Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring Cleaning Isn’t Just For Your Home. Here’s How to Spring Clean Your Life Too

Happy first day of Spring! After what felt like 864 days of winter, I’m so ready for warmer days, blooming flowers and trees, and lush green grass. Who's with me? People talk about spring cleaning - decluttering, clearing the dust and cobwebs that built up over the winter, getting rid of things you no longer need (or that no longer serve you or spark joy, if you’re into Marie Kondo’s teachings). Personally, I have a massive list of stuff to clean and organize, and I can’t wait to open the windows again and let in the fresh air. But spring cleaning can be about so much more than just washing and tidying your physical space. Spring is about rebirth and renewal, which makes it the perfect time for a personal renaissance too. This can look like a lot of things: working to change negative or destructive habits, adopting healthy new habits, changing your mindset, working on your spirituality, practicing self-care for better mental health, and much more. I’m thinking of this spring as a time to mentally, physically, and spiritually declutter. In a recent post, I talked about how 2019 is the year of big changes for me. I’m ramping up my efforts this spring and taking things to the next level. If you’re interested in doing the same, here are some ideas for ways to declutter your life this season. Clean out your social media I think a lot of us follow people we don’t really want to follow, whether it’s out of a sense of obligation, or because we once enjoyed someone’s content, or maybe because of a giveaway that required a follow. Social media can be a huge time suck and it can also mess with your head, your confidence, and your self-worth, leaving you feeling drained. Spring is a great time to curate your social media platforms and unfollow the accounts you no longer enjoy following. For me, I enjoy following people who inspire, entertain, and/or provide value of some sort. You don’t need to follow people whose seemingly picture-perfect lives make you feel bad about your own life, or incite jealousy. And if there are people you feel bad about unfollowing (a family member, a co-worker, that old classmate you occasionally run into and don’t want to deal with that awkward ‘why did you unfollow me?’ conversation), there’s a handy-dandy ‘mute’ button on most social media platforms so you can still follow/be friends with someone, but don’t have to see their content unless you choose to.
Similarly, this is a good time to clean up your social media habits. How much time each day do you spend on social media? Do you check it constantly? Spy on that person you can’t stand but still need to know what they’re up to? Lurk in groups? Watch endless YouTube videos? Mindlessly scroll through your feeds? Mindlessly post to your feeds? I think a lot of us spend way more time on social media than we realize (or than we’d like to admit), so take some time and assess your habits and cut back accordingly. Assess your habits and behaviors Think of all the things you do each day or on a regular basis. How mindful are you of how your time is being spent and what you’re doing? At the end of the day or week, do you often find yourself wondering where the time went? Do you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day or you’re always rolling things over from your to-do list from day to day? How often do you say “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time for that”? Sometimes we truly are busy and there’s no avoiding it, but many times we get stuck in a cycle of making excuses, procrastinating, and avoiding. This is where assessing your habits comes into play. How much time do you spend on social media? How much time do you spend watching TV? If you don’t have time for the things you claim are important to you but you marathon-watch a whole season of TV each week or you spend hours each night scrolling through social media, it’s likely time to rearrange your priorities. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you completely cut out social media or TV or any of the other things you might enjoy, but it’s all about priorities and being mindful. If there are things you want to do and feel you don’t have time for, think about what you can cut back on or cut out of your life entirely. Can you get up earlier in the morning? Start saying no to the things you don’t want to do (especially when it’s something you hate doing or for someone who’s ungrateful and takes advantage of you)? Skip an episode of the show you’re watching and spend that hour exercising or reading or doing something mindful instead? Think about the times you say, “I can’t do X because…” Is it a legitimate reason or an excuse?

