Life of a Blogger - Genres of Music

My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat has just started this awesome new 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 genres of music.  This is another tough one because, although I adore music, I find it hard to describe exactly what genres of music I like.  So here goes...

  • Grrrly angst music: One of my friends once described my favourite music as that "female angst thang."  I have to say that I love a female artist that gets ANGRY with her music and her lyrics and isn't afraid to be her true self.  Some of my favourite artists in this group are: Alanis Morissette, Holly McNarland, Christina Aguilera, Florence + the Machine, Fiona Apple and Auf der Maur.
  • Anything with violins: I absolutely adore violin music.  While I definitely enjoy classical violin, I also have a fondness for gypsy violin music.  And if violins are featured in rock music (like Creed), I'm SOLD.
  • Really chill music: I have music on in the house ALL DAY.  I have a "chill mix" that is most often on shuffle (unless I have a hankering for a particular artist).  Some of the highlights on this mix are Damien Rice, David Usher and Sade.
  • Good rock music:  I love U2, Kings of Leon and City and Colour.  Good rock music for me inspires an open sunroof and highway driving with the music pouring out of the speakers.
  • Music from my teens:  Although I love discovering new artists, my all-time favourites will always be those songs from my teenage years, the ones that tug at my heartstrings.  For me, this includes Savage Garden in all their glorious cheesiness, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill album (I have been known to scream out the words to "You Oughta Know" while driving), and I will unabashedly admit that I know all the words to the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC's earlier work, as well as the Spice Girls' "Wannabe."
I used to be really into discovering new artists; however, I find that it's getting harder and harder to find the time and energy to devote to this pursuit these days!  So, I end up listening to my same favourites over and over again, at least until my husband tells me that he heard an awesome song on the radio.  So, based on my preferred genres above, if there's anything that YOU love and think I'll enjoy too, PLEASE leave me a comment below -- my iTunes is in serious need of some new tunes!
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Maybe One Day - Melissa Kantor

I have to start this review with a few confessions.

First, when I downloaded this book for review, I totally thought it was by Melissa Walker, and I was excited to read one of her books because the girls at Rather Be Reading constantly rave about her books.  So, I had a completely brain dead moment and mixed up my Melissas ... funny isn't it, since that's my name as well?

Secondly, I didn't read the description of the book AT ALL.  Probably because I was blindly trusting my favourite bloggers' love for the author, even though that author turned out to be the wrong one.  Ooops.  So, if you are like me, and don't read the blurb for the book, you should know just one thing: this is a Cancer Book.

Finally, I found myself getting all confused about what book I was actually reading when I went to add it on Goodreads because the cover on my ARC didn't match what was on Goodreads.  Turns out the cover design was changed before the book was even printed!  I can't decide which one I like best, so here's both pictures.  The one on the left is the actual cover; my ARC had the cover on the right.

Now, onto the review!  I'm on the fence about this one.  The book opens with two girls, Zoe and Olivia, in ballet school.  I immediately thought, "Yay! Bunheads!" but we quickly find out that the girls have been cut from ballet school, and now must search for another focus in their lives.  What follows is a story that is equal parts friendship, self-discovery and determination.  The friendship between Zoe and Olivia is one of the strengths of this novel.  It's real and tender and perfect.  Although the story is told well and I really can't fault the author for anything, I just didn't connect with the cancer part of the story in the same way that I did with The Fault in Our Stars or Second Chance Summer.  I feel bad saying this about this book, because it's a GOOD book, but it just didn't quite live up to the standard set by the other two novels.  I was a sobbing MESS at the end of both other novels, and I just didn't have the same reaction to Maybe One Day.  At the end of the book, I was left feeling that it was just okay, mainly because I wish that it could have been so much better.
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Heartbeat - Elizabeth Scott

I have to start this review by being perfectly honest about two things.  First of all, I requested this book, forgetting that I hadn't enjoyed the two other books that I read by the same author.  I gave Living Dead Girl one star (my review on the blog is here) and, although I didn't review Bloom, I only gave it two stars on Goodreads.  So, when I realized who the author was, I was immediately unsure of whether or not I'd even like the book.  But I decided to give it a chance anyways -- after all, I'm often disappointed when my expectations are too high, so maybe it would work to go in with an expectation of disappointment?  Then, I read the first chapter and immediately thought, "Oh no, I'm going to HATE this book!"  You see, after having been pregnant and having a baby, books with this type of subject material give me the heebie jeebies.

