Monday, October 31, 2011

October Chick Lit Challenge Read #2: To Wish or Not to Wish


Welcome to my second October review for the Chick Lit Plus Challenge! I figured now was as good a time as any to finish Mindy Klasky's As You Wish Series. To Wish or Not to Wish is the third and final novel in the trilogy (check out my review of the second novel, When Good Wishes Go Bad). And what better day to post it than Halloween?

Here's the synopsis, courtesy of Goodreads:

Erin Hollister is waiting for her big break - or even a small one. She's been dumped by her boyfriend, canned by her employer and it doesn't seem that her dream of making it on Broadway will come true either. But then she's given a lantern - complete with genie! - and it looks as if a little magic may be in store..

That is, if she can decide what to wish for. There's the rub. Career? Family? Love life? Even a charismatic genie can grant only so many wishes. Or maybe Erin should just hold on to all those magical chances and think about what might be (instead of seeing just what's under her nose).

Time's running out. Ultimately, it's Erin who must decide how to keep the magic alive - forever.

This book was just as enjoyable as the first two in the series. Who doesn't love a good magical story with a heavy dose of romance? Ok, probably not everyone, but there are a lot of you out there, I'm sure! :)

As much as I liked reading about Erin's magical journey, I don't think I liked her as much as Becca from the second book. It seemed to me that Erin hadn't quite grown up yet and needed a lot of guidance and support from her older sister. That being said, I do think that Erin grows up and matures by the end of the novel which is something I always like to see. I have to say that I enjoyed the Master Plan that Erin's sister came up with. Erin had a bad habit of jumping from one monogamous relationship to another and her sister wants her to stop, hence the implementation of the Master Plan. First, she has to take care of a plant for four weeks. Then, if she manages to keep that alive, she is supposed to get a fish. Once the fish is stable and thriving (can't remember the exact timeline) Erin must get a cat. After taking care of all of these things, which takes sixteen months total, Erin is then able to start dating. Needless to say, Erin was not impressed with these dating restrictions but she was desperate to change her ways! Of course, the whole Plan gets turned upside down once Erin is introduced to Teel, her own personal genie.

There's not much else I can say about this novel that's much different than my review of When Good Wishes Go Bad. The underlying plot is the same - Erin has to make four wishes (yes, these genies are able to make four wishes), she works in theatre, and there's a guy that's caught her eye. Actually, two. This is the way that the third novel plays with the romance aspect that is present in each book in the trilogy. And no, I'm not telling you about this mysterious second man. Read the book to find out :) I'm glad that Klasky was able to keep things fresh and keep the books from becoming formulaic. She also threw in another revelation about the magical world at the end of the novel after Teel's granted Erin her four wishes. It is such a touching moment and love that Klasky was able to work it in.

Reading this series made me wonder what I would use my four wishes for if I was somehow presented with a magic lamp and a genie. It's sort of neat to think about. Would you be totally selfish and use all of your wishes on yourself? Or would you use some of your wishes on friends, family, or even people you've only just met? All three women use wishes for someone else (I think...I can't quite remember what Kira's wishes were. I read the first book at least a year ago) and I think that shows the character and integrity in their personalities. When the need arose they did not hesitate on using a wish on someone else. It made the women instantly more likeable than they already were. I would definitely want to help out my friends and family and would have no problem using a wish to better their lives. Of course, I would probably wish to be set up with my dream job and having a home that was totally paid for would be pretty awesome too (and I could get it - Becca did!) I'd love to hear how you'd all use your wishes!

Overall, I enjoyed reading To Wish or Not to Wish and would recommend this novel and the entire series to chick lit lovers who like a bit of magic in their books.

PS I always pictured Teel as Genie from Aladdin even though in all of his/her incarnations he/she wasn't a big blue genie. :) So, I leave you with this photo...

Happy reading! :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Just Finished: Wye Write Again

Before I get my review of Wye Write Again: A Collection started, I have to admit two things:

1. I'm not usually a big fan of short stories; and

2. Some of the stories were written by one of my very best friends.

Honesty is the best policy, right? :)

When Sandy asked me to read their collection of short stories for my blog I did not hesitate. I'm so proud of her for being a published author - so much so that I'm sort of like a proud mother hen, or whatever animal it is that is really proud of her offspring - and I wanted to share my thoughts on the book to all of you lovely readers (you're all awesome. Really.)

The authors!

The authors of these short stories are all women of different ages from the Northern Simcoe County area in Ontario. Wye Write Again is the second book these women have written and there were seven authors who contributed a total of 26 stories to this edition.

What I really enjoyed about this collection was the variety. Since there are so many authors it means there are many points of view and interests. This allowed for the stories to all have a different flavour to them which, in my opinion, kept things more interesting.

