Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour: Love Struck

This is the second book that I've reviewed for a blog tour and I'd like to thank Samantha at CLP Blog Tours and Chantel Simmons for letting me be a part of it! I also want to thank Chantel for the sweet handwritten note that sent with the book :)

As a former bookseller, I had seen Love Struck on the shelves and thought it looked pretty cute - come on, a pink umbrella with hearts on it? How could I not pick it up? But I just never got around to reading it because I wasn't sure if I would like it. When I got the chance to be a part of this blog tour, I thought it was as good a time as any to give it a shot.

Here's the synopsis from Chapters:

In the vein of her popular debut novel, Stuck in Downward Dog, author Chantel Simmons brings us a funny, heartfelt story about losing the perfect life-and finding a real one.
When twenty-seven-year-old image consultant Poppy Ross discovers that her handsome and seemingly devoted husband Parker is having an affair, she is dumbfounded. Before she has chance to confront him, however, he is struck by lightning. When he regains consciousness, he has lost his short-term memory-including that of the affair. Given a chance to erase history and possible save her marriage, Poppy decides to remake herself in the mistress's image, so that Parker might never be tempted to stray again. Her quest to become his perfect woman has disastrous and hilarious results-and might turn out to be the worst thing possible for her marriage.
I have to be honest...I didn't love this book, but, I didn't hate it either. It was still one of those ones that I didn't want to put down because I needed to find out what was going to happen. I think I know why I wasn't a huge fan though, so let me explain that and then I'll give you reasons why other people would probably love this book and why I'd still recommend it.

I found this novel very similar to the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella. I've read every single Shopaholic book and every time I want to strangle Becky because she's just so dumb when it comes to money. But, I keep reading them because things always turn out in the end. It was the same with Poppy. She decides to try and make herself over to look like the woman she believes is having an affair with her husband. I guess I can get that, but she doesn't even think about the fact that there might be an underlying issue with their marriage. Again, somewhat understandable because no one wants to admit when their relationship isn't as perfect as they'd like it to be, or they think it should be. Even though what Poppy was doing kind of made sense, I was almost constantly annoyed at her for being such a twit. Facebook stalking the mistress? Pretty much anyone would do that. Creating a whole new friend profile because you made up a fake name and profession? Um. A little out there.

I had realized about halfway through the book that I was comparing Poppy to Becky and looking at the similarities between Love Struck and Confessions of a Shopaholic. Then, near the end of the novel, there was one scene in Love Stuck that was just so incredibly similar to Shopaholic. At the end of the book, Poppy gets the chance to go on a morning show and show off her styling skills. The show is live, so of course this is when everything totally blows up for Poppy. For those of you that have read the first in Kinsella's series (or seen the movie), you will know the scene I'm comparing it to. Becky goes on a television show to talk about finance and that is when her debt collector guy (what is he actually called?? Can't for the life of me remember) calls her out as an imposter. I doubt Simmons intentionally wrote a similar scene, and it didn't really bother me at all, I just found it mildly amusing.

I did really like the uniqueness of the situation. I know I haven't read about someone being hit by lightening and not remembering anything from the previous three months. Anyone else? Books about temporary amnesia usually have a really good "journey" in them when the characters realize what is wrong in their lives and work to fix it. This novel was no different, and I think Simmons did a good job and really showing how and why Poppy went through this journey. It wasn't a stretch like some books are - none of Poppy's (or Parker's) fundamental characteristics really changed. Instead, it was more like they changed back to what they were really like when they were first together.

Of course, I also loved that Simmons is Canadian and there were little references that only Canadians would really get. Or maybe, only people who live around Toronto would understand. Right at the beginning of the novel there's a reference to the Blue Jays and later on we learn that Poppy's parents live in Muskoka. Parker actually goes to a baseball game at one point and I had no trouble imagining him sitting in the Skydome (ok, technically it's the Rogers Centre now but I still like to call it the Skydome) and watching the Jays play. It's a little thing but I really enjoy reading Canadian authors and am glad that many more people will be reading this one in the blog tour too. I'm interested to see if anyone comments on the fact that the book is based in Toronto or if anyone even cares.

Like I said, I didn't love this novel but I would recommend it to others, which I know may seem kind of strange. Everyone has different tastes and I liked the general idea of this book, it was just the characters that irked me. (Side-note, I think that is why I didn't like the novel One Day. I wanted to like it, I really did, but I just...couldn't. Anyone else read this book? Please let me know what you thought!) This was your typical chick lit book and I liked the little ways that Simmons made this one different and unique. Overall, I'd probably give this three stars and suggest finding it at a library or borrowing it from a friend. I know there are definitely people who would enjoy this novel and I wouldn't want to turn them off it. Summer's quickly approaching so I'd recommend it for a good beach read :)

Thanks again to Chantel Simmons and Samantha for allowing me to be a part of this blog tour!

Please join Chantel Simmons on Twitter Tuesday, May 31st at 7 pm CST for her TwitParty! Use #CLPChantel to participate!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Something Old. Something New. Something Borrowed! Something Blue?

