9/28/14

On ARCs

ARCs (or Advance Reading Copies) are a definitely perk for book bloggers.  Whether it's physical copies shipped in packages from the publisher, or e-galleys downloaded from NetGalley or Edelweiss, many bloggers have access to titles before they are released to the general public and are able to read these uncorrected proofs in exchange for a review provided to the publisher.  ARCs are given to the bloggers with the hope that the blogger will love the book, share a positive review and help increase sales for that title.  A blogger with a significant readership can have a big impact on the sales of a particular title, so it's a marketing gamble that can swing sales significantly, depending on the blogger's review.

When I first started blogging, close to three years ago now, I would often watch other bloggers' vlogs or scroll through lists of received books, marvelling at the fact that these bloggers, who really weren't that different from me, were receiving BOXES of books for FREE from the publishers!  Books that weren't even available to the general public!  How awesome is that?!?  I dreamed of the day that my blog would be big and popular, with thousands of followers, and then publishers would approach ME, offering me boxes of books, glorious books!

Then I had my very first instance of ARC envy.  This isn't something that we bloggers admit to frequently, but I'm 99.9% sure that this has happened to each and every one of you.  What is ARC envy, you ask?  Here's how it works: you're sitting at your lap top, watching the latest Stacking the Shelves vlog from your absolutely favouritest blogger of all time.  You know, the one who has the most beautifully and perfectly organized bookshelves of all time?  The one who has just the cutest and coolest wardrobe of all time?  The one who always has perfect hair and make-up who starts off by saying "Don't mind my messy hair -- I just came back from the GYM!" and you wonder how someone can look SO good right after the gym?  But no, I'm not talking about envy of those beautiful bloggers who look so amazing 24/7, it's envy of the books that those ladies are showcasing: the beautiful books that are new to their shelves this week.  And as you listen to them show the covers and talk a little about the books, you think about adding a couple of books to your own TBR list, until you see her show the cover of THAT BOOK.  THAT BOOK THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE YOUR HANDS ON THIS VERY SECOND OR YOU WILL DIE.  You know that book?  The one in your favourite series?  Or the newest release by your all time favourite author ever?  We all have that ONE BOOK on our TBRs that we would do anything, ANYTHING to get our hands on right this very second.  And that moment when you see that beautiful book in the hands of another person months, MONTHS before it's release date, MONTHS in advance of the moment that you will be able to open that first page and take a deep inhale of the beautiful story contained therein... THAT moment when you feel that tiny little ache in your heart, that quick stabbing pain?  That, my friends is ARC envy.

As I mentioned earlier, my first instance of this experience was when the ARCs for Requiem started arriving in bloggers' mailboxes.  I was so happy for these bloggers, while watching their excitement on holding that final installment in their hands.  Their excitement was infectious and I found myself unbelievably happy for each any every one of them, because how can you not be happy for someone when they're as excited as you are to read a book?  Nothing makes me happier than sharing my love of reading with others.  At the same time, I still felt that tiny little tugging at my heart, wishing that I got to experience the world of Requiem ahead of time, instead of waiting like the rest of the world.

Now, here's the funny part: It's almost two years post-release date, and I still actually haven't read Requiem.  It's one of the books that I pledged to read in my fall TBR post last week.  I have featured this book on my blog numerous times, saying that I'll read it, yet it still sits on my shelves.  Originally, it was one of my most eagerly anticipated releases but it still remains unread to this day.

The main reason that I haven't read it is that I'm almost certain that I'm going to be disappointed.  I eagerly gobbled up some of the early reviews, and saw that many of my favourite and trusted bloggers didn't care for this one.  Of course, there are a few that did like it, so I am hopeful that I'll be in the minority, or that my low expectations will pay off, as was the case when I read Sever earlier this year.

I've been thinking a lot about the experiences that I've had with ARCs over the past year, and the moments in my 2014 reading that have really stood out for me, both good and bad.  Honestly, the low points for me were trying to keep up with my review pile, and reading some review books that were just not very good.  My reading highlights over the past year have been a few books that I have had sitting on my shelves for a year or two, and I just hadn't had the chance to get to them.  This made me wonder: am I taking time away from reading some amazing books, just to enjoy the privilege of reading some books before release date?

