Blog Tour: Breathe, Annie, Breathe

Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks #5) by Miranda Kenneally
Release Date ~ July 15, 2014
Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN13: 9781402284793
e-ARC received from Raincoast Books for blog tour

Goodreads Synopsis:
Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

I was excited to have an opportunity to join this blog tour for Breathe, Annie, Breathe since I've read many of Miranda Kenneally's other books in the Hundred Oaks series and enjoyed them. But Annie was one that stood out to me since it was about a girl learning to run - a hobby I've dabbled in for the past year.

This latest book from Miranda is one of my favourites because it is a sentimental story both in how it shows Annie as she deals with her grief and as she moves forward in her life.

  1. Annie is a complex, engaging main character:

    Annie is engaging because of how real she seemed to me - flaws and all. She's brave for opting to run a marathon in memory of her deceased boyfriend, but her journey isn't a smooth one. Annie has to devote herself to her training, and proves herself to be one of the most hard-working and dedicated characters I have ever read.
  2. Spirited romance:

    I cannot explain in one little review how much I adore Jeremiah! He's a very different type of person from Annie, and from many of the other Hundred Oaks love interests. But he is easily my new favourite! He's a tad reckless, but he's fairly well-balanced with his thoughtful personality and (somewhat reluctant) maturity. He's clearly caught in this young adult phase of his life where he's really starting to grow up and take on more responsibility, yet he still has this more youthful facet with cheesy jokes and impulsive decisions. The two of them, together, have crackling chemistry that lifts right off the pages.
  3. Annie's grueling marathon training:

    I love that Miranda included all the dirty details on marathon training - it definitely isn't pretty at times. As an occasional runner myself, I found myself either readily relating to some of Annie's experiences or reading in fascination of what I could expect should I ever decide to run a marathon (which is unlikely right now). The story is rich for this reason alone, with the added benefit of characters with their own stories to share. 
The only part that I felt could have used a bit more (or perhaps stronger) development was Jeremiah's revelation about his past choices and current situation. It seemed that there were hints of more going on than we were first told, but it was left open-ended. This could have more to do with my interpretation of the dialogue and writing, rather than any writing error.

Breathe, Annie, Breathe is a beautiful story of one girl desperately trying to come to terms with the death of someone who was very close to her. Annie has to come to terms with her own guilt and future, and I loved that this took place with her marathon training as a tool.

Miranda kindly took the time to answer some questions for this blog tour (provided through Raincoast Books) and I'm sharing some of my favourites with you today!

  1. Q: Your main character, Annie, is training to run for a marathon.  You also provided a great deal of detail about how hard it is on your body to train for a marathon.  Did you do any background research for this?

    A: Yes! In the past I ran a marathon and a half-marathon, so I used experiences from training for those races to write BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE. I also consulted "Runner's World" magazine and interviewed trainers at my gym. I also spoke to a few former pro-athletes.
  2. Q: When you work out, what music is on your playlist?

    A: Most of the time I forget to charge my iPod before I go to the gym, but when I remember it, I listen to lots of upbeat pop music like David Guetta, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Ke$ha, and Calvin Harris.
  3. Q: Running the marathon for Kyle was Annie’s way of coping with her stress and grief.  What advice would you give others in similar situations of grief or stress?

    A: I would say give yourself time to heal. Recognize that everyone's healing process is different. Don't beat yourself up if you don't feel better in a certain amount of time; everyone heals in different ways. If you need to, talk to good friends, your guidance counselor, or a therapist. 
  4. Q: You tend to write strong characters who are also athletic. Were you considered a jock in high school?

    A: Not at all! If anything, I was a chorus geek. I played soccer, but I wasn't very good at it. I also managed the boys soccer team, but that was really just an excuse to hang around hot guys after school.

And now, last but not least, I'm also going to recommend some of my favourite things to listen to while I'm running.

First of all, I love listening to audiobooks! They're great because the narration is such that it allows me to run at my own pace - this is particularly important for my longer runs when I have to be careful not to set a pace that's too fast for me to maintain over the entire distance.

As for music, some of my favourite songs for running include:

  • Titanium (feat. Sia) by David Guetta
  • Eye On It by tobyMac
  • Don't Stop Me Now by Queen
  • Bad Reputation by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts 
  • One In a Million by Down With Webster

If you haven't already, stop by Maji Bookshelf for Juhina's post on the Breathe, Annie, Breathe blog tour!

Tomorrow you can visit Mostly YA Lit for Tiff's thoughts.


Announcement: Subscription Changes

Hello, friends!

As some of you are aware, big changes are coming into force in Canada with respect to e-mail subscriptions. Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation is coming into force on July 1, 2014 (which is tomorrow).

There are a lot of questions floating around about exactly what this means for people, and my concern was of course coming from the perspective of a book blogger.

