Prequel & Sequel Challenge - June Wrap-Up!

Here we are at the end of June, and it's hard to believe that 2014 is already halfway over!  Or, if you're an optimist like me, we still have six months left to go =P

Since we've reached the midway point, I thought I'd include a brief rundown of the series books that I've read so far this year:

Series Completed:
  • Divergent -- read Allegiant.
  • Article 5 -- re-read Article 5, then followed it up with Breaking Point and Three.
  • Chemical Garden Trilogy -- read Sever.
  • Shatter Me -- read Ignite Me.
Series Caught Up:
  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone -- re-read Daughter of Smoke & Bone, then read Days of Blood and Starlight before the final book came out.  I'm hoping to finish the series soon!
  • Lunar Chronicles -- read Scarlet and Cress.

Series Started: 
  • Game of Thrones -- only read the first book so far, but woooooowwwwww!
  • Black Dagger Brotherhood -- currently halfway through book 4 and loving it!
  • I also read Reboot and Arclight, but didn't love either of them enough to keep reading.  Sometimes I think it's important for me to know which series I'm not interesting in continuing, which then leaves me the time to enjoy the series that I really do want to read!
How about you?  How are you doing on the challenge, now that we're at the mid-way point?

As always, link up your reviews below ... please remember to include the number of points earned for each title!

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Life of a Blogger - Favourite Sports Team

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 favourite sports team.  I'll admit that I have never been a sports person AT ALL.  I'm horribly uncoordinated and can't catch a ball to save my life (I generally end up getting smoked in the head -- ouch!)  But when I met my husband, he was OBSESSED with hockey.  He likes to have it on in the background all the time.  So I slowly, and somewhat reluctantly, started to learn about the sport and now I quite enjoy it!  Since I've never had a favourite team of my own, I cheer for the Edmonton Oilers with him -- he grew up in Edmonton and was there during all five of their Stanley Cup wins, so it's his favourite team by far.  Marko even has a few Oilers clothing items and it's quite amusing when people comment on his attire, since we live in Vancouver, which is home to the Canucks.  I always tell people that it's his dad's favourite team, so it's the family's favourite team by association!

How about you?  Do you have a favourite sports team?  Leave me a comment below!
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One Plus One - Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes is a storytelling goddess.  Seriously, I'm convinced that she can do no wrong!  I read, and absolutely ADORED, Me Before You last year then fell head over heels for The Girl You Left Behind earlier this year.  When I saw that she had a new book coming out, I requested a review copy and then did a happy dance when my request was approved.

Although all of Jojo's books are completely unique, there is one common thread that unites them all.  She manages to create a complete cast of characters that are so REAL that I was sad to say goodbye to them all when I turned the last page.  I was completely swept away on a journey, laughing and crying along with the characters, and I actually missed them when the book was done.

One Plus One is the story of Jess, a single mom who does what she can to keep her family on track.  Her stepson Nicky is a victim of bullying at school, while her daughter Tanzie is a mathematical genius.  Jess works multiple jobs just to keep her family afloat and wants to send Tanzie to a private school to keep her out of the bullies' path and to foster her love of math; however, in order to surmount the financial obstacle, she decides to take her family on a roadtrip to Scotland.  Here, the story begins -- and it doesn't slow down until the last page.

Seriously, I can't even find the words to express how much I loved this story.  Although Me Before You will forever be my favourite Jojo book (mainly because of the incredibly personal connection I had to the story), I find it hard to pick favourites amongst her other books.  Each book that she writes is such a unique and perfect story that each book deserves its spot on my favourites shelf.  I just can't wait to see what she writes next!

Note: I received an e-galley from Netgalley.  The fact that I received this book from the publisher did not affect my opinion of this book.
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A Look Back at Spring ...

Seriously ... anyone know where the first half of 2014 went?  I feel like the past five months have been a blur of work, and commuting and not nearly enough family time for my liking!  I've been struggling a lot with the fact that I've opted to work such a distance from home, mainly because we found an incredible daycare 45 minutes from home, so I looked for work in the same area.  We leave before 8 a.m. and are home around 6-6:15, depending on traffic.  With Marko being in bed by 8:30, this gives us barely two hours of family time!  At least the weather has been sunny and warm, so we're able to go for a nice walk and have some play time at the park before dinner, which has been really nice.

Seasonal Highs

I've shared quite a few discussion posts in the past few months, which are absolutely my favourite kind of posts to write: on planning what I read, on bookish guilt, on growing up and reading tastes and on change.  I shared two birthday book hauls (here and here) as well as a backwards book haul, about what I'm NOT reading.

