Driving a stick

This is going to be one of the rare times I view off the path and talk about something that has nothing to do with books or pop culture.

I learned to drive a stick today! That’s Canadian for I learned to drive standard which I¬†think Americans call manual? If you still have no idea what I mean, it’s the one with the gears, ya?

Now I just need to find something like this ūüėČ

gearbox

This is a very exciting moment for me. I have wanted to learn for a decade, ever since I first got my driver’s licence, but I never had the opportunity. I felt weird asking a friend to teach me in case I totally wrecked their car, especially since in most cases, their cars were actually borrowed from a parent for the day. My sisters, bro-in-law and Dad used to drive standard vehicles but they all sold them for automatics just before I started driving or while I was still learning so I never got the chance.

A great friend of mine who just moved back to our hometown drives a standard though and when she found out that I had always wanted to learn, she very generously offered to teach me and tonight I had my first lesson.

I think I did pretty good! The biggest thing to remember is where all the gears are and balancing the clutch and brake when I am really concentrating on traffic signs and not hitting any of the kids out playing on a beautiful evening. I have a pretty good sense for feeling the clutch and gas out though, because I worked on a farm for 5 summers and a couple of their tractors were standards. I think I drove a different tractor for every summer I worked for them, so I am an excellent tractor driver. I can even back a trailer into the garage or a boat down a launch.

country girl

So thank you C, so so much for giving me a chance today and I can’t wait to drive your cute little fire engine car again soon!

xx

Since when is a million not enough

Like seriously?!

When I first started getting into romance novels, in the early 2000s, the typical male protagonist was millionaire-rich. I remember seeing ridiculous titles like ‘the millionaire rancher’ all the time. It seemed like it was a prerequisite that for the exquisite woman on the cover to fall in love with you, you had to be a millionaire on a rancher/soldier/cop/doctor’s salary.

Now, we seem to have made a bit of a jump from millionaire to BILLIONAIRE. That’s kind of huge. But I guess it sounds a little chunky to title something ‘pregnant with the tens of millionaire’s baby’ or ‘the hundred millionaire’s secret submissive’.

I still wonder though, what does it say about our society if every romance novel features a ‘genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist’, to quote Tony Stark. There is nothing wrong with marrying into money, or even with¬†wanting to marry into money. There is something wrong if that is the basis of every book I browse online.

Just listen to some of these book/series titles I picked at random off goodreads

“Marriage to a Billionaire”

“Maid for the Billionaire”

“The Billionaire wins the Game”

Dear Lord.

I was day-dreaming in the car a bit ago, wondering where all this started. It is true that a million doesn’t go nearly so far today as it did twenty years ago. Then you had the rise of billionaire businessman hero types, especially after Fifty Shades hit it big. A lot of really great authors picked up on E.L. James’ success and wrote popular series perpetuating this subgenre, in particular Sylvia Day. And of course, the incredibly annoying yet catching and honest tune, ‘I want to be a billionaire’ by Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars came out.

Do you remember it?

‘I want to be a billionaire so freaking bad,

and buy all of the things I never had.

I want to be on the cover of

Forbes Magazine

smiling next to Oprah and the Queen’.

Admit it, it’s true. You’d like to be a billionaire too. And of course, Marvel hit it huge with the first three Iron Man movies, featuring the aforementioned Tony Stark. And I may not be American, but I remember hearing about that crazy Powerball lottery last year where some guy won half a billion.

I’m not saying I’d turn down the money if it was me. But I still wonder just when authors felt compelled to make every character a billionaire in order to make them attractive. And hey, why can’t some of those peeps be genius, billionaire, playgirl philanthropists.

A Warm Hug

I’ve touched upon the idea of a “book family” or “book friend” in an earlier blog post, but I want to write about it again. If you’ve never heard of this term, it’s the same idea as having a book boyfriend.

I have to deal with panic attacks so when I need a breather from life I escape into one of my favourite series, like the Shadowlands. It feels comforting and safe, like friends enveloping me in a warm hug, and since the vast majority of romance novels always have a great HEA (happily ever after), I don’t worry when bad things are happening to the characters. Most of the time, these are books that I have read so many times, I can pick it up and flip to any page (or % on kindle) and know which scenes have already happened and where I am in the book.

