which I knew beforehand, but I thought it would be much worse because in the last pictures I saw, it was under heavy construction and covered in scaffolding. I was so, so happy when we got there and saw it wasn't as bad as expected. Even though there wasn't water in the fountain, you could still throw your coin over the glass into the empty basin, so we did!
  • The Pantheon (which was closed because it was a holiday, which nobody bothered to tell us. We were so bummed!)
  • Lots of wandering, visiting squares, a bit of shopping
*I was absolutely dazzled by Rome, especially on that last day. There's something magical about the light in the city, plus I swear I've never seen a sky so blue. 

Day 15 - Arrivederci, Rome!

  • Flew home! One of the longest days of my life, with a few more hiccups (because why not, consider we had them the whole trip lol), but we made it home safely and were extremely happy to be back on Canadian soil after a whirlwind trip.
Three weeks later, I'm at the point where the whole thing feels like a crazy, amazing dream. I still can't believe I got to do and see so many things I've fantasized about my whole life. I've been so busy with work I haven't had time to sort through all 2,100 of my pictures, but I'm working away at it and setting aside the ones I want to share for future Wanderlust Wednesday posts. I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip! If you have any questions, you can leave a comment, email me, or chat with me on Twitter

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Release Day Blitz: Unexpected by Lilly Avalon

Happy release day to Unexpected by my good friend Lilly Avalon! I'll have a review for the book, along with a guest post and super special exclusive giveaway just for readers of Ramblings of a Daydreamer very soon, so stay tuned!
Release Date: 07/21/15
New Adult/Standalone

Ever had one of those days? Alina Lyons is having one. Everything keeps falling apart and going wrong. Just when she thinks it couldn't get worse, it does. After a case of mistaken identity and a broken heart, she finds herself questioning the things she thought she knew. She wonders who she can turn to or trust anymore.

An unlikely bond with her former best friend's ex, Ryan Wilcox, sends her life in a new direction. He offers her a place to stay while she gets her life back on track. His friendship is exactly what she's been missing—what she's been needing. Alina's never felt this alive. As time goes by, the dynamic of their relationship becomes more than either of them expected. A few innocent kisses could lead them in a new direction, but are they prepared for what's on the other side?

Only one way to find out.

Lilly Avalon
 Lilly Avalon is the author of the RESIST series as well as other erotic romances. She's somewhere in the midst of her twenties and lives mostly in the stories in her head. When she's not enveloped in the worlds she creates, she's out in the real world making stories happen. That or reading other romances. It's a toss-up.

Author Links:
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Top Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I think by this point we can all agree diverse books are not only wanted by readers, they're needed, too. There are countless people who have never seen themselves - or their families, friends, neighbours, significant others, etc - reflected on the page. It's so, so important to have books that celebrate diversity in its many beautiful forms: people of different races, colours, religions, sexual orientation, gender identities, socio-economic backgrounds, plus neuro-diversity, disabilities, differences in body type, different types of family structures. I've read so many great books (especially this year) that have incorporated almost all these forms of diversity, and I'm excited to get to share some of my favourites today. If you love diverse books as much as I do, keep an eye on the blog because I'm planning to create a page dedicated to diverse books that I hope to add to on a regular basis.

My Top Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity
Since my list is actually more than 10, I'm just going to say what makes each book diverse. If you want to read my reviews (which are gushing for most of these), the links lead to my reviews.  

  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli - LGBTQ (also happens to be one of the cutest books ever, and one of my top favourites of 2015)
  • Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone - MC has purely-obsessive OCD
  • My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter - LGBTQ + POC love interest, who's adopted
  • The Path of Angels series by Patricia Josephine - this urban fantasy series has gay characters, POC characters, plus in one there’s a polyamorous relationship.
  • Sugar by Deirdre Riodran Hall - MC is an obese Puerto-Rican girl; story deals with poverty, among many other things
  • I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios - MC lives in poverty, love interest is a Marine with PTSD and a war injury
  • Burn for Burn and Fire With Fire (also Ashes to Ashes, but I haven't read that one yet) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian - one of the main characters is Asian (which is actually represented on all three covers, which I love, because that's not always the case)

Honorable mentions (because it was so bloody hard to narrow it down!): The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi (LGBTQ), One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva (LGBTQ, plus MC is Armenian), the Off the Map series by Lia Riley (MC has OCD), No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace (LGBTQ characters, deals with poverty), Galgorithm by Aaron Karo (POC love interest), Between Everything and Us by Rebecca Paula (MC has MS), A Desperate Fortune by Susannah Kearsley (MC has asperger’s), Make it Count by Megan Erickson (MC has dyslexia), Hushed by Kelley York (LGBTQ), the International School series by Chanel Cleeton (Lebanese love interest), Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler (Filipina-American MC), Black Iris by Leah Raeder (LGBTQ, mental illness).