This isn't spoilery at all, since it all happens in the first few chapters, but here are some facts that you should know when going into this book.  Emma's mom has died, but is still being kept on life support in the hospital.  Although there's no hope of her waking up, she's staying on life support because, at the time of her death, she was 12 weeks pregnant.  The book opens shortly before she reaches 16 weeks and the doctor's have hoped that, if the baby lives through the first 30 days of the mom being on life support, then there's a viable chance that the baby will make it.

I liked the book, but didn't love it.  After reading through the first couple of chapters, I contemplated DNF-ing the book, since I was worried about my own personal connection to the story.  (After having had a baby, I find it hard to read stories like this anymore).  But there was something about Emma that kept me going.  The story that unfolded was heavy on character development, but light on plot.  Not much happens throughout the storyline, since the book is primarily about Emma working through her pain at the loss of her mom and her anger at her stepfather for keeping her mom on life support.  Emma also meets Caleb, a boy that has issues of his own, and who understands her pain in a way that no one else can.

Heartbeat is a good story, not mind-blowingly awesome, but a good story nonetheless.  I felt that Emma's character was quite well-developed, but the ending to the book felt a bit rushed.  It's a short book (not quite 250 pages) and a longer unravelling to the plot would have been better.  It's a decent read and, as a result, I haven't given up on Elizabeth Scott's writing.

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Netgalley.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my opinion of this book in any way.
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Marko Monday [8]

After a small hiatus, Marko Monday is back!  This is a monthly feature where I share a book that I've read with him, as well as an update on what he's doing... plus a picture!

My sister-in-law picked up That's Not My Meerkat when she was away on holiday and Marko absolutely LOVES it.  It was so cute watching him realize that he could touch the soft spots on the book.  Each page features a different type of texture to touch; for example, it's the ears on the cover that are fluffy to the touch.  I love how he stretches out his little index finger to touch the relevant parts of each page, and always remembers whether it's the tail, the tummy, etc. each time we read the book!

The most exciting piece of news is that my little boy is WALKING!  He took his first little baby shuffle steps on December 23rd.  People kept telling us that he'd walk by Christmas -- and he did! Then, on December 30th, he was confidently walking between my husband and I, taking more steps each time.  The past few weeks have been spent practicing and gaining confidence.  His little walk is just too cute for words.

This is an older picture but one that I just HAVE to share because it's one of my favourites!

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Book Haul [8]

Holy moly guys -- it has been a YEAR since I last did one of these!  I've been wanting to post one for a while now, but I wanted to do another vlog.  Unfortunately, I haven't had the time nor the energy to figure out why the video and the audio didn't quite line up in my last vlog ... so another time!

For now, here's what's new on my shelves in the last month or so!  I'll try to make this a semi-regular thing going forwards.

My hubby spoiled me this year!  I had given him a wishlist of a dozen or so books so that he could pick one or two and surprise me ... but he picked FOUR!  I've already read Allegiant (SO GOOD!) and I'm looking forward to reading the entire Unwind series from beginning to end.  Unraveling and Something Strange & Deadly will be new-to-me series this year.  Unravel Me is from my Secret Santa ... Kat @ I Write, I Read, I Review.  And finally, Past Perfect was a surprise in the mail!  I won a giveaway at Rather Be Reading, and the prize was an e-book that unfortunately wasn't compatible with my e-reader, so Estelle sweetly sent me a hard copy ... and sent an extra book because she's such a nice person!

What would Christmas be without some fun giftcards to spend?  I bought the Legend series box set and I'm really excited to binge read this whole series SOON.  I've had my eye on How to Love and This Song Will Save Your Life for quite a while now, so I'm happy to have added these to my shelves.

Don't You Forget About Me, Tease and Prisoner of Night and Fog are all from Harper via Edelweiss.  Although I now have access to all of their titles, I'm being very careful and selective with the ones that I choose for review, since I don't want to get too bogged down in review books this year!

I didn't think I'd be approved for We Were Liars on Netgalley, but was delighted when I got my approval e-mail!

