Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Blog Tour: The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
Review + Excerpt

The Bookshop on the Corner
by Jenny Colgan
Read: August 16 - 19, 2016
Published:  September 20th 2016 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: EW - Thank you Harper Collins!
Category: Adult, Contemporary Romance, Brit humor, Scotland
Find: Harper CollinsGoodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound 

Book Description: Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling. 

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

My Thoughts

As author Jenny Colgan states in her forward - which nearly had me in tears of laughter and emotion with how on point it was - this book is a love letter to readers and their books. I felt a huge kinship with Nina's love of stories. Her belief that they can be life changing, as well as her life-long mission of connecting the right one to the right person. 

Unassuming Nina is not one to attract much attention, but she is devoted to her library job. That is until she loses it in a big corporate maneuver to consolidate the branches and bring in young employees and more 'media'. Nina is suddenly out of work and completely lost about what to do next. She has never been a risk taker, and seems the least likely person to go out and pursue a dream project. But Nina slowly begins to do exactly those things - buying a van in the rural highlands of Scotland, opening a bookstore in the back of it, and changing her life completely.

The Characters
I like Nina a lot. She did a lot of growing in this book, and I had a great time reading about her transformation from mousy, nervous librarian to confident business owner. It was so fun - and hilarious (if frustrating at times) - to watch her journey unfold. It takes her some time to find her confidence and get going, but I could always understand her love for books, and enjoyed seeing how she used that passion to help others and herself. This story also has a great cast of characters, my favorite being her Birmingham roommate Surinder and her grumpy landlord Lennox. 

The Setting
I've read several books set in Scotland recently and all of them have made me desperate to go back and see everything there. The Bookshop on the Corner is no exception. Nina moves from busy Birmingham in England to a small town in the Scottish highlands called Kirrinfief and everything about the book makes it sound lush and enchanting. I loved how the place was an important part of Nina's growth in this story. It is completely different from where she was before, but feels more like home to her than anywhere else. 

The Romance
This book has a romance in it, and I was blindsided by the fact that there is a love triangle. You guys know that I avoid those, and I didn't research it ahead of time, which is unlike me. But I pushed through this story, even when I discovered it, because I really did enjoy it and Nina's voice
. I'm glad I kept reading, but the romance was disappointing because of it. I find triangles to be distracting, pulling my focus in too many directions, and that definitely happened here. I would say this love triangle is more in the Jane Austen variety - in that Nina focuses on the wrong person first before figuring out who the "right" one is. 

Although the first guy plays a role in the overall plot, I wish we could have been able to focus solely on the other one. I liked her ultimate choice a lot, and they had great tension from the start, but I found it hard to get into the romance because of the triangle. Thankfully, the love triangle doesn't last the entire book, and I liked the way Nina's relationship with her "true" love interest played out in the end. 

The Title
I don't know why The Bookshop on the Corner was chosen as the title, as Nina opens a bookshop in a van. I think the name Nina picks for her store would have been a cute title for the book (you'll have to read the book to find out what it is), though I agree "Bookshop in a Van" doesn't have quite the romantic ring to it. Also, some of the books Nina recommends are real and some are presumably made up - since I couldn't find them anywhere - but I wish they were real titles because I want to read them for myself! 

I enjoyed this story quite a bit. It was uplifting and fun and all about someone who loves books and wants to share them with others. I'd love to take a trip to the Scottish highlands and visit Nina's shop for myself. I know I'd never have to explain to her how much I love to read, because she gets it. This was my first Jenny Colgan book but I'd like to check out her backlist - assuming there are titles on there that are love triangle free. 