Your mindset, slowing down, and self-care This year, I’m all about positivity and having a healthy mindset. I’ve become that person who looks for the good, the silver lining, the lessons that can be learned from any situation. Having a positive mindset and focusing on the right things takes work. It doesn’t happen overnight and it’s something that requires changes not only in your thoughts, but also in your behaviors and actions. So many people believe they have to be busy or productive all the time. ‘Hustling’ is a buzzword that gets used a lot, and it’s created a mindset of having to always be doing, doing, doing or you won’t succeed or get ahead in life. While hard work and dedication are important, so many people don’t know or have forgotten how to just be. I saw a meme one day that said ‘You are a human being, not a human doing’ and while it initially made me kind of chuckle, it’s true. There’s something to be said for slowing down, enjoying life beyond the hustle and grind, and just being. This is something that’s been a process for me. I was used to go go go and work ridiculously long hours, and I was tired and stressed most of the time. Throw in mental health struggles like depression and anxiety, and I was pretty miserable. Since I’ve learned to slow down, reset my mindset, rearrange my priorities, and make myself my top priority, I feel like a different person. What’s been working best for me is a routine of regular exercise, yoga, meditation, and journalling, among other things. These things have taught me how to slow down and be conscious of my mental, emotional, and physical states.
Spring holds so many important lessons that parallel life: no matter how long or dark or cold the winter is, spring always comes. Change and growth are beautiful. That change and growth don’t have to remain in nature, they can happen in you too. This is the perfect time to plant new seeds in your mind and see what lovely, bright things grow from them. Make yourself a priority. Make your health - both mental and physical - a priority. Figure out what’s important to you and what’s no longer serving you. Be conscious of your thoughts and how you speak to and about yourself. Slow down and truly enjoy your life. Wishing you all a beautiful season of rebirth and renewal.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

7 Books to Satisfy Your Ireland Wanderlust

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m obsessed with Ireland, and have been for many years. I still haven’t actually made it to the Emerald Isle, but I travel there vicariously as often as I can. If you’re like me and you’ll read just about anything set in Ireland, I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite books to satisfy your desire for sexy accents, lush landscapes, and a bit of blarney. A common theme I’ve noticed about books set in Ireland is the desire for the main character to lose themself or escape. People seem to go there for a fresh start, a new perspective, and a bit of romance or magic - often both. Because of that, all of the books on this list with one exception are romances, and they range from Young Adult to Adult. Here’s hoping you’ll find your next favourite book on this list!

Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts Genre: Contemporary Adult Romance with elements of paranormal Buy Jewels of the Sun: Amazon US || Amazon Canada

This book is the first in the Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy (Tears of the Moon is book two and Heart of the Sea is the third book), which follows a trio of Irish siblings and their ‘destined’ romances. I’ve read all three books multiple times, and they’ve definitely stoked my obsession with Ireland. Jewels of the Sun features Jude, an American who has gone to Ireland to get distance from her past and also to do research for a book on Irish folklore. Not only does she discover the existence of faeries and ghosts, she also finds a charming Irishman she finds impossible to resist. This is my favourite of the trilogy because I related to Jude so much, and I loved how romance, folklore, and magic were woven through the story. This whole series will always have a special place in my heart; you can read more on Instagram about how these books were my introduction to the Romance genre.

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Buy Love & Luck: Amazon US || Amazon Canada

Addie and her family travel to Ireland for her aunt’s wedding. She’s supposed to fly to Italy after the wedding to visit her best friend, but plans change unexpectedly and she’s stuck in Ireland. She embarks on a whirlwind tour of Ireland with her brother, his Irish friend, and a guidebook that’s supposed to help heal a broken heart. This book is so sweet and charming. It has the perfect mix of complex characters, real emotion, and humour. The relationship between Addie and her brother Ian was a highlight for me. ‘Travelling’ around Ireland with them was so much fun, and it was as much an emotional journey as a physical one.

There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B Jones Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Buy There You'll Find Me: Amazon US || Amazon Canada

This is another one of those ‘go to Ireland to get lost and end up getting found’ books. Following the death of her brother, Finley travels to Ireland in the hopes of reclaiming her creativity so she can prepare for her interview at the Manhattan music conservatory. When she lost her brother, she also lost her creativity, and she’s having trouble holding onto her faith. Normally I shy away from books with religious themes because I find they can be preachy, but I actually really appreciated Finley’s journey back to finding her faith, among other things. It was done really well, and I loved ‘being’ in Ireland with her, as well as the adorable Irish love interest Beckett (who’s a Hollywood star, so if the ‘famous guy falls for regular girl’ trope is your thing, add this one to your list).