I requested Hollow City for review from Random House Canada and was absolutely THRILLED when I received a finished copy in the mail.  I adored the first novel in the series ... it was one of the very first books I read when I first started this blog!  I'm excited to see how the series continues!

Have you read any of these books?  Any suggestions on which one(s) to start reading first?  Leave me a comment below!
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Cruel Beauty - Rosamund Hodge

When I first heard about this book, I was sold at "Beauty and the Beast retelling."  Honestly, what book lover doesn't absolutely adore that Disney movie, and drool like crazy over the Beast's library?  Then I saw the cover, and fell even more in love with wanting to read this book.  I mean just LOOK at it: the rose, the staircase, the red and black.  It's everything I love in a good cover.

Cruel Beauty is a hard book for me to review.  There were things that I loved about the book, and things that didn't really work for me, which left me feeling a bit on the fence about the story by the end.  First of all, let me talk about the positive things.  The concept of the book is very unique and really unlike anything that I've ever read.  The writing is absolutely GORGEOUS and I'm very intrigued to read whatever Rosamund writes next.  She is truly a talented writer. 

On the flip side, there were moments in this book where I wasn't really enjoying the story and felt myself losing focus.  In retrospect, most of these moments were when some mythology was being recounted.  Perhaps it's just the fact that I'm not really into mythology, but I felt like my eyes were glazing over a bit during those parts of the story.  If you're into mythology, you'll likely love the book for that very same reason.  Also, Nyx's character annoyed me at times.  She reminded me a bit of Juliet in The Madman's Daughter, and seemed completely spineless at times when it came to dealing with the males in her life.  Perhaps, just like Juliet, it's just indicative of the time in which the book is set, but I just wanted to reach into the book and smack her a couple of times.

On the whole, I did enjoy this book, mainly because of the writing style.  If you're at all intrigued by the story, I'd recommend picking it up and giving it a try.  I will definitely be looking to see what Rosamund comes up with next!

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Edelweiss.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my opinion of this book in any way.
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Her Dark Curiosity - Megan Shepherd

I read The Madman's Daughter last year and, while I felt like I fell victim to the book being overhyped, I enjoyed most aspects of the story.  At the conclusion of my review, I was uncertain about whether or not I would continue on with the story.  Yet I did.  I think I was lured in by the ridiculously gorgeous dress on the cover, to be perfectly honest.

I do have to point out just ONE thing that annoyed me: in the scene that I think the cover image is taken from, Juliet is wearing a RED dress, not a black one.  HOW does this type of cover error happen?!?!  Seriously. Okay, rant over.

The book starts off where the first one left off.  Juliet is back in London and trying to come to terms with what happened to her on the island.  I found Juliet's character to be a little more strong-willed in this book, so she didn't annoy me as much.  Also, the animal cruelty in this book is only referenced but not described, as this majorly turned me off the first book.

Her Dark Curiosity doesn't have as many twists and turns as The Madman's Daughter, but is still a page-turner.  I read it surprisingly quickly, considering it was the holidays and I wasn't doing a ton of reading, in between Christmas shopping and all the fun stuff that the season brings.  I think there's one more book in the series and I have a feeling that I will read it, even though the series isn't one of my favourites.  If you enjoyed The Madman's Daughter, you will likely enjoy the second installment.

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Edelweiss.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my opinion of this book in any way.
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Top 10 Things on my Reading Wishlist

It's Tuesday and time for another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the wonderful people over at The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is things on my reading wishlist!  I did a similar list last year, for bookish turn-offs, so I've borrowed a few things from that list (but the more positive, flip side), plus a few other things that I look for in a good book...

1. A love relationship with only two people. 

I enjoy a good love story, but they're best told without the triangle and the heroine needing to choose between Team One Guy and Team Another Guy.

2. A relationship that develops normally.  

This is the flip-side to insta-love.  A good book relationship develops normally, not "I looked into her eyes and instantly knew we should be together forever..."

3. Fantastic world building.  

This one ties in with #5 below, but I love reading a book where the world building is well done and easy to follow.  Unique world building too also wins extra points from me!

4. A beautiful cover.  

I'll admit, I'm a judge a book by it's cover kind of gal.  A beautiful cover will usually pique my interest in reading a book, often before I even know what the story will entail.