Right now, the best books for me to go to when my anxiety is too close are the Sea Haven series by Christine Feehan, Shadowlands by Cherise Sinclair, and Exquisite series or Submissive’s Wish series by Ann Mayburn. That last author writes darker material though so I have to be careful which scenes I choose, or I start with one of the other authors and then move on to Ann Mayburn to “ease” myself back into the big, bad world.

So to my favourite authors, thanks for being there for me at times when real-life loved ones can’t. Thank for helping me to relax and turn my day around, maybe get something else done in the day. And if nothing else, it helps me calm down for awhile instead of letting my brain whirl itself into a frenzied and desperate state.

If you have a really feel good romance series that helps you feel better from some type of upset, please share! Always happy to find something new to help and maybe some of mine will work for you as well.

xx

Goodreads Challenge

Hey, I’m ahead on my goodreads challenge! Yay me!

If you don’t know what goodreads is, jump to the end of this post where I explain it.

For ya’ll others, I’m sure you know the personal reading challenge that goodreads encourages its members to pledge to each January. ¬†I really like it because it helps me to keep track of my reading and gives me a bit of a push. ¬†I get stuck in ruts easily because I like sticking to what I know. When it comes to entertainment, I prefer to re-read my favourites to death rather than taking a chance on someone new. But re-reads don’t count so this is a great way to realize how many new books I have actually read compared to my¬†perception of the actual amount.

I have this strange tendency to not read many new authors in the winter and spring. ¬†The last two years I participated, and both years I ended up being something like 10 books behind pace by June/July, so I had to really hustle during the summer and fall months to complete the challenge by December. It could be because I tend to read thicker, longer books in the winter, epic tomes like Game of Thrones and non-fiction, and thus compensate by re-reading favourite romances to balance out the reading, which means I don’t make much headway into the challenge. ¬†Who knows? I’m not exactly contracting out a study on my reading habits here.

But this year, I am three books ahead of pace, and having been for about the last month! I must have really read this winter!  So far I have read 18/50 books on the challenge.

If you are participating, maybe this is a good reason to check in and see how you are doing, or to set a goal for the remainder of the year if you haven’t done so before. Good luck everyone!

* This is not a sponsored post.

xx

P.S. Confused?

Goodreads.com is a website that has pretty much every book ever published listed on it, and if it is missing the one you are looking for, well you can add it yourself! When you make an account, you start adding books to one of three virtual shelves, “currently reading”, “read”, or “want to read”. You can rate books and/or leave a review. It is great for keeping track of series or authors, or books not yet published that you want to read. ¬†They also have this neat function called lists, where regular users will tag books to a list based on sub-genres, plot lines, etc which helps you to find a new book that you are interested in. Check it out

Bad Apples in Online Communities

I don’t usually participate much in online communities, or the comments sections of social media. ¬†It doesn’t appeal to me and isn’t worth the negativity that dominates. Some authors have set up their own online communities on their websites, where they have more control over comments and members, and can more easily do giveaways or post book extras for fans.

One of these authors is Christine Feehan. ¬†I have been reading her books for 15ish years and she is the first author I know of who set up one of these online communities, and has an incredibly large one. Much like facebook, members have their own wall, as do each of the books that she has published or announced, so there is a common space for discussions. She posts the first chapter of upcoming books a couple of months before publication and also posts a book “trailer” shortly after.

I used to be really active on this community, but have barely participated for a few years now. As I ghost around, looking at the bonus material and first chapters, I’ve noticed that the rate of comments seems to be down and other fans have posted about it, positing why. My guess is that a few bad apples have ruined it for everyone.

This is why I would never even dream of hosting such a n interactive feature if I were an author, or any where else on the interwebs. This blog is enough!

On the membership section of http://www.christinefeehan.com there are lots of places to find great comments, like the first chapter before a book is released and the “deleted scenes” that got cut from a book. But the comments sections, and the author’s own page where you can write to her and hope for a response, are a minefield.

Two users, in particular, drive me nuts. One has been banned off and on and never understands why, even though the other users don’t seem to have a problem understanding the rules. She posts the most banal, off-topic, poorly written comments and questions, and has lately, been asking other users if they would read her books that¬†she has written … books that are clearly fanfiction and which are banned from the community.

The¬†other¬†fan is a European woman who must troll the website all day every day. She doesn’t work for the author, that much is clear from their public interactions on the site, but she apparently enjoys taking on the self-appointed task of monitoring every book wall and the author’s wall and posting her comments on your comments and questions. Her posts don’t always make sense, which I could forgive because she clearly states that English is not her first language, except that her comments are not adding anything to the community. She is 90% of the reason I stopped participating and following this author, and I can’t help but wonder if others feel the same.