The Upside of Falling Down by Rebekah Crane Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Buy The Upside of Falling Down: Amazon US || Amazon Canada

Just like I tend to shy away from books with religious themes, I also tend to avoid books that feature characters with amnesia. I can’t remember whether this book was a random Amazon discovery or if someone recommended it to me, but I was sold on the Irish setting.
Clementine wakes up in a hospital in Ireland with no memories. All she knows is what she’s told: she was the lone survivor of a plane crash, and her dad is on his way from America. She doesn’t remember why she was on that plane, what her plans were for Ireland, or anything about herself, her past, or her family. The pressure of trying to remember, paired with nothing feeling right to her, is too much to handle, so when she meets a cute Irish boy visiting the hospital, she assumes a new identity, makes up a story about why she’s there, and asks for his help...which includes fleeing the hospital and travelling to a different part of Ireland. I loved that more than anything, this was a story about discovering who you are and who you want to be, while still honouring your past. The characters were great, and I was completely invested in their story.

Top O the Mournin’ by Maddy Hunter
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Buy Top O the Mournin’: Amazon US || Amazon Canada

Breaking up all the contemporary and romance books...Top O’ the Mournin’ is the second book in the Passport to Peril series (aka my absolute favourite cozy mystery series). These books follow the misadventures of Emily, a tour guide in charge of a band of misfit seniors from Iowa. Trouble - and death - follow them everywhere they go, and Ireland is no different. What I love about Hunter’s books (besides the fact they’re laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end) is how vividly she describes the setting of each book without ever overdoing it. You really feel like you’re there. Also, I’ve read all 12 of Hunter’s books and I’ve never once correctly guessed the killer, so she’s a master at weaving a great mystery.

Her Best Laid Plans by Cara McKenna Genre: Contemporary Romance
Buy Her Best Laid Plans: Amazon US || Amazon Canada

This novella is from Cosmopolitan’s Red Hot Reads Harlequin line and it’s perfect if you’re looking for a quick, sexy read. Don’t let the 85-page length fool you; this book packs a surprising amount of content, including a fun plot and fleshed-out characters.

Jamie has escaped to Ireland after having her heart broken. She's reconciled herself to a quiet two weeks house-sitting when she meets hot Irish bartender Connor. They both know there can be no future for them, but that doesn't stop them from enjoying each other's company while they can...and by 'enjoying each other's company', let me just say this book is called a red-hot read for a reason! *fans self*

Love and Shenanigans by Zara Keane
Genre: Adult Romantic Comedy
Buy Love and Shenanigans: Amazon US || Amazon Canada

This is the only book on the list that doesn’t involve ‘escaping’ to Ireland, because it features characters who already live there and is written by an Irish author. Love and Shenanigans is the first in the Ballybeg series, which follows the lives, loves, and misadventures of people in the small town of Ballybeg, Ireland.
After discovering the drunken vows they exchanged in Las Vegas almost a decade ago were actually legally binding, Fiona and Gavin find themselves in a bit of a predicament...especially since Gavin was about to marry someone else. Unfortunately (or in this case, fortunately), the divorce laws in Ireland make a quickie divorce impossible, so Fiona and Gavin have to figure out what to do next. If escapist fun is your thing, this book will likely be a hit!

Have you read any of these books? Do you have a favourite book set in Ireland? Have you been to Ireland?

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*Some of the links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, through which I make a very small commission when a purchase is made. Buying through my links ensures I can keep this blog running, so your support means a lot!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

2019: The Year of Big Life Changes

I was sick with the cold from hell through most of December 2018. I had a short reprieve for a few days around Christmas, and then it came back with a vengeance and stuck around until the new year. During the first bout, I kept working as normal; I had things to do, and I couldn’t let a cold slow me down, even though I could hardly breathe and had serious brain fog. After Christmas, though, I knew my body was telling me it was time to slow down. So while it was completely strange and foreign to me, I took time off work (for the most part), and relaxed. I did a lot of reflecting, some planning for 2019, and took time to nap and read and get better. During that time, I realized two things: 1) I need to relax more often and take better care of myself. And 2) 2018 was kind of a blur. There were some definite highlights - like spending several days in the summer with my bestie in one of my favourite cities, then spending another few days with her in November, plus publishing my first full-length book in three years - but the rest sort of just blended together. I had wanted to be more mindful and more present, get more accomplished, and basically DO ALL THE THINGS, so how was it that in the last week of the year I could hardly remember anything other than the highlights and a general sense of it being a better year than the previous few? I knew something had to change. Or, more accurately, a lot of ‘somethings’. It was time to take control of my life. I’d spent too long feeling stuck, letting the days collect, and making excuses. So. Many. Excuses. I also realized I was surrounded by people who made a lot of excuses too, and that wasn’t helping. So, like millions of other people, I decided to go into the new year seeing 2019 as a fresh start. But I knew it had to be different from every other new year and every other ‘fresh start’. I feel like something happened to me in that last week of 2018; call it an epiphany, call it an acetaminophen-fueled breakthrough, call it whatever you want, but something finally clicked. And here I am, two months into the new year, at the point where my fresh start has usually fallen by the wayside in favour of old habits, and I’m still going strong. What’s different this time? So many things. I went into this year knowing I’d have to completely shift my mindset. Analyze my old habits, figure out what wasn’t working and what was no longer serving me, and change those things. That meant focusing on myself, making myself a priority, and going into this knowing I wanted deep and lasting change - mind, body, and soul. I needed to stop letting outside influences affect me, and do whatever was needed to ensure I have the best life possible. And it’s working. The thing is, it’s easy to make resolutions. It’s easy to say you’re going to lose ten pounds or you’re going to save more money or you’re going to be more positive. But without a plan of action, without ways to make those things happen, those resolutions become something you think about for a few weeks every year, and maybe even do something about for awhile, but most of the time, no real change comes from them.