Don't get me wrong: I am incredibly grateful for all of the titles that I have had the ability to read and review prior to their publication date.  It's not something that I take for granted, but it has given me pause in the last few days to reflect on how I select the titles that I read.  Many of the books on my shelves have been purchased based on recommendations from friends, or books that I have researched really well before I purchased them, either because I'd seen good reviews popping up on Goodreads, or it's a book that had a lot of bookish buzz around the blogosphere.

So, I started thinking: I have lots of books on my shelves that I bought trusting that they'd be solid reads.  I don't spend my money frivolously on books, so I always choose a book that I know I'm going to want on my shelves as part of my forever collection.  When I choose an ARC to request or download, I don't have any reviews to read first, or trusted bloggers to follow.  It's a bit more a gamble in the dark.  Sure, I might stumble across the next phenomenal read that's going to take the reading world by storm but I also might stumble across a dud.  Since I have a lot less reading time than I used to, I want to surround myself with books that I'm almost positive that I'll love, rather than one that I'm just hoping to love.

Going forward, I'm going to be a little more selective about the ARCs that I request, either books from authors that I already enjoy, or maybe the odd ARC that a blogging friend has already read and loved.  Then, I'm going to fill that extra reading time with books that are already on my shelves or on my TBR that I just know that I'm going to fall head-over-heels for.  There's truly nothing better in the world that a five-star, goosebump-inducing fan-freakin-tastic read.  Right?

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9/25/14

Life of a Blogger - Clothing


My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat runs this awesome feature as a way for her followers to get to know her better!  Check out the list of upcoming topics here.

Today's topic is clothing.  I'm not much of a fashionista, but I like to dress nicely, but also comfortably.  I dress up for work (i.e. dresses and heels) but on the weekend I'm usually comfortable in yoga pants and a tank top.

I'm not into spending huge amounts of money on clothes, and you will most definitely not find me shopping in high end designer clothes.  One of my all time favourite things to do (which I haven't had a chance to do in a LONG time, and I miss it!) is thrift store shopping!  We have this great store called Value Village.  I could spend hours in that store, heaping a cart high with things to try on.  I went once with a friend and I left with two bulging bags of great finds for less than $50!

What about you?  What's your clothing style?  Leave me a comment below!
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9/23/14

Top Ten Books on my Fall TBR Pile


It's Tuesday and time for my favourite top ten Tuesday post of the year -- planning the upcoming season of reading!  Top Ten Tuesday is, as always, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Fall is one of my favourite seasons, where we still have beautiful sunny days, but the evenings turn chilly when the sun starts to go down and it's the perfect weather to curl up with a blanket, a cup of something warm and a good book.

I actually did quite well with my summer reading list and read a few fantastic standalones, as well as a few books that have been collecting dust on my shelves.

This fall, I'm feeling like it's time to get back to my series-ous reading, as there's only a few months left of the Prequel and Sequel Challenge!  So, with no further ado, here are a few series that I'd like to finish this fall as well as a few that I'd like to try out because I already have book one on my shelves ...

1. Requiem by Lauren Oliver.  It's a bit riduculous how many times I've said on this blog that I plan to read it, and then I don't. 2014 cannot end with this book still on my TBR list.

2. Pure by Julianna Baggott.  I had an e-galley of this book that expired before I read it, then I borrowed it twice from the library.  Each time I renewed it three times (the max number allowed) before I had to return it unread.  Once, I even forgot to renew it on time and renewed it three days late, so I've even paid late fines on this book -- and still haven't read it.

3. Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor. I did an impromptu read-a-long of the first two books earlier this year, yet never finished this series.

4. Song of Ice & Fire by George R.R. Martin. This is a lofty goal, but it takes me about three weeks to read one from beginning to end.  Provided my audio copy comes in at the library in a timely fashion, I just might be able to accomplish this goal.

5. Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward. This might be another lofty goal, or it might be the only goal that I accomplish on this list -- these books are freaking addicting, and I just keep gobbling them up!

6. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas.  A few months ago, I asked for your help to choose a new series to start, and the response on the post was OVERWHELMINGLY in favour of this book.  I'm a little scared of the hype, but also intrigued and hoping that I love it.

7. Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers. This is another one that I'm a little nervous about, but I'm also excited that the series is wrapping up this fall, so I might have the ability to binge-read them all.

8. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. I'm seriously nervous about this one too -- what if I'm the only person in the entire book blogging world that doesn't like this series?!?

9. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Brie @ A Slice of Brie said she will read this one with me.  A big chunky read isn't as scary with a friend by your side!

10. Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris.  This is the beginning of a duology and Amber @ Books of Amber has been raving about this book for far too long.  It might be kind of nice to end the year with a duology binge-read!

How about you?  What's on your fall TBR pile?  Leave me a link to your post and I'll stop by!

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9/22/14

On Bookish Comparisons

Lately, I've noticed a trend in the book world: bookish comparisons.  It seems like every book is being compared to Book X Meets Book Y.  Sometimes this works for me, and sometimes it puts me off a book entirely.  Let me give you some examples ...

1. Jackaby -- Dr. Who meets Sherlock ... never seen either show, so would I even want to read this book?

2. Lauren Oliver's Rooms -- Her Fearful Symmetry (it was okay) meets The Lovely Bones (didn't like it at all) meets The Ocean at the End of the Lane (DNFed it) -- will I even like this one?  But it's LAUREN OLIVER so I pre-ordered it.

3. The Jewel -- The Handmaid's Tale (one of my all time favourites) meets The Selection (which I have NO interest at all in reading).  I'm not inclined to pick this one up at all, even with the pretty dress on the cover.

4. No Place to Fall -- This Lullaby (I loved it) meets The Sky is Everywhere (I haven't read it yet, but definitely want to).  This comparison overhyped the book for me, and I felt like I was expecting more.

See what I mean?  In some cases, I have zero interest in reading the book because the comparisons just don't do it for me.  In others, I feel hesitant about jumping into the book because I'm not sure what to expect, while others just hype my expectations up WAY too high and the book just doesn't live up to its comparisons!

What about you?  Do you like it when publishers promote a book using these types of comparisons?  Is there a book that has lived up to its bookish comparison?  Leave me a comment below!

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9/21/14

A Look Back At Summer...

Holy moly guys, can you believe that it's fall already?  I had an amazing summer filled with evenings at the park in the sunshine, ice cream cones dripping down my elbows, lazy trips to the lake and more laughter and smiles than I ever thought possible!  We had some incredible summer weather this year, with some hot hot days and only a handful of rainy ones!  Although I loved spending the time outside with my hubby and Marko, I am looking forward to the crisp and cool sunny days that fall brings, as well as the rainy ones.

Seasonal Highs

The best thing about my summer, hands down, is my fantastic new blog design!  Freshening up my blog really helped to banish the blogging blahs and invigorate my blogging mojo.  I also shared a couple of fun discussion posts, one about sex scenes and another about seasonal TBR posts.  Although the formatting of this post is all over the place, I really had fun filling out the Countdown Survey.

After hitting a bit of a series burnout, I decided to dedicate my summer to standalones (although I did get sucked into the Black Dagger Brotherhood!).  Notable summery reads include: How to Love, Since You've Been Gone, One Plus One, Open Road Summer and The Here and Now.

Seasonal Lows

I've spent a lot of time away from social media in the past few months, which has left me feeling a bit out of the loop.  It was inspiring to learn that some of you guys feel the same way!  Between balancing full-time work and being a mom (as well as squeezing in some reading time now and then), I don't know if I'll ever be the social media guru that I'd need to be in order to grow my blog following, but in the meantime I'm happy with my little corner of the internet.

I DNFed a couple of review books (Snow Like Ashes and Of Scars and Stardust -- reviews to come), and hit a bit of a review book brick wall.  I haven't downloaded or requested anything in quite a while, and I only have one pending review book left.  I think, unless I see something on Netgalley or Edelweiss that I simply can't live without, review books are going to take a back seat for me for a while so that I can focus on reading what I WANT to read, rather than what I HAVE to read.

Fall Forecast

I'm eagerly anticipating a return to the chilly fall weather, as well as some fall reads.  I don't know about you guys, but my reading mood definitely changes in the fall.  In summer, I crave lighter contemporaries, but as soon as the days get shorter, my reading tastes shift accordingly.  I'm looking towards diving back into some series, both new and old.  Currently, I'm absorbed in Laini Taylor's Dreams of Gods & Monsters -- it's just as good as I had hoped it would be!

