Friday, July 28, 2017

A Day of Tea and Books


In the middle of this month, my friend JK had a tea party at her place. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I was the only one able to attend. Despite me being the only guest, we decided to stick with JK’s original dress code, which was a dress/skirt or nice pants, and a hat or fascinator. It was so much fun to bust out of my usual at-home work attire of leggings and a tank top and my shopping 'uniform' of jeans and a tee. I wracked my brain, and as far as I can figure, the last time I dressed up was when I was in Europe two years ago.
 
We sat outside in JK's beautiful garden (until it started to storm) and had tea and scones while listening to Ed Sheeran (a mutual fave). JK went all out with pretty china and decorations.
  
 
Since we've both been lucky enough to win signed copies of Jacquelyn Middleton’s book London Belongs to Me, and since the party had a British theme, we did a fun little photo shoot with her book for Instagram.


Love London? Want to read about a nerdy fangirl with anxiety who navigates tough situations while discovering herself, building friendships, and falling for a swoony Irishman on a red Vespa? Check out London Belongs to Me! {Amazon US - Canada // Chapters}

When the storm came and we had to take things inside, we watched Austenland (in keeping with our British theme). I hadn’t seen it, although it’s been in my Netflix queue for ages. It was pretty ridiculous and silly, but it was also hilarious and swoony and OMG JJ FEILD. I loved it.

It was a great afternoon. I’ve always wanted to go to a fancy tea party, and while it was just the two of us, it was a blast.

Want to see more? Check out my personal Instagram here, my bookstagram account here, and JK’s Instagram here.

Have you ever been to a fancy tea party or high tea in a restaurant? I wanted to do high tea when I was in London, but between the price (average of $50 Canadian with the ridiculous exchange rate at the time *cringe*) and the lack of time, we didn’t make it. Next time for sure! My dream is to have tea at either Kensington Palace or the Ritz. Might as well dream big, right?

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: The Crowns of Croswald by DE Night

My review copy of Crowns of Croswald came from the publicist with all these amazing extras. Hands down one of the coolest packages I've ever received! I'm obsessed with the Glanagerie bottle, and after reading the book and finding out their purpose, I love it even more! Thank you JKS Communications!

The Crowns of Croswald by DE Night
Series: Croswald #1
Published: July 21st, 2017
Publisher: Stories Untold Press
310 pages (ARC)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Acquired this book: From the publicist in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
Rating: 4 stars
{GoodReads || Buy: Amazon US ~ Canada || Chapters/Indigo}

 
In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic is one secret…

For sixteen years Ivy Lovely has been hidden behind an enchanted boundary that separates the mundane from the magical. When Ivy crosses the border, her powers awaken. Curiosity leads her crashing through a series of adventures at the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and the power of Croswald’s mysterious gems. When Ivy’s magic––and her life––is threatened by the Dark Queen, she scrambles to unearth her history and save Croswald before the truth is swept away forever.

 
The Crowns of Croswald is a fun, fresh fantasy from debut author DE Night. Despite some similarities to Harry Potter, Night has managed to take the familiar ‘orphaned child sent to magical boarding school, destined for greatness’ premise and create a different, compelling world.

Sixteen-year-old Ivy has lived her entire life shut away as a servant for a royal family, with only a pack of scaldrons (dragons, whose job it is to cook food in their mouths) and a dwarf who turns up occasionally as companions. When she turns sixteen, an accident in the kitchen gets her thrown out of the castle, but she soon finds herself on her way to Croswald and the Halls of Ivy, where she’s set to learn to be a scrivenist, a magical record keeper. I loved the world of Croswald and the Halls of Ivy, the concept of magic and the roles of magical people, the magical creatures, and of course Ivy herself. She's strong, smart, brave, impetuous, and curious, and it was so much fun following along on her adventures.  