I'm not going to attempt to answer these questions nor am I making any recommendation or suggestion about what bloggers (or any others) should do in response to this law. Nothing here is legal advice.

This is important for me to clarify because I cannot give legal advice, and I don't want anyone to think for a second that that's what I'm doing here. I'm refraining from including any opinion or advice because I am not in a position to give any (as a law student, I cannot and even lawyers should only give legal advice to their clients).

With all of that being said, I am making a change here at Esther's Ever After. As of today (after this post has been published), if you are an email subscriber, I'm deleting your e-mail subscription. Subscriptions through feed readers aren't changing (yet). This is actually good timing because I'm going to have some other big changes made over the summer - including a move from Blogger to Wordpress! I'm considering this a bit of a fresh start.

Of course I don't want to lose any of you as readers! If you are still interested in staying in touch with Esther's Ever After, there are a few ways you can do so:

  • Follow me on Twitter! I like chatting about all kinds of topics, and all of my posts are shared on Twitter as well.
  • Like my Facebook page - this is pretty much just if you want to get updates when I make new posts.
  • Follow or add me on Goodreads. I don't share my posts on Goodreads, but you can still follow my reviews and other comments.
  • Follow via Networked Blogs to receive new posts.
In the future, there will be new ways to stay in touch but for now we're going to work with this!


Review: Dark Metropolis

Dark Metropolis (Dark Metropolis #1) by Jaclyn Dolamore
Release Date ~ June 17, 2014
Disney-Hyperion ~ Hachette Book Group Canada
ISBN13: 9781423163329
ARC received from HBG Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Cabaret meets Cassandra Clare-a haunting magical thriller set in a riveting 1930s-esque world.

Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder's mother is cursed with a spell that's driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city's secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.

Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they're not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, this is a chilling thriller with a touch of magic where the dead don't always seem to stay that way.

Dark Metropolis is in many ways unlike any kind of story I've read before: it's set in a very distinct world and even the plot is unique. Unfortunately while I appreciated Dark Metropolis as an innovative read, the characters and story fell flat for me.

  1. A curious setting:

    Jaclyn borrows from history (think "1927 Berlin") and blends it with her own imagination for a world that is both familiar and strange compared to ours. It's so unusual and creative that I was utterly fascinated by it; I wanted to learn as much about the world in Dark Metropolis as I could. The magic and its system is unlike any type I have ever read about, and Jaclyn is clearly a very innovative writer with plenty of new ideas. Some parts are so dark and disturbing which lend a very eerie sense to the whole book and I particularly enjoyed that.

It seems to be hinted at that there is a strong class struggle happening, but that aspect of the plot felt rather undeveloped to me. The brief mentions and allusions to this conflict weren't enough to satisfy my own curiousity or provide much background information which I felt was crucial to establish the story. The rules and politics in Dark Metropolis were completely unfamiliar to me, so I failed to recognize the importance of certain actions and ideas.

But most importantly, I felt completely disconnected from the characters. It's written in a third person narrative, and jumps around from focusing on a few different characters. This failed to ground me with any one of the characters and because I felt like I had landed in the middle of a story already taking place, their concerns failed to resonate with me. For example, there was very little attention paid to the development of Thea and Nan's relationship and Nan goes missing so quickly in the book that they're separated nearly from the very start. As a result it was difficult for me to identify with Thea's determination and struggle to find Nan.

While yes, this is a deeply imaginative story with some very thoughtful ideas and inspirations it never really felt complete to me. My relationship with characters is paramount to how much I enjoy a book and my failure to identify with the characters in Dark Metropolis means that this story just didn't work for me.


Waiting on Wednesday {42}

Jill @ Breaking the Spine hosts this weekly meme where we can share a book that we are so excited for and are anxiously awaiting their upcoming release!

This week my WoW pick is...

Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman
Release Date ~ September 9, 2014

Goodreads Description:
Emmeline knows the woods outside her settlement are forbidden. The mysterious enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters. 

Living with the shame of her grandmother's insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent. When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it's a rare opportunity to wash the family stain clean--even if she has eyes for another. But before she is forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her out to the woods, where she finds a path she can't help but follow. The trail leads to a secret that someone in the settlement will kill to protect. Her grandmother went down that path and paid the price.

If Emmeline isn't careful, she will be next.

YES, this description sounds amazing. The rather mysterious setting reminds me of The Village (which is a good thing) although it really doesn't sound like it's going to be the same either.

Julie Berry, author of All the Truth That's in Me, has given Winterkill some very high praise and AtTTiM was my absolute favourite book of 2013. I love a good mystery, and the setting for this book sounds just perfect. I really like a community-focus because it's interesting to see how characters engage with their community particularly when it seems to be fairly small and isolated.


