Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Wattpad Writers Get to Shine!

This may be a small thing to others but this is phenomenal news for me.

An article in Entertainment Wise featured Anna Todd's skyrocketing journey from Wattpad-writing to publishing success. It also went on to list ten writers that are up and coming in Wattpad.

It's crazy to think about it, especially considering some of the names that are on the list, but I'm quite pleased to find myself listed. To think this was just me finding somewhere I could write more freely at first.

Wattpad in itself has grown to an incredible level—ripe with talents and opportunities and still very much evolving.

I just count myself lucky to be part of that circle.

If you want to check out that list, here you go: 10 Wattpad Writers That Could Be The Next Big Thing.

Congratulations to everyone on the list! =)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Review: Lead by Kylie Scott

Lead is the third instalment in Kylie Scott's highly addictive Stage Dive series.

This is my second review because after I read the second one, I was in such a crazy, euphoric state I couldn't write and then I put it off and never got around to it. Which is fine because now I have an excuse to read it all over again so I could give it a proper review as it so rightfully deserves.

I was so looking forward to Jimmy's story that I called up a dozen book stores within three cities to see which one would have it on launch date and then I had my husband drive us in crappy winter conditions to pick up a copy. It was worth it.

First of all, the whole cast of the series is a fun, cool group to hang out with so I was looking forward to seeing the lot of them again in this book. It was good to see familiar characters in the periphery without their stories flooding this one. I've seen it happen before and it's painful (Beautiful Oblivion, anyone?)

Now, Jimmy and Lena immediately intrigued me when there were glimpses of them in Play. For one, Jimmy was such an a**hole in Book 1 that it made me curious what it would take to turn his world on its ear. And Lena had me piqued with the cool chic-nerd glasses and the unflappable attitude towards Jimmy.

Jimmy did not surprise me that he was still the same jerk he was in the first book. He was clean but he was still a bit of a crude ass. While I personally do not care for the swearing and mulish attitude, it fit in with Jimmy somehow. He wasn't kidding when he told Lena he wasn't a great guy. But what I do find commendable in all of this is that Scott actually integrated Jimmy and the flawed, impossible and infuriating character that he's supposed to be in one seamless persona. He didn't read like a character with multiple personalities (the one the author wants him to be and the one he comes across as). I was quite convinced that Jimmy really was the kind of guy you wanted far away from you if you weren't ready for an exhausting non-relationship-relationship. That conviction is important because I wasn't sitting there thinking, 'God, Lena. He's the perfect guy for you and here you are just being dumb and clueless about it. What are you waiting for?' I really felt like, 'God, Lena. He is not going to be easy. Life with him isn't going to be a walk in the park? Are you sure you're ready for this? I'll hold your hand, okay? And call me the moment shit hits the roof and I'll come smack him.'

Jimmy, up to the last page of the book, remained the gruff, brusque, no-niceties kind of guy and that was alright with me. Lots of people wouldn't agree because love is supposed to transform that kind of guy. In reality though, love doesn't always have the magical powers of romantic fictional prose. I'm saying this and I write guys readers want to order off Amazon because they are modern-day princes. Some guys will always have a tougher exterior. Jimmy was neither prince nor poet. He was crude a lot but he didn't strike me as evil. Some days, you wanted to run him off the road but deep down, he cared and in time, we could only hope that his relationship with Lena, and the kind of stability he'd missed in the first twenty-something years of his life, would soften those rough edges. Doesn't mean he'd be polished and shined then.

It takes a certain kind of girl to take Jimmy by the horns because while in this modern day and age we like to say that looks don't matter, they do, at least superficially, and since we have layers to the soul, there will always be a superficial side to us. And Jimmy's rockstar looks and bad-boy vibe make a combination potent enough to at least distract you from seeing the full picture right away.

