Blind Kiss - Renee Carlino

I read my first Renée Carlino book en route home from one of my best friends' wedding in Ontario.  My flight got delayed after my first stop in Calgary and I sought solace in a light contemporary novel because I just really wanted to get home.  I enjoyed it but I was also so tired by the journey and the delays that I think the exhaustion prevented me from enjoying it to the max.

I honestly don't know what prompted me to request Blind Kiss for review since my first experience with Renee didn't make me jump for joy, but HOLY SMOKES am I glad that I read this book.  I gobbled it up over one weekend and I could scarcely put it down.  Not only that, it made me cry on THREE separate occasions.  It was an emotional roller coaster and one of the best adult contemporary romances I've read.

The story is told in alternating timelines which is a trope that I love.  I love being in the present and knowing that certain things are going to happen, but then blasting back into the past and trying to piece together the storyline to figure out how we're going to get to the present.  Penny and Gavin meet during a psychology experiment: to kiss a stranger blindfolded.  What follows is a friendship like no other as they help each other through so many ups and downs.  I loved that Gavin wanted more out of their friendship but Penny had such solid reasons for wanting to remain friends -- yet I still kept fighting for them.  I don't want to say much more lest I spoil things but the storyline plays out perfectly and I wouldn't have changed a thing.  And did I mention that this book made me cry THREE TIMES?!?  Beautiful, just beautiful.

Pack this one into your beach bag alongside a package of kleenex and some oversize shades to hide your puffy eyes.  It's contemporary perfection and I cannot wait to read more of Renée's works!

Note: An egalley was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Simple Wild - K.A. Tucker

If you've been anywhere near any type of social media this year, you've seen people rave about The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.  I read it earlier this year and it blew me away, totally lived up to the hype, etc. etc. etc. So when I picked up The Simple Wild, I have to be perfectly honest and admit that I was expecting something in the realm of The Great Alone and the book disappointed me in that regard.

BUT WAIT. This does not mean that The Simple Wild is a disappointment in any way, shape, or form. The Simple Wild is NOT The Great Alone and shouldn't be compared to it at all. Yes, the books both take place in Alaska and are stories of families but the similarities end there. Alaska is a main character in The Great Alone, but in The Simple Wild, it fades into the background as a stunning backdrop to a heartwarming and heart wrenching story.

The Simple Wild is a beautiful father-daughter story that reduced me to tears on a couple of occasions and the story of a girl trying to find her self and her identity. The story is sweet and profound and absolute perfection from beginning to end. The only other K.A. Tucker book that I've read was a thriller last year and I'm absolutely blown away by how well she tackles both genres. If you're looking for me in the next few months, I'll be devouring her backlist.

Note: An egalley was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Other Side of Lost - Jessi Kirby

This book.  OH THIS BOOK.  I feel like Jessi Kirby is such a phemonenal writer of YA contemporary, but her books don't seem to garner as much buzz as some other popular YA authors, like Morgan Matson or Katie Cotugno.  So instead, I feel like I need to climb up on top of a soapbox and yell for all the world to hear: IF YOU HAVEN'T READ A JESSI KIRBY BOOK, WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?!?

This book.  OH THIS BOOK.  I had started 9 Days & 9 Nights because its publication date was earlier, but something about this book was calling to me, so I thought I'd just read the first couple of pages and see what it was like.  Two pages in, I WAS HOOKED.  Mari is an Instagram sensation and the book opens with her composing photos and posts for her account.  I loved seeing the way her mind approached her online persona, and the way she as a person was disconnected with how she appeared to her fans online.  Then she posts a confessional video about how everything she posts online is a lie, and that she isn't the happy, carefree individual that she pretends to be online.  In the virtual aftermath of her video going viral, she makes a spontaneous decision to fulfill a life goal that she had planned to do with her cousin, a plan that had fallen apart both because of her estranged relationship with her cousin, and the fact that her cousin died in a tragic accident.  The life goal includes hiking the John Muir trail, an impressive 211 miles across all kinds of terrain.

All of this happens in the first few chapters of the book and what unfolds from there is a story of self-discovery and truth that is unlike any other book that I have read.  I'm already craving a re-read of the story, and can scarcely wait to get my hands on a physical copy so that I can go back and Post-it flag some of the pages ... and I'm not one to annotate books at all.  There's just something about this book that spoke to me on such a deep level -- there was a reason that this book was calling to me, and I'm so glad that I picked it up when I did.

To repeat my earlier statement, IF YOU HAVEN'T READ A JESSI KIRBY BOOK, WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?!?!  Start with this one, or start with one of her earlier books, but please please please give her a chance.

Note: An egalley was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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August TBR - #ARCAugust

I think this is the second (or maybe third?) year that I've participated in ARC August but most years I unofficially participate.  I read as many ARCs in August as I can but I've never done any further online participation.  This year I am officially signing up (and you can too over at Read.Sleep.Repeat!) and am committing to reading as many ARCs in August as I can.

At the time of drafting this post, I have one more ARC left to read for August, which realistically may be finished in July, so for the purposes of this post, I'll only include review books that I need to read for September and October.

September ARCs:

Sadie by Courtney Summers
I Do Not Trust You by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

October ARCs:

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver
Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

For the above books, I will most definitely read the two books for September.  I also plan to read The Ship of Brides, my one lone expired egalley on Netgalley, so that I can end the year with no expired ARCs to read.  Then, I'll read some, if not all, of the books on my October pile.  It's gonna be a fun month!

PLUS, if you haven't already done so, please go and check out the sign-up post on Read.Sleep.Repeat's blog -- there's going to be a bingo board and a giveaway and readathons!

