Saturday, May 26, 2012

Just Finished: The Tall Book

Calling all tall people! I have found a book that you MUST read. No exceptions. I heard about The Tall Book by Arianne Cohen a few years ago, finally bought it close to a year ago, and have just gotten around to reading it (and full disclosure, it's taken a few weeks to get this review up too!). I don't know why I waited so long because I loved it. LOVED it. Let's get to the synopsis and then I'll tell you why I was so obsessed with this book.

Here's what the book is all about:
Tall people: Smart. Wealthy. Successful. U.S. Presidents, Oscar Winners, NBA players, CEOs.
Scrunched into airplane seats. Unable to find good clothes. Why?
In this, the first book of its kind, Arianne Cohen—all 6’3" of her—takes us on a tour of the tall world, traveling from endocrinologists’ offices to the annual European Tall Club Convention to unlock the mysteries at the center of talldom: why do tall people succeed professionally, financially and intellectually far more than others? Why are tall men the most successful dating and mating group on earth, while tall women have low birth rates? And who the hell is behind those airplane seats?
Part investigation and part personal story, The Tall Book follows Arianne as she circles the globe, meeting the tallest people in the world, questioning them on how to raise a well-adjusted tall kid, and yes, becoming one half of America’s tallest couple.
I am tall. 6' to be exact. Because of this, I found myself constantly nodding and agreeing with what Arianne was writing. Desks being too short in school? Check. Unable to find clothes (especially pants) that fit? Check. Not being able to see your head in some mirrors? Check. Banging your knees against the front of the elliptical machine? Check. I could go on and on and on but the point is that most tall people have similar problems and it was so awesome to have a book completely dedicated to being tall.

I don't usually read a lot of non-fiction. There's no real reason for this, mostly that I just tend to stay to the fiction side of the book store unless there's a topic that really interests me or I have a personal connection with. The Tall Book wasn't your typical research book because Arianne peppered her facts and figures with personal anecdotes. This made the book much more interesting and humorous.

At the very front of the book is a chart with average heights of men and women aged 30-39. Women are, on average, about 5'4"-5'5". Men are about 5'10" on average. I've always known I'm above average height but it's something else to see numbers confirm that you're taller than the average male. Though, my days in high school should have tipped me off. There were only a handful of boys who were my height or slightly taller. There was one notable exception - a guy who was 6'7". Other than him, I either looked down at the boys I went to school with or were at eye level. I was the tallest person at prom, for crying out loud. I always thought that I'd be single when I went away to university and then I'd find myself a varsity basketball player. In fact, in the little write up next to my grad pictures in the yearbook I wrote "Desperately Seeking: Tall boys and long pants." You may laugh but they're both hard to come by. Of course, life intervened and I ended up dating a guy just before graduation and we're still together 7 years later. Oh, and I'm 4" taller - and neither of us care :)

Accompanying this chart is a bit of a disclaimer: "Because everyone asks: What is the definition of tall? You are tall if you're taller than the people around you. Height is relative." I think this is so true. Sure, I know there are women out there who are taller than me but I also know I'm on the gawking side of tall. Kids are the best. There have been numerous times that I've been out shopping where a child has seen me, looked way up, and said "Woooow. Mommy! She's really tall!" The parents are always embarrassed and apologize but I kind of love it. Of course, I have a double standard and it sometimes drives me nuts when an adult says, "Wow, you're really tall!" as if I have no idea I'm 6'. I can let it slide with a kid because they don't really know any better. An adult should realize that I know that I'm tall. There are some days that I desperately want to say, "Holy crap! You're right! No wonder I hit my head off so many things." Sigh. If only that were socially acceptable.

NBA Restaurant at Universal.
That's my hand in Sheryl Swoopes' print!
There's a section of this book that talks just about athletics and height. It's incredibly interesting. I'm lucky as I don't get annoyed by the question "Did you play basketball/volleyball in high school?" as I actually did play both. As I learned reading this book, a lot of tall folk get asked that and it's incredibly frustrating to them because those who ask automatically assume all tall people are blessed with the talent to play those sports. There's a definite advantage to being tall in those sports but that doesn't mean you're awesome just because you're tall. I'm your proof. Sure, I was quite good at basketball and played all through elementary and high school. But I never had the skills to go further than that. Sometimes, when I feel like blaming others, I say it's because I was never taught proper ball handling skills when I first started out in grade five. I was always tall so the coaches stuck me at forward (the tall person position) and never thought to make sure I knew how to dribble. Of course, if I really wanted to I could have taught myself but I was never ambitious enough. Ah well. :)