I actually really enjoyed Lena's character.  She made me laugh so hard so many times. Her voice was vibrant and rich and highly entertaining. Her dry wit, self-depracating humor and sparkling comebacks made her the perfect antidote to Jimmy's overly brooding character. She spoke plainly, stirred him up and out and gave him sh*t when he deserved it. I loved how she was as a person. She knew her vulnerabilities and was very human about them. She had insecurities but didn't seem that hung up on them. She had bad relationships and terrible taste in picking people to surround herself with. While I couldn't directly relate to her exact example, I understood that many of us are like that in life in general—prone to the things we know aren't good for us but unable to stay far away for good. Sure, she gushed and pined for him but let's be honest here. Who doesn't do that (at least internally) when thrown in such close quarters with someone you want but can't have? I'm less sentimental than most people but I'm not made of wood. Lena wants love but she's had to toughen up. Anyone who'd suffered tough blows and got herself back on her feet because she deserved better would always be a bit of a contradiction that way. Lena knew she wasn't perfect but she was comfortable with herself and I liked that, no matter what body type her character may have been given. It's so easy as an author to decide to write about someone with body issues. You can tell a reader that. But it's an entirely different thing to make a reader feel what the character feels about who she is. There's an honesty to Scott's writing that makes her characters very grounded and relatable—even the rockstars. Lena embraced who she was, even her sexuality which I know lots of other authors write about in their books nowadays. I've read a book where someone's sexual liberation was so overly emphasized it felt like I'd stuck my nose right on an open bottle of very strong perfume. I get it, I get it. This doesn't have to sound, or read, like an oration of just how much you want to 'bump uglies' and how you should be able to do it all the time because you are empowered, etc, etc. Go, do it, whatever. I won't judge. But I won't sit here and have the knowledge of it crammed down my throat either.

So, back to the book before I start ranting about something else entirely... I loved how seemingly ordinary it started. I know some people seem unimpressed that there was no dramatic first meeting (although I personally thought their first meeting was quite amusing) or any grand falling in love twist. When they started out, they weren't heading there, which was a great thing sometimes because then it didn't feel too.. inevitable (which is a little ironic for me because I do want my romance books to feel a bit inevitable). It was like you could see it coming but with so many ups and downs, you could almost be certain that it might just not happen. I liked that it kept me on the edge, which was pretty much what Lena and Jimmy did to each other.

I enjoyed this story a lot because it made me feel a lot of things. The sex was pretty blunt and there was no shortage of dirty talk but that only made it more interesting than most. The dialogue was well-paced and felt easy and natural, even when they were saying incredulous things.

The end, while it was not the kind of declaration scene worthy of a blockbuster romantic comedy, felt pretty appropriate actually because I could just not picture out Jimmy doing it smoothly and perfectly. It would be too big a gap from who he was as a character if he suddenly swooped down in a horse like a white knight. It's just not Jimmy. But it doesn't mean he shortchanged Lena. While we mutter about his less-than-sterling manners, Jimmy really felt like he was struggling for ground when it came to dealing with people, not just women. You could feel him fumbling and finding no purchase sometimes, even with his brother. He still had a long way to go but coming to Lena like that was no small step. It was no big leap to prince charming either but it humbled him enough to own his actions this time around.

Ben's story is next and I think I know where it's going but as with the three Kylie Scott books I've read this year, I might still be very pleasantly surprised.

Read more reviews about it here in: Lead by Kylie Scott

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Best of Me

"Love like that doesn't go away. It's here with us forever."

They say first love never dies...

It only goes from one lifetime to the next.

Who could resist tales of first love? I know I can't.

There's something magical about first love—the ups and downs, the wrongs and the rights, the world and you.

Sometimes, the world wins. Sometimes, we lose the first thing we feel we can never live without.

And sometimes, we live lost only to find our way back again.

I love this story.

I love the fragility of first love and its incredible strength at the same time, enduring time and the worst and best of us.

October 17—along with Dawson and Amanda, we'll fall in love all over again.

*Image from pagetopremiere.com

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fall Flavors: One-Pot Autumn Herb Roasted Chicken

I have a feeling I'm going to be talking about a lot of fall-related things.

It is my favorite season after all and there are so many incredible things to explore and enjoy in the next couple of months as the leaves turn crisp and dry and the world turns a rich palette of yellows, browns and reds, even if it's a bit more cool and gray.

I haven't made this dish yet but I have all the faith in prolific collection of unique and utterly divine-looking recipes from Half Baked Harvest.

I've been following that blog for a while now and every morning, I click on the site and serve me a little food lust.

This one is a must-make in my autumn recipe-list.

Just look at it.

It already looks delicious and it's in one pot.

Go ahead.


Eat with gusto.

Find the recipe here.

*Recipe and photo courtesy of Half Baked Harvest.*

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Favorite Thing: Perfect Fall Coffee

I love sleep but some nights you just can't fall or stay asleep. 

I woke up at 3 a.m. and tossed around for a bit but no luck so I figured I'd sit in front of my computer and write. The bane of being a writer, I tell you. As much as I'd like to schedule my creative flow, it's very hard. When it hits you, it hits you.