Some of the stories I really loved (more about them in a minute) and some of them I didn't love, but that's to be expected with so many different stories. The ones I wasn't crazy about were the stories that were more like snapshots instead of a video (how do you like that comparison? :) ) By this I mean that they were a quick explanation of something instead of an in depth look. This helped me realize that I like stories/books/movies to be wrapped up nicely and have some sort of narrative to it. Not to say those snapshot stories weren't good - they just weren't my favourites.

Speaking of favourites, I had three:

Brass Buttons and Stardust
Friends Marjorie and Thora are young women looking for some summer romance from the navy, army, and Air Force men in town. Marjorie meets Len and has a splendid few months going to dances and stealing kisses during lunch. Eventually, Marjorie learns that Len isn't what he seems and has to deal with this revelation.
What I liked about this one was that it seemed to have some basis in historical fact, as the beginning and ending of the story had excerpts from Marjorie Dempsey's memoirs. I could be wrong about this, but the idea that this actually happened (or at least something happened with Marjorie and Len and author Carol took some artistic license with it) really added to the story for me.

Norah's First Crush
Norah is a teenager living in Ireland who has finally caught the eye of her crush, Billy. The story follows the sweet romance between the pair until Norah's parents decide to move the family to Canada. Poor Norah is devastated, she has to leave Billy and her best friend Abbey behind. She shouldn't worry and should instead listen to what the wise gypsy woman had to say to her one day.
It didn't surprise me too much that I enjoyed this one too because I tend to really enjoy historical fiction (not all of it, of course, I'm partial to different periods of time). I liked how author Marilyn wove in a "fantastical" element - Norah gets her fortune told by the gypsy woman - and it's really interesting to see how it turns out.

Blind Date at the Book Nook Cafe
Anna is nervously awaiting her blind date in a delightful coffee shop inside of an old library. Her date is late and she's just about to leave when Adam finally shows up. After some witty banter between Anna and Adam, the reader is hopeful that this blind date will turn into a full fledged relationship.
Another confession - this favourite was written by Sandy. This was actually the first story I read from the collection and I read it with Sandy in my presence a few weeks back. Right away I told her she needs to expand it into a novel - I loved it that much. It was sweet and has the potential to be a really great full length novel.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the stories in Wye Write Again. It's made me rethink my position on short stories - which is a great thing! I always thought they were too short to really make an impact but some of these stories made me realize that you can get a great narrative in only a few pages.

The collection is currently only able to be bought locally (but I will update this if I find out that I'm wrong) so if any of you are ever north of Toronto, check out these places for copies. That being said, the ladies would like to further promote their collection. If there are any Canadian bloggers who happen upon this post and are interested in reading Wye Write Again please email me (books.etc.blogger AT gmail DOT com) and I will coordinate things. In the meantime, please check out their website for author bios, excerpts, and the like.

The moral of the story today is that you shouldn't judge a book by its length. Sometimes the shorter ones will leave you with much more to think about than full length novels.

Happy reading :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Just Finished: Destined to Fail

As most of you will know, I've been taking part in a challenge as well as a ton of blog tours all hosted by Samantha over at Chick Lit Plus. Wondering why I'm mentioning that in this post? Because the amazing novel Destined to Fail was written by Samantha herself! She's been working hard to make this novel a reality and I'm glad I've been able to take part in the process in a small way.

Here's what this debut novel is all about, courtesy of Samantha March's website:

Jasmine Jones is ready to begin her new life as a college student, and is ecstatic to have best friend Abby by her side. But weeks into their new college life, Abby drops the bomb- she is pregnant, and dropping out of college. Jasmine can’t handle the fact that Abby is wasting her opportunity to get an education, and going back to her cheating, abusive boyfriend. She struggles to move on from her friendship with Abby, but befriends two new girls at college. Everything seems back on track for Jasmine- great new friendships and roommates, a strong relationship with boyfriend Nate, and excelling at her college courses. But Jasmine’s newfound happiness is shattered when her pregnancy test comes out positive. Does she have to drop out of college now and become a young mother? Will Nate stay with her? How can she afford a child? Jasmine’s life has been filled with obstacles and challenges along the way- from a missing father, sexual and physical abuse, and addictions that tore her family apart. With this latest setback, Jasmine fears her life will always be a struggle. Destined to Fail is one woman’s story about overcoming adversity in life, about taking the negatives and finding a positive, and about never giving up hope.

Put quite simply, I loved Destined to Fail. I read it in one afternoon because I could not put it down. Jasmine's story grabbed hold of me and would not let go even after I finished reading the book. A sign of a good book is when you continue to think about it once you've stopped reading and that was the case for me with this novel. Everyone's stories were wrapped up nicely (without it being too "picture perfect") at the end of the novel but I still found myself thinking about how the characters would continue living and I loved that.