Just in case you couldn't figure it out from the title of this blog post, I just went to see Something Borrowed on Tuesday. I read this book eons ago and have been looking forward to the adaptation ever since I heard it was being made into a movie. I've been meaning to reread it but I decided to wait until after seeing the movie, otherwise I knew I would be irked with any slight changes or omissions. I'm glad I did because I really enjoyed the movie!

Some observations and notes:

  • Kate Hudson was perfection as Darcy. I have to admit that I strongly disliked Darcy when I read Something Borrowed. So much so that I was actually not looking forward to reading Something Blue because it focuses more on her story. I think Kate Hudson was great because everyone loves her, but she can play the gorgeous, self centred, "I'm the best", sassy kind of girl so well that you want to dislike her, but you know there's a good person somewhere inside her. Anyone else feel that way about Darcy and Hudson's portrayal of her? 
  • Ginnifer Goodwin was an amazing Rachel. Intelligent girl next door who really has no idea how gorgeous she is. I'm a little sad that we would see less of Goodwin in the sequel because I really liked her as Rachel.
  • While Colin Eggelsfield is definitely an attractive guy, I would rather marry John Krasinski (even though he's already taken...that and I have no chance of meeting him!) Humour will win me over almost every time.
They're even wearing a similar suit at the premiere!

  • I loved the cameo by Emily Giffin. Those of you who watched it...did you catch it? She was the one sitting on the bench reading Something Blue who is offended when Marcus starts talking about masturbating (and can you blame her? I'd be a little weirded out too!)

  • I also appreciated the heads up from Emily Giffin's Twitter that there was an extra little scene after the credits. They set the sequel up perfectly! Kicking yourself for not staying? Go see it again! :)
  • Wondering why there's a ? after Something Blue in the title of this post? Giffin's been rallying her fans to make sure they see the movie and get friends and friends of friends to go see Something Borrowed. The more people who see it, the more money the money people make, and that will convince them to make Something Blue!
  • I now feel better about my curly hair/straight bangs situation that I have going on. I don't look as good as Goodwin, but hey...I'm ok with that.
  • Speaking of hair...there's one scene, quite a pivotal one too, where Rachel leaves the bar and it's pouring rain. Next scene she's getting out of the cab in New York in the same dress...AND HER HAIR IS PERFECT! Nope. Sorry Hollywood, you fail. That never happens to girls with curly hair. Rain = death by poodle head.
  • I really want to reread all of Giffin's books this summer. You know, in between all the other books I have to read. I can't wait for her new one to be released!
  • I may have embarrassed my sister during the movie...anyone who has read the book would have known what was coming but there was a scene during the movie that almost everyone in the theatre reacted to. And I may or may not have whispered (a little too loudly) "Haven't any of you read the book?!?" Oops. Can I help it if I'm a totally book worshipper and will always read the book before seeing the movie?
Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and will buy it the day it is released on DVD. What did you guys think of it?

No idea what movie I'm talking about? Check out the trailer!

Friday, May 13, 2011

May Chick Lit Review: "Second Time Around"

I was lucky enough to win this (signed!) book from Liz and Lisa over at Chick Lit is Not Dead last September when I commented on their post "What's on Beth Kendrick's Bucket List?". I had read Kendrick's book Nearlyweds the summer of 2009 and absolutely loved it so I decided to try to win Second Time Around. And what do you know? I actually won it! Amazing.

Now that you know how I came across this novel, let me tell you that I loved, loved, loved it. I had a gala event that I was planning for work this past weekend and reading this book was a fantastic escape. I was incredibly stressed out so the fact that I was able to focus on the characters and the story really shows how great this novel was. It was also a particularly delicious experience to read this book while laying in my hotel room bed the morning after the gala - massive weight off my shoulders, a great book, and an incredibly squashy and comfy bed. Heaven.

Here's the synopsis from Chapters:

Every summer, four college friends hold a mini-reunion. They laugh, reminisce, and commiserate about their soul-sucking jobs. Maybe they should have listened to everyone who warned them to study something "practical."

Then an unexpected windfall arrives-one million dollars, to be exact-with the stipulation that they use it to jump-start their new careers. Almost overnight, a professor, a bartender, a copywriter, and an administrative assistant reinvent themselves as a novelist, an event planner, a pastry chef, and a bed-and-breakfast owner. But the changes in their professional roles create unexpected turbulence in their personal lives, and soon the secrets and scandals from their past start to resurface.

For anyone who has ever wondered "What if?," this engaging novel provides a sweet, funny look at friendship, romance, and second chances. 

The synopsis is right...if you've ever wondered what would happened if you had done something differently (and come on, who hasn't?), you'll really enjoy this book. These four friends get the chance to change their lives and, as cliched as this sounds, find happiness. Each of the four women have a chance for a mini do over in their lives when they inherit $250,000 and each of them handles it in different ways. The four friends are the key to this novel so I want to give a little peek into how they deal with their new situations.

Brooke is the sensible one of the bunch who decided to stay in their college town and is working at the alumni office. When the money comes to her she decides to jump right in and do what she's always wanted.