Love Triangle Factor: Medium: 
This wasn't a super agonizing situation, and I think most people will be fine with it. But it was still a triangle. More details (highlight for spoiler) - Although both guys are present from early in the book, Nina falls for one of them before realizing he wasn't who she thought he was, and then, she works her way to the other one, realizing he was the better choice all along. In some ways its more of a Progression, though Nina has tension with her ultimate choice all along, and I wish we'd been able to just focus on him.  
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone


The problem with good things that happen is that very often they disguise themselves as awful things. It would be lovely, wouldn’t it, whenever you’re going through something difficult, if someone could just tap you on the shoulder and say, “Don’t worry, it’s completely worth it. It seems like absolutely horrible crap now, but I promise it will all come good in the end,” and you could say, “Thank you, Fairy Godmother.” You might also say, “Will I also lose that seven pounds?” and they would say, “But of course, my child!”
            That would be useful, but it isn’t how it is, which is why we sometimes plow on too long with things that aren’t making us happy, or give up too quickly on something that might yet work itself out, and it is often difficult to tell precisely which is which.
            A life lived forward can be a really irritating thing. So Nina thought, at any rate. Nina Redmond, twenty-nine, was telling herself not to cry in public. If you have ever tried giving yourself a good talking-to, you’ll know it doesn’t work terribly well. She was at work, for goodness’ sake. You weren’t meant to cry at work.
            She wondered if anyone else ever did. Then she wondered if maybe everyone did, even Cathy Neeson, with her stiff too-blond hair, and her thin mouth and her spreadsheets, who was right at this moment standing in a corner, watching the room with folded arms and a grim expression, after delivering to the small team Nina was a member of a speech filled with jargon about how there were cutbacks all over, and Birmingham couldn’t afford to maintain all its libraries, and how austerity was something they just had to get used to.
            Nina reckoned probably not. Some people just didn’t have a tear in them.
            (What Nina didn’t know was that Cathy Neeson cried on the way to work, on the way home from work—after eight o’clock most nights—every time she laid someone off, every time she was asked to shave another few percent off an already skeleton budget, every time she was ordered to produce some new quality relevant paperwork, and every time her boss dumped a load of administrative work on her at four o’clock on a Friday afternoon on his way to a skiing vacation, of which he took many.
            Eventually she ditched the entire thing and went and worked in a National Trust gift shop for a fifth of the salary and half the hours and none of the tears. But this story is not about Cathy Neeson.)
            It was just, Nina thought, trying to squash down the lump in her throat . . . it was just that they had been such a little library.
            Children’s story time Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Early closing Wednesday afternoon. A shabby old-fashioned building with tatty linoleum floors. A little musty sometimes, it was true. The big dripping radiators could take a while to get going of a morning and then would become instantly too warm, with a bit of a fug, particularly off old Charlie Evans, who came in to keep warm and read the Morning Star cover to cover, very slowly. She wondered where the Charlie Evanses of the world would go now.
            Cathy Neeson had explained that they were going to compress the library services into the center of town, where they would become a “hub,” with a “multimedia experience zone” and a coffee shop and an “intersensory experience,” whatever that was, even though town was at least two bus trips too far for most of their elderly or strollered-up clientele.
            Their lovely, tatty, old pitched-roof premises were being sold off to become executive apartments that would be well beyond the reach of a librarian’s salary. And Nina Redmond, twenty-nine, bookworm, with her long tangle of auburn hair, her pale skin with freckles dotted here and there, and a shyness that made her blush—or want to burst into tears—at the most inopportune moments, was, she got the feeling, going to be thrown out into the cold winds of a world that was getting a lot of unemployed librarians on the market at the same time.
            “So,” Cathy Neeson had concluded, “you can pretty much get started on packing up the ‘books’ right away.”
            She said “books” like it was a word she found distasteful in her shiny new vision of Mediatech Services. All those grubby, awkward books.