What I wish I had right now is a nice warm cup of coffee, preferable a pumpkin spice latte.

Every fall, this gourmet coffee invades the world—from dessert to body lotions to scented candles. It does drive everyone a little crazy but I'm cool with it.

I love the season and everything that comes with it.

Since it's a bit early to be driving out to Starbucks, I'm just going to sit here and stare at pictures of the coffee in Pinterest until I could taste it in my mouth.... sigh...

*photo from dashing dish.com

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Falling for Fall

I love summer but there is just something about fall that makes it so special.  

I grew up in a country that didn't have it but since moving to Canada, I've had all four seasons and this is by far my favorite.

There's a certain understated beauty about this transition of time and temperature that transforms the world for a little bit. 

It's here today and I hope it lingers its full season. 

Happy Autumn!

*collages sourced from bloglovin.com, Laura Spellman and rebeccaVC1 on Flickr in their respective order

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Dark Skye by Kresley Cole

So, I've been dragging this review for a while now.

I've read this over a month ago, pretty much the day it released and I devoured it in a day but I couldn't review right away.

I love the Immortals After Dark series. I love Kresley Cole's brand of writing—always full of attitude, humor and sensual undertones. It's always fun to read anything she's written.

The story between the sorceress Lanthe and Vrekener Thronos have been hinted at in several of the previous books and it has always intrigued me. He's always hunting her down, viciously as it was implied, and she was always running from him. Those little hints were already packed with potential for an extensive backstory.

And there was a back story. The preliminary chapters offered an almost bittersweet history to the two but it fell a little short in terms of how much it impacted me and my sympathies toward the kind of relationship these two now have many centuries later. Nonetheless, there was a lot going for the book to keep me glued for several hours straight and many times, I did swoon a little at some things about Thronos. I didn't really have too much of a problem with Thronos except that maybe, if he'd been so obsessed about Lanthe, he would've kind of picked up a little bit on the fact that she was being terrorized by Vrekeners. Thronos had a lot of redeeming qualities and personified the kind of alpha males many of Cole's books have—fiercely possessive, infuriating as hell but still pretty damn sweet.

As for Lanthe... Hmm... I liked pretty much every female lead in the past IAD books but I do have my favorites. Lanthe always struck me as the stereotype younger, more shy, more innocent sister but she had a lot of spunk on her own once she was free from Sabine's shadow—at least until much later in the story. I just don't know that a lot of it was in the right place.

I still enjoyed this book quite a bit. No regrets.

I would've given this four stars if it didn't quite become clear to me, so early in the story, that this book has more couple's therapy than an actual session or a self-help book—on top of the very established and empowered sexuality that Lanthe embraced.

I get it, Lanthe wasn't a nun locked away in a monastery somewhere remote wearing a chastity belt. I get it, she slept with a lot of guys and a lot of times, for the wrong reasons, and yes, I'm not going to criticize her for it. That's fine by me. I just didn't need to be constantly reminded every other chapter. I would've liked to have read more about the actual story. I hated those moments but some parts I felt like skipping through because I felt like I was watching a Jerry Springer episode. I wanted to read a sexy, exciting and highly amusing paranormal romance, that's all.

I felt that the book might have embraced Lanthe's sexual liberation a little bit too much. It's the modern day and age, sure, and we are all responsible adults who can make decisions about our lives. No one needs to tell you what to do. Lots of reviews of books nowadays loudly criticize 'slut-shaming' and I think this book was a bit in-your-face about not judging someone for the way they are. I wouldn't get in someone's face and tell them they have to lead a sainted existence so there is no need point a finger at my face and dare me to criticize Lanthe's choices. This almost felt a bit like 'virgin-or-less-sexually-experienced-adult-shaming' if I really wanted to go so far. But anyway, a little less of that and I might have actually enjoyed the story a bit more instead of wondering every few pages here or there if I even wanted these two to end up together.

And for someone who's so empowered in one thing, I felt that Lanthe still got a bullied around by Sabine and Morgana toward the end. Balance is a beautiful thing, you know, but I guess, how are we to love our fictional characters if not for their flaws, right?

I'm still looking forward to the next instalment. The whole series just feels epic even though this particular pair was a little less so.

I'm looking forward to Nix's story the most. So far, not a ton of hints as to who would steal the heart of this clever Valkyrie who has everyone moving on her chessboard like pawns in a game she's playing with an unknown enemy.  God! Loved her little moment with the goddesses!

Read more reviews about it here: Dark Skye by Kresley Cole