With lots of action and magical antics, plenty of mystery to keep you guessing, and a great cast of characters, The Crowns of Croswald is sure to be a hit with fans of fantasy. If you’re a teacher/parent/guardian who’s looking for something new and fun for your tween or teen, make sure to pick up The Crowns of Croswald. Ivy is sixteen, which automatically made my mind go ‘this is YA’ but it reads like a Middle Grade book, so I think it’ll have wide appeal, regardless of the readers’ age. I can’t wait to continue on with this series and see what’s next for Ivy and her friends.


 
 
Have you read The Crowns of CroswaldWhat did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you like fantasy?
 
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Changes at Ramblings of a Daydreamer


Week before last I put up a notice that the blog was under construction because of how Photobucket’s new Terms & Conditions were forcing people to pay $400 for 3rd party hosting and it had screwed up my entire blog. I’ve been blogging for almost seven years now, and nearly all my pictures (we're talking hundreds and hundreds) are hosted on Photobucket, which left my blog looking like a hot mess. Since each of my posts has several graphics, my entire blog is filled with these ugly things:
AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!
To say I was distraught is a massive understatement.

This situation forced me to think not only about the blog, but also about my writing and my reading habits. At the end of last year, I debated whether to continue with Ramblings of a Daydreamer. Readership was low, and I got next to no comments, even if a blog post had a ton of views. I wondered if I was wasting my time, but I decided to give it one last shot, and I ended up enjoying blogging for the first six months of 2017.

Now, though...it’s not that I no longer enjoy it, it’s just that I realize it’s time to make some changes. For the last several years, at least 3/4 of the books I've read have been review books. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had access to so many ARCs directly through publishers and through sites like Edelweiss and Netgalley. I’ve loved working with authors as well, and have discovered some of my favourite books because I’ve been given the opportunity to read the books for free in exchange for honest consideration.

But it’s time consuming. And it can be stressful. It’s left me wishing for more time to read the books I want to read that don’t have deadlines for reviews. Some of the dozens and dozens of books I’ve bought/won/been gifted over the years that sit forlornly on my shelf, getting very little attention unless it’s to photograph them.

Then there’s my author blog. Ohhh, my poor, pathetic, neglected author blog. I never posted there regularly, but my last post was over two years ago! *cringes* I’ve kept the book info up to date, but haven’t made any effort to post there, and now I have the same problem of it looking like a mess thanks to PB.

So I’ve come to a decision. I’m going to slowly transition Ramblings of a Daydreamer into a more general blog.

What can you expect?

  •  Occasional book reviews and bookish posts like lists, discussions, maybe even a meme here and there. I’m planning to focus more on promoting the books and authors I love rather than reviewing every single book I read whether I loved or hated it. That will take a massive amount of stress and pressure off my shoulders and free up more time for writing and reading.
     
  • More posts about writing - my own (updates, teasers, etc) and in general (tips, advice, self-publishing info, etc).

  • More personal posts. Stuff that's going on in my life, things I like, maybe even a few photo essays thrown in.

I've gone through several pages of posts, fixing them with new pictures. The only good thing about this happening is that I've always wished my graphics were the same size, and now I can redo them so everything is uniform and looks more professional. It would take me forever to do the entire blog, so I'm not even going to make that a goal. I hate that some of it will always look horrible and have blank spaces, but there's no way I can go through 1000+ posts and redo them all. I've also designed a brand new header, and I'm in the process of redoing and streamlining all my pages.

This way, I won’t be giving up a blog I’ve worked hard on for 7 years. I also won’t feel as much pressure to write reviews and read a gazillion ARCs (which is largely my own fault; I’ve been saying for years I was going to cut back and I never do). Plus I won’t feel as bad about my neglected author blog because Ramblings of a Daydreamer will be an all-in-one deal.

I’m aware I might lose followers through this transition, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. I want to love this blog and be passionate about it and proud of it. I’m hoping readers, both old and new, will follow along and be more willing to engage (I know I need to do my part and start commenting more on other people's blogs). Numbers don’t mean anything when no one is reading or commenting on your posts.