I have to warn potential readers that this is not exactly a lighthearted read. There are some very heavy story lines that require a mature reader. The three main girls, Jasmine and her new college friends Kiley and Cari, have endured almost every kind of abuse there is in the course of their fairly young lives. I know these things happen in the world and I know I am fortunate because I've never had to deal with anything like that, but it was still hard to read at some points. But I think that really adds to the novel and helps you connect with the characters. Life isn't perfect and what matters is how you deal with the curveballs you're thrown. Jasmine is an incredibly strong and courageous woman and, as the synopsis says, is somehow able to use the negatives in her life and turn them into positives. She is an amazing role model for for women of all ages, not just young females. If you don't take anything else away from this novel, at least appreciate the good things you have in life and try to find a way to make everything else good too.

What I really loved about this book was that I really felt like I was living Jasmine's life right along with her. It helped that I knew exactly how she was feeling when she went away to school - when I started university I also left a new boyfriend back home and lived with my best friend. I felt like I was right along with her as she parked her car and went to check out her new living space and when she made friends with girls down the hall. I may not understand her desire to be totally dressed up for class every day (I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl) but I do appreciate that she understood how important school was and how to balance school and fun.

Overall, I loved this book. I think all females should read it because it offers a glimpse into a life that most people (hopefully) won't ever encounter themselves. It should help you become motivated to do something about abuse - simply keeping an eye on a friend you think may be in trouble or volunteering your time at a women's shelter. All in all, this is an amazing book - especially when you realize March is a first time author. I encourage everyone to check out this novel because it provides a fantastic story and some strong characters.

Happy reading :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Author Guest Post: Anne McAneny

A big thank you to Anne McAneny for writing this entertaining blog post for Books Etc.! If you want to be further entertained, please make sure you check out her own blog and her amazing novel Our Eyes Met Over Cantaloupe .


It’s no coincidence that my chick-lit books feature ice cream and cupcake-loving protagonists. I adore both. And no offense to Jessica Seinfeld, but I don’t sneak veggies into my kids’ food in the hope of raising their nutritional intake. Why? Because I believe in The Principle of Eventual Balance, otherwise known as Veggie-Schmeggie. Here are the not-so-deep thoughts behind my reasoning:  Nary a vegetable crossed my lips for the first 18 years of my life and today, I’m a vegetable-scarfing fool who gets ecstatic over the discovery of a new salad. (Yes, the bar for excitement in my life is set mere inches above the ground.)

For over twenty years, my mother dutifully made dinner for her five ungrateful children. She despised cooking and, as with most things people despise, they don’t excel at them. Dinner was more of an obligation than a celebration in our home, but my mother pulled it off like clockwork, receiving little gratitude… much like a prison cook. Not to disparage Mom’s efforts, but the only way to score any nutrients from the nightly veggie was for one’s roll to soak them up from the puddle on the plate, its source being the blob of wet spinach or mushy carrots that had been boiled to death and served straight from the pot. Butter? Salt? Didn’t even know they were options.

And then came the peas... those wet-sand-textured, puke-green-colored balls of shriveled goodness that looked like they’d been plucked from a 90-year-old’s nether regions. When they made an appearance, I grabbed an extra napkin as if Miss Manners had taken possession of my soul.  If Mom was feeling strict that night, I’d put a few in my mouth, but alas, I could outwait a young monk praying for salvation. I chewed those things ‘til they were nothing but a razor-thin layer of sandpaper lining my cheek, and when the opportunity arose to spit them out, they went straight into that napkin.

Of course, Fate saw fit to give me a son who despises everything that isn’t cheese, cheese pizza, or grilled cheese (in other words, cheese). I offer him vegetables, fruits, and whole grains with every meal, and occasionally, he suffers a few bites (with the odd extra napkin in hand…). But I refuse to be worried, because despite my mom’s overcooked heaps of mush, she gifted her five brats with an appreciation for nutrition and exercise - and demonstrated both by example. I can’t help but believe that my son, too, will grow into his choices, that his taste buds will mature, and that he’ll learn by example. It all balances out. And really, who among us still makes the same choices we made as children?

So even though my fictional ladies spend lots of time gorging on junk, rest assured that in the deleted scenes, they followed the completely fictional Principle of Eventual Balance and enjoyed their broccoli and bean sprouts. But not peas. Never peas.

Anne is the e-book author of Chunneling Through Forty and Our Eyes Met Over Cantaloupe, as well as the fast-paced mystery thriller, Foreteller. If you’d like to read more of Anne’s musings, please check out her blog at

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour: Our Eyes Met Over Cantaloupe

I have to start with a huge thank you to Samantha at Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours and author Anne McAneny for allowing me to be a part of the blog tour for Our Eyes Met Over Cantaloupe . I absolutely loved this book!