Nina dragged herself into the back room with a heavy heart and a slight redness around her eyes. Fortunately, everyone else looked more or less the same way. Old Rita O’Leary, who should probably have retired about a decade ago but was so kind to their clientele that everyone overlooked the fact that she couldn’t see the numbers on the Dewey Decimal System anymore and filed more or less at random, had burst into floods, and Nina had been able to cover up her own sadness comforting her.
            “You know who else did this?” hissed her colleague Griffin through his straggly beard as she made her way through. Griffin was casting a wary look at Cathy Neeson, still out in the main area as he spoke. “The Nazis. They packed up all the books and threw them onto bonfires.”
            “They’re not throwing them onto bonfires!” said Nina. “They’re not actually Nazis.”
            “That’s what everyone thinks. Then before you know it, you’ve got Nazis.”
With breathtaking speed, there’d been a sale, of sorts, with most of their clientele leafing through old familiar favorites in the ten pence box and leaving the shinier, newer stock behind.
            Now, as the days went on, they were meant to be packing up the rest of the books to ship them to the central library, but Griffin’s normally sullen face was looking even darker than usual. He had a long, unpleasantly scrawny beard, and a scornful attitude toward people who didn’t read the books he liked. As the only books he liked were obscure 1950s out-of-print stories about frustrated young men who drank too much in Fitzrovia, that gave him a lot of time to hone his attitude. He was still talking about book burners.
            “They won’t get burned! They’ll go to the big place in town.”
            Nina couldn’t bring herself to even say Mediatech.
            Griffin snorted. “Have you seen the plans? Coffee, computers, DVDs, plants, admin offices, and people doing cost–benefit analysis and harassing the unemployed—sorry, running ‘mindfulness workshops.’ There isn’t room for a book in the whole damn place.” He gestured at the dozens of boxes. “This will be landfill. They’ll use it to make roads.”
            “They won’t!”
            “They will! That’s what they do with dead books, didn’t you know? Turn them into underlay for roads. So great big cars can roll over the top of centuries of thought and ideas and scholarship, metaphorically stamping a love of learning into the dust with their stupid big tires and blustering Top Gear idiots killing
the planet.”
            “You’re not in the best of moods this morning, are you, Griffin?”
            “Could you two hurry it along a bit over there?” said Cathy Neeson, bustling in, sounding anxious. They only had the budget for the collection trucks for one afternoon; if they didn’t manage to load everything up in time, she’d be in serious trouble.
            “Yes, Commandant Über-Führer,” said Griffin under his breath as she bustled out again, her blond bob still rigid. “God, that woman is so evil it’s unbelievable.”
            But Nina wasn’t listening. She was looking instead in despair at the thousands of volumes around her, so hopeful with their beautiful covers and optimistic blurbs. To condemn any of them to waste disposal seemed heartbreaking: these were books! To Nina it was like closing down an animal shelter. And there was no way they were going to get it all done today, no matter what Cathy Neeson thought.
            Which was how, six hours later, when Nina’s Mini Metro pulled up in front of the front door of her tiny shared house, it was completely and utterly stuffed with volumes.

About the Author

Jenny Colgan is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, includingLittle Beach Street Bakery, Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, and Christmas at the Cupcake Café, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.

Find Jenny Colgan Website | Twitter | Facebook

Friday, September 23, 2016

Early Review: Nemesis by Anna Banks

by Anna Banks
Read: May 20 - 24, 2016
Published: October 4th 2016 by Feiwel & Friends
Source: Galley from publisher (Thank You, Macmillan!)
Category: YA, fantasy, enemies-to-love
Series: Nemesis 1/2

Book Description: The princess didn't expect to fall in love--with her nemesis.

Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee from his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king's servitude.

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.

Sepora's gift could save Tarik's kingdom from the Quiet Plague. But should she trust her growing feelings for her nemesis, or should she hide her gifts at all costs?

I have said this before, but I am a HUGE sucker for enemies romances, and this is an excellent version of that trope. I loved that I could sense these characters' pull towards each other, even when they were fighting. Nemesis is also the first in a duet, which always gets a cheer out of me these days. This is definitely my favorite Anna Banks book to date. 

The main characters: I loved Sepora. This girl is not afraid to say what she wants and act on it. She doesn't have the best street sense, but she's smart, clever and gets things done. Tarik has just taken on a lot as the new king of Theoria. He is doing his best, and I admired him in many ways. However, in most arguments I'd probably take Sepora's side of things, and there were a few times that I wish I could smack him. But I like the way these two are always challenging each other. I could completely understand their connection and I ate up every time they were in a scene together. 

The setting: I really hope the final book has a map! This story has a lot of different fantasy and world elements, including characters with special gifts, and several kingdoms which all operate very differently from each other. It took me a bit to keep everything straight, and I'm still not sure I'm clear on all the history. In this story, we only visit two places (so far). Sepora is from the kingdom of Serubel, a mountainous country with ladders and ropes connecting cities. It also has flying serpens (think of dragons without the legs). Sepora has the ability to Forge septorium, a very precious and coveted substance, and the reason she's escaped out of her kingdom to Theoria. Tarik is the new pharaoh of Theoria (the explanation for his kingdom's name is pretty cheesy and made me roll my eyes), which has a desert, Egyptian vibe and giant cats. There are also carnivorous river mermaids in this land. Like Sepora, Tarik has a special ability, though his is quite different from hers.