I want to help and inspire as well as entertain, and I’ll do my best to do all of that and more. Thank you to those who stick with me through this new adventure.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

 

This novel was partly inspired by Mackenzi Lee's discovery of the concept of the Grand Tour, something done by many rich people in the 18th century, that would last for months or even years, depending on funds. It's similar to our modern day 'gap year', where young people see the world between high school/college and pursuing further education or employment. I always wished I could have taken a gap year, and I still harbour a not-so-secret fantasy of taking several months or even a year and travelling through my own home country of Canada, plus Europe, so adventure/travel books like this really appeal to me. Plus, as a historical novel, it's interesting to see how difficult it often was to travel back then when people were limited to horse-drawn carriages and boats.   

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Series: Standalone
Published: June 27th, 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
528 pages (eARC)
Genre: Historical Fiction/LGBTQ+/Adventure
Acquired this book: Via Edelweiss in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy: Amazon US ~ Canada || Chapters/Indigo}


An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.


The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was one of my most anticipated books of 2017. I was even more excited when I saw a few trusted reader/blogger friends raving about it. When I finally picked it up, I giggled my way through the first 10% and then...well, then the disappointment kicked in. While the book started out funny and set things up nicely, I found myself bored through a lot of the book. I skimmed a lot, which I don’t normally do, and I considered DNFing several times, but by then I’d already dedicated several hours to the story and my mama didn’t raise a quitter!

I’ll start out with the things I liked. I loved Monty’s voice. He was hilarious and irreverent and selfish and hugely flawed, but also really likeable, and experienced great growth throughout the story. I also liked his sister, Felicity (she’s just the type of strong-willed, intelligent, against-the-grain girl I love seeing in historical fiction, and I'm incredibly excited she's getting her own book) and best friend/love interest, Percy. I loved the diversity in the story - Monty was bisexual, Percy was biracial and had a disability (I won’t mention what because I’d consider it a spoiler, but it was fascinating to learn how it was perceived in the 18th century and what the fate of someone with Percy’s condition often was), and they met up with a band of African pirates during the course of their adventures. You so rarely see any diversity in historical fiction, so it was refreshing to see. I also enjoyed the humour and the adventure itself (which was more of a misadventure) with highwaymen, pirates, alchemists, a sinking island, and lots of mishaps that ranged from amusing to tense.

I think this book could have easily been a five-star read for me if it hadn’t been so long. It felt like it took me forever to read and like it was never going to end. I’d be reading for ages and think I must be close to the end only to look down and see I’d only read 10% and was merely halfway through the book with another 3-4 hours to go. A book like this should have been so action-packed and exciting that I didn’t want to put it down, but instead I had to force myself to keep reading. 

I’m so sad and disappointed to say The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue didn’t live up to my expectations. Despite enjoying the adventures and liking the characters, I felt like I was slogging through, and I honestly couldn’t wait to be finished. I did appreciate Monty’s growth, and I was glad to see he got a happy ending after all he went through, plus there were definitely many laugh-out-loud moments, and a sweet romance. I’ve seen plenty of people raving about this book, which could make it a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ or 'right book, wrong time'. As always, I encourage you to give this one a try if it sounds like something that would interest you.




Have you read The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and VirtueWhat did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Have you read any other LGBTQ+ historical fiction books?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pride Month 2017: LGBTQ+ Book Recommendations

You know how sometimes you're thinking about books and you wish you could find one with a certain type of character or something specific within your favourite genre? I'll read almost any type of LGBTQ+ book, but sometimes I'm looking for something in particular and it's hard to find. I figured I can't be the only one, and thus the idea for this post was born. It's by no means an extensive list, but it was fun to put together, and I hope some of you will find it useful! Maybe you'll even find something you didn't know you were looking for.

Looking for...

Characters:


*A gay superhero? 

Midnighter by Steve Orlando

*A bisexual Middle Grader? 

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

*A transgender MC? 

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

*A POC lesbian MC?

It’s Not Like it’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura

*A disabled bisexual MC?

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

*A bisexual POC celebrity MC?

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

*A Jewish lesbian MC?

Knit One Girl Two by Shira Glassman

*A lesbian Christian MC?

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

Genres/Miscellaneous:

*F/F Historical Fiction?