Spring also marked the return of Marko Monday!  I'm going to share one of these posts on alternate months, when I'm not doing the challenge wrap-up post.  So, hopefully, Marko will make a reappearance in July!

I read a fair bit in the spring, but my reviews on the blog have been mainly review books.  It's been kind of nice to just read other books for pleasure, rather than writing a review, but I'm going to try and share some series mini-reviews soon.

My BIGGEST spring accomplishment (quite literally!) was that I read A Game of Thrones!  I shared in this post that I was going to follow Debby @ Snuggly Oranges' reading schedule and it worked!  Of course, it helped that I was alternating between the audio and the print versions.  Also, I think Marko really enjoyed the deep male narrator with the British accent on our drive ... he sat so quietly and listened to the book!  I'm planning to jump into A Clash of Kings in July -- it's a little bit longer, but I think I can do it!

Seasonal Lows

The low point this season was definitely having my blog hacked and losing my design.  As I shared earlier this month, I tried to reach the designer who originally made Writer Grrl Reads look so great, but didn't have any luck.  So, I decided to take a HUGE leap of faith and I'm getting a whole new design!  I'm really excited to see what my blog will look like after its makeover -- so stay tuned for exciting changes on the horizon!

How about you?  Did you read anything incredible over the spring months?  Anything exciting coming up this summer?  Leave me a comment below!
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Life of a Blogger - School

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 school.  As I posted earlier, I've had a bit of a roundabout way of deciding what I want to be when I grow up and, during this process, I've done a LOT of schooling.  Here's a quick recap:

  • In highschool, I was in the Career Preparation Program for Journalism.  As part of this program, I had to complete 100 hours of work experience in the field in order to graduate.  I job shadowed with a reporter for much of this requirement, even attending a court sentencing for a local bank robber (which honestly sounds WAY more exciting than it actually was!)
  • I then went to university and started in the journalism program, with a major in Women's Studies, since I'd been told during my high school work experience that I should get a degree in something that I cared passionately about so that I could write about it.  At this point in time, my career aspirations were to move to New York City and work for Cosmopolitan magazine.
  • After two years in the journalism program, I realized that my heart wasn't hard enough for tough journalism, so I opted to finish my Women's Studies major, but changed my minor from Journalism to English.
  • After graduating with my B.A., I applied to the Post-Degree Program for Elementary Education.  I did one year of prerequisites for the program (including two super fun math courses), and then completed two-thirds of the program before I withdrew, deciding that education wasn't all I thought it would be.  
  • I took a year off from school and worked before starting my current program in Library & Information Technology.  I love the program that I'm taking, as it's all online so I can just take one course at a time while still working full-time.  Of course, it's taking me forever to get through the program this way, but I'm thoroughly enjoying all of the courses that I've taken so far (well, most of them -- the cataloguing is a little dry!) and looking forward to the day when I can work around books ALL DAY LONG.
What about you?  What has your schooling journey entailed?  Leave me a comment below!
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#scandal - Sarah Ockler

I had really high expectations for this book.  I hadn't read anything by Sarah prior to #scandal, but I'd heard good things about her writing.  And when the book opened with a message from Miss Demeanor, I was immediately reminded of Gossip Girl and settled in for a fun, lighthearted read.

#scandal delivered, but there were a few things that really irked me about the story.  First, our heroine gets embroiled in a post-prom scandal wherein her phone is stolen and a lot of incriminating photos are posted to Facebook, leading to a lot of scandalized and unhappy classmates.  Lucy is hauled into the principal's office, where she is sternly reprimanded by her principal for cyberbullying (ironically, while the principal is also on her own Facebook, responding to pictures of her friends' kids).  It seems like Lucy gets raked over the coals for her "behaviour" (even though she didn't do it because her phone was stolen), yet when her classmates start an online hate group dubbed "Juicy Lucy" and start slut-shaming her (at one point, they're even chanting in the hallways and tagging her locker), the administration seems to turn a blind eye.  Since cyberbullying is one of the main themes of the story, it really bothered me how the issue was addressed in such an unbalanced manner.

I also found the pacing to be a bit off.  I honestly thought this book was about 450 pages; however, when I checked the page count on Goodreads, it's only 368.  It felt like a really long book when I was reading it, which just goes to show that it dragged a bit at times.  I also found that some of the characters got on my nerves a bit -- I know that it's a young adult novel, but it seemed like they were a bit too teeny-bopper-y for me.