Here's what this hilariously titled novel is about, courtesy of Goodreads:

A wedding order at The Secret Lives of Cupcakes Shop is always reason for Millie Morris to celebrate; except when the groom is her ex-boyfriend and the bride is the woman he dumped her for. Still, it's business for her mom's shop. Millie even makes a good-faith effort to shoo the groom away when he confides his doubts about marriage. But when Millie's job as a crime reporter finds her covering a big court case, she must choke down her unresolved feelings like a burnt cupcake slathered in bitter frosting; because the bride is the lead lawyer on the case.

Unexpectedly intertwined on multiple levels with both her ex and his fiancée, Millie must choose to either remain in her half-baked state of existence or finally rise above it.

While Millie is the main attraction to this novel there was also a full cast of crazy supporting characters, which I loved. Each character, whether it's Millie's mom Grace, best friend Betty Boop (you will love the explanation to that nickname), Grace's best friend and business partner Pauline, cupcake baker Josh, and so on, each has a background that is touched on without overpowering the overall narrative. None of them felt like two dimensional characters which can often happen in novels. Nor did they take over from Millie and what she is dealing with throughout the book. It was a perfect balance and I applaud McAneny for her amazing secondary characters.

The only teeny weeny thing that I found bothered me was that I couldn't get a clear picture of Millie in my head. She was so down on herself about her looks that it was hard to imagine a character that actually was good looking (which I was led to believe she was as she does have some...well, let's call them male suitors) At one point I believe she describes herself as having long giraffe legs and a pelican's beak for a nose. Funny? Yes. Completely self-deprecating? Yes. Are you imagining a less than attractive amazon woman with a huge nose? Probably. This is probably just a little quirk with me so please do not let this be a deal breaker. I mention it only because I'm curious to know if anyone else had the same issue. However, I love that Millie is so tall. Being 6' myself, I enjoy a tall female protagonist every once and awhile. Not every female is teeny! Ahem. Ok, a little personal bias there. Moving right along... :)

This novel had me laughing out loud. Seriously. I was getting very strange looks from my boyfriend as I was reading it because I was doing that laughing-so-hard-no-sound-is-coming-out kind of laugh. I wouldn't be surprised if there were tears at some points because I was laughing so hard. I don't have a particular line or quote that I found particularly hilarious because there were so many parts that I really enjoyed. What I liked was that Millie was incredibly clever, quick, and witty. That can be the best sort of humour and it worked for me.


I just need to take a moment to mention how much my mouth was watering while reading this book. A good chunk of the story revolves around Millie's mom's shop, The Secret Lives of Cupcakes, so many delicious sounding cupcakes were described and enjoyed by the characters. Apparently the store in the novel is based on a real stuffed cupcake store...I need to find me one of those stores! Just a note: if you head over to the main tour page and leave a comment you can be entered to win not only a $10 Amazon gift card but a dozen stuffed cupcakes! A note on the note: you have to live in the US to win this one so even though I can't win it (sad) I want to make sure you all know about it!

Overall, I adored this book. It made me laugh, it made me think, and it made me fall in love with the characters. Best kind of book, don't you agree? I will definitely be on the lookout for more by Anne McAneny and I highly recommend Our Eyes Met Over Cantaloupe.

Happy Reading :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Chick Lit Challenge Read: When Good Wishes Go Bad

In honour of Halloween I wanted to read something a little magical for this month's Chick Lit Challenge read. I decided on the second book in a trilogy by Mindy Klasky, When Good Wishes Go Bad. I absolutely adored Klasky's trilogy about a librarian who turns out to be a witch (the first book in the Jane Madison series is Girl's Guide to Witchcraft and you should go read it now!) so I was excited when I found out she had started another triology, the As You Wish series.

Read on to find out what When Good Wishes Go Bad is all about, synopsis courtesy of Goodreads:

Rebecca Morris is suffering from an excess of magic!
Things that have disappeared: her boyfriend; her life savings; three-and-a-half million dollars from the theater company that pays both their salaries. (Coincidence? Um, no.) Also, the groundbreaking play she's been slaving over has vanished in a puff of copyright-colored smoke.
Other, weirder things that have appeared: a magic lamp complete with genie wishes. A fully furnished (and paid-for) Manhattan condo and fabulous designer wardrobe. (The last two courtesy of the first one, obvs.)
So Becca's putting that last wish on hold. What with discovering a mesmerizing new play, getting it onstage and falling hard for the adorably awkward guy who wrote it, Becca is swamped. And that's without factoring in the guerrilla gardener, popcorn magnate and the gender-bending genie with an agenda of his/her own.
Now Becca's hoping that her good wishes don't go oh, so wrong….
As I mentioned, I loved the Jane Madison series. While I'm not as crazy about the As You Wish series I have still enjoyed them. I think the main reason I don't like them as much is because I was able to identify with Jane a little bit more. The characters in the As You Wish series work in the theatre industry and that's never been something that I've been drawn to. Jane, on the other hand, is a librarian and I know I'm definitely more of a librarian at heart. I had to remind myself to stop comparing the two series but the As You Wish series has grown on me and I really do like them too.