Now, you might be wondering what changes I’ve made. I mentioned shifting my mindset, and that’s been a big part of it. In fact, that’s the root of all the changes in my life. Because I've learned everything starts in your own mind. Your goals, your dreams, your actions, your emotions - you control all those things. And once you realize that, once you realize your thoughts have power, you learn to shift the way you think and you reframe the things that once held you back. There are some things that are out of your control, but you can control how you react to those things. So that’s something I’ve been working on. Not only being more positive, but also being more grateful, more open, more present, and expanding my mind. I’ve been learning a lot and finding inspiration from intelligent, high-vibe women like Susannah Conway, Kathrin Zenkina, Mel Robbins, and Ezzie Spencer. (If you're interested in making some positive changes too, I encourage you to check out their sites for more information. And if Pinterest is your thing, you might want to check out my board A Life of Purpose and Intention, which I add to daily.) Other changes in my lifestyle: I’ve started a regular workout routine, and I’m practising yoga and meditation. These have been things I’ve done on and off over the years, but they’re really clicking for me this time. I find I actually love exercising, and the meditation has been incredible for me. I’m going to talk more about my FitBit Alta HR in an upcoming post, but I want to say this because I think it's amazing: when I first got the FitBit in November, my resting heart rate was 75 BPM. Since I’ve started exercising and meditating regularly, my resting BPM is 69. I find I’m much calmer, less reactive, and it’s helped my anxiety and depression so much. Usually, January and February are really difficult for me and I get a wicked case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but other than feeling a lack of motivation at times when the weather was dreary for days on end, I’ve stayed out of that dark, depressive hole. I feel better, I have more energy, and for the first time in a long time, I’m excited and optimistic about my future. To round things out, I’ve also been working with the Law of Attraction, manifestation, journaling, and Lunar Abundance, but I think those are subjects for another time since this post is already running long! I feel like I’m on a whole new life path and amazing things are unfolding for me. And despite the changes I feel inside (and the physical changes I see in my body), I know this is a process, and I’m being patient with myself. I think that’s where a lot of people fail when they embark on a journey of change. Things don’t happen quickly enough or in the way they want, so they give up. I’ve been guilty of that plenty of times. Not this time, though. This time feels different from all the others, and I’m determined this isn’t going to be a new year’s fad, but a lasting lifestyle change. And I'm going to continue to write about it as a way to not only hold myself accountable, but to also hopefully help and inspire others along the way. I’ll be talking more about this in the coming weeks and months, and I hope you’ll follow along. If there’s anything you’d like to know or something you'd like me to talk more about in the future, feel free to pop your questions in the comments. I also talk a lot about mindset and positivity on my Instagram, so if you want daily doses of that (plus stuff about writing, books, travel, and my favourite things), be sure to follow me @rambling_daydreamer.

