Monday Musings | Putting Away Social Media

Karen Ma One More Page Photo Starbucks Reading

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a wee bit addicted to social media. It’s the first thing I check after turning off my phone alarm in the morning, and it’s the first thing I open up when I’m leaving work for the day. Sometimes, I even check my Twitter/Instagram when I’m with other people. (This is seriously my biggest and most shameful secret.)

I don’t know how it happened, but more and more, I find that social media — as much as I love it — is a big distraction in my life. Don’t get me wrong: I love staying up-to-date with the latest news and I love being able to keep up with my friends online, but I sometimes feel like it’s taking away from my enjoyment of the little every day things. One of these little every day things is reading. What starts out as a “oh, let me update my reading progress on Goodreads!” ends up as a 30-minute Twitter spiral; “I’ll just Instagram this photo and go back to reading” becomes a mini “like”-fest… picking my book back up after my social media “break” oftentimes means having to shut everything down again and re-immerse myself into the book. It’s almost comical how silly the whole situation is, yet it happens to me all of the time.

So, I’ve decided to challenge myself a little bit. At 11pm every night this week, I’m going to turn off all technology and dedicate the rest of my night to uninterrupted reading. I’m going to make time to really, truly, fully enjoy the experience. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Do you ever find social media/technology to be distracting? Do you have any strategies to keep yourself away from it while reading?

Monday Musings | New Year, New Beginnings

Christmas Lights

Hello, friends! Happy new year!

Despite myself, I’ve always been the type of person who loves the idea of new year and the promise it brings of a fresh start. But because I utterly failed at my reading/blogging resolutions last year, I didn’t want to set myself up for failure by listing specific goals. Instead, I want to work on general improvement.

Last year, I suffered through a “sophomore slump” of sorts. I was juggling a job and an internship for a portion of it, and generally dedicating my time to figuring out my life. This year, I hope to feel more stable in that regard so that I can focus more on my blog and reconnect with you all.

Anyway, in the spirit of new year, I wanted to ask you: do you have any reading goals this year? Are you doing any reading challenges like the Goodreads challenge or the 50 Book Pledge? Is there any new content you’d like to see here on this blog?

Wishing you all a merry start to the new year! I’m looking forward to another great year with you.

Book Review + Giveaway | Always the Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk

Always the Bridesmaid, Lindsey Kelk, book blogger, book review, giveaway, free books

Hi friends! You may remember this Instagram post back in August announcing my exciting news, and I’m sad to say that my internship at HarperCollins Canada is coming to an end. However, this post is supposed to be a happy and exciting one. Early into my internship, Kaitlyn from The Savvy Reader left a copy of Always the Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk on my desk for me to read. After loving it, she asked me if I wanted to host a giveaway on my blog! You know I love sharing my favourite books with you, so keep reading to the end to enter!

I read Always the Bridesmaid when I was in the middle of a reading slump, and I have to say: this humourous book is perfect for busting slumps! It centers around Maddie, whose two best friends are in two different stages of life: Lauren is recently engaged and planning her wedding, while Sarah’s marriage is not going so well. Where does that leave Maddie? Smack dab in the middle. Lauren becomes a bit of a “Bridezilla” and Sarah turns to Maddie to vent about her relationship troubles. Oh, on top of all this, Maddie also has to juggle her work life and her love life…

It took me no time at all to fly through the book as it was just so enjoyable to read. Every chapter starts with an entry from Maddie’s bridesmaid book (from Lauren, of course) and Maddie is hilariously honest in each entry. Maddie is the perfect narrator because she tells her readers exactly what’s on her mind. She also gets into some pretty funny situations, and I have to admit that I laughed louder on the subway than I intended to when I was reading about “penguins vs. pandas.” I think most people can relate to the things the characters go through in this book, whether it be an exhausting bride-to-be, a friend going through boy troubles, having your own boy troubles, and struggling to move up at work. That Kelk is able to bring comedy into these everyday situations brings a certain kind of relief to them, and it’s refreshing to be able to see these events as funny instead of complicated and difficult.

So, whether you’re looking to get over a reading slump, want to read something that is full of drama and will make you laugh out loud, or relate to not ever wanting to be a bridesmaid again, this book is the perfect pick. It would also make the perfect gift for the girlfriends and fans of rom-coms on your shopping list!