*Shameless self-promotion in 3...2...1...
I try to keep self-promo out of my meme posts, but I know a lot of people are specifically looking for diverse books, which is amazing. I’ve seen a lot of discussion on Twitter about how important it is to talk about these books, buy them, share them, blog about them, etc...and it’s great to write diverse books and it’s great to read them, but if people don’t know they exist, or if they don’t support the authors writing them, those books go unnoticed. I’m not saying you should buy my books because they have diverse characters, but if they sound like something you’d enjoy and you want to read them, that makes this little author very happy! In my book After the Storm, the love interest is Aboriginal (Native Canadian), and my book Take Them by Storm is LGBTQ. *drops that info for you guys and goes to check out your TTT posts and add some diverse books to my TBR*

What are some of your favourite diverse books? Is there a type of diversity you gravitate toward? Any books not on my list that you'd highly recommend? If you did this week's TTT, feel free to leave your link and I'll visit you in return! If you want to chat about diverse books (or anything else for that matter) you can find me on Twitter!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Review: Focus on Me by Megan Erickson

Focus on Me by Megan Erickson
Series: In Focus #2
Published: July 21st, 2015
Publisher: InterMix
Genre: Contemporary New Adult/LGBTQ
Acquired this book: Via NetGalley in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

{Read my 5-star review of Trust the Focus}

Colin Hartman can now add college to his list of failures. On the coast-to-coast trek home from California, Colin stops at a gas station in the Nevada desert, and can’t help noticing the guy in tight jeans looking like he just stepped off a catwalk. When he realizes Catwalk is stranded, Colin offers a ride.

Riley only intended to take a short ride in Colin’s Jeep to the Grand Canyon. But one detour leads to another until they finally find themselves tumbling into bed together. However there are shadows in Riley’s eyes that hide a troubled past. And when those shadows threaten to bury the man whom Colin has fallen in love with, he vows to get Riley the help he needs. For once in his life, quitting isn’t an option…

Megan Erickson’s Trust the Focus is one of my favourite books of 2015 so far, so I was incredibly eager to get my hands on Focus on Me. From the very beginning of the book, I knew Erickson had done it again and I was going to love Colin and Riley’s story (almost!) as much as I loved Trust the Focus. This is an author who knows how to break your heart and then piece it back together, make you laugh, make you cry, make you swoon...and make you need a cold shower!

Colin and Riley are both complex, flawed young men. They each have their own demons and issues, and they’ve made mistakes that haunt them. Colin had a great voice and I connected with him easily. He was easy going, smart, and just an overall genuinely good guy. I loved his relationship with his younger sister and felt like we learned a lot about who he was through his few interactions with her and the way he talked about her.

One thing I really liked about this book - and all of Erickson’s books - is how different it was. There was nothing cookie cutter or predictable about it. There were situations and issues that you don’t often see in books, and they were dealt with in a way that was brutally honest and realistic.

I appreciated how the story dealt with male body image - something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a book before. We see girls dealing with body image all the time, talking about how they’re too skinny or they need to lose weight or have bigger boobs or smaller thighs or a prettier face or any other myriad things the media tells them. There’s so much pressure from society, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that guys feel that pressure too in their own way. I have two young nephews, one who’s just days away from becoming a teenager, and it put some important things into perspective for me and showed me things to possibly watch for in their behaviours or the things they say.

Body image wasn’t the only demon Riley struggled with. His erratic behaviour and some of the things he said left me guessing what exactly he was dealing with internally, and you could feel that confusion in Colin, too. Colin knew Riley was unhealthy and needed help. He knew they were enabling each other, but he didn’t know what to do. He was used to quitting everything and he didn’t want to continue his track record with Riley, who so clearly needed him. He knew what they were doing was unhealthy and maybe even dangerous, and you could really feel his inner turmoil and the mixture of emotions he experienced. I particularly liked the overall message that love and sex don’t or can’t heal everything. Sometimes you need more; sometimes you need professional help, and there’s absolutely no shame in that. Love can make you want to change or work on your problems, but it can’t always chase away the demons or heal the cracks in your heart or mind. There was no ‘sex cures all problems’ mentality in Focus on Me, and I loved that and respected Erickson so much for this realistic portrayal of mental illness, and how it not only affects the person suffering from it, but also the people who care about them.

Focus on Me was emotional and hard to read at times, but it was ultimately hopeful. Colin and Riley met in strange circumstances and thought they’d only be together for a short time, but quickly ended up needing each other. Their relationship was intense, and it gave them both the opportunity to learn more about themselves as they learned about each other. They had some major ups and downs, and I ran the gamut from heartbreak to anger and everything in between while reading their story. Focus on Me is a beautiful story about love, friendship, survival, and healing. If you haven’t read Trust the Focus yet, I highly recommend starting there and then reading Focus on Me. These stories, and these characters, are phenomenal.

Favourite quote:
"Everything about this felt right, and I wondered what had happened to me--that I was somehow falling for this man who looked like he'd stepped off of a catwalk, who had demons and sad eyes and kissed like an angel." ~ 23% of ARC of Focus on Me
Have you read Focus on Me or Trust the Focus? What did you think? If you haven't read them, do you plan to? What are some of your favourite LGBTQ books? How about road trip books? Let's talk here or on Twitter!
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