5. A completely unique concept.  

The more I read, the harder this is to find.  Just the other day, I was reading a Goodreads summary aloud to my husband and said, "Doesn't that sound interesting?"  To which he sighed and responded, "That storyline has been done so many times over."  Sad as it is, it's true.  So I'm always looking for a book with a completely new concept that will make me say, "WOW.  What a book."

6. For a series, a definitive ending.

As much as I love the Mortal Instruments, I was a bit disappointed when the series added another three books to what would have been a perfect trilogy.  Similarly, I thought The House of the Scorpion was a fantastic standalone, and I didn't understand why Nancy Farmer would add more to the story years later (I DNFed Lord of Opium anyways, just couldn't get into it).  A standalone should stay a standalone, even if the series does well, and a good series should really only have three books (Harry Potter is the only exception to this rule, in my humble opinion).

7. Strong female characters.

Just as spineless female characters will make me dislike a book, I LOVE reading stories with really strong female characters!  I'm thinking of Elisa in The Girl of Fire & Thorns trilogy, and Katniss in The Hunger Games ... you go grrrrrrrls!

8. Level-headed male characters.

I strongly dislike male characters that completely fly off the handle constantly.  When I'm reading, especially if the story is told from a male POV, I like it when the male characters are level-headed.  I think this is the reason that I had a hard time getting into the Pushing the Limits series -- Noah's off the wall-ness was such a turnoff.  I'd love to read a book told by a sweet, caring male narrator!

9. Beautiful writing.

There's a fine line for me between beautiful writing and fiction that's just too literary for my taste.  I'm thinking of Julianna Baggot's Pure or Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone.  Or Janet Fitch's White Oleander.  The writing in these books just kept me gobbling up the words, and I love it when a book is just compellingly beautiful in the way it's told.

10. A plot that keeps me interested.

With an almost one year old on my hands, my reading time is harder to find these days.  So I need a book that keeps me turning the pages and interested in the plot.  Sometimes a couple of days will go by since the last time I picked up the book, and I need a story that I can easily dive back into, not flip back through the pages to try and remember what was happening.

What is on YOUR reading wishlist?  Leave me a link to your Top Ten Tuesday, and I'll stop by!
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Life of a Blogger - Craziest Thing I've Ever Done

My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat has just started this awesome new 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 the craziest thing I've ever done ... this is a tough topic for me to write about, since I don't really feel like I'm much of a daredevil.  I haven't jumped out of a plane or bungee jumped, but I did take a crazy chance on love.

My husband and I met during our final year of university.  I was working on a Bachelor of Arts, but really didn't know what I wanted to do after school was done.  He was finishing up his Bachelor of Education and was planning to move to Vancouver after graduation, since there were no job prospects where we lived.  As coincidence would have it, I dropped off my application to do a post-secondary education program one morning, and he asked me out that afternoon.  Throughout the beginning few months of our relationship, I was going through the interview process to be admitted to this post-secondary program, but it would involve me moving to the interior of the province, at least a ten hour drive from where he was planning to move.  Although neither of us had actually verbalized our thoughts, we were both wondering if our newly budding relationship had any chance of lasting a year apart if we were to attempt a long-distance relationship.

Then, I found out that I hadn't been accepted into the program.  I drove over to his house to tell him the news, and I was devastated that I hadn't been accepted.  After all, I was about to graduate with what seemed like a useless degree (who majors in Women's Studies anyways....honestly!), and now I had NO IDEA what I was going to do with my life.  He held me while I cried on his shoulder and then suggested, "Why don't you move to Vancouver with me?"  At this point, we'd been dating for only three months and it was a huge leap of faith to pack up my belongings, leave my home town and embark on this journey together.  It worked out perfectly though!  We just celebrated our nine-year anniversary since our first date, discussing books over hot chocolate and cheesecake.  This may have been the craziest thing I've ever done, but it worked out perfectly in the end!
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weVerb 14 [1]

In December 2012, I participated in weVerb.  We were given daily writing prompts as a way to reflect back upon the previous year.  As 2012 drew to a close, it was fun to post daily (or almost daily, I doubled up on some posts when I didn't have time), and do some thinking about the past months.