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All Your Perfects - Colleen Hoover

It's been three weeks since I finished this book, and I'm still struggling to find the words to talk about my thoughts.  First of all, let me say that I have a bit of a complicated relationship with Colleen Hoover.  I've reviewed several egalleys of her books, and borrowed the rest of her books from the library.  I've loved some, and could barely force myself to finish some of her other books.  For this reason, her books are not ones that I would run to the bookstore to buy, simply because I never know what I'm going to find between the covers.  Even those that I've enjoyed are ones that I won't reread.  For example, I thought Hopeless was a wild ride, with tons of twists and turns, but there were moments where the dramatics of the relationship reminded me too much of the Edward-Bella dynamic.  Although I thoroughly enjoy the reading experience with most of Colleen Hoover's books, there's always something problematic between the covers that prevents me from loving the book unconditionally.

Then I read All Your Perfects and I fell in love.  Perhaps it's because this is Colleen's first adult novel, rather than new adult, like the rest of her books, but this book BLEW ME AWAY.  All Your Perfects is the story of a couple struggling with infertility.  Quinn and Graham's relationship begins in an unconventional manner (but what a "how we met" story!) and is in danger of falling apart completely because of the strains that their struggles to conceive has placed on their marriage.  While I was lucky to get pregnant very quickly once we started trying, I know that the struggles in this book are real and have touched the lives of several close friends.  I cried alongside Quinn during her journey and this book absolutely tore me to pieces.  Despite what I mentioned above about not rushing to buy Colleen's books, I finished reading this book and immediately preordered a copy for my shelves because this is the type of book that I need to hug in person.  And my ereader doesn't quite do the trick.

If you've struggled with Colleen's books in the past, like me, definitely give this book a chance.  If you've struggled with infertility, this book will likely tear your heart out, and even if you haven't been through a journey similar to Quinn's, this book will still wreck you emotionally.  As I said at the beginning of this review, it's been weeks since I finished it and I still feel a bit vulnerable emotionally and unsure of how to put my thoughts into words.  Let me just end by saying this: this is Colleen's best work to date and if she continues along this path, she will be my next auto-buy author.  I can scarcely express how much this book touched my heart and I can't wait to reread it when my copy arrives.

Note: An egalley was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Top 10 Best Books of 2018 (So Far!)

Top Ten Tuesday is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl!  This week's topic is the ten best books of the year (so far!)  I shared my third round of the Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag last month (check it out here) so this will be a bit repetitive, but I can't stop sharing my love for these books...

1. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
This was one of the very first books I read this year and I feel like it set the stage for sweeping adult contemporaries.

2. When My Heart Joins the Thousand by A.J. Steiger
I will keep singing this book's praises from the top of every pedestal -- this book deserves WAY more bookish hype than it has seen so far.  It's young adult contemporary PERFECTION.

3. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
Another one that I will not stop talking about.  I've already bought four copies of this book: originally one for myself, followed by two more for friends and one for my sister-in-law.  It's THAT GOOD.

4. All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover
I read this in February (I think?) and immediately preordered a copy.  I'll be rereading it as soon as it arrives ... if I can stop hugging it first.

5. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
I enjoyed some of Kristin's other books, including The Nightingale, but I was fully unprepared for how much I loved this book.  It BLEW ME AWAY.

6. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
One of my best friends recommended this book to me years ago and it took me just as long before I finally picked up a copy.  Boy oh boy was it worth the wait!  Sweeping, epic, historical and just the right amount of fantasy.

7. Renegades by Marissa Meyer
I loved Marissa before picking up this book and now she has firmly cemented herself on my favourite authors of all time list.

8. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
A coworker loaned me her copy of this book.  She told me that she didn't read much but she gobbled up this book in two days.  That was high praise but the book delivered -- I couldn't put it down!  I promptly ordered more of her books ... it was this book that prompted me to place my first Book Outlet order in YEARS.

9. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Holy smokes, Lisa can write a heartwrenching story.  This one didn't start out as my favourite of hers because the characters were hard to love but I was sobbing by the end.

10. Blind Kiss by Renee Carlino
Besides Kristin Hannah, this is the most surprising book on this list.  I didn't expect to love this one as much as I did, but holy did I love this book.  I was in tears three separate times!

How about you?  Which books have blown you away this year?  Let me know in the comments below and thanks for stopping by!

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Us Against You - Fredrik Backman

I read, and really enjoyed, A Man Called Ove last summer and I've had my eye on another of Backman's novels since then.  I requested Us Against You on a whim from Netgalley and didn't expect to be approved.  When I received the approval email, I quickly realized that I needed to read Beartown before I dove into this new one.

Beartown is described as Friday Night Lights but hockey and that description fits the book PERFECTLY.  I love Friday Night Lights (although I've only watched two seasons thus far) but as a Canadian I do have a tough time understanding how a town can be that passionate about football.  BUT, with hockey I GET IT.  I've cheered on a hockey team through Stanley Cup playoffs, cried tears of joy and tears of sorrow at medal games in the Olympics and I GET IT.

I can't talk about Us Against You without spoiling the events of Beartown since it's the second in a series, so let's just talk about both books in general.  Frederik Backman chooses each word, each phrase with such purpose and intention.  Some of his phrases absolutely took my breath away.  His characterization is the strongest part of these novels.  Although the plot is excellent as well, there are moments where the storyline isn't progressing because we have to take the time to really get into the characters' heads and unpack how they're feeling.  His character development is AMAZING and unlike any other author that I've read.  If you've read Ove, just think about how much you came to love his character by the end of the story -- you'll feel the same way about each and every character in Beartown.

If you're Canadian and you love hockey, read this book.  If you've ever cheered for any type of sports team, read this book.  If you love a story that'll tug at your heart strings, read this book.  If you can place your hand on your chest and feel your heart beating, READ THIS BOOK. 

Note: An egalley was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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