The telling: The writing read very formal to me at first, and it took me a while to get used to it, especially because the dual POV switches between first and third person, which I always find to be jarring. I wish the author would have picked one narrative voice for both Tarik and Sepora. However, I did eventually get into the flow if the book and that didn't greatly effect my reading.

The ending: This story ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, not a 'hanging off of a cliff' one, but it's clear this is part of a series - a duet I believe - and certain things are unresolved. I'm not usually a big fan of cliffhangers, but one of my favorite aspects of this book is how it ended. I've re-read this conclusion several times and every time I feel shivery with how good it is. Plus I think it will bring a lot of great tension into the next installment. 

The sequel Ally comes out next year and I cannot wait for it! 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Medium? Part of a duet - physically these two characters are not 'hanging off a cliff' but this is definitely mid story and there is a lot to resolve. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Penguin Problems by Jory John & Lane Smith
Thoughts on a Picture Book

Penguin Problems
by Jory John & Lane Smith
Released: September 27th 2016 
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: Advance copy from publisher
Category: Juvenile, Picture Book, Penguins, Antarctica 

Penguin Problems: A penguin levels with human readers about what penguin life is really like—and it isn’t all fun and games.

Have you ever considered running away to Antarctica? Of course you have! Because it’s a land free of worries and responsibilities! All of your problems will surely be blown away by the icy winds of that lawless paradise! . . . Won’t they?

Think again, my friend. This penguin has come to tell you that his life down there is no more a picnic than yours is here. For starters, it is FREEZING. Also, penguins have a ton of natural predators. Plus, can you imagine trying to find your mom in a big ol’ crowd of identical penguins? No, thank you.

Yes, it seems there is no escaping the drudgery of your daily grind, whatever it might be. Or perhaps we’ve just learned that grumps are everywhere. . . .


Penguin Problems is a book about a penguin who has a lot of problems. It's snowy and bright and cold and everyone looks the same and he can't fly and there are sharks in the water! But isn't all of that what it means to be a penguin living in Antarctica? Why is he complaining?!

My kids think this book is hilarious. It wasn't until their second reading that they fully grasped the humor in the story. But now they're asking me to read it to them all the time, and I've come across my seven year old reading it to herself. They think its a lot of fun to refute everything the penguin is complaining about - "you look the same as everybody else because you're all penguins!" My kids also think it's highly amusing to act out the story, and then add their own personal problems - with much inflection of course: 

I don't want to brush my teeth. 
Why do I have to go to school?
It's hot in here.
I don't want to eat this. 
I hate waiting. 

But then as the walrus encourages the penguin, when we read this book, we talk about the good things in our life too. Like family and friends and what we love about where we live.  

This book isn't going to stop the complaining. We all get into bad moods sometimes. But for the little bit of perspective and lots of fun, Penguin Problems is super silly and comes highly recommended from us!

As my daughter says, "penguins don't look silly! They're cute when the waddle." 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Blog Tour: This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
Would You Rather Character Interview

Tour organized by Fierce Reads

I loved This Adventure Ends - find my thoughts HERE - and today I'm thrilled to be interviewing the cast of the book.

(This is one of my favorite posts from all the blog tours I've done!)

Welcome to Love is not a triangle everyone! I know some of you are more eager for this than others. I promise you’ll have fun – or at least it will be over soon!

Feel free to elaborate – and no skipping questions *ahem* Gabe. Remember, this is a penguin free zone. Sharing is caring :) 

1) Would you rather always have to say everything on your mind OR never speak again?

Sloane: Everything on my mind.
Vera: Everything on my mind.
Gabe: Never speak again.
Remy: Never speak again.
Aubrey: Never speak again.
Frank: Well, I’m glad Sloane and Vera will still talk because it’d be downright boring with everyone else choosing the silent treatment forever. I choose everything on my mind. Obviously.