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

*M/M Thriller?
Hushed by Kelley York

*F/F Non-Fiction?

Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe

*F/F Science Fiction/Fantasy?

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

*M/M Road Trip?

Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson

*F/F Set outside North America?

Get it Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough

*F/F Set in Canada?

Take Them by Storm by Marie Landry

*F/F Retelling?

As I Descended by Robin Talley
SPOILER (highlight the black lines to read): Please note this is a retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth. I know some people were angry about the characters' deaths because of the unfortunate prevalence of a ‘kill the queers’ mentality in books/TV shows/film, and I normally despise that myself, but in the case of a retelling, you have to know it's inevitable. Macbeth is a tragedy - it's not meant to have a happy ending.

A surprise LGBTQ+ book (one I didn’t know going in had a f/f relationship:

SPOILER (highlight the black to read): The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What are some of your favourite LGBTQ+ books? Are there any you recommend regularly? Anything specific you're looking for in an LGBTQ+ book?
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wanderlust Wednesday: Books Set in Italy


Since June marks the 2-year anniversary of my big UK/European adventure, I'm feeling nostalgic...and I'm also feeling the need to read alllll the books with settings of places I love. 

For the last two weeks and again today I've been recommending books set in each of the countries I visited: England, France, and Italy. I love travelling vicariously through stories when I can't actually travel myself, and I know I'm not the only one, so I hope you'll enjoy these lists!

Last week I shared recommendations for books set in France and the week before it was books set in England. This week it's books set in Italy!



Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae ~ For me, this book is right up there with Anna and the French (which, if you know me at all, is incredibly high praise). It's fun, it made me giggle like crazy, it's swoony, and the setting is beautiful. There's this scene where Pippa either comes up from the metro or rounds the corner (I can't remember exactly - it's been three years since I read it) and sees the Colosseum for the first time and is completely awestruck. When I came up out of the metro and saw the Colosseum for the first time, I thought of her and had my own holy-shit-I-can't-believe-I'm-here moment. 

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch ~ Another giggle-and-swoon-inducing read. I loved seeing Italy through Lina's eyes. With the addition of Lina's mother's journal entries, you get a story within a story, which I loved.

The Turning Point by Marie Meyer ~ A sweet and steamy romance with a beautiful setting. This is ultimately a story about the power of love

A Place in the Sun by RS Grey ~A beautiful and romantic story set in Vernazza, Italy. I loved this funny, swoony, emotional story.

Racing the Sun by Karina Halle ~ Set in beautiful Capri, with a unique storyline, I really enjoyed this one. The romance had a lot of push and pull, but in the end I rooted for the characters, largely because things weren't easy for them, but they worked hard to stay together.


Venom (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #1) by Fiona Paul ~ If you like historical fiction, this one is set in Renaissance Venice, and is full of intrigue and romance.

The Eternal City by Paula Morris ~ I'll be honest, this isn't my favourite book (it had so much potential!), but one thing it had going for it was the beautiful descriptions of Rome.


What are some of your favourite books set in Italy? Do you have any recommendations for books set in Italy (especially Rome)?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe

Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe
Published: June 24th, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic
272 pages (ebook)
Genre: Contemporary Memoir/LGBTQ+
Acquired this book: Bought
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon US ~ Canada|| Chapters/Indigo}


An inspiring, uplifting and sympathetic story about sexuality and self-acceptance, Lucy Sutcliffe's debut memoir is a personal and moving coming out story. In 2010, at seventeen, Lucy Sutcliffe began an online friendship with Kaelyn, a young veterinary student from Michigan. Within months, they began a long distance relationship, finally meeting in the summer of 2011. Lucy's video montage of their first week spent together in Saint Kitts, which she posted to the couple's YouTube channel, was the first in a series of films documenting their long-distance relationship. Funny, tender and candid, the films attracted them a vast online following. Now, for the first time, Lucy's writing about the incredible personal journey she's been on; from never quite wanting the fairy-tale of Prince Charming to realising she was gay at the age of 14, through three years of self-denial to finally coming out to friends and family, to meeting her American girlfriend Kaelyn. 
 