I'm sure I drove my boyfriend nuts with all the little tidbits I was learning when I was reading this book. But they were so interesting that I just had to share! For example...
  • Tall people make more money. After 5'6" for every inch you would make an average of $789 more. (Based on data from the US from a few years ago.) And, in case you were curious, "there is some evidence that, NBA players notwithstanding, income does not increase indefinitely and flattens out at 6'6""
  • Presidents are tall. And the taller candidate almost always wins the election.
  • Oscar winning Best Actors and Actresses "average three inches above the average American." Fun fact: I am taller than every Best Actress winner and am taller than Russell Crowe, Robert De Niro, Kevin Spacey, Humphrey Bogart (shorter than Ingrid Bergman!), and Dustin Hoffman - among others.
There were lots of fun facts that I learned and I could keep spouting them off to you but I won't. Mostly because I don't feel like typing any more of them and partly because I think you should read the book yourself to learn all sorts of other info :)

All in all, I had an awesome time reading The Tall Book by Arianne Cohen. I've decided that I must travel to the Netherlands as things are better suited for tall people. Of course, I have to squish myself into the tiny airplane seats to get there...

Happy reading! :)

 The Tall Book Buy from Indigo
 Buy from

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Guest Post: Dianne Venetta

I'd like to thank Dianne Venetta, author of Jennifer's Garden for writing this interesting guest post for Books Etc. She gets asked a lot if the gardening in the novel comes from her own green thumb. Read on to see if that's the case!

Many who read Jennifer's Garden want to know how my love of gardening played into the writing of Jennifer’s Garden.  The answer to this question lies in this guest post.  Enjoy!

"A woman will bloom in time…" is a play on words that epitomizes my core belief: women are unique and beautiful and follow a life path unlike any other. Comparing ourselves to others is a waste of time, because we don't walk in their shoes. We borrow them, but we don't own them. She's going to have to make her own way in life. I'm simply her guide on how best to go about choosing which direction is right for her.
And this is the way it was meant to be. Not all tomatoes sprout at the same time. Squash grow in a variety of sizes and shapes and color. Trust me. I grew a zucchini once that turned into a pumpkin, right before my very eyes. Beats the heck out of me, but I've learned not to fight Mother Nature. While she has a sense of humor, she doesn't appreciate back talk.
While this wasn’t the first novel I wrote – that one was the story of a mother-daughter relationship, one that needed healing but wouldn't—until the women involved learned to accept who they were, why they affected each other and how they could move forward together in an intimate and loving relationship; the way nature intended. Eventually, I will publish the story; for my daughter.
The garden analogy is actually the result of a brief hiatus I took from writing a few years back. After an exceptionally tough rejection (apparently my thick-skin was thinning) I had to "step away from the beast" so to speak, and regain my perspective and objectivity about the craft of writing. No better place for me than outdoors!
However, while out gardening my mind never quit. I have a bad case of the "busy mind" anyway, but all sorts of thoughts took flight in my brain between my rows of corn and tomatoes and next thing you know, a new blog was born called BloominThyme. It journals my foray into the realm of organic gardening, my lessons learned, creatures discovered—including the antics of two kids and a dog along the way!
But the garden is also where my stories grew roots, in my heart and in my mind. Stories about a woman's personal growth and maturity, these were books I wanted to write. I'm sure it stems from my desire to be a good role model for my daughter; sharing with her the mistakes I've made, decisions that went well, the endless palette of choices that await her."

Blog Tour: Jennifer's Garden

Welcome to my stop on the A Cozy Reader's Corner organized blog tour for Jennifer's Garden by Dianne Venetta. I'm so very glad Tiffany contacted me to be part of this tour because I really liked this book!

Here's the synopsis:

JENNIFER’S GARDEN epitomizes the showdown between a career woman’s criteria for the perfect husband and what true love means.
In a race against time, cardiologist Jennifer Hamilton is caught between her mother’s dying wish and taking the risk of a lifetime with Jackson Montgomery. He’s the man hired to complete the landscaping for her new home; the venue for her upcoming wedding. Jackson’s everything she never wanted in a man, but as the job progresses, his lure pulls strong. It’s an attraction she cannot deny.
And one that puts her career on the line.

