Friday, 31 July 2015

The Fourth Annual Ontario Book Blogger Meet-Up | Event Recap

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the fourth annual Ontario Book Blogger Meet-Up! It was my first time attending so I wasn't sure exactly what the event was going to be like; what I knew for sure was that it was going to give me a chance to get to know some fellow bloggers who are as obsessed with books as I am.

All the books and swag I collected at the event!

It was truly an awesome event. We met in downtown Toronto at a restaurant called The Ballroom, where we were greeted by the ladies of Book Blog Ontario and promptly given a tote bag FULL of books. As they say, start as you mean to go on; it was a great start to a great event!

As we mingled with fellow book-lovers, the friendly staff brought around delicious appetizers - they had poutine, mac and cheese, sliders, fish and chips, and - my favourite - risotto balls.

Thank you to Michelle at Musings of a Writer for taking these!

There were several authors in attendance, which was so cool! I got the chance to get my books signed and have a chat with K.A. Tucker (above, left) and Sally Christie (above, right).

Author group shot!

Before the Meet-Up, we had a Google Doc where we could list books we wanted to give away, and also claim books we'd like to take off other people's hands. Thank you to Michele, ChristineJaclyn, and Léonicka for giving me books that I can't wait to read!

I had such a fun time meeting and getting to know like-minded people and I'm so glad I attended! It was so well-organized and I'm blown away by how generous everyone there was.

If you'd like a closer look at all the titles I received at the event, you can check them out in my July Book Haul!

All photos by Nikki unless otherwise stated.

July Book Haul!

The number of books I got this month shouldn't even be legal. That said, I am so excited about this month's acquisitions, and I'm so grateful to everyone who gave me books.

As you might know, last week I went to the 2015 Ontario Book Blogger Meet-Up - MANY of these books are from there. Many of the other books you see here are from Christine over at Padfoot's Library, who is crazy generous. Thank you again to everyone who provided me with these bits of endless entertainment.

1. The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

2. Villa America by Liza Klaussmann

3. Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami

4. Elena Vanishing by Elena and Clare B. Dunkle

5. Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne

6. The Book of (Even More) Awesome by Neil Pasricha

7. If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski

8. The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

9. The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

10. Chasing River by K.A. Tucker

11. Brown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque

12. The Originals: The Rise by Julie Plec

13. Christmas on Primrose Hill by Karen Swan

14. This is Shyness by Leanne Hall

15. Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

16. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

17. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

18. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

19. The Little Book of Perfumes: The Hundred Classics by Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez

20. The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

21. Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho

22. Mosquitoland by David Arnold

23. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume

24. The Iron Man by Ted Hughes

25. Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

26. Banking on Burlesque by Victoria Sadler

27. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

28. Suddenly They Heard Footsteps by Dan Yashinsky

29. The Sense of Musk by Sammar Essmat

30. Count Me In by Emily White

31. The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

32. The Merit Birds by Kelley Powell

33. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

34. The Suffering by Rin Chupeco

35. Serenity: Better Days by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, and Will Conrad

36. Finish This Book by Keri Smith

37. Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes by Keri Smith

38. This Is Not a Book by Keri Smith

39. The Pocket Scavenger by Keri Smith

Are you looking forward to any of these books? What books did you get this month?

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

"Circling the Sun" by Paula McLain | Book Review

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Beryl's family moves to Kenya when she is a young girl but, unable to deal with the drastic change, her mother abandons them and returns to England with Beryl's brother. As a result, she is raised by her racehorse-trainer father, as well as the neighbouring Kipsigis tribe. She grows up to be a very strong-willed individual, figuring out what she wants and how to achieve it - and then does just that.

I didn't realize it before I started reading the novel, but Beryl Markham was a real person. Paula McLain drew inspiration from Beryl's autobiography, West with the Night, and delves into her personal life and the fascinating relationships she had with many interesting people, Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen included.

I found Beryl to be such an interesting, complex character. She has an unbreakable spirit, determination, and a sense of adventure. When she put her mind to something, there was no stopping her. During the early 1900's, when Beryl's story takes place, there were so many set gender roles - she had no interest in many of them, and went right ahead with her own goals and dreams. She made her own path.

Through hard work, perseverance, and a keen intuition when it came to horses, she became the first female licensed horse trainer in Kenya, and later became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.

While it can certainly be said that Beryl made some bad decisions particularly when it came to love and marriage, she accepted those mistakes, learned from them, and kept going. When she made a hasty decision, there were huge consequences and she dealt with the weight of such a big mistake. As her story unfolded, I really came to love Beryl and her unflinching spirit - she has such fire in her and doesn't let anyone tell her she can't do something. One of the things I appreciate most about her is that she feels fear but doesn't let it stop her.

The imagery and descriptions of the scenery are amazing. I felt like I was there in Kenya with the characters, experiencing everything they were, from the weather and wildlife to the architecture and fashions. At the Paula McLain and Elizabeth Hay Blogger Reception last month, Paula told me she visited Kenya after writing Circling the Sun, which kind of blows my mind because she describes it so beautifully.

The story includes some words and phrases written in Swahili, so at some points I had to look up the words to get the image right in my mind, which I found to be a good learning experience - I liked being able to learn about a different culture.

Through Beryl's story, we see how WWI had an effect on everyone - the soldier who returned, those who lost loved ones, the people affected by the horse conscriptions...everyone. It was eye-opening to see how far-reaching the effects of the war were.

It was such a pleasure to read this story - I was introduced to an incredible woman in history and I was able to learn about her achievements and relationships. The writing is beautiful and it really brought these people, as well as Kenya, to life for me. Circling the Sun is without doubt one of my favourite books of 2015 so far, and I can't recommend it enough.

Circling the Sun is now available. You can purchase it now from Indigo or for your Kobo.

*This book was sent to me by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

June Book Haul!

This month was SO exciting in terms of book releases! I'm so excited to get started on these.

1. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

2. Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow

3. The Birthday Lunch by Joan Clark

4. Every Day by David Levithan

5. Control by Lydia Kang

6. You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day

7. Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari

8. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson edited by Thomas H. Johnson

9. The Deadbeat Club by Dietrich Kalteis
This book is going to be part of Word on the Street's Book Club this year, which I will be participating in! It comes out this October, so stay tuned for a review closer to review day.

Which books did you get in June?

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Avenue of Mysteries

"'Waiting On' Wednesday" is a great way to get excited about upcoming releases - you get to share which not-yet-released publications you can't wait to read!

This week, I'm waiting on:

Avenue of Mysteries
By John Irving

Publication Date: November 3

I have yet to read a John Irving novel, but I own several of his books and each sounds incredibly intriguing. From The World According to Garp to The Cider House Rules, Irving's books are so full of promise for me.

From Goodreads:

John Irving returns to the themes that established him as one of our most admired and beloved authors in this absorbing novel of fate and memory.
As we grow older—most of all, in what we remember and what we dream—we live in the past. Sometimes, we live more vividly in the past than in the present.

As an older man, Juan Diego will take a trip to the Philippines, but what travels with him are his dreams and memories; he is most alive in his childhood and early adolescence in Mexico. “An aura of fate had marked him,” John Irving writes, of Juan Diego. “The chain of events, the links in our lives—what leads us where we’re going, the courses we follow to our ends, what we don’t see coming, and what we do—all this can be mysterious, or simply unseen, or even obvious.”

Avenue of Mysteries is the story of what happens to Juan Diego in the Philippines, where what happened to him in the past—in Mexico—collides with his future.

What are you waiting on this week?