Cait is working as an English professor and is hoping for tenure. She's always wanted to write a novel but even with this money, she can't quite seem to take the chance. Suddenly her situation changes at the college she's teaching at and she finally runs out of excuses.

Jamie is the wild girl who always does what she wants and everyone else be damned. Guys come and go and she seems to be content with her job as a bartender - until her boss refuses her time off and she quits. In typical Jamie fashion, she falls headlong into her dream job when she's visiting Brooke. 

Then there's Anna. She's the only married one of the four but things are not all sunshine and lollipops. She and her husband have been trying for a baby for years and it has finally taken a toll on their marriage. He has to go oversees for work so she decides it's a perfect time to visit with the girls at Brooke's place and it's there she rediscovers her passion for baking.

This book has everything - laughing, crying, loving, fighting, playing, and thinking - and it's all wonderfully woven together. The characters are all well rounded and incredibly likeable. I like that none of the women are perfect because, really, who is? The great thing about having this many different characters is that there's usually one that you can really identify with. In my case it was Cait. I can't quite put my finger on why but hers was the story that I always enjoyed going back to. Not to say that I didn't like reading about the other women, because I did. I actually wanted to be friends with them. And I think that is a key thing. These women have a friendship that all other females envy. Ten years ago they met in college and have stayed in touch ever since. While they may be living in different parts of the country, they still manage to see each other at least once a year and always pick up where they left off. They're doing better than some of my friends and I and we're all (for the most part) in the same province! Hence, the envy.

I also think the setting is key. The four friends are back in their college town, which is a quaint, stereotypical upstate New York college town. For me, this was the kind of place that I always thought of when I thought about going away to university. The cover also helped convey what the setting was going to be like as well. There's nothing like seeing some Muskoka  chairs, one with books on it, surrounded by green space. I think there also may be some sort of deeper meaning behind the setting. Perhaps Kendrick had all the women end up in the same town they went to college in for a reason. I think it might be because that's when things started to change and they began to make "real" decisions for the first time. I may have gone waaaay too deep for this novel, but it's an interesting thought.

I highly recommend this book because it really is everything that chick lit should be. Compelling female characters, great friendship, a little bit of romance, and a journey. Do you really need any more convincing? Find this novel in some way or another and read it. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Just Finished: "The Help"

As most of you know (or should know if you've 1. been reading this blog for awhile or 2. know me well) I used to work at a bookstore until quite recently. My favourite part of that job was hearing what people were reading, getting recommendations, and suggesting books to customers. Now that I have more time for myself, I am slowly making my way through all the book customers have been recommending for awhile and I'm so glad that I am. The Help was one of those books like Water for Elephants that people had been telling me I need to read ever since it was released in February 2009. I have to say that I honestly had no idea what it was about. The only thing I knew was that it took place in the 1960s or so and involved some African Americans. And that came from the information about the movie adaptation that's currently in production. I can't believe I never even picked up the book to find out what it was so I could better recommend it to customers! *hangs head in shame* Here's the synopsis from Chapters:

Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women-mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends-view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
Massive synopsis, I know. Sorry! But now you know more than I did when I picked up the book.

Once I got started and figured out what the story was I really didn't think I was going to love it. It's not a time of history that's ever particularly grabbed me before. Happily, the book proved me wrong. I ended up really enjoying this book and I highly recommend it.

My favourite thing about this novel was the fact that there was such great historical detail wrapped up in the most amazing personal stories. The characters were so well rounded and all three women, Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter, had the most unique and fantastic voices. Stockett does a great job of bouncing between stories and it doesn't get confusing at all. She seems to perfectly sense when she should switch to another character to get their perspective on a certain event.

I liked that Stockett had quite the extensive author's note at the end of the novel. I don't have the book with me anymore (supported my local library :) reserving books is a fantastic thing) so I apologize if I get something wrong. She explains why she felt the need to write this story. She grew up in Jackson, Mississippi (where the novel takes place) and had a black maid and this relationship seems to be mirrored in Skeeter's relationship with Constantine. She also talked about how she had many helpful people who made sure her historical details were accurate, and also made sure to mention that there were three things she refused to change even though the timing was incorrect. If you can figure them out, I applaud you...though, in my defense, I was born about 25 years after the book took place... :)

There isn't really anything negative I would say about this book. The only thing I that would have made me like it more would be an ending that is more clear cut. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that while things do get wrapped up for the most part, there's one character whose life is completely up in the air at the end of the novel. I guess this makes it more realistic, which I can respect, but I enjoy knowing exactly what the characters are doing after the novel is over. Anyone else feel that way?

The movie comes out later this year and I will be going to see it. Or, at least renting it. It's hard to find people who want to see these adaptations with me. Still waiting to see Water for Elephants! I think they have a pretty good cast and am looking forward to seeing how the actors portray these amazing characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I think it can appeal to many different types of readers, particularly those who like historical fiction. Has anyone else read The Help? If so, what did you think? If you're looking for a good read, definitely go pick up this book. You won't regret it!