It took me a little while to really like Jennifer - but I suspect that was supposed to happen. Like Jackson, I found her cold and closed off but I knew there was more to her than met the eye. She was facing a lot of stress due to her mother's illness and imminent death and I could tell that's where a lot of her standoffish behaviour came from. I was worried for a bit that I wasn't going to like her at all because she acted atrociously to Jackson. For someone who seems to have such high standards she doesn't seem to have any manners. She was incredibly prejudiced towards him and that drove me absolutely crazy. He's a landscape architect and she seemed too think he needed to show up in a suit and tie. Um. Right. Not sure where she got that idea. Anyway, she eventually saw sense, thank goodness!

The story in this novel was really sweet but also very sad. It was hard to read at parts when Jennifer was worrying abut what she was going to do without her mother. I admit I teared up a bit after her mother passed away which shows I was invested in Jennifer's story.

I wish the situation with Jennifer's old boyfriend was explained a little more. They dated when they were teens and he was the reason she never gave into passion and instead chose a man who ticked all the right boxes. Because of how the fallout with this boy was explained I first thought that her father was not a very decent man. It seemed like he completely flew off the handle - more so than a father normally would when he catches his daughter with a boy. As it turns out, her father was a good man and the story of how her parents almost weren't able to get married was quite sweet.

There were a few parts where the flow of the story was a bit awkward, such as a chapter ending in mid conversation. It wasn't a cliffhanger type discussion but the chapter was ended in an awkward  place. The only other thing I found odd was the Greek tycoon storyline. I don't think it really added anything to the story at all. (PS I know this is kind of vague but there's a bit of a twist, albeit a strange one, with this and I don't want to give anything away.)

Overall though I really liked reading about Jennifer's life and going through the troubling times with her. She is such a good person and it made me so happy to see everything work out for her in the end. I'm now looking forward to reading Lust on the Rocks which features Sam, Jennifer's best friend. Stay tuned for a guest post from Dianne Venetta as well!

Happy reading :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May Chick Lit Challenge Read: One Day in May

One Day in May by Catherine Alliott may be one of my favourite chick lit reads of the year so far! I decided to read it for this month's Chick Lit Plus Challenge read because it's May and since the book has "May" in the title I found it fitting. It's been sitting on my shelf for awhile but I'm glad I finally got around to reading it because I really enjoyed it!

Here's the synopsis:
One fine day in May, Hattie's life changes for ever... Single mother Hattie has plenty of reasons to be happy. Her antiques business is flourishing, her teenage son is settled at boarding school and she’s enjoying a fling with a younger, very sexy man. But when her job takes her back to the idyllic village of Little Crandon, painful memories of her first love - Dominic Forbes, the married politician she worked for years ago, the man who changed the course of her life – come flooding back... Things come to a head when Hattie bumps into Dominic’s widow and his gorgeous younger brother, Hal, in the village and she finds her world turned upside down. Will Hattie come clean about what really happened with Dominic all those years ago? And, if she does, is she ready to face the consequences? Whatever happens, Hattie comes to realize that you can’t keep running from your mistakes. It’s time to move on and maybe, just maybe, let herself fall in love again…
I'm a huge fan of British/Irish chick lit. I have some favourites - Matthews, O'Flanagan, Ahern - and I think Alliott may end up on this list as well. I read A Crowded Marriage ages ago and liked it. I recently reviewed Rural Affair over at Novel Escapes but unfortunately that one didn't do much for me (you can read the review here). I still wanted to give One Day in May a try (it was waiting patiently on my shelf, after all) and I found it to be Brit chick lit at it's finest. I'm not sure why I love these kinds of books so much. It could be because the setting and language is just a little bit different from what I know here in Canada. Some chick lit books are just so generic in their location so it's nice to be plopped in the English countryside and be able to take a quick jaunt over to France for a few scenes. It's something different than NYC or LA and I really appreciate that.

There was a lot going on in this novel but I never felt lost or that there was too much happening. There's a flashback portion at the beginning as we learn about how Hattie came to adopt Seffy and go into business with Maggie. And of course, we also learn the details of the very brief affair with Dominic. Everything was woven together well and even though my co-worker (who had borrowed my copy last month to read on vacay and loved it too) warned me that it started slow, I didn't find that to be the case.

