Thursday, February 23, 2012

Author Guest Post: Suzan Battah

A big thank you to author Suzan Battah for stopping by Books Etc. to share her thoughts on becoming an author. In case you missed it, check out my review of her novel Mad About the Boy here. I hope you all enjoy this post!

Chasing my Dreams of being a Bestselling Author
Well it's been a long and tough road on my way to being published and taking the independent road was exactly what I needed to do. Mad About the Boy first came about when I studied at the Australian College of Journalism. When I was 18, I begged my parents to give me as a birthday present the course Diploma of Professional Romance Writing from the ACJ and luckily they granted my wish. I learnt so much doing a structured course and my instructor was very good and encouraging.
I was a young twenty-one year old trying to sell my book and after a bad experience with a vanity press, I stopped writing for about three years before getting back into it. I worked harder and as I got older my writing got better and better. Writing is in my blood and it's a big part of my life. So for about six years after I kept putting it out there, entering competitions which I was shredded to pieces in some with very personal snarky comments about my work. However, in two competitions I placed and won awards for Mad About the Boy - this is what kept me going. I no longer care about any negativity and honestly not everyone will enjoy my style of writing or the story. There are a lot of readers in this world and lot WILL enjoy my books.

Traditional publishing no longer became an option. I had many positive comments but not enough for representation or publication. At thirty years of age I decided to go it alone and turn myself into the publisher and author. In 2011 the digital age was thriving, independent publishing was booming and authors were coming out of the closet to put their work online. I was going to do it and decided to do it well. Publicity campaigns, reviews, interviews, book trailers, cover art! All of this is fun and frustrating to organise but it's all part and parcel of walking the independent publishing line. I'm really happy with the choice I made. Publishing houses only have a certain budget to adhere to and it's very competitive- lots of really great authors out there! But I believe I'm one of them and my work deserves to be read.
With my cheer squad (family and friends) whistling and clapping, I've walked the independent publishing line and survived! Mad About the Boy is out there now, available online and in bookstores in eBook and paperback. Just like the song Mad About the Boy that I fell in love with all those years back by Dinah Washington, I'm falling in love with being an author not just a writer especially when I hear the readers respond so positively to my work. I recently had lunch in Sydney with the lovely Australian Romance Readers Association ladies and four of them were reading my book and very much enjoying it. The road I took was not traditional but independent however it has given me such freedom and joy. I'm proud to share the art of my writing with such lovely book reading bloggers, going on tour and hearing the honesty in the reviews. This is my road to Bestselling Success - I have faith in my dream and you as the readers are all part of it. Enjoy Mad About the Boy, it's funny, dramatic with such raw emotion and full of passionate romance. Julia and Christophe go on one big rollercoaster ride called life, their journey is amazing and I loved writing it!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Author Post: Kay Bratt

Author Kay Bratt is currently on tour with CLP Blog Tours and she was kind enough to stop by Books Etc. with a guest post. While I have not read her novel Chasing China (yet) I wanted to participate in this tour include a post from her on here because I wanted the rest of you to find out a little bit more about her because she's doing some pretty amazing work.

Here's a brief bio:

Kay Bratt is a child advocate and author, residing near the base of Wacau Mountain, in the rolling hills of Georgia with her husband, daughter, dog, and cat. In addition to coordinating small projects for the children of China, Kay is an active volunteer for An Orphans Wish (AOW). Kay lived in China for over four years and because of her experiences working with orphans, she strives to be the voice for children who cannot speak for themselves. Kay kicked off her career as an author with her best selling memoir titled Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. Since that time she has been writing material to entertain readers while raising awareness of world issues. Kay is the author of The Bridge, Mei Li and The Wise Laoshi, and an upcoming novel titled A Thread Unbroken.