I actually liked the character in When Good Wishes Go Bad a little more than the first novel, How Not to Make a Wish. As bizarre as this may sound, it may be because of one of the wishes Kira makes in the first book. I'm not giving a whole lot away when I say that she essentially wishes for her crush to fall in love with her. It's not natural (because what's natural about a genie making someone like you?) and I think that could be why I didn't enjoy the book as much. In When Good Wishes Go Bad, on the other hand, Becca is attracted to someone and the romance grows naturally, without any magical assistance. Sounds kind of strange but sometimes you can't help what irks you, right? It's definitely not something that would keep me from recommending these books though!

There's a fun little twist to When Good Wishes Go Bad that I was not expecting. It was an interesting revelation and it provided insight into the magical universe. It made the book just that much better and I appreciated it. Ok, rereading those two sentences and that sounds incredibly vague. Sorry! I just don't want to give anything away :)

I'm looking forward to reading the third and final novel in the As You Wish series (I may even do a double feature for the Chick Lit Challenge this month!) even though it will mean the end of an amusing series that I've enjoyed reading. I'd recommend this book to anyone who's looking for a little something extra in their chick lit novels - in this case the something extra is a magical gender-shifting genie. These are fun, sweet books and I think any chick lit lover will enjoy them.

Happy! :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Author Guest Post: Heather Hummel

Thank you to Heather Hummel for writing this interesting blog post for Books Etc. I really enjoyed learning more about her ghostwriting experience and I hope you do too!

The Mystique Ghostwriting

There is an air of mystique that comes with “author” as the label that defines you. People are intrigued by the behind-the-scene-goings-on of author-hood. They wonder how authors string together tens of thousands of words, let alone come up with plots, characters, and a compelling story. Now throw the role of ghostwriter into the mix and their heads could spin wool.

The characters in my fictional Journals from the Heart series come into my head and tell me how it’s going to be! They show up in my mind and take me along each step of their journey…in other words, my protagonists own me while I write their novel!

But, my role as a ghostwriter is quite different. I wear a different pen for each client. Being a ghostwriter does not mean you’re hidden away behind the scenes pounding out words for your client. It’s a very interactive approach. Since I work with people ranging from public figures to celebrities to corporations, I have to be quite flexible and diverse in my writing. The number one challenge is writing in the client’s voice. This means leaving any personal agenda (i.e. ego) aside while stepping into their shoes, learning their voice, their message, and their agenda for delivering it. That doesn’t mean I don’t coach and guide them; they hire me for my expertise in writing, formula and format of a manuscript. It becomes such a collaborative effort more so in some cases more than others that by time the first draft is complete, I have to step aside and touch base with Heather Hummel again!

The ghostwriting project that launched my career was Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age (McGraw-Hill, 2008), co-written with Valerie Ramsey (my mother), who became a model at the age of 63. It’s often assumed that it was easy for me to write from my mother’s voice. But, it’s not that simple, especially when penning a self-help book. As I wrote, I constantly thought about the reader and what they would get out of the message, which is to seek new challenges at any age while staying healthy in body, mind and spirit. As the writer, I interviewed nutritionists, healthy aging experts and a Pilates instructor. After manuscript submission, I continued to collaborate on edits with John Aherne, our editor at McGraw-Hill. Susan Lucci and I wrote the Foreword and the Introduction respectively. In Gracefully’s case, I did receive public recognition as “with Heather Hummel” acknowledgment on the cover. (I’ll touch more on ghostwriters’ credits in a minute.) 

Just recently I signed on with Tamra Barney of the Real Housewives of Orange County as her ghostwriter.  I love the essence of her book! Its ultimate message is that once you learn to love and appreciate yourself, you will attract people into your life who love and appreciate you back. The book delves into her personal life, some of which millions of viewers witnessed on Sunday nights, but it also blends in aspects that people don’t know about Tamra. Ultimately, it inspires and helps others who are going through a divorce and reinventing their lives. It’s has been a very collaborative effort. I tell Tamra that just like a personal trainer whips your body into shape, a ghostwriter whips your book into shape! With her story and message, I can do what I do best editing, co-writing and consulting her on the formula and format of the book right up to working with the publisher and the book’s release, marketing and promoting. In this case, I do receive book cover credit: “with Heather Hummel.”