There are many delightful characters in this novel. Hattie has a large but lovely family - son, parents, brother, sister, brother-in-law, two nieces, and a nephew. She also has Maggie, her slightly abrasive but well meaning BFF, long time friend Christian, and boy toy Ivan. It is so clear that Hattie cares deeply for everyone in her life and they, in turn, care for her. The family dynamic is so great in this novel and is one of my favourite parts of the book.

I'm usually able to figure out the end result of most chick lit novels but One Day in May totally threw me for a loop. There were a couple of things that I did NOT see coming at all and I loved that. And that's all you'll get out of me on that. No spoilers here! :)

I always know a book is really good when I HAVE to pass along the book to my mom as soon as I'm finished. Catherine Alliot's One Day in May is one of those books and it will be heading home with me for the long weekend. It was a fun, sweet, and moving story and I definitely recommend it to all chick lit lovers!

Happy reading :)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

All Hail the Queens of Chick Lit!

The unofficial chick lit crown
Quick - name a chick lit author!

*hums Jeopardy theme song*

I bet you either thought of Sophie Kinsella or Emily Giffin. Am I right? If I'm not, just humour me and nod at your computer screen, ok? My point is that these two are usually the first to be named in the list of chick lit authors and my own list is no exception.

I find that when chick lit lovers are trying to describe what kinds of books they like but either aren't familiar with the term "chick lit" or don't like using it, they'll usually say, "You know, books like Confessions of a Shopaholic." I do it too, mainly because naming some of the other chick lit authors I've read would be met with blank stares. It's also because that book, and Kinsella's others, seems to have become synonymous with the genre. Everyone knows what you mean when you talk about Shopaholic.

I'm sure part of the reason Giffin and Kinsella are among the chick lit royals is because they've been around for so long. Their novels have had staying power even when the future of the genre is unknown. Personally I don't think we'll ever see the death of chick lit but that's a whole other discussion. :) Anyway, these ladies have built up a loyal fan base and have helped pave the way for many other authors in the genre.

I've read all of Giffin's books (CANNOT WAIT for her new one) and all of Kinsella's, and even some of her books written under Madeleine Wickham. I thoroughly enjoy both authors but for slightly different reasons.

When I read Kinsella I know I'm going to encounter seemingly flighty and unintelligent but very fun characters. I may not particularly like or understand them at the beginning but by the end of the book I want to be their friend.

Giffin's novels tend to be a touch heavier and often deal with infidelity. I know that some scenes will be tough to read but the story gets me (in a good way) almost every time.

Speaking of Sophie Kinsella/Madeleine Wickham - I am one who definitely enjoys Kinsella's novels more. I have no idea why as they're written by the same author but something about the Wickham books just doesn't do it for me. I know other people who are the opposite, others who don't have a preference, and still others who have no idea Wickham and Kinsella are the same author. What camp do you fall into?

Of course there are many other authors who write novels that can be considered chick lit and many of them should be included in the genre's royal family. Here are some of my other favourites: Meg Cabot, Carole Matthews, Sheila O'Flanagan, Jennifer Weiner, Beth Kendrick, and Cecelia Ahern. These are just the well known authors. A few of my newer (to me) chick lit-esque favourites are: Heather Wardell, Samantha March, Kathleen Kole, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, Anne McAneny, and J.F. Kristin.

Obviously there are a lot of amazing chick lit authors out there. They all bring something different to the genre which keeps things interesting. The formula may be similar but great genre writers know how to work it so the story is fresh and gives something amazing to their readers.

I'd love to hear who your favourite chick lit authors are. What makes them great to you?

And, just as a refresher, here are the lovely blogs that are associate with International Chick Lit Month, which is what inspired this post.

Official site
Chick Lit Club
Chick Lit is Not Dead
Chick Lit Central

Happy reading! :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Just Finished: Dogs Have Angels Too

Folks, this is going to be a short and not so sweet review. There comes a time when every reader happens upon a book that just doesn't do a thing for them. Unfortunately, Dogs Have Angels Too by Sarah Cavallaro was that book for me. I really wanted to like it but I just couldn't.

Here's the synopsis:

In the dog-eat-dog world of recessionary New York City, the irrepressible Miss Pink leads a pack of down-on-their-luck women, who ultimately find hope in the most unlikely of places: an over-crowded animal shelter, where unwanted pets are routinely abandoned to their grim fates. Miss Pink, a former marketing executive and divorcee who's intermittently homeless herself, makes it her mission to find homes for a growing bevy of cuddly canines. Her "adoption walks" bring her to meet a series of fellow New Yorkers, all of whom are struggling with their own personal and financial crises. In other words, they are all uniquely ripe or recruitment in Miss Pink's master plan- which she's devising on the fly, by the seat of her favorite pink pants! 