All in all, #scandal isn't a bad read, but it's definitely not taking a spot on my favourites shelf this year.  I'd still like to try out another book by Sarah Ockler, as I'm hopeful that some of her backlist titles might surpass this one.
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Top Ten Books on my Summer TBR List

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 my favourite -- putting together my TBR list for summer! My spring TBR list (which is here) was actually a bit more of a success this year!  I've been reading series books like CRAZY, and am quite proud of the number of series that I've completed so far this year.  BUT, with all these series books, I found that I'm craving good standalones too.  So, with that in mind, this summer is going to be a bit of a standalone break.  I've also chosen books that are already sitting on my shelves, so I'm hoping to make a dent in the books that I own pile!  Here goes...

Adult Picks
1. Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
2. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
I haven't read TOO much adult fiction this year, and both of these books came highly recommended by Cassie @ Books with Cass, so I'm excited to dive into both.  If either of these impact me the way her previous recommendation, Me Before You, did, then I know I'll be in for a satisfying read.

YA Picks
3. How to Love by Katie Cotugno
4. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
5. Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker
6. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
7. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
8. The Moon & More by Sarah Dessen
9. Golden by Jessi Kirby
What's summer without some great contemporary?  With the exception of Since You've Been Gone, these books have been on my shelves for at least a few months, just begging me to read them.  They all seem like the perfect summer reads, so here's hoping that I can get to all of them this season!

A Slightly Darker Pick - still YA
10. The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
This book was on my summer TBR list last year, and then again on my fall TBR.  I have heard nothing but amazing things about this book, and I think it might be a refreshing change to jump into a dystopian if I have had my fill of contemporary.  Or, if we end up with a rainy spell this summer, as we often do!

What about YOU?  What's on your summer reading pile?  Have you read any of these books?  Any suggestions on which one(s) I should read first?  Leave me a comment below!
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Life of a Blogger - Collections

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 collections.  When I was younger, I used to collect a lot of things ... not so much anymore, but here's a list of things that I used to collect:

  • Shells -- every little girl goes through this stage, right?
  • Root beer bottles & cans -- although I'm not a pop drinker at all, I did briefly love root beer in high school, and I kept one of each style of root beer that I'd sampled.  At one point, I think I had about 30 empties, but ended up donating them all to my sister's bottle drive.
  • Moose (stuffed animals, figurines, etc.) -- I should have mentioned this in my favourite animals post a few weeks ago, but moose used to be my "thing" and people would gift me anything they found with a moose on it ... from Christmas tree ornaments to T-shirts, you name it, I had it!
  • Business cards -- I went through a phase of collecting cards for places that I'd been and people I'd met, but then it just got out of control and I had zillions of cards.
  • Badges -- from when I was in Girl Guides, although I finally started sewing them all onto a blanket a few years ago, so this collection actually has a functional use!
What about you?  What did you collect?  Leave me a comment below!
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On Change

So, a while back, I posted that my blog had been hacked (I think it was because of that Heartbleed thing -- I was super lazy about changing my password!) and my design was taken down.  I just logged in one day and found all these gray exclamation points in the background, instead of the beautiful design that has been Writer Grrl Reads for the past couple of years.  I tried to reach the designer who originally put my blog together, but it doesn't seem like she's in business anymore.

SO, I decided that it's time to invest in a brand new design!  At first, I was unsure because of the cost, and I've been having a bit of the blogging blahs lately, so I wasn't sure if I really wanted to invest some of my hard earned money into a site that, to be completely honest, I've just wanted to abandon.  But then I had a few epiphanies...

First, I realized that I haven't felt like blogging because my site looks so horrid.  It's really hard to find the motivation to share my thoughts, when I know that anyone visiting my site is just seeing this drab design template because I lack the abilities to do anything fancier on my own.  So I realized that a fresh new design will help me to be excited and proud of my little blog once again.

Second, I've decided to remove both my GFC follower plug-in and my blog roll.  I'm approaching my third blogiversary and sometimes it can be frustrating to see that the number of followers isn't growing, or that my blog isn't on "Blogs I Love" lists on some of my favourite blogger's sites.  Sometimes it feels like the blogging community is one big clique that I'm not cool enough or creative enough to be a part of, and then I have to take a step back and remind myself that that's not the point. I follow the blogs that I love on Bloglovin' and read the posts that I'm interested in.  I don't always have the time to comment as much as I'd like (especially because I do my blog reading on my iPad and commenting takes a lot of time and effort).  I'm not as active on social media as I'd like to be, just because real life takes up a lot of time.  But I have to make peace with that and realize that I just don't have enough hours in the day to get my blog out there and make it as big as I had hoped it would be when I first started.  And that's okay.  I admire the bloggers that do take the time and energy to build up their blogs and their followers.  I wish I could do the same with my little blog but at the same time I'm also happy with what I've built here in the three years that I've been a part of this community.