Now, for the guest post. Enjoy!
Opening Eyes Around Me
It’s no secret that I am enthralled with the Chinese people and their country after spending almost five years living there and working in an orphanage. Going on a decade now, I have been a staunch advocate for children—especially those who are orphans.
The premise for my novel Chasing China came to me after I read an article on a popular Chinese web site and then later the New York Times about the latest child-trafficking scandal to rock the world of international adoption. Rumors were rampant for years but finally proof was found that government officials seized children and later allowed them to be adopted by families located overseas. Like many around the world, my heart went out to the birth families of the children involved, as well as to the unknowing adoptive parents who thought they were bringing home an abandoned child who needed a family. Though I believe the actual numbers of cases where this has happened is quite small in relation to inner country trafficking, I also think even one child is one too many to be snatched unfairly from their families.
In writing Chasing China, my first goal was to raise awareness about a travesty happening on the other side of the world—to open eyes around me. However, as an author I wanted to do it while also engaging the reader in a captivating story of just one Chinese adoptee who by all counts is as American as anyone around her, but inside struggles to figure out who she really is. I really hope that Mia will pull on the heartstrings of readers and they will follow her along in her journey to find the truth.

And, in case you're interested, here's a little bit about Chasing China. Don't forget to check out the CLP Blog Tour page to see what other bloggers have to say about this novel.

Chasing China Blurb:Mia is beautiful, talented and has the world at her fingertips. But what makes her different than the average college student who juggles a heavy workload and a rat of a boyfriend? Many years ago she was born to an unknown family in China but soon discarded to fend for herself in a busy train station. Fate stepped in when Mia was taken to the local orphanage and adopted at the age of four by her American family. Life has been good for her, or at least as much as she has allowed it to be while pushing her deep feelings of abandonment to the back of her mind. Finally she has decided that in order to move forward, she must confront her past. Mia takes a journey to the mysterious land of her birth and embarks on a mission to find answers. As she follows the invisible red thread back through her motherland, she is enamored by the history and culture of her heritage--strengthening her resolve to get to the truth, even as Chinese officials struggle to keep it buried. With her unwavering spirit of determination, Mia battles the forces stacked against her and faces mystery, danger, a dash of romance, and finally a conclusion that will change her life.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour: Mad About the Boy

It's another stop on a CLP Blog Tour! Welcome to my review of Mad About the Boy by Suzan Battah. When you're all done reading my reviews, make sure you head over to the CLP Tour page to see what other bloggers had to say about this novel.

Now, without further ado, here's the synopsis of the book:
Julia Mendoza is driven by the success of her business. Since her husband Carlos passed away at such a young age, her business By Design is her number one priority. In her late twenties she works too hard and doesn’t take time out for fun. Annoyance with a pesky ex-friend has her begging one of the local surfer’s with a cheeky smile in the grocery store to pretend he’s her boyfriend. Suddenly, life takes a sudden detour from her business plan; much to the delight of her boisterous Latin American family.
Christophe Augustine is groomed to take over his father’s successful chain of luxurious hotels. With a wealthy French-American background, Chris has been given privileges that not many have. He works hard, plays harder but seeks approval and recognition above all else. Family is a top priority for him as he fights for custody of his young brother. His parent’s divorce has not diminished his faith in romance. When a gorgeous Latino woman changes one boring morning into an interesting game of role play, though reluctant to help at first, he soon realises she’s not like the string of other women he’s known.
A romantic first date ending dramatically doesn’t stop Chris from wanting to know Julia more. And for Julia, she’s all for a bit of fun but when things get too serious she’s running the other way. Too alike, in some ways and complete opposites, in others ways, Julia and Chris fumble through fun moments, annoying confrontations, passionate times and heartbreaking revelations.
Love has no boundaries when soul-mates meet but when one is ready to love and the other one isn’t...
This was one of those books that was fun to read but wasn't quite amazing enough for me to put it on my "must recommend" list. I think a large part of that comes from the way the book was written. There were a few times that I found myself mentally editing the book and I wished that it had been cleaned up just a little bit more. For me it was mostly a flow issue. Sometimes events occurred that seemed a little bit out of order or totally out of the blue. I could sort of make the connections but I wanted more background or explanation to what had happened.