This year, weVerb is back again, but in January -- which, in my opinion, is a much better time for reflecting.  January always feels so fresh and clean and full of possibility ... and what better time than to think back to the events of 2013?  If you'd like to join, check it out here.

It's now January 15th, and obviously I haven't been posting daily!  Instead, I thought I'd just pick a few of the writing prompts from the month thus far, and share some thoughts...

[2] REMEMBER ...

What did you do in 2013 that you will remember the details of forever?

This is an easy one -- giving birth to my amazing little boy, Marko.  I shared a post about his arrival into the world in February 2013, but the details have definitely stuck in my mind since then.  It's true what they say about the pain of childbirth fading immediately, but the memories of the experience definitely stick with you.  My memories of this event are not just limited to Marko's actual arrival in the world, but also how amazing and supportive everyone around me was, from our midwife, to my husband, to my mother, mother-in-law and sister-in-law.  I really felt like I was surrounded by love during the entire experience, and it's definitely one that has changed me.

[8] ACCEPT ...

What imperfection did you come to accept in your life in 2013?  How will you embrace it more in 2014?

When I read this day's topic, I honestly teared up a little.  As a new mom, one of the things I've struggled with is learning to embrace my new body image.  I've been as active as I can be, hoping that my original shape would come back ... but I'm a little softer around the edges than I used to be.  As my return to work date draws nearer, I was digging through my closet with feelings of absolute despair, unable to come to terms with the fact that NOTHING fits ... or looks good.  For Christmas, my family gave me gift cards to our local mall and my sister-in-law took me shopping last week.  I found some amazing new clothes, which were very different from what I used to where, but it was such a self-esteem boost to look at myself in the mirror and not only see imperfections.  It's amazing what a new wardrobe will do for one's self esteem!
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On Reading Habits

I keep reading all of these GREAT discussion posts (like Cass' Thursday Thoughts and all of the great discussion posts that Jaime @ The Perpetual Page-Turner shares) and I HAVE all these bookish thoughts, just never the guts to post them.  I'm taking a deep breath, and sharing some of my bookish thoughts with you today...

We've all got 'em -- those neurotic little things that you do while reading that are unique to you and your reading style.

I don't read hardcover books with the dust jackets on.  Seriously, it's just too slippery and I find that I can't get a good grip on the book, so I take them off and leave them on my bookshelf, and then rewrap the book when I'm done reading.

I can't dogear or mark my pages in any way.  My sister-in-law borrowed my copy of Delirium and Unwind and returned both FULL of dogeared pages ... I very nearly had a heart attack.  I forgave her, of course, but now I just buy her a copy of books when I recommend something to her, so that she can mark it up as she chooses.

I also can't crack the spines of books ... but I don't mind purchasing a used book with an already cracked spine.  I just can't crack it myself.

It sometimes bothers me when my series of books don't match, but I'd never actually DO anything about it.  For example, I have the original cover of Delirium, so it doesn't match the next two in the series.  Also, I have the hardcover of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, but the paperback of The Evolution of Mara Dyer, and will likely purchase the hardcover of the last book.  Sometimes I look at my shelves and wish I'd purchased a hardcover of the second book, but then it stops bothering me again.

When I pick up a book to read, I always look to see how many pages until the next chapter and I put my bookmark in where the chapter ends.  Then, when I finish that chapter and still have more reading time left (or I can keep my eyes open a little longer), I repeat the process.  If I have to stop mid-chapter (which happens more often than not) I never leave the book open and upside down; I always put the bookmark in and close it.

What about your?  Do you have any bookish reading habits?  Is there anything on my list that makes you crazy?  Or something that you do that I might think is odd?  Leave a comment below -- I love hearing about fun bookish habits!
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Friday Favourite - The Poisonwood Bible

Welcome to another edition of Friday Favourite, where I share a favourite book that I read and loved before I started blogging!

Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible is probably the book that I've read the most times over.  I first read it in Grade 11, when my English teacher told us that we had to choose our own novel and write an essay about our chosen title.  After slogging through both Lord of the Flies AND The Catcher in the Rye that semester, I'd had enough of books with only boys in them and was looking for something with some great female characters.  Plus, I was a major overachiever in high school, so I picked a massively LONG book to read ... just because I could.