Are you making any lifestyle changes in 2019? Did you make resolutions or set goals at the beginning of the year? How are you doing with them two months into the new year?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Experiencing Jealousy as an Author And How To Turn It Into Something Positive

Let’s talk about that little green-eyed monster I’m sure we’re all acquainted with in one form or another: jealousy. Jealousy, or even envy, is likely a natural state of being for many creative people, since we tend to be full of self-doubt and various insecurities. It’s easy to play the comparison game, feel inadequate, and be jealous of other people’s success or the things they have or the opportunities they’ve been given. While it's natural, it's not something you want to let consume or control you. You can choose to let those feelings make you bitter, or you can flip them around and use them as motivation and inspiration. The latter is exactly what I'm doing this year. I follow a few extremely successful authors on Instagram. Last year, I zoned in on one indie author in particular. She’s pretty and peppy, she writes great books, her Instagram feed is gorgeous, and she has a picture-perfect family. She publishes every three months like clockwork, and all of her books zoom to the top of the Amazon bestseller charts. Basically, she seems to have it all and have her life together. Of course appearances can be deceiving, especially on social media, but she talks often about how she makes things work and keeps things running relatively smoothly. Another popular author I follow is a hybrid author (some of her books are self-published and others are published through a traditional publisher). At the time I discovered her Instagram (I was already following her on Twitter), she had been in Italy for several weeks. She seems to travel more often than she’s home, and she too publishes several books a year. With every new picture these two authors posted - every trip, every new success, every little orange bestseller sticker on Amazon, every week on a bestseller list, every hundred reviews for their brand new books - jealousy crept in more and more. I kept thinking ‘Why her and not me? What am I doing wrong? Why do some people have all the success?’ As of January 2019, I’ve been self-publishing for seven years. It’s been a rollercoaster ride in many ways - plenty of ups and downs, plateaus, and times where I felt like I was stalled on the track trying to get the mechanics of the thing going again. I’ve hit ‘publish’ a total of twelve times in the last seven years, ranging from novellas to novels to short stories, Young Adult to New Adult to Contemporary Romance to Women’s Fiction. I’ve had varying degrees of success with each of my books. I’ve tried many different approaches to promotion, again with varying degrees of success. I was examining my feelings of jealousy and inadequacy one day last autumn, and it hit me: the big difference between these two authors and me is they’re putting in the work. They’re writing and publishing consistently. They both have busy schedules and lives outside of writing and publishing, but they still make writing a priority. When I realized that, instead of continuing to let jealousy eat away at me, I decided to turn those feelings into something positive: a learning experience. Inspiration. Motivation. Something to aspire to rather than allowing other people’s successes to make me feel bad about myself. Besides putting in the work, these two also have a few other things in common: they love what they write. They write the books they want to write, regardless of the market. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen so-called experts say that to succeed you need to a) write series, and b) write to market. These authors don’t do either of those things. That was a big lightbulb moment for me because I don’t write to market either. I write the stories that take hold of my heart and mind, even if they don’t fit the current trends or whatever the hot tropes of the moment are. Speaking of which, and still on the topic of jealousy, I was recently talking to a good friend who’s also a writer, and she told me how frustrated she is with writing and publishing. She’s poured a ton of money into promos and advertisement, giveaways, award and recognition submissions (like Kirkus and awards that require entry fees), and she hired a big PR company to promote her books. For the last year or two, I’ve watched as she seemingly had all these incredible opportunities, got her books in the hands of the right people, built a loyal following of superfans, and so many of the other things I’ve struggled to do. And she did it all within a couple years, while I’ve been at it for seven. But then she confessed that even with all the money she’s spent and the outward appearance of success, all those things haven’t actually influenced her sales much. Many of the ‘right people’ who have her book haven’t even bothered to read it. I was flabbergasted. All this time, I’d been wishing I had the kind of budget she appeared to have so I could hire people to do all the things I’ve either been doing myself or that are currently out of my financial reach (like making paperbacks for my books and running regular ads). This eye-opening conversation proved how deceiving appearances can be and that we can’t really know what goes on behind the scenes a lot of the time. For a long time, I didn’t make writing a priority. I had some things happening in my life that threw me off track and I found it difficult to get back into a routine. I’m still struggling with it, but it’s getting better. Something I talked about last year with a few writer friends was the concept of working smarter, not harder. I wanted so badly to embody that, but I didn’t. I felt like I was spinning my wheels a lot of the time, remembering the long-ago days when I was able to focus better and write more consistently. If I’m completely honest, I simply spent a lot of time making excuses and procrastinating. You can’t expect the results if you don’t put in the work. It’s that simple. Now, if only it were as simple on the flip side: put in the work and see the results!