Another nonfiction book that I’m ghostwriting is almost ready to be sent to the client’s publisher. In this case, I’ve signed a NonDisclosure Agreement (NDA), but I can say that it’s a book that will change the way readers perceive dating and finding the love of their life. I will be able to promote and discuss it in great detail next spring when it launches. In this case, I will not receive public credit for authoring the book because having my name on the cover would not fit into the client’s corporate brand…or mine, for that matter. 

By keeping myself open to new ideas and projects, I have not pigeon-holed myself into one genre. That can certainly work against a writer, but if done right, it can push you in directions you never thought possible.
Heather Hummel is the author of the Journals from the Heart Series. She is an award winning author and celebrity ghostwriter. Her published works include:
Journals from the Heart Series: Whispers from the Heart and Write from the Heart
Nonfiction: GO BIKE & Other Signs from the Universe and  Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age - Merit Award of the 2009 Mature Media Awards
Heather's books have appeared in newspapers such as: Publishers Weekly, USA Today and the Washington Post; and in magazines that include: Body & Soul, First, and Spry Living.
Visit Heather’s website, follow Heather on Twitter, and "Like" Heather's Fan Page on Facebook.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour: Whispers from the Heart

I'd like to start off by saying thanks to author Heather Hummel and Samantha at Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours for allowing me to be part of the Whispers from the Heart blog tour!

Let's begin with the synopsis:
Whispers: The heart's way of speaking...

Madison Ragnar is a high school English teacher determined to connect with her students, to finish the next running race with a respectable time, and to avoid ever falling in love again.

But life has other plans for Madison. A man named Michael shows himself in the most unexpected places, raising questions from her best friend, Olivia, and issues around Madison's last relationship.

In the classroom, the death of a student prompts her grieving ninth graders to depend on her for answers. They turn to journal writing as a form of understanding the weight of what's happened in the walls of their teenage existence.

When Madison meets Phil, who throws a wrench in her declaration to not fall in love, it seems that her escape through miles of running is the only real footing she has in life.

Will fate determine Madison's life? Or will she have a say in its outcome?

I thought this was a really sweet book. It didn't take me long to read but I really enjoyed getting involved in the story.

As much as I enjoyed the book overall, there were just a couple of things that didn't sit well with me. Madison left a less than ideal relationship a few years prior to the start of this novel but has been paranoid about her ex tracking her down ever since. I can completely understand that but what I don't really get is how she reacts to Michael showing up all the time. Her best friend, Olivia, is completely freaked out and is convinced Michael is stalking her and was sent by Madison's ex to find her. Madison, on the other hand, appears to have absolutely no problem with Michael. I understand that she can tell that he doesn't seem like a nutter and won't hurt her, but if you're so concerned about an emotionally abusive ex finding you, shouldn't you be a little more worried? I don't know if it's just me who feels like this but the emotions surrounding Michael were a little strange to start off with. I will say though that you need to hold onto your hats when it comes to this mysterious stranger. Hummel has a wonderful twist up her sleeve that I did not see coming!

The other thing that didn't flow for me was Madison's class and the death of one of her students. While this was a good storyline, I didn't quite see how it fit with the overall plot of the novel. Madison is teaching To Kill a Mockingbird to her students and I kept waiting for an obvious connection to her life and the novel. Perhaps there was one but I missed it as...ok, ok, I confess...I've never actually read To Kill a Mockingbird. There was just something about this additional storyline involving her class that didn't quite fit in to the overarching plot of the novel. That being said, losing a classmate is a hard thing for any teenager to go through and I think Hummel did a good job of showing how her students react and how they grow up in such a short amount of time due to this tragedy. I have a feeling that the "journals" part to the series name, Journals from the Heart, relates back to the journaling that the students do. To anyone else who's read the book - do you agree?

I must say that I really did like Madison as a character. She seemed to really know herself and even realizes what her major flaw is. I liked reading about her falling in love and reconnecting with that part of herself. She offers a lot of lessons to the reader and I think everyone will come away from Whispers from the Heart with some sort of message.

Overall, I enjoyed Whispers from the Heart. I liked the journey Madison goes on and the people she meets (and falls in love with) along the way. I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the Journals from the Heart series - Write from the Heart.

Want to learn more about Heather and her books? Follow her on Twitter (@HeatherHummel) and like her fan page on Facebook.