Julia had a great support system of friends and family. She goes through a lot in this novel and everyone is there for her every step of the way. I particularly loved Randy and Boric. They were so completely outrageous and amazing. I really liked when Boric and Julia were spying on Chris at the monkey jungle. I actually burst out laughing when Boric said they were looking for the blonde monkey. I know that won't make much sense to those who haven't read this book but trust me, it was funny :)

Even with the few writing issues, I still found myself invested in Julia and her journey with Chris. I sometimes wondered what the heck she was thinking by not revealing all of her past to him but I could tell that she was really struggling with her feelings and that really came through as I was reading. This definitely wasn't an easy romance as many curve balls are thrown at the couple along the way but I liked that. It wasn't predictable and I looked forward to seeing how Battah wrapped things up.

Overall, I had fun reading Mad About the Boy even though I didn't love it. I think I'll still try to check out what Suzan Batthah comes out with in the future because this story grabbed me even if the writing didn't. I'd recommend this one for a summer read - it'd be a great beach read!

Happy reading :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Just Finished: Valentine Delights - Be Mine

First, let me just say that this review of Valentine Delights: Be Mine was supposed to go up on Tuesday, you know, Valentine's Day. Due to a ton of crazy things happening in my life I haven't had time until today. So, find your time machine and put yourself back into a Valentine's Day mood, ok? Ok.

Oh, Valentine's Day. It's a holiday that draws oh so much criticism. Is it a Hallmark holiday that only makes businesses richer? Or is it a nice excuse to spoil your loved one, whether it be with roses or breakfast in bed? I always loved giving out and getting Valentines in elementary school and then I was the resident candy heart giver outer starting in high school and carrying on through university. Personally, I don't do much of anything for Valentine's Day. Part of that could be the fact that my boyfriend and I have hardly ever been in the same city for the holiday in the almost seven years we've been dating and part could be that I'm not one who needs all the fancy schmancy romance stuff. I think spending the night together doing whatever you love doing is the best way to celebrate. And there should be chocolate. Lots of chocolate :)

Now that you know a little bit more about me and my thoughts on V-Day, let's get moving on the review!

Here's a quick little synopsis of the stories in this anthology, from Goodreads:

The Coroner’s Heart by Jillian Chantal
Making a Valentine’s Day candy heart from Jell-o is easy for this coroner, performing an autopsy on a real heart is even easier, but what happens when her own heart is at risk? 
Latte Love by Jennifer Daiker
When Charlie's secret admirer orders more than just a steamy latte this Valentine's Day, the secrets have never been sweeter. 
Change Of Heart by Liberty Blake
After the night they spent in the hot tub, Melody believed her new man wanted a relationship, but now it was Valentine's Day and not even a phone call. Did he have a Change of Heart?

As I mentioned in my recent review of  Snowbound Hearts (also published by Still Moments Publishing), I really like when anthologies have a theme. Obviously this one was all about Valentine's Day (aren't you glad I spelled that out for you?). I have to say that I didn't like Valentine Delights quite as much as Snowbound Hearts but I still enjoyed reading the three stories in this collection. I didn't have an overwhelming favourite story this time either so I'm just going to give some quick thoughts on each story.

When I read "The Coroner's Heart" I had a mix of TV characters in my head when I was picturing the coroner. It was a mix of Abby from NCIS, Brennan and Cam from Bones, and Lanie from Castle. Kind of amusing, right? I liked this story because it was a case of working with someone and then suddenly realizing that there was a romantic connection there.

"Latte Love" featured a secret admirer and I really liked that. I was just as curious and intrigued as Charlie and couldn't wait too find out who had been sending her such sweet gifts!