Top Ten Tuesday {3} My Summer TBR List

Meme image from The Broke and The Bookish, host of Top Ten Tuesday
Today I'm sharing the top ten books on my reading list this summer!

One of my favourite things about summer is simply having more free time to read books. I end up with so many readings for school during the school year, that it's harder for me to read for fun. So I use the summer as an opportunity get caught up!

  1. Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J Maas
    So this one doesn't come out until September 2nd BUT that's right before school stars for me so I have approximately one day to read it during my summer vacation and the last day of summer isn't until the end of September so this one TOTALLY COUNTS. I also feel like I don't need to explain this one, because duh, it's ToG.
  2. Tomorrow's Kingdom (The Gypsy King #3) by Maureen Fergus
    I love this series (to the moon and back) and while I'm sad it's almost over, I'm thrilled to read the last book! I highly recommend The Gypsy King to those of you who like fantasy books with great (funny, brave) characters and bonus: Maureen is a Canadian author!
  3. Midnight Thief (Midnight Thief #1) by Livia Blackburne
    I've been excited for this book ever since I read that Livia loves Tamora Pierce (who is, in my opinion, the great queen of YA fantasy). Then I read her prequel novella, Poison Dance, and fell in love with the world she had created. I have an ARC of this one that I'll be reading shortly. I know some people might say there are too many assassin fantasy books, but they're wrong. You can't have too many.
  4. Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks #5) by Miranda Kenneally
    Miranda has written some really great books in the Hundred Oaks series, and I always enjoy them. But Breathe, Annie, Breathe stands out to me with the focus on running - I started running a little while ago myself and I'm not a naturally-gifted runner AT ALL. So I think this one will be very interesting.
  5. The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey
    I have an ARC of this one that I've been meaning to get to, and I've heard great things about this book so I'm just hoping it will be as creepy and amazing as I've heard!
  6. Conversion by Katherine Howe
    Conversion has been highly recommended to me, and I've heard that it's a very thought-provoking book - perfect for me!
  7. Of Metal and Wishes (Of Metal and Wishes #1) by Sarah Fine
    This one has been on my wishlist for a long time (how amazing does it sound?! A ghost in a SLAUGHTERHOUSE). I have an ARC of this one so it'll be read VERY soon.
  8. Avalon (Avalon #1) by Mindee Arnett
    I've really been enjoying sci-fi lately, and I picked up Avalon a little while ago but haven't had a chance to read it yet. But I know I'll read it over the summer for sure. I love adventure, and even better if it's set in space!
  9. Lailah (The Styclar Saga #1) by Nikki Kelly
    Lailah is very popular already, and although paranormal can be somewhat hit or miss for me this sounds like one I'm really going to love! I like the vampire/angel concept and I'm curious to see where it goes.
  10. The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines #3) by Richelle Mead
    I need to get caught up with this series because as much as I love it, I'm a couple books behind and I'd like to get caught up before the fifth book comes out!

Are there any other books I need to add to my summer TBR list? There are so many great books, it was hard to choose only 10!


Review: Hexed

Hexed (The Witch Hunter #1) by Michelle Krys
Release Date ~ June 10, 2014
Delacorte Press ~ Random House (Doubleday in Canada)
ISBN13: 9780385743372
ARC received from Random House Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
If high school is all about social status, Indigo Blackwood has it made. Sure, her quirky mom owns an occult shop, and a nerd just won’t stop trying to be her friend, but Indie is a popular cheerleader with a football-star boyfriend and a social circle powerful enough to ruin everyone at school. Who wouldn’t want to be her?

Then a guy dies right before her eyes. And the dusty old family Bible her mom is freakishly possessive of is stolen. But it’s when a frustratingly sexy stranger named Bishop enters Indie’s world that she learns her destiny involves a lot more than pom-poms and parties. If she doesn’t get the Bible back, every witch on the planet will die. And that’s seriously bad news for Indie, because according to Bishop, she’s a witch too.

Suddenly forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers, Indie’s about to uncover the many dark truths about her life—and a future unlike any she ever imagined on top of the cheer pyramid.

Hexed is such a fun paranormal book that I absolutely devoured! Indigo is a strong character with a fantastic sense of humour, making her a great protagonist to read about. Hexed is a great debut from Michelle Krys, which is a satisfying story in and of itself while still leaving enough details to be handled in the sequel (Hexed is the first in a duology).