Now, on to the giveaway! The generous HarperCollins Canada has given me 5 copies to give away. Click on the link below to enter!

**CLICK HERE TO ENTER GIVEAWAY**

CONTEST RULES:
1. No purchase necessary.
2. Open to residents of Canada only. (Sorry!)
3. If a winner is picked and their Twitter account only has giveaway entries, I will choose again (unless I can tell by their other accounts that they will actually read the book). I want the winner to genuinely enjoy these books!
4. Have fun and good luck!

Have you ever been a bridesmaid? What’s your favourite best friend story?

Books I’m Thankful For This Thanksgiving

Read Away Winter Blues One More Page

This weekend is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and if you know me, you’ll know that I love celebrating holidays. That being said, Thanksgiving always makes me feel especially happy, as it’s a great reminder to be thankful for what I have. This year, thinking about my blessings is making my heart grow multiple sizes. Above everything, I think I’m most thankful for this feeling of contentment.

Anyway, cheesy intro aside (which will lead to…more cheese), the start of the weekend made me think about some of the books that I’m thankful for. Of course, it would be almost impossible to list every single book that’s had an impact on my life, so I’ll just pick and choose some of my recent/top favourites. (If you want to know the 10 Reasons Why I’m Thankful for the Bookish/Blogging Community, click here!)

1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Charlotte’s Web is one of the first books I remember really loving as a child. In fact, I loved it so much that I had most of the first chapter memorized. I recently did a Sporcle quiz (I know, I know) on identifying first lines, and reading “‘Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.” brought back a wave of great memories. After reading Charlotte’s Web, I quickly devoured Stuart Little (not literally, thankfully) and The Trumpet of the Swan. I’m thankful that these books kick-started my love for reading!

2. I Want to Go Home by Gordon Korman

This is another childhood favourite, and I can still clearly remember laughing at Rudy Miller’s antics as he tries to escape summer camp. This book was actually first read to me by one of my teachers in school, and so, while I thank this book for teaching me that books can be wildly entertaining and hilarious, I must also thank my teacher for having great taste in books. (Also, I highly recommend reading Korman’s Macdonald Hall series – it’s equally hilarious.)

3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

As I’m writing this post, I find it interesting how 2 of my top 3 favourite childhood books were read to me by teachers. I’m sure I would have found out about the ubiquitous Harry Potter series at some point in my life, but I’m grateful that a teacher introduced my class to Harry early, and that we were a part of the “fandom” who grew up with Harry. The Harry Potter series taught me that books could expand my imagination.

4. Re Jane by Patricia Park

I’ve been a terrible blogger these past few months, so even though I loved this book and have a deep emotional connection to it, I haven’t really mentioned it on my blog. While I was reading this book, a huge challenge was presented to me in my “real life,” and I was – and still am – so thankful that I had this book to escape to. It’s almost funny in a way, because at one point in the novel, Jane is trying to escape something as well, so I felt like our stories were connected in some way. This book, which I’m still aiming to review at some point, was a wonderful distraction during a tough time. (I should also mention that it’s a modern retelling of Jane Eyre, and a very good one at that.)

5. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez

Oh how this book ripped my heart to shreds and uplifted it! It really should be no secret that I love it when books make me cry, but this one stands out as a recent favourite that just left me sobbing on the couch. It’s kind of true what they say: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” I still feel those emotions as if I’d read the book yesterday. Read my full review here.

6. Jane, the Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault

When I think of this graphic novel, I think of how protective I felt of Hélène, the main character. She’s been unfairly bullied by her classmates and escapes through reading (coincidentally, the “Jane” in the title refers to the Jane in Jane Eyre… I’m sensing a strange pattern here). I’m thankful for this book because it exists. I want to give it to any child that feels alone, teased, or friendless. This book shows that things can get better, especially with help from a great book and your imagination. Read my full review here.

There it is! A tiny list of the books that I’m thankful for. Whether they taught me something or simply touched me, these books are all important to me in their own way. Compiling this list has reminded me of why I love reading so much: it really does have the ability to alter lives for the better.

Which books are you thankful for? Are there any books that are especially dear to you? Let’s share stories!