"Change of Heart" is an example of why communication is key. Note to the guys: always find out why your girl doesn't like celebrating Valentine's Day. Is it because she truly doesn't like it or is it because she's never had a good experience with it? Sweet (and steamy!) ending to this one.

All in all, I was happy reading Valentine Delights: Be Mine and I will pay attention to other themed anthologies that Still Moments Publishing comes out with. Want to check this one out for yourself? You can get it from the publisher's website here or on Smashwords.

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day and had lots and lots of delicious chocolate! :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

February Chick Lit Challenge Read: J'adore New York

J'Adore New York by Isabelle Lafleche was one of those books that I had seen on the shelf at the bookstore for ages but just never got around to picking up. The cover was what got me - the pink really pops so it was hard not to notice it. I ended up winning this copy when the book was being released in the US (yep, us Canadians had early access to this one as it was published here in 2010) so I was happy to finally have the chance to read it. While it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, I still really enjoyed reading it.

Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Offered the chance to transfer to her law firm's New York City office, stylish Parisian lawyer Catherine Lambert jumps at the opportunity--a fashion devotee with her finger on the pulse of style, she sets her sights on conquering Manhattan's high-flying worlds of glamour, law, and love tout de suite. But soon, the non-stop New York minute filled with monster bosses, lecherous clients, and vindictive secretaries begins to take its toll. That is, until one handsome and powerful client begins to change her world for the better...only to throw it all into jeopardy with one surprising request. Perfect for fans of "Bridget Jones's Diary," "The Devil Wears Prada," and "Sex in the City," Isabelle Lafleche's breakout novel "J'adore New York " is a rollercoaster of struggle and romance from the city where dreams come true.
The story really focused on Catherine's career and I think that's why I didn't love it as much as I thought I would. Lawyers have no time for anything other than work so all of her romantic involvements and friendships are with other lawyers or people somehow connected to her through law. All the drama led back to her office which was ok but I think I would have liked a little more outside life in the story.

Even though I wasn't totally in love with this book I still found myself desperately needing to find out what was going to happen with Catherine. I could not turn the pages fast enough so I could read what was going to happen next. I think this has everything to do with how Lafleche wrote Catherine's story. Her writing hooked me and I couldn't get enough. I loved reading about Catherine so much and I am so happy that there's a sequel coming (J'Adore Paris for those who are curious). I can't wait until it's released!

I think many others will enjoy Lafleche's debut novel - especially those who like chick lit but sometimes want it to be a little more in depth. This book focuses on romance and fashion (Catherine's French, what do you expect?) but also on struggles in the working world and how to navigate life as a lawyer. It's got a little bit of everything and I really liked that.

This was my second read for the Chick Lit Plus Challenge. I'm loving that this challenge is letting me get to the books that have been sitting on my shelf for ages! Overall, I really did like reading J'Adore New York and I will be anxiously waiting to read Isabelle Lafleche's next novel.

Bonne lecture! :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Just Finished: Snowbound Hearts

My favourite thing about reading short story collections is that you get a taste of many authors in one lovely package. Snowbound Hearts (published by Still Moments Publishing) was a very lovely package and I am so glad I got the chance to read this anthology. A big thank you to one of the authors Jen Daiker (the very talented voice behind the blog Unedited, check it out here!) for sending me the collection.

Here's a quick snapshot of what this collection holds:
Sophie’s Snow Day by Jillian Chantal 
“A snowstorm can be a life changing event. Just ask Sophie.”
Snowbanked by Jennifer Daiker
“Returning home can hold the best surprises, especially when love is involved.”