So, stay tuned for some fun changes on the horizon!  And thank you, from the very bottom of my heart, for following my blog and reading what I have shared with the world.  It means a lot to me, it really and truly does.
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Book Haul [11]

Happy Saturday everyone!  I know that I'm going to be spending some time looking over everyone's BEA book haul posts ... so I thought I'd share one of my own!  Here's what's new on my shelves ...

As I mentioned in my May Series Spotlight, I have a feeling that City of Heavenly Fire is going to sit on my shelves for a bit.  I'm not super excited to dive into it just yet (maybe after I watch the first movie, which is sitting on my PVR) and I just can't believe how HUGE this book is!

I'm getting soooooo excited for a summer filled with yummy contemporaries, so I needed to pick up Morgan Matson's latest because she exemplifies summer.  I've been hearing good things about Open Road Summer, so I hope it lives up to the hype!

I requested One Plus One MONTHS ago on Edelweiss, but my request is STILL pending.  I saw it pop up on Netgalley and requested it on a whim, only to receive my approval e-mail the very next day!  I'm almost finished it and it lives up to my expectations of Moyes' work.  She's a storytelling genius.  I'm super excited to follow this up with Silver Bay, which appears to be a North American release of a backlist title?!?

I'm trying to be really selective about the review copies that I download and, as I posted about a while ago, I'm trying to jump into reading an ARC immediately after I download it, while the excitement is still fresh, regardless of the release date.  Well, it's not working so well with Snow Like Ashes.  The premise sounded intriguing, but I'm a little frustrated with this one so far -- anyone read it yet?  Does it get better?  I'm stuck at the 40% mark and unsure if I should read on.

Meanwhile, I'm super excited to jump into Falling Into Place, because I've already heard some positive buzz around the blogosphere!

I really enjoyed Ask Again Later earlier this year when I needed just the right dose of fluff, so I'm hoping for more of the same in Top Ten Clues You're Clueless.  And these covers = SO CUTE.

And finally, I took a chance on a completely unknown book because the comparison to Sarah Dessen and the cute cover lured me in.  I haven't downloaded an e-galley on a complete whim before, so wish me luck!

What about you?  What's new on your shelves?  If you've done a haul post, leave me a link in the comments below and I'll stop by!
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Life of a Blogger - Embarrassing Things

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 embarrassing things.  I've been thinking about this post for a while, and having a hard time thinking of what to share.  Then, I spilled a cup of tea down the front of myself the other day -- and I realized, "Of course!"  My embarrassing thing is this: I am the world's biggest klutz.  Seriously.  Although I've never broken any bones *knocks on wood* I am very clumsy when it comes to spilling things.  For example, I once shook a bottle of ketchup at a restaurant and had the lid come flying off.  My husband describes the scene as the ribbon of ketchup flying through the air in slow motion, rippling like the ribbon of a rhythmic gymnast at the Olympics.  And then splattering all over my shirt AND the woman sitting behind me.  So awkward.  Thankfully, she was super cool about it and even helped to clean ME off!  I rarely get through a meal without dropping something in my lap or spilling something.

What about you?  Are you klutzy like me?  Leave me a comment below!
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Series Spotlight - June, July & August

Welcome to the summer 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!  This month, I'm mixing it up a little and highlighting the releases for the coming months, as there's not too much coming out that I'm actually looking forward to -- strange, I know!


Leigh Bardugo's Ruin and Rising (release date: June 17)

Susan Dennard's Strange and Ever After (release date: July 22)
I haven't started either of these series yet, but I have the first book in each series sitting on my shelves!  I hope I like the first one and, since all the books will be out, I can just immerse myself in these worlds and read 'til the end.


 I've already planned my summer TBR pile and, while I will be reading a few series books, I plan to read a few of the summer standalone titles that are collecting dust on my shelves too.  So my goals for the summer are a little lighter in the series department.  I received a finished copy of Hollow City from the publisher for review a few months ago and I've already started it.  Dreams of Gods & Monsters is just too pretty to sit on my shelves unread for much longer.

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