There is a difference, people, in being helpful and annoying or harassing others online. No one wants to know your opinion on every subject or hear your approval for their opinion. You are not that important. In my most recent example, someone was talking about twins coming along later in the series because in an earlier book, a male character had commented cryptically about having kids¬†“two at a time”. I know a little bit about how twins can be heredity through certain genes¬†because of a discussion I had with a medical professional on the subject, so I posted that; it was actually relevant to the first person’s comment and furthered the discussion on what will (possibly) happen to these characters in upcoming books. But of course Ms Know it all had to chime in with an (in my opinion) unintelligible and annoying response to my comment.

Lesson learned. Re-learned? Don’t bother, it isn’t worth trying to participate in an online community. ¬†I’ll continue to lurk around to read the first chapters in anticipation of new books, but that is it. I may be a millennial, but I will never understand this apparent need my peers feel to be super active online, or the need our parent’s generation seem to feel to control and manipulate every public conversation.

Any one else have a similar experience? Or a really positive one?

xx

Who is Jon Snow’s Parent?

Game of Thrones is back into full-swing.  Oh how this fandom lives for 10 Sundays out of the year.

One of the most widely discussed debates are theories as to Jon Snow’s parentage. If you need a recap, Jon Snow is Ned Stark’s bastard who goes to the wall and takes the black in book/season one. He has never learned the identity of his mother and there have been numerous suggestions that point to this being purposeful. Eventually, Martin (the author) will release the truth and it will have effects that reverberate across Westeros, and quite likely, beyond. In the mean-time, it is one of the best things to debate with fellow GoT aficionados, and something that can be done without too many spoilers, because no one really knows.

A very popular theory is that Jon is the son of Ned’s sister Lyanna (who died before the books began) and Rhaegar Targaryen. The most common version of this theory is that even though Rheagar was married to the sister of the Red Viper of Dorne, he and Lyanna fell in love and conceived a child, who was born just before she¬†was murdered by the Mad King.

There are other theories abounding, but since I’m not caught up on the series and try to avoid spoilers, I’m not going to look them all up for you. ¬†Go search google.

I believe that Jon Snow is not Ned Stark’s son. ¬†Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part because Ned was so honourable and beloved as we knew him and no one wants to speak ill of the beheaded. But at the time that he is alleged to have conceived this illegitimate son, he was a much younger man and I’ll admit he may have been a little more wild and less responsible back then.

But there are three main reasons why I still don’t think he is Jon’s father. Firstly, the real identity of Jon’s mother is a huge deal. I suspect that it is one of the key pivotal plot points that in retrospect, we will realize the entire series is based around unraveling. You thought you were reading an epic fantastical saga? Wrong. You were reading a mystery. George Martin likes to reveal these little, surprising, vastly important threads way later, like (********* spoiler alert *********) revealing that it was Lysa Arryn, under the direction of Littlefinger aka Lord Petyr Baelish, who killed her husband John Arryn, Hand of the King before Ned Stark. ¬†Those two essentially set off this whole War of Five Kings and started tugging on the thread that destroyed the Stark family.

I believe that the truth of whoever sired/birthed Jon Snow will have similar implications and importance as the truth of who killed John Arryn. Interviews with Martin and the show creators David and Dan have suggested that we at least know of the identity of Jon’s mother by the fourth book, even if we don’t realize it. ¬†Dead or alive, she has been named. How can we be sure? When David and Dan read the books and met with Martin to convince him to let them and HBO turn it into this mega-hit, the first question he reportedly asked them is, Who is Jon Snow’s mother? If she hasn’t been written in somehow, given a moniker or¬†something¬†with which to identify her, you can’t answer the question.

So I don’t think that Ned Stark is Jon’s father. Great, now we have to guess the identity of both his parents?! I firmly believe that Jon is son of (former) King Robert Baratheon. Why? His hair. In discovering that Joffrey et al are the result of incest between Cersei and Jamie Lannister, we discover that every Baratheon has been black of hair since the beginning of record-keeping. This isn’t too much of a stretch. Ned and Robert were around each other at the time of conception, making it easy to pass off a bastard as belonging to the other. And Robert certainly had dozens of bastards. But I will further this theory and suggest that Jon is the only legitimate son of King Robert and Queen Cersei.