The Poisonwood Bible tells the story of a missionary family that goes to the Congo, intending to teach the people of the Congo about religion, only to have the Congo change them in ways that they couldn't have imagined.  The narrative is told from an alternating point of view, so it flips between all the family members.  When I was 17, I really identified with the chapters told from Rachel's point of view.  She's the oldest sister and was close in age to me at the time.  She hated the Congo and was pretty much a typical teenager, griping about why she had to be taken away from home.  I thought that I'd have similar thoughts and feelings if my family uprooted me and moved us away to Africa.

The second time I read this novel was for a Women's Studies class.  I absolutely LOVED Leah's character, who is one of the twins.  She's very fiesty and political and really comes into her own throughout the course of the novel.  Finally, I reread this book again for an English course and fell absolutely head over heels with Adah, the other twin.  Adah sees the world in a really unique way, and writes a lot in palindromes.

I love that I can look back on this book and remember three unique reading experiences.  I'm sure that it's a book that I will reread in the future, and I just can't wait to see which character I identify with this time!  If you haven't experienced Barbara Kingsolver's work, The Poisonwood Bible is an excellent novel and I highly recommend reading it!

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WWW - January 8

Happy Wednesday Everyone!  W...W...W...Wednesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions...

What are you currently reading?
I just started Allegiant on Sunday -- finally!  On my e-reader, I'm reading Melissa Kantor's Maybe One Day.

What did you recently finish reading?
I recently finished both Another Little Piece and Cruel Beauty.

What do you think you'll read next?
I'm planning a re-read of Everneath, followed by Everbound.  My library hasn't yet ordered a copy of Evertrue, but I'm hoping that they will soon!

What are YOU reading this week?  Please leave me a comment below!
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Into the Still Blue - Veronica Rossi

I started this series last summer, after being encouraged to give it a second chance by a fellow blogger.  At first glance, the world building is confusing as the reader is thrust into this world, with very little background or explanation. The result, although confusing at first, is a dystopian trilogy unlike any other that I have read.

I tore through Under the Never Sky and then devoured Through the Ever Night.  Although TtEN remains my favourite of the series, Into the Still Blue still did an incredible job of wrapping up the trilogy.  Without being spoilery, this final installment still has lots of what made me fall in love with the first two books in the series: friendship, love, incredible character development, characters that you will LOVE and oodles of adventure.  If you loved the first two in the series, I have no doubt that you will also gobble up the final installment in this trilogy.  I'm eager to see what Ms. Rossi comes up with next!

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Edelweiss.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my opinion of this book in any way.
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2014 Reading Challenges!

So, here it is, second week of January, and I just realized that I totally forgot to write up my reading challenge post!  Since I already posted my bookish resolutions last week, I thought I'd share this post instead of today's Top Ten Tuesday post -- consider these reading challenges as additions to the list of resolutions that I already shared!

First of all, I am committed to reading series books this year!  As I posted last year, I have a serious problem with starting a series, and then never reading past book one.  Some of these series are ones that I was absolutely blown away by the first book, but by the time the second book was released, I just lost interest.  Or forgot what happened in the first book.  2014 is the year that quite a few of these series are wrapping up, so it's the perfect opportunity for me to re-read the first book and then binge read the rest of the series!  I'm really excited about getting lost in the world of a series from beginning to end.  If you'd like to join in with this challenge (which is co-hosted by ME and the amazing Jessi over at Novel Heartbeat), you can find the sign-up post here.

Secondly, I have signed up for the TBR Pile Reading Challenge, hosted by Bookish.  This is the third year that I have participated in this challenge and I have failed epically at this challenge every year so far.  This year, I'm committed to reading lots of the books that have been sitting on my shelves for years, so I'm hoping that I won't do so badly.  If you want to participate too, check out the sign-up page here.

Just like I opted not to set a Goodreads reading challenge this year, I'm not setting a goal for myself on either of these challenges.  My main goal this year is just to read and have fun -- so let's make that happen!
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Life of a Blogger - Non-Bookish Hobbies

My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat has just started this awesome new 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 non-bookish hobbies.  You know, the things that we do when we're NOT reading? I have a few...