Happy reading :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Just Finished: Overbite

Ah, vampires. Every few years it seems like they take over pop culture with their fangs and mysterious ways. To me, it seems as though the latest obsession has stemmed from Twilight and tons of teenagers are keeping the love alive for these creatures of the night. I've read Twilight and am not afraid to admit it but it wasn't the vampire storyline that really drew me to the series. (Actually, I read the series based on a ton of girls telling me that I needed to read it when I was still working at the bookstore) Anyway, vampires have never really done much for me so it may seem slightly surprising that I've Meg Cabot's vampire series. Insatiable, which came out in June 2010, was the first novel and Overbite, released just this past summer, was the second (and final) novel.

Here's the (long-ish) synopsis of Overbite  from Goodreads:

Meena Harper has a special gift, but it's only now that anyone's ever appreciated it. The Palatine Guard — a powerful secret demon-hunting unit of the Vatican — has hired her to work at their new branch in Lower Manhattan. With Meena's ability to predict how everyone she meets will die, the Palatine finally has a chance against the undead.
Sure, her ex-boyfriend was Lucien Antonescu, son of Dracula, the prince of darkness. But that was before he (and their relationship) went up in flames. Now Meena's sworn off vampires for good ... at least until she can prove her theory that just because they've lost their souls doesn't mean demons have lost the ability to love.
Meena knows convincing her co-workers — including her partner, über-demon-hunter Alaric Wulf — that vampires can be redeemed won't be easy ... especially when a deadly new threat seems to be endangering not just lives of the Palatine, but Meena's friends and family as well.
But Meena isn't the Palatine's only hope. Father Henrique — aka Padre Caliente — New York City's youngest, most charming priest, has also been assigned to the case.
So why doesn't Meena — or Alaric — trust him?
As she begins unraveling the truth, Meena finds her loyalties tested, her true feelings laid bare ... and temptations she never even imagined existed, but finds impossible to resist.
This time, Meena may finally have bitten off more than she can chew.
Wondering why I've read these vampire stories if I'm not really a fan? Because I love Meg Cabot. Always have and likely always will. I love that she writes several kinds of books and for all age groups as well (check out this impressive list of novels!) I picked up Insatiable at the library one day and enjoyed it so when I saw Overbite (again at the library) I had to read it to find out what happened to Meena, Lucien, and Alaric, along with the large cast of supporting characters.

I absolutely devoured Overbite (Yes, pun intended. Though I admit it was a fairly bad pun...). It was one of those novels that had a lot of action going on but still managed to have a good story to it as well. What I really liked about it was the historical tidbits woven into the storyline. Cabot has an author's note at the end of the novel where she explains that some of the things in the novel (the river, Palentine Guard, and so on) were based on myths and actual historical reports. I really like when novels take bits of information from history and weaves it into the fictional plot.

Apparently these novels are a modern take on Dracula. Since I've never read Dracula I can't really comment on the connections but I'd be very interested in some insights. Can anyone help me out? Amusing aside - while I was reading Overbite last week, two people I follow on Twitter were reading Dracula. Quite the coincidence! Ah - some very scientific Wikipedia research has led me to discover that it's basically only the names (Mina Harker/Meena Harper) and the fact that Lucien is Dracula's son that connects Meg Cabot's novels to the classic. Huh. Well there you have it.

I don't think I liked Overbite as much as Insatiable (and judging by all of the less than stellar Goodreads reviews, I'm not the only one) but I would still recommend the series to anyone who is looking for a good book with drama, mystery, a love triangle, and a fantasy element. They also might be a good recommendation for those Twilight Moms out there. You know the ones - they've read all the books, seen the movies, and are just as obsessed with Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner as their daughters are. This is one of those books that, for me, was an easy read but wasn't as light as my normal go-to reading.

I'd love to hear from any others who have read these books - what did you think? What about those of you who've heard of them and aren't reading them - why not?

Happy Reading! :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour: The Last Page

Welcome to another blog tour review! I was able to take part in the tour Chick Lit Plus organized for Lacy Camey and her novel The Last Page.

Let's start with the synopsis from Goodreads:

Norah Johnson is at a crossroads and is in desperate need to heal after a highly publicized breakup from her major league baseball player boyfriend. To escape, she moves to her summer home at the beach with her sister and best friend where she journals, attends therapy and works on her pending clothing line. When a gorgeous stranger finds her lost journal, he seeks to find the author and make her fall in love with him. But is Norah ready to love again?

Book 1 in the romantic comedy trilogy of living, loving, and laughing again; a Norah Johnson story.
This was a cute, fun novel that was perfect for an end of summer read (yes, I know it's October but I actually read the book over the September long weekend :) ) In the guest post Camey wrote for Books Etc. on Friday (read it here) she says "Where in my chick lit, light chick lit in my opinion, is just that, -light. Sometimes things aren’t explained as thoroughly, in attempt to keep a light story. They’re just cute stories, where you feel good, nothing major." That is exactly what The Last Page is like. Sometimes you need a light, feelgood chick lit novel and Camey definitely delivered with The Last Page.