  1. An authentic heroine:

    Indigo (a.k.a. Indie) is not the typical heroine you read about in YA books, which is precisely why I liked her so much. She has a strong personality, and a very sarcastic sense of humour so she's fairly snarky as well. She's snobby and extremely self-centred at first, too, so she isn't the type of character I'm immediately drawn towards. But this is exactly why reading Hexed was so refreshing for me, because Indie is not a perfect character. She has flaws, and the character development and changes she goes through during the book are striking as a result of this. She may be the type of character who takes a little bit longer to grow on you but she gets there, trust me! (I love characters like this, for example I'm reminded of Lady Mary in Downton Abbey. I also like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comparison with Hexed, because there definitely is a Buffy/Cordelia vibe to Indie.)
  2. Gradual romance:

    I appreciate a good love story as much as the next person, but I'm not a fan of insta!-love so the romance in Hexed worked perfectly for me. It's develops over time, although there seems to be an attraction element fairly early on which is nice since it adds just a bit of tension to keep the story completely absorbing. I also liked that it didn't feel super cheesy to me, and it didn't overpower the rest of the plot but instead the romance enhanced it. Bishop is a really great character, who's fun and hilarious along with being straightforward with Indie and complex. He's precisely the type of guy you want to root for!
  3. A thrilling plot:

    There is a lot of action and excitement that happens in Hexed, and it's pretty much non-stop from the start. While Indie is still trying to accept some significant revelations, she's forced to deal with problems (both big and small) and figure out a way to get through them. And for the most part? She's doing most of the work all on her own. She's tough and a fighter, but you can also see some of these changes taking their toll on her (as they would). There are secrets and twists galore, which kept me turning the pages as fast as I could.
There were a couple points in the story when I felt that I could have benefited from a bit more world building, simply because the magic and conflict featured in Hexed were very interesting and I would love to read more about how this world works and how it came to be. But I also never felt like I didn't have enough information to understand what's going on, and I'm fairly certain that most of my questions will be answered in the sequel.


Sunday Runday {2}

Last week I ran my #RunningLikeAGirl race! So I have plenty of pictures and updates to share with you :)

I chose the Shoppers Drug Mart Run For Women race, for a couple of reasons.

First, it looked like an absolute blast of a race. So much fun and all the pretty details added to make it feel extra special!

Second, this running series sponsors women's mental heath initiatives across the country. This is a very important cause for me, as there is someone close to me who has struggled with mental health issues for most of her life.

To make this race even MORE fun, my best friend decided to sign up with me making this her FIRST 5K RACE EVER!!

If you're thinking about or preparing for your first race, I highly recommend you pick up Running Like a Girl to read about Alexandra's experience, keep yourself motivated, and for a few helpful tips.

The night before I race, I pack up my bag and lay out my clothes. I tend to over pack, in case I change my mind at the last minute or in case I have a friend who forgets something! In the above picture, you can see what I packed:

  • Extra pair of dry, clean socks (I use compression socks) - I love compression socks because they're great for circulation and keep my legs from getting too tired too soon. I started wearing them when I started racing because I had the worst shin splints. I have zero proof that compression actually works to help with shin splints, but it seemed to do the trick for me! Plus, I'm prone to some swelling in my feet/ankles at times and these really help. They're great for recovery. I wear compression socks while running too, but I like a dry (non-smelly pair) for after the run.
  • Running shoes - well, duh. I better have these. My Mizunos are amazing, I'm completely in love. I also use Superfeet insoles in my shoes since they seemed to help with pain as well.
  • Heart rate monitor - completely unnecessary, but I like to use one to track my fitness. I always use a chest strap that connects to my phone.
  • Sunscreen - it was a GORGEOUS day for a run, hot and sunny. So SPF is a must for me.
  • Lip balm with SPF - Again, it was sunny. But I also hate having dry lips while running so I need something super moisturizing.
  • Rub A535 & an ice pack - because these are miraculous for any aches and pains. Thankfully, I didn't need to use either but I always carry some in case.
  • Hand sanitizer & wipes - these are nice post-run for the drive home so I feel less sticky and sweaty.
  • Snacks - I always keep a few gels/bars in my bag in case I need something. A variety of options too, in case my stomach doesn't feel like it can handle a gel or a bar or a certain flavour.

See these legs? They are ready to GO!

Pink hair is so. much. fun! They had this available at the run for free

Pre-run selfie excitement!

A great turnout for the race, and I loved that we had a neat little warm-up beforehand!

Amazing little tables to have our post-run snacks. They had a bunch of Balance 


 SWAG! I've never before received so much stuff in a racing bag before.

Our running shirt and finisher's bracelet - you can't see it here, but the bracelet says "RUN INSPIRED" which I love.

I love that middle paragraph from Running Like a Girl. There are so many great thoughts in this book, and one thing I really love is that she talks about what happened AFTER she completed her race. I always find that to be the biggest struggle for me! I love running, but after a race it's so difficult to stay committed and stick with it right now.

The race itself was so much fun - if it's your first time ever racing and you're a bit nervous, I think it's a good idea to pick a FUN race as opposed to one that's more competitive. The atmosphere makes a big difference! There were spectators with signs to cheer us along the course, and all the other runners are so supportive of each other.

I'm going to continue blogging for at least a little while about my running experiences post-race.

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