There are two points in the first book/season where they talk about the birth of Robert and Cersei’s first child, who is NOT Joffrey. They had a legitimate heir together, who was a beautiful little baby black of hair. And then he died, and so did any love between, dooming the future of the Kingdom. Cersei talks about how when her baby died she cried and Robert held her and they took the bundle away and she never saw him again. I don’t think he died. I have no idea how Ned Stark came to be in possession of this little baby, whether it was Robert’s will or he had no idea, but I think that the baby is Jon. His age fits the timeline. And it places him in the position of the only legitimate heir to the throne, before his Uncle Stannis and the rest of Robert’s bastards, some of whom, like Gendry, I’m pretty sure are older than Jon.

Thirdly, it feels like Jon has been primed for an important position and I hope, that after a series of mad, drunk, evil kings, Martin will leave the Seven Kingdoms with a strong and honourable ruler post-books. Jon is a prime candidate, although Daenerys and Tyrion would also make could rulers, IMHO. Ned Stark raised a well-educated, strong, good man and his experiences as a Man of the Black Watch have only furthered his character. He is learning to play the political game in ways his Ned couldn’t. I can foresee him becoming King in the distant future. He will be a wiser King than any of his predecessors, that’s for sure.

Now, I’m going to remind you that I have only read to the end of the third book so far, so maybe my theories won’t make much sense to someone who is caught up, but I ran them past a friend who is finished book five and she didn’t say, ‘hold on to that post til you catch up’, so I’m sticking to my theory for now.

What are your thoughts?

xx

Positively Mine – a review

mineFrom the cover:

It is four weeks into her freshman year of college, and Laurel’s first test was unexpected. Discovering she’s pregnant isn’t exactly what she had planned for her first semester, and while she intends to tell her emotionally-distant father, being away at school makes it all too easy to hide.

An imperfect heroine plagued by bad choices and isolated during what should be the best time of her life, readers are sure to identify with Laurel as she confronts teen pregnancy, in secret.

Positively Mine is the first – and so far only – book by author Christine Duval. I had never heard of the author beforehand but having read this book, I have started following her online to keep up with future releases. Her book was excellent!

Duval’s first book reads as anything but. I am floored by her debut, even more so due to the fact that the ‘young woman has baby while still in highschool/uni and tries to keep it a secret’ idea isn’t exactly original, and yet, this is likely the best book I have read in the subgenre. Her pacing throughout was exceptional and there was back-story to frame the main character’s state of mind. Even if I, as the reader, didn’t agree with her decisions, she didn’t annoy me. ¬†I generally find that you want to leap into the pages and shake the main character for continuing to follow a path that will go nowhere, but I thoroughly enjoyed her journey, without losing patience. ¬†Pacing I tell ya, it makes all the difference.

It was easy to put myself into Laurel’s position and understand her decisions, whether you have ever found yourself in that position or not. Whether due to a coincidence of personality traits between myself and Laurel, or to the exceptional writing of Duval, I related to the character and found myself believing that in many ways, I would act the same way. I don’t want to expand on this point too much because of spoilers, but I will say that Laurel’s tendency to keep quiet, to keep her head down and work on a specific path almost with blinders on, not looking too far ahead because its overwhelming and feeling that if I can just survive this course of action and finish it I’ll deal with ‘come what may’ afterward … well, that’s is generally my coping mechanism for similar situations. ¬†I’m doing it now, in my own way. This really allowed me to mentally jump into the story and feel as if it was happening to me.

This book has been on my to-read shelf on goodreads for awhile, I added it sometime in 2014. I can’t remember exactly how I found it, but I think I was searching genres and lists on the website looking for books and added to my shelf a whole bunch which sounded good, but didn’t quite fit my mood that day. So last Friday evening when I was home sick and looking for a way to pass the evening, I rediscovered this book and found a new series to love. I’m almost thankful for that monster headache that cancelled my plans.

After finishing Positively Mine, I did some research and found out that a sequel is expected sometime in Autumn 2015, but no title has been announced yet. If this sounds like its up your alley, you could also try searching for the Freshman Forty series. The author seems active in responding to questions on the book’s goodreads page, so I started following her there and hopefully will get a reminder closer to about the sequel.

I highly recommend this book for any teen or young adult!

* * * * *

xx