What about you?  What are the highlights of your summer?  Leave me a comment below!

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9/18/14

Life of a Blogger - Languages


My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat runs this awesome feature as a way for her followers to get to know her better!  Check out the list of upcoming topics here.

Today's topic is languages!  I'm a native English speaker, but my parents put me into French Immersion in kindergarten.  So, from the age of 5, I heard only French while at school and therefore learned to speak, read and write in French as well.  Although I don't get the opportunity to practice my French very often, it comes back to me quite quickly because I learned it from such a young age.  I'm hopeful that I can put Marko into the same kindergarten program.

Then, in Grade 9, I started taking Spanish as an elective.  I took Spanish straight through 'til Grade 12 and then did one year in university as well.  I don't remember very much Spanish, unfortunately, since I haven't had much exposure to the language since university.

Finally, I'm learning Serbian!  My husband was born in Belgrade (former Yugoslavia) but immigrated to Canada when he was very young.  He spoke Serbian at home and wants Marko to grow up knowing English and Serbian.  We've been very fortunate to find a Serbian daycare for him, where the daycare lady speaks in Serbian and so her kids.  It's been fun for me to learn words along with him and I've picked up a lot in a very short period of time!

What about you?  What language(s) do you speak?  Leave me a comment below!
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9/13/14

On Reading (and Reviewing!) Something a Little Different

I went a little crazy on Netgalley over the past few months, and downloaded some titles that are very different from what I usually read!  Here are some very quick reviews of those titles -- maybe you might share some of my diverse interests?


Why I Downloaded This Book: I went through a major job hunt / career change earlier this year, and have been helping my sister-in-law to do the same.  The world of job hunting is so digital these days, so you really have to make your resume stand out from the hundreds of others with similar skills.

What I Thought: It was interesting, and gave me some good ideas for my next job hunt!  Shortly after I started my new job, the marketing coordinator gave her notice and hiring commenced for her position.  While looking at some of the creative and visually attractive resumes that came into the office, I really understood the relevance of having a resume that stands out from the pile.  This book also talks a lot about cultivating your online presence, which I thought was relevant to blogging.  Often, I look at some blogs that have just had their online identity so together and seamless from the very beginning.  If I were to start my blog over again from the beginning, there are definitely a lot of things that I'd do differently from the beginning!  When I make my next career change, I will definitely consider picking up this book again!  The job market is continually changing in its expectations, and books like this one are an invaluable tool for navigating those fluxes.


Why I Downloaded This Book: I absolutely ADORE the story of Les Misérables!  I've seen the 1998 movie version, as well as the most recent version.  I've also seen the live play about 11 times so far, from a high school production to a small community theater to the full Broadway show.  I've also never read a Manga comic before, so I thought I'd give it a shot!

What I Thought: Flipping the pages backwards was harder than I had thought it would be.  Fortunately, because I was super familiar with the storyline, it was easy to see when I was going backwards instead of forwards.  The drawings were gorgeous, and I did enjoy the retelling of one of my favourite stories.


Why I Downloaded This Book: My aunt brought me a gorgeous bolt of cloth from China.  It's shimmery blue with butterflies all over it and it's a brocade-style fabric, nice and thick.  At first, I planned to make throw pillows out of the fabric, but it doesn't really fit my décor, and I didn't want to waste such beautiful fabric on pillows that I likely won't use.  Somewhere along the line, I decided that making it into a hobo-style purse would be a great idea -- and the hunt for instructions began...

What I Thought: At the very beginning of the book, the author shares some key information about bags, and the fact that all bags were based on a basic mathematical principle that covered the ratio of height to length and so on, plus some basic shapes that are used for all purses, and can be customized using the ratio.  I was excited, thinking that this book would teach me the foundations skills of bag making, which I could then customize to my specific project.  After the introduction, however, the remainder of the book was all patterns and directions for specific styles of bag (and I didn't like the one hobo bag in the collection) and they all seemed really complicated and hard to follow!  So, the hunt continues for my perfect bag pattern!

The above-noted books were all provided to me by the publisher, via Netgalley.  The fact that these books were for review has no bearing whatsoever on the contents of my review.

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