2) Would you rather have a rewind button OR a pause button in your life?

Sloane: Pause button.
Vera: Pause.
Gabe: Pause.
Remy: Rewind.
Aubrey: Pause.
Frank: Team rewind button [high-fives Remy].
Remy: So you could change things you wish you’d done differently?
Frank: No, so I could do all the best parts over and over again.

3) If everything that came out of your mouth for the rest of your life either had to be sung OR spoken in rhyme, which would you rather?

Sloane: Singing. I mean, I feel like I’m automatically suited to that.
Vera: Speaking in rhyme.
Gabe: I hate this question.
Vera: You have to answer.
Gabe: I don’t know. Someone else go.
Frank: He picks rhyming! He’s rhyming right now!
Gabe: I didn’t mean to.
Remy: It’s just natural to… you?
Gabe: Stop rhyming. I don’t want to rhyme.
Frank: But you do it all the… time.
[Gabe groans; all laugh]
Aubrey: I’d pick singing.
Frank: I’d pick both. Singing and rhymes. It’d be like Frank: The Musical.

4) Would you rather wear the same outfit every day for the rest of your life OR eat the same meal?

Sloane: Same outfit.
Vera: Same meal.
Gabe: Same outfit.
Remy: Meal, but only if I get to pick what it is. 
Aubrey: Outfit, I guess.
Frank: How could I possibly choose? Frank Sanger, wearing the same outfit every day? Unthinkable!
Sloane: Then choose same meal.
Frank: Frank Sanger, depriving himself of culinary enjoyment? Unthinkable! 

5) Would you rather be on a survival reality show OR dating game show?

Sloane: Survival.
Vera: I already have someone, obviously, but if I had to choose, it’d be dating show. Those things are fake anyway, right? Or maybe Tash could sneak onto the show as a contestant!
Gabe: Survival.
Remy: Survival.
Aubrey: I don’t know… neither, but… dating, I guess.   
Frank: It’s funny you ask because I just so happen to be planning my own survival SLASH reality dating game show [Entire group groans] called Franktuary of Love.
Sloane: Franktuary?
Frank: Like “sanctuary.”
Sloane: I feel like you could do better.
Frank: I’m workshopping it—these things take time, Sloinbee. But it takes place on a desert island, and instead of roses I will give out diamonds, and there will grueling survival challenges interspersed with spa dates. It’s going to be the greatest show on television. Season 2 will be even better.
Gabe: How can there already be plans for season two? That totally undermines season one!
Frank: Don’t question my genius.

Thanks for answering my questions everyone! You guys are so much fun. I wish we we were IRL friends!

About the Book

This Adventure Ends
by Emma Mills

Published:  October 4, 2016 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Book Description: Sloane isn't expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that's exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera's twin brother and the most serious person Sloane's ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins' late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins' lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed. 

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound


About the Author

Emma Mills, better known to her subscribers as vlogger Elmify, is the author of First & Then.  She is also co-creator and co-host of the "life skills" channel How to Adult. Emma lives in Indianapolis, where she is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in cell biology. 

Find Emma Mills: Twitter | Youtube | Goodreads 


Check out the rest of the blog tour
9/15 – This Adventure Travels
9/15 – Book Review
9/16 – Interview with Emma
9/17 – This Adventure Paints
9/17 – Book Review
9/18 – Moodboard
9/19 – This Adventure Explores
9/19 – Book Review
9/20 – Would you Rather Questions
9/21 – This Adventure
9/21 – Book Review
9/22 – Emma Guest Post
9/23 – This Adventure Creates
9/23 – Book Review
9/24 – Friendship Post
9/25 – Book Review
9/26 – This Adventure Blooms
9/26 – Emma Guest Post
9/27 – This Adventure Inspires
9/27 – Book Review
9/28 – Emma Guest Pos
9/29 – This Adventure Swims
9/29 – Book Review
9/30 – Emma Guest Post
10/1 – This Adventure Begins
10/1 – Book Review
10/2 – Emma Guest Post
10/3 – This Adventure Swoons
10/3 – Book Review
10/4 – Pinterest Board

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