Monday Musings | Primary School Book Swaps

April Wrap Up One More Page Blog 2015

A few weeks ago, a random memory popped into my head that made me smile. I was reading (nothing new there), and remembered a thing called “book swap” (or perhaps it had a more eloquent/punny name?) that used to happen from time to time in school. The concept is pretty self-explanatory: on assigned days, everyone in my class (I’m thinking this was around grade 2-4) would bring a book that they no longer wanted on their shelves to school with the purpose of swapping it with another classmate for something new.

Even though it would have made a better story if I could remember any memorable titles that I’ve received in this way, I can still clearly remember the excitement and frenzy that was caused by these book swaps. We would all sit in a circle, put our books in front of us, and then, on the count of three, we’d switch places with our classmates until we landed on a new book that interested us. Oh the thrill!

I’m almost certain that I was already a bookworm by the time these book swaps were introduced to my class, but I could definitely see how the idea of trading would excite and intrigue new readers. Luckily, I don’t ever recall these trades ending poorly – only in smiles.

I wonder: Is this a common practice in classrooms? Did your school have book swaps like these or something similar? What’s your favourite bookish memory from school?

Monday Musings | Paying Attention to Publishers?

Literature Classics Penguin Classics Oxford Classics One More Page

When I was in university studying English, classics were a staple on my reading lists. Now, I don’t know how you categorize your shelves, but when classics made up most of mine in university, my favourite way to organize my books was by publisher (see above!). Just thinking about my row of black Penguin classics and white Oxford classics makes my heart sing!

However, outside of the classics, I never really paid attention to who was publishing my favourite books until I started blogging. This is kind of interesting, as it makes me wonder whether other readers consider publishers when they pick up a new book. Does a book published by a recognizable publisher give readers more confidence in picking it up if they see it on a table in Chapters? Or do we largely ignore publishers and focus on the book’s content itself?

I have definitely noticed trends in my reading (I read a lot of books by Penguin Random House Canada, which is unsurprising as their one of the biggest global publishers. I also read a lot from HarperCollins Canada, especially now that I’m an intern there!). That being said, I don’t confine myself to my favourite publishers and do rely on book synopses to help me determine whether I want to read a book or not.

Now, I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Do you pay attention to publishers when purchasing books/reading? Do you have a favourite publisher? If so, why do you consider them your favourite?

Book Review | China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

China Rich Girlfriend Kevin Kwan Book Review Cover One More Page

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion on the book.]

The highly anticipated sequel to Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel Crazy Rich Asians is here – finally! If you’ve read Crazy Rich Asians, you’ll know that this series is all about the fine things in life: a jet-setting lifestyle, exquisite clothing, and extravagant events. Well, it’s safe to say that China Rich Girlfriend lives up to expectations as it continues to deliver what fans loved so much about Crazy Rich Asians.

China Rich Girlfriend picks up where Crazy Rich Asians leaves off (click here to read what Crazy Rich Asians is about). In my opinion, I would classify this as a sequel rather than a companion novel. You won’t be lost if you’ve never read Crazy Rich Asians, but the events are definitely succeeding it, which means you may want to start from the top if you want to pick up the series.

It’s hard to review this book without giving away anything, so I’ll keep this review short and sweet. I absolutely loved getting to continue to follow the characters’ lives. They’re all so well-developed with their own distinct plot lines and problems to overcome while providing readers ample excitement and escape from real life. While it did take me two tries to finish Crazy Rich Asians (I had to learn to accept the conspicuous consumption instead of resist it), once I became invested in the characters it was hard to put down. I am now waiting with baited breath, hoping that there will be another installment!

Verdict: A consistent follow-up to Crazy Rich Asians. This series is the perfect escapist read, transporting readers to a place that is likely very unfamiliar. I loved living through the crazy lives of these characters and pretending that I was right there with them. If you loved Crazy Rich Asians, you need to read this.

Read if: You want to go on a crazy rich adventure, you loved Crazy Rich Asians, you want to find out what it means to be richer than crazy rich.

Are you a fan of Crazy Rich Asians? If you had unlimited funds, where would you go on vacation?

Monday Musings | The Future of Print Books

2015 Reading Bookish New Year Resolutions

I think, for as long as we live, we will always worry about new technology taking over old technology.