There were a couple of things in this novel that had me...well, not annoyed but sort of wishing I could change them. The first thing was the overall flow of the book. At one point Norah makes a Gilmore Girls reference because she and her friends were all talking quickly and interrupting each other. I know my Gilmore Girls and the dialogue in The Last Page couldn't quite compare to the conversations between Lorelai and Rory. Instead of the quick pace that's easy to follow in Gilmore Girls, I was left a little bit confused with what the heck was going on between Norah and her friends. It wasn't enough to make me dislike the book but it was something that could have been smoothed out in the editing process. 

The other thing that had be slightly irked had nothing to do with the writing or even the story, it was more that Norah wasn't paying attention to the clues around her and wasn't making connections that I had already made. (Yes, I know that sounds kind of vague but I don't want to give these clues away!) There were actually a couple of points where I found myself shaking my Kobo and saying "Why can't you figure this out?!?" Like I said, I had already figured out who was who and had to wait for the slightly slower Norah to figure it out.

Even though Norah was a little slow on the uptake (and I understand why she needed to be - it would have ruined the story otherwise), I found myself becoming fond of her. She's on a real journey, therapist and all, and by the end of the novel she's become a better and more self aware person. I have to say though that I was totally jealous of her being able to work on her clothing line at a beach house. Where her sister and best friend were also able to be. Does no one have a "real" job? That's it - must find a way to be able to work at a beach house and bring my sister and best friend with me. :)

Overall, I had fun reading The Last Page and think that other chick lit fans will enjoy it as well. I'm looking forward to reading more from Lacy Camey, including the next book in the "Living, Loving, and Laughing Again" series.

Happy Reading :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Author Guest Post: Lacy Camey

I read Lacy Camey's novel The Last Page for a blog tour organized by Samantha at Chick Lit Plus. You'll get my review on Saturday but today you get to read a guest post that Lacy so kindly wrote for Books Etc. Read on to find out why she writes so many different genres. And don't forget to check back for my review of The Last Page!

The Lovely Lacy
Thanks for having me today. When it comes to watching entertaining stories via film, I’d rather watch a psychological thriller, like “Shutter Island” with Leo DiCaprio or “Inception”. (Ha, again with Leo. He’s such a good actor!) Surprising, huh? A girly girl who loves psychological thrillers over chick-lit romantic comedies? But when it comes to relaxing and watching a favorite repeat movie, I’ll watch a good chick-lit at home any day with a nice cup of tea.

There is a part of me that loves mysterious, thought provoking stories. I’m also a huge lover of researching secret societies and conspiracy theories. In 2010, I’m pretty sure I spent over 100 hours of my free time researching!

It was out of my research that I felt compelled to outline the story for “The Chosen Alpha”. The main character is 18 and a freshman in college. So, this book may be released as YA. All she wants in life is to be a respected songwriter and stay true to her personal musical style. However, she gets introduced to a powerful secret society and thinks it’s nothing but a harmless fraternity of sorts. How wrong she is…

Because I’m very impressionable, I dream every night. I have to be careful what I surround myself with because I feel it affects me. That’s why I like to stay positive because I feel it helps me stay creative, focused and on track-hence fun, light chick-lit. But a part of me can’t help but be drawn to writing this story!

Finishing the supernatural thriller will need to be written during a special time where I have the proper strength, endurance and focus. I feel torn at times with writing it because there is an element of writing about darkness that can be challenging. Yet, sometimes the only way to show light and good prevailing is to have it around the darkness, exposing it in the first place. I want to show how good triumphs over evil. I know I have a story to tell, now it’s just up to if I can handle writing it!

On other genres, my husband and I are writing currently, “The Grape Picker” – a classic love story that will be out in February 2012.

I think the writing style in “The Grape Picker” is more intricate and explanatory. There is a lot to explain in the story. Where in my chick lit, light chick lit in opinion, is just that, -light. Sometimes things aren’t explained as thoroughly, in attempt to keep a light story. They’re just cute stories, where you feel good, nothing major.

But “The Grape Picker” is a huge process, very intricate, with lots of back story. I think that will be seen physically, as well, as it’s twice the length of The Last Page! Picture the movie “A Walk in the Clouds” meets “The Notebook”. -  Lots of heart, lots of love, lots of obstacles, and lots of prejudices to overcome, but beautiful love in the end.

So why do I write in many genres? I just can’t help the so many stories I have in me to tell. I also have a modern sci-fi YA romance book idea. Imagine that. It originated out of a dream I had.

I hope if you like classic love stories like Nicholas Sparks, you’ll check out my book in February with its tentative release. If you’d like to stay up to date, please visit my website. I’d love to hear from you!