  • Spending time with friends and family.  Most of my close friends live out of town, but when we're together we have an absolute blast.  As a new mom, most of my free time is spent playing with my little boy and, when my husband's home from work, we try to spend as much family time as possible.  He's currently on winter vacation (he's a high school teacher) and it's going to be SO strange not having him around next week!
  • Scrapbooking.  I have made three albums so far, one of our wedding, one of our honeymoon and one of our eight years together.  Next project will be Marko's life thus far!
  • Yoga.  My sister-in-law got me started on hot yoga a couple of years ago, which I was enjoying until I got pregnant.  Then, I did prenatal yoga and "mommy and baby" yoga.  Once Marko was too mobile for yoga (I'd spend most of the class chasing him around the room), I signed up for power flow yoga, which gave me one evening of "me time" while my hubby stayed home with Marko.  I LOVE this yoga class, and my instructor is amazing!
  • Watching TV.  I'm not a couch potato by any means (honestly, having an almost-eleven month old is a guarantee that I don't sit still much at ALL!) but my hubby and I do enjoy watching the odd television show.  We got started on Breaking Bad over the holidays, and have watched one episode every evening for the past two weeks -- holy crap, this show is amazing!!!!
Sooo, that's my non-bookish hobbies!  What kind of hobbies do YOU have?  Leave me a comment below!
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No One Else Can Have You - Kathleen Hale

I first saw this book discussed on Epic Reads Tea Time, and Aubry was gushing over how much she loved the cover.  I thought it sounded interesting and different, so I thought I'd give it a try. The book is described as "Fargo meets Pretty Little Liars."  I haven't seen Fargo and can't quite see how the PLL comparison fits in, but it definitely is a unique read.

The book takes place in the small town of Friendship, with a population of just over 600.  I loved the small-town feel of the book and it felt very real.  Our heroine, Kippy Bushman, has just lost her best, and only, friend, who has been murdered.  The investigation isn't progressing the way that Kippy would like, so she takes matters into her own hands.  The result is a weird, funny and slightly off-the-wall story, but one that I really enjoyed.

Admittedly, the book did take a little bit to get going.  I think it was because I expected it to be laugh-out-loud funny, and it wasn't.  It was a funny read, don't get me wrong, but it was a different type of humour and it took me a little while to appreciate and understand the author's style.  Once I was sucked into the story, I couldn't put the book down and was sneaking in a page here and there, anxious to find out how the story would unfold.

Once I finished and reflected on the story a bit, I'm not certain that this book is going to resonate with every reader.  It reminded me at times of Wild Awake, a book that many reviewers said they loved, but then cautioned that not everyone would love, as it was a unique type of read that wouldn't necessarily be everyone's cup of tea.  That's exactly how I feel about No One Else Can Have You -- personally, I loved it and I know that many other people will too, but it just might not be a book that has a universal appeal.  But give it a try anyways -- it's so different from anything else that I've read lately and well worth a read!

P.S. I can't finish this review without mentioning the cover -- Aubry was RIGHT.  I mean, look at it: it's a sweater!  How totally awesome and unique and cool is THAT?

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Edelweiss.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my opinion of this book in any way.
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Series Spotlight - January Edition

Welcome to the January edition of the Series Spotlight!  This is a monthly feature where we'll highlight some of our anticipated series books that are releasing this month, as well as which series are on our TBR piles for this month!


Veronica Rossi's Into the Still Blue (release date: January 28)
I devoured Under the Never Sky and Through the Ever Night and this series did NOT have the fated "second book syndrome."  I was highly anticipating Into the Still Blue because I was confident that Veronica would finish the series with a bang.  I was lucky enough to be able to read an ARC of this book and the series ending lived up to my expectations.  Stay tuned for my review!

Brodi Ashton's Evertrue (release date: January 21)
Confession time: I still haven't read Everbound!  But I absolutely ADORED Everneath and it was a surprise hit of 2012.  Plus, the covers are absolutely spellbinding.  Since Evertrue releases towards the end of this month, I'm planning to binge read the first two books over the coming weeks in preparation for the release of the final installment.


Allegiant wasn't released all that long ago, but Sever and Requiem have been collecting dust on my shelves for far too long.  I'm ready to see how these series wrap up!  

What about you?  What's on your TBR pile this month?  Let me know in the comments below!
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