I’m not sure how I originally discovered Girl Hearts Girl. I’m guessing I must have seen something on YouTube or maybe Instagram. I had a note for months on my whiteboard that said ‘Lucy Sutcliffe’ and when I finally looked her up, I discovered this book and thought Pride Month would be the perfect time to read it.

Girl Hearts Girl is the story of Lucy Sutcliffe growing up, figuring out she's gay, and dealing with those confusing, scary feelings. It’s about her friends, her family, and eventually her long-distance girlfriend, Kaelyn. I think the synopsis is a tad misleading - it sounds like this is ‘their’ story - how they met, fell in love, got together - and if someone picked this book up because they were a fan Lucy’s and Kaelyn’s YouTube videos, they might be disappointed to learn the first half of the book is about Lucy’s experiences growing up.

Personally, I enjoyed reading about her younger years, but then I had never heard of Lucy and Kaelyn and knew nothing about their YouTube videos. I just liked that Lucy was a regular kid - kinda weird and nerdy, and obsessed with Harry Potter, like me. I’m glad we got to see a lot of her struggles as a young teen before the romance aspect came into play because that could have easily overshadowed some of the important bits about friendship and finding acceptance at a younger age.

I also appreciated that Lucy talked openly about her anxiety and eventually seeking help. People are starting to talk more openly about mental health and we’re seeing it dealt with a bit more in fiction, but it was a nice surprise to see it in this book, and it helped me connect to Lucy even more. I felt for her in a lot of ways - worrying about fitting in, being self-conscious about being weird and different, and then struggling with the myriad of emotions surrounding realizing she likes girls. She made herself sick over thinking there was something wrong with her and worrying what people would think, and I’m sure a lot of people will be able to connect to that.

While I identified with Lucy in several ways, I had trouble connecting to the writing. The style was very simple - almost too simple. Because of the simplistic writing, this book could be read by anyone at any age, but I found myself wishing for a bit more depth. Usually in a book like this, you’d get a lot of profound realizations and poignant discoveries, and while there were a few inspirational moments, I wanted to feel more, connect more with Lucy. I also wish that because half the book was largely about her relationship with Kaelyn, that we’d seen more of their relationship. I know they were long distance for many years, but it would have been nice to see more of the emotional side of things. Also, while I get that this is a memoir and Lucy can only talk about her own personal experiences, I felt like the whole thing was a bit idealistic. She dealt with very little homophobia (which is obviously great, and I’m pleased for her) and a few times things were said by other people along the lines of no one cares anymore if you’re gay, or it doesn’t matter to people anymore, but that’s simply not true. Sure, there are plenty of wonderful, accepting people - more now than even a decade or two ago - but there’s still a lot of homophobia out there. A lot of hateful, hurtful people. I would hope that most people have the good experiences and support Lucy did, but it’s often not the case. It’s nice to see good experiences and know they’re possible; people, especially younger people who are just discovering their sexuality or deciding to come out, deserve to see the good side of things, but I think it can also be harmful and misleading to think it’s always that simple or that safe.

That being said, I did appreciate how Lucy mentioned that once she and Kaelyn started posting their videos, they got a lot of letters, including from gay teens in places where you could be jailed or even killed for being gay, and they said how inspirational the videos were and how much they helped them. Lucy does acknowledge her good fortune and privilege to have dealt very little with homophobia, and to live in a place where it’s mostly safe to be out, which was nice to see.

Overall, I enjoyed Girl Hearts Girl. It was sweet, funny, and had some touching and inspirational moments. I liked the overall message of finding the people who love you for who you are, being true to yourself, and finding the inner strength to carry on no matter what. I’d recommend this to teens and young adults, especially those who are uncertain about their sexuality or who are thinking of coming out/starting to come out/are newly out. I think many people will find comfort and inspiration in Lucy’s journey. She’s just a regular girl who goes through many of the normal pains of growing up, and for a lot of people I think it will be comforting to know they’re not alone.



Have you read Girl Hearts Girl? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you read non-fiction?
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