Even though I do still feel that green-eyed monster creeping up from time to time, I’m flipping those negative emotions and turning them into fuel. Fuel to write consistently, write what I love, and publish more consistently. And even if I never quite reach the bestselling, tens of thousands of followers, hordes of megafans level of success of the two authors who initially made me examine my own jealousy, that’s okay. Everyone is different and everyone’s journey is different. It doesn’t mean I’m doing anything wrong, it just means my path is different.
And who knows, maybe someday I’ll be sitting pretty on the bestseller lists with those same two authors. A girl can dream, right?

Do you experience jealousy? How do you deal with it?

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Friday, January 18, 2019

One Day in December by Josie Silver: Did it Live Up to the Hype?

One Day in December by Josie Silver
Published: October 16th, 2018
Publisher: Broadway Books
Genre: Women’s fiction
# of pages: 416
Acquired this book: Via Netgalley in exchange for honest consideration
Goodreads || Buy now: Amazon US ~ Amazon Canada ~ Chapters 

Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic... and then her bus drives away.

Certain they're fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn't find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they "reunite" at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It's Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

Even before One Day in December was chosen as Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club's book of the month for December, it seemed like everyone was reading it. I saw it everywhere and the hype kept building and building. By the time I finally got around to reading it, the Hype Monster had me wary. Would it really be as good as everyone said? Would I connect with it the way so many others seemed to? Let me just say this: you know how at the end of a year, you’re reflective, you’re looking forward to the year ahead, and you’re possibly planning some big changes? There’s a feeling of hope and anticipation and you’re excited about new things, change, and all the possibilities of a new year? Well, that’s what One Day in December felt like for me, making it the absolute best book to end 2018 with.

Taking place over the span of ten years, this story takes its time unfolding. It’s truly a love story in every sense of the word, and it explores romantic relationships, friendships, and family relationships. It was a realistic portrayal of the highs and lows of life, and I think what I loved most about it was how honest it was. It didn’t shy away from how messy and complicated life and love and friendship can be, or the fact life tends to be far from straightforward or easy. 

Throughout the course of the book, I laughed, I cringed, I held my breath, I alternately wanted to scream at the characters and hug them, and I cried. Oh boy, did I cry. I was sobbing by the end, and I can’t remember the last time a book made me feel that way. It was funny and touching and equally heartbreaking and heartwarming, and I loved it so, so much.

I’ll admit, there was a point while I was reading where I looked down at my Kindle and groaned when I realized I was only halfway through the book and still had over four hours left. That’s often the drawback of books like this, that deal with little pockets of life - it's necessary for them to be lengthy to fit everything in, but there's usually a point where it begins to drag. Luckily the story picked back up and I read the last half quite quickly. And even when it dragged, I was committed to seeing it through because I was so invested in the characters.

One Day in December is a book I won’t soon forget. Laurie, Sarah, and Jack have a piece of my heart now. I’m so glad this book lived up to the hype, and I know it’ll be one I recommend time and time again.

Have you read One Day in December? If so, did it live up to the hype for you? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? What's the last hyped-up book you read?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2018: A Year in Review

Happy New Year!

I’ve been sick for over a week (this is actually Round 2 with the Cold From Hell in the last month), and instead of continuing to go full-tilt like I normally do, I’ve taken the time to rest and relax, plus reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead. One thing I know for sure going into the new year: I need to be more mindful. It was something I intended to work on in 2018, but now when I look back and so much of the year was a blur, I realize the life of intention and mindfulness I wanted to lead turned into a big jumbled mass of days with a few highlights in between. Despite that, unlike the last several years, I can look back and say 2018 was mostly good.
Here are a few of the highlights of 2018:

I wrote and published a new contemporary romance, ONLY YOU, plus worked on a few other projects. I thought 2018 would be the year I finally got back into the swing of writing and publishing, but it was still a struggle. I’m proud of what I did accomplish though, and I love this sweet, funny, sexy romance.

In June, I met one of my favourite authors, Susanna Kearsley. My mum and I have been big fans of hers for years, so I was excited we could share that experience. Susanna was so lovely, warm, and funny, and I had a total fangirl moment when she immediately recognized me and came over to hug us and speak to us. She spoke for an hour or so about writing, publishing, and researching, and then signed books. If you follow me on bookstagram, you'll recognize Foxy, my little felt fox in the picture below; I brought him along and Susanna didn't bat an eye when I asked if he could be included in one of our pictures. It made me love her even more!