Sometimes these worries are valid (cassette tapes, anyone?) but sometimes we’re a little too pessimistic. In publishing (and for avid readers in general), the hot topic has been the rise of e-books. Will there be an e-reading generation that doesn’t value print books? Will the printed word go extinct?

So far, studies have been inconclusive. There is evidence that my generation of readers (as well as older generations) still value physical books, but are open to trying other forms of reading. I have no doubt that I will attempt to pass on my love of print to the next generation, but I also have no idea how receptive they will be to my cajoling. Though I’m sure the print book isn’t going to go extinct anytime soon (in 2013, 17% of books purchased in Canada were ebooks), I still wonder if there’s a future where most people will prefer reading from an e-reader or tablet…

What do you think? Are you a print book purist? Or have you converted to e-reading? Do you think the anxieties over whether print books will go extinct is silly, or something to be worried about? What is the value of a print book over a digital one?

(I personally think it’s a little bit silly to worry about this, but I’d also be devastated if publishers stopped printing books. I’m not a print book purist as I do own an e-reader, but I much prefer reading in print. Take that as you will!)

Monday Musings | Phrases That Stay With You

Andie M Mitchell It Was Me All Along One More Page Blog

The other day, as I was convincing myself to go for a run, I thought of a phrase that I often go to when I need a nudge: “I’ve never regretted working out.” It’s something that I saw online once that really resonated with me. Normally, just thinking of that will motivate me enough to go outside, but this time I was having a bit of a rough day, and needed some extra encouragement. That’s when this popped into my head:

“Can you do it today?”

This was a question that I came across in food blogger Andie Mitchell’s memoir It Was Me All Along. Mitchell herself discovered this question in O, The Oprah Magazine, at a time in her life when she was having difficulty changing her ingrained eating and exercising habits. She started asking herself:

“Can you exercise today, Andie? Not tomorrow, not the next day, not even a month from now. Today? Eat the best you can, work your plus-sized heart out…today?” (p 119)

And found out that she could. So, with this in mind, she was able to take things one day at a time, and eventually get on track. Since reading Mitchell’s story, this phrase has stayed with me and has been pulled out whenever I need motivation. It reminds me that the answer is always “yes,” and the only reason why I don’t do certain things is because I choose not to, instead of being incapable. This has been so crucial.

Besides wanting to share this small anecdote with you, my thought processes led me to wonder: have there been phrases from your reading that has stayed with you long after you’ve finished the book? It doesn’t have to be non-fiction, necessarily. For a fiction example, I often think of the phrase “an impossible red flower” that Aislinn Hunter used in The World Before Us to describe blood spreading on a shirt. It’s so beautifully visual that I can’t quite shake it from my mind.

Now, on to you! Are there any phrases from your reading that you find yourself thinking about over and over again?

April 2015

April Wrap Up One More Page Blog 2015

Books read:

*Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick
*Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up With a Gay Dad by Alison Wearing
*The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens
*Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
*Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

I had one of those rare and amazing reading months where I loved everything I read in April. In fact, according to my Goodreads ratings (which should always be taken with a grain of salt – but that’s a whole different topic), my lowest star rating this month was a 4 – for Anne of Avonlea (which I enjoyed but also felt was a bit of a drag at times).

I wonder if this is because I’m getting really good at figuring out what kind of books are for me, or if I’m too liberal with my stars…

Anyway, whatever the reason, I really enjoyed this month’s reads. Spinster is a well-researched non-fiction title that aims to change the way we think about female singledom. (Psst… look out for a review and perhaps something for you? *wink*) Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter is a heart-warming memoir about growing up with a gay dad as the gay rights moment is just beginning. The Mountain Story surprised me by how much I enjoyed it; it’s a very well-told story through and through. Anne of Avonlea, as I mentioned earlier, felt a little slow to me at times, but was a decent follow-up to Anne of Green Gables. In contrast, Anne of the Island made my heart grow three sizes; I couldn’t put it down.

Life wise, this month has been a pretty stressful one. Again, I think my blog has suffered a bit because of that, but I’m hoping the nicer weather is going to give me that extra push to stick to my posting schedule!

How was your April? Have you read any of the books that I read this month? What was your top read of the month?