The White Lion by Maggie Devine
“When Pub owner Sophie Ashford clashes with the new Lord of the Manor, Shane Smith, a secret past is unearthed and a new love erupts...”
Winter Twilight by Shannon O’Brien
“Can a secret, up and coming rock musician reawaken a young woman's passion while she fumbles her way through a strange city and new life?”
I've discovered that I really like when anthologies have a theme. Usually I read Christmas books (I'm mildly obsessed with Christmas collections...) but after reading this book I've realized that I'm open to just about anything. In Snowbound Hearts each story features a big snow storm which results in the characters being snowed in. There's something very romantic about being snowed in with loved ones and this collection takes advantage of that. Usually the snow looks fresh and clean and pretty (even though it's wreaking havoc on the world outside) and you can watch the world become white while snuggled up in your house - bonus points if you have a fireplace!

I was really happy with this collection. There wasn't a story that I didn't like and that's something that I'm always afraid of - reading a few great stories and then coming to one that I just can't get into. However, there were two that stood out more for me - "Snowbanked" and "The White Lion".

"The White Lion" took place in a small town British pub. Sophie was spunky and had a great personality that enchanted Shane just as much as me. I loved the bantering and the witty conversations, especially between Sophie and her uncle, and there were several times I found myself laughing out loud. I think what I liked most about this story was the crazy twist Devine came up with. I was quite proud of myself for figuring it out but maybe I'm thinking too highly of myself... :) I liked that I went into this story expecting one happy ending and instead I got two...a great bonus!

Since Jennifer was the one who sent me a copy of the book I told myself that I wouldn't play favourites and would be as fair as I always am in my reviews. Turns out I absolutely adored her story and it was my favourite in this collection. This story also made me realize that I love the returning home stories - when a guy or girl leaves behind their small home town and their love interest to run away to the big city, only to return and realize what they've been missing. There are a couple of lines I just have to share from this story because I loved them so much:
"Snowflakes trickled outside the oversized windows while the chocolatey goodness brewed into the glass mug"
Can't you just picture yourself there, looking out at the snowflakes falling, and waiting for a tasty hot chocolate?
"You're the most gorgeous klutz I've ever met."
"I'm the only one you've ever met."
"And the only one I fell in love with."
 *swoon* I think love this because I'm such a klutz too. It's a little cheesy but it works with the story.

Overall, I really liked Snowbound Hearts and I encourage everyone to go buy it. You can get it from the Still Moments Publishing site or Smashwords and since it's only $3.99 you have no excuse not to purchase it. Stay tuned for my review of the next anthology Jennifer Daiker is a part of - Valentine Delights - I'm really looking forward to it!

Happy reading :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Just Finished: Fake Perfect Me

I love reading books that surprise me with a fantastic underlying message and Fake Perfect Me by Cari Kamm was one of those books for me. I had a feeling I'd probably enjoy the novel but I had no idea that I would go on such a journey with Isabella and that was so great.

Here's the synopsis, courtesy of Goodreads:

Isabella Reynolds seems to have it all the former Southern belle with big dreams is the head of her own skin care company and is the self-proclaimed queen of all things beautiful in New York City. Then her world comes crashing down, and she is stripped of everything she loves her man, the Italian litigator "Saint" Santo; her company, and even her beloved dog, Potato. With her penchant for bingeing and purging, how can she turn her life around when she still feels the need to maintain her "perfect" facade?
"Fake Perfect Me," author Cari Kamm's heart-warming--and often heartwrenching--tale of a successful New Yorker and her inner circle, offers an inside look at a world of excess. Isabella Reynolds may seem unlike anyone you've ever known, but at her core, she's instantly recognizable. Her trials and tribulations, her ups and downs, are much the same as anyone's. Her world may have a high price tag, but its true value comes from its losses and love one's self.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book is a little strange but I hope others who read this had the same thought. Isabella is incredibly rich so she's able to eat at whatever restaurants she wants to eat at and shop at the best designer boutiques and travel whenever and wherever she likes. Once I realized how much money Isabella had, I was a little worried that she would be snobby and annoying. I had no need to worry - she's incredibly likeable and I could see myself being friends with her...even though her Monolo Blahnik obsession could keep a roof over my head for months! Reading about Isabella's lavish life was great. It was sort of like Kamm thought about what almost every woman would love to be able to do (eat the best food, shop at the best stores) and just went with it without worrying about practicalities. We know money isn't an issue with Isabella so it doesn't become an issue with the reader either. We get an insider look into the way the other half live and it's a lot of fun.