I didn’t travel far in 2018, but I did get to go to one of my absolute favourite cities (Kingston, Ontario) twice to visit my friend Krista. It was hot as hell when I visited in July, but we had so much fun playing tourist, eating a ton of amazing food, and vegging at her apartment. One of the highlights was visiting Queen’s University while it was completely deserted and getting to wander around and take a bunch of pictures. My trip in November was equally amazing, especially because we got to attend a Victorian Christmas tea; we’d wanted to do a high tea when we visited London in 2015 but didn’t have time, so this was amazing. The November trip was an early 35th birthday celebration for me since my birthday is so close to Christmas and I rarely get to do anything out of the ordinary. Both trips and all the new memories I made with Krista are high on my list of best days of 2018.

Bookstagram continued to be a huge source of joy for me. I’ve made so many wonderful friends there, and I love the creative outlet it gives me. Two major highlights this year: being chosen as a July rep for Canterbury Road Co and recently being asked to be a rep for 1107Studio. I love these companies (and their respective owners) and it’s such an honour to get to represent them.

Looking ahead at 2019...

I have a lot of writing-related goals this year. I'm currently working on a companion book to ONLY YOU, and after that, there will be one more book in that standalone series. I also have a romcom I wrote year before last that I plan to edit and publish toward the end of the year. I've also been thinking about mixing things up and working on something different from my norm...but it's early days yet, so you'll have to stay tuned to see what I'm talking about!

I read 105 books in 2018, and my goal for 2019 is to read at least 80 books.

I want to be more consistent about blogging. After 8 years of having this blog, I finally bit the bullet just before writing this post and officially bought a .com domain for it. No more for me! Hopefully that'll inspire me to do something with this little of the net and produce more content. My goal is going to be at least one post a week, ranging from bookish and writing posts to travel posts to general lifestyle posts.

I don't have any concrete plans yet, but I decided last year that 2019 is the year I'm finally going to Scotland. Stay tuned for more as I figure out the how and when and all that fun stuff. I'm going to make it happen!
My word for 2019 is CONNECT. I want to connect to my self - be more mindful, intentional, and work on a lot of personal things that are important to me. That also includes connecting to my body and working on getting healthier and stronger. I want to connect to readers, both old and new, and make them laugh, feel, and fall in love when they read my stories. I want to connect to my roots by finally visiting Scotland. I want to connect to nature and not spend so much time at my desk. I feel good about this word because it's broad and it covers a lot, but it can be specific in a million little ways that mean a lot to me.

How was 2018 for you? What were some of your stand-out moments? Do you have any goals or big plans for 2019? Do you have a word for the year?

Previous Yearly Recaps:

2017: A Year in Review

2016: A Year in Review
Looking Back on 2015
Reflecting on 2014 and Looking at the Year Ahead 
2012: A Year in Review
2010: A Year in Review

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Celebrating a Book Birthday: ONLY YOU

Today is release day for my new contemporary romance ONLY YOU!

I'm so excited Ivy and Hugh's story is finally out in the world. I had so much fun writing this sweet, funny, sexy book, and I sincerely hope people will enjoy reading it.

Ivy's new boss is sexy, Scottish…and comes with an expiration date. When Ivy reluctantly takes a new part-time job, it’s a means to an end. Doing this favor for her pain-in-the-neck roommate means Ivy can have her apartment to herself again much sooner. The last thing she expects is Hugh—the hot Scot who just happens to be her new boss—asking her out on a date. And then another. And another. Something about Hugh makes Ivy want to let her guard down and open up, which would be perfect if he wasn't returning to Scotland in a matter of weeks. But maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe Ivy can learn to live in the moment and have a little fun, even if it means setting herself up for heartache later. ONLY YOU is a standalone contemporary romance about taking chances, unexpected friendships, and holding on to the things—and people—that matter most.

Add ONLY YOU to your TBR on GoodReads

Since this book has a strong emphasis on friendship, I thought it was only fitting to dedicate it to friends; my very best friend, my mum; my soul sister, Krista; and my bookstagram friends. I'm so lucky to have so much support and encouragement from so many amazing people.

Ready to fall for the hot Scot? ONLY YOU is available now on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, and Nook for just $2.99

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