I loved Isabella. While I'd never be able to fully know what her life is like, I felt like I could really identify with her. She's so real - apart from the fact that she's hiding her bulimia from her friends. I'm happy with how that issue eventually gets resolved but I really wish she had had a friend that was brave enough to approach her about her problem as I'm convinced they knew about it. She's dealing with so much and, even though I don't really approve of some of her coping mechanisms (drinking yourself into oblivion over and over again isn't the best plan), she eventually realizes how much harm she's doing and comes across a great way to heal herself.

As I mentioned earlier, this book had a fantastic message. There's really no such thing as "perfect" even though many women (probably all women, to some degree) strive to be so. This novel shows the struggle one woman goes through and I think most readers should be able to find something in Isabella's journey to identify with. This book really made me think about how I portray myself to others and how I really feel about myself. The novel could have become too preachy or self help-y but Kamm does a magnificent job of making sure it didn't stray into that territory. What the book ends up being is a fantastic fictional story with a wonderful message - learn to truly love yourself and embrace who you really are.

Thank you to Cari Kamm for arranging to have a copy sent to me for a review. I really appreciated getting the chance to read this novel. I definitely recommend this one to all females, even if they don't usually read chick lit-esque novels. Fake Perfect Me provides a great story, a wonderful protagonist, and a beautiful message. Read it. You won't regret it.

Happy reading! :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Author Guest Post: Romi Moondi

A big thank you to Romi Moondi for stopping by to chat about what she's up to this year. If you missed it, I reviewed her novel Year of the Chick on Tuesday as part of a CLP Blog Tour (you can read my review here). I hope you enjoy this guest post as much as I did!

"Sequel-ing" in 2012

Hi Kaley, thanks for giving me a chance to talk about what "writing life" will be in 2012!


…In 2009, writing my "Year of the Chick" blog into an edgy chick-lit novel was THE most exciting concept ever.

As 2012 begins, the thrill of writing the sequel trumps the first.

Perhaps it's because like in "Year of the Chick," an "inspired by real life" story continues, with a plot for book two that means the world to me.

It could also be the fact that I already wrote the sequel.

Last year.

As a screenplay.

I know that sounds like a topsy-turvy thing, since you only ever hear of books written first then adapted into screenplays after. Besides which, I'd never even written a screenplay in my whole frickin' life!

Needless to say, in March 2011, it was not in my plans to write a screenplay.

But I didn't really have a choice.

Now let me be clear, I was not chained to a typewriter by some over-zealous director who was forcing me to pump out the word count. Instead it was little ol' me, this freshly broken-hearted girl, who thought to herself "the last six months felt exactly like a movie…so why not write one?"

And then it began…the books I bought on how to write screenplays, the reading of free screenplays that were available online…I was obsessed. Two months, many late nights, and several writing sessions at Starbucks later, I had done it.

A fictional screenplay called "Best Before," somewhat inspired by real life.

Once I was finished, I had no idea what to do with it. I just knew that I'd obeyed the muse, so I was happy. So happy in fact, that I forked over some cash to enter international screenplay competitions.

Just for fun.

To my surprise, I advanced in seven screenplay contests in 2011. From finalist showings, to semi-finals, to top 5%, to top 15, I was overjoyed. The results made it clear that my sequel to "Year of the Chick" had just been written without my knowing.

And it all began on a whim in March 2011.


So here I am, ready to roll up my sleeves, and turn a screenplay that means so much to me into the sequel of "Year of the Chick." I am proud to add a second installment to the "Year of the Chick" series, since that very first novel was the first full-length thing that meant the world to me.

I hope this series will mean something to a lot of readers too.