I liked the idea of this book - seeing what happens to someone who got laid off during the recession and how they try to pick themselves up, over and over again. It was also interesting to see the animal shelter side of things too. I'm not a hardcore animal lover but I hate the idea of animals having to be put down because their owners decided that they were too much work or the thought that people abuse their animals. I never really thought too much about who looks after those animals in the shelters and this novel has made me think about it a little bit more - and that's a good thing.

But - and it's a big but - I found it really hard to read this book. Right at the start the author notes that it was based off a screenplay and I think that's the issue. It sort of reads as a script - the conversations don't flow on the page but I could sort of see how it would work on screen or stage. That may not make much sense but I can't really come up with a better way to explain it.

At times Miss Pink seemed very...high and mighty...I suppose I could say. She doesn't let her circumstances beat her down too much and she still has a good sense of self worth, which is nice. However, she sometimes takes it too far and I found her preachy at times and that just did not work for me. She also strikes up some of the most bizarre friendships with even more bizarre characters. They were actually more like caricatures and that wasn't appealing to me.

Another positive though - I really like the cover! It's simple but catches the eye.

So, overall this book was not a win for me. Some people may like it, the hard core animal fans perhaps, but I wasn't one of them. Oh well. Can't win 'em all!

Happy reading :)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Just Finished: Notes to Self

I have to say that I don't often read YA anymore. I'm well past being a teen and I find that I can't relate to these books and characters as much as I used to. Of course, there are some exceptions - Sarah Dessen is my all time favourite author - and Notes to Self by Avery Sawyer was one of those exceptions. I was a little hesitant to read a YA novel but I am SO GLAD that Avery emailed me - I really liked her book!

Here's the short and sweet synopsis:
Two climbed up. Two fell down. 

One woke up.

In the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury, Robin Saunders has to relearn who she is and find out what happened the night everything changed.
This novel easily could have been too dark and heavy. Robin is dealing with the aftermath of an incredibly serious accident. Not only does she have these physical scars but she has a terrible feeling that there was something more to their accident. Why were they up there? What was Emily thinking? I liked that I got to figure these things out along with Robin. I could feel her frustration at not remembering anything and understood how much better she felt once she discovered the truth.

I mentioned earlier that I love Sarah Dessen and I have to say that I think Sawyer's novel has a sort of Dessen-esque feel to it. It's a contemporary YA novel (as opposed to all those fantasy/supernatural/vampire/dystopia books that are out there) about a teenage girl going through a tough time. There's a dark edge to it that reminds me of Dreamland and Just Listen. Sawyer does a good job of making sure the story doesn't venture over to bleak territory. Sure, I got incredibly involved in Robin's story and my heart hurt for her but it wasn't so overpowering that I started to feel depressed myself. Does that make sense? I hope so!

There were times that I wondered why Robin was doing certain things or acting a certain way. Then I realized that she's a teenager and I am not and am clearly already forgetting what it's like to be a teen. Jeepers, that's scary. Then again, Robin has a bit of a rebellious edge to her that I never had so maybe that's why I questioned some of her motives. She's definitely not a bad kid, though. She suffers from wanting to fit in and her BFF, Emily, is a bit rough around the edges and Robin desperately wants to be liked by Emily and her other friends. It's books like these that remind me high school was actually quite easy for me, even if I didn't think that at the time.

Overall I really liked Notes to Self by Avery Sawyer. I would definitely recommend it to teens or those who love to read YA. It's a sweet, touching, and emotional story and a great read. Thank you to Avery for sending me a copy to review!

Happy reading :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's International Chick Lit Month!

Celebrating Chick Lit!

Yesterday marked the first day of International Chick Lit Month. While I am not officially involved I wanted to share the links of those who are and talk a little bit about my favourite genre.

Here's where you can find all sorts of other stuff about this month and visit the sites of those organizing it:
Official site
Chick Lit Club
Chick Lit is Not Dead
Chick Lit Central

I hope to have some more posts this month about specific chick lit books and authors but for now, let me tell you why I enjoy the genre as a whole.

I used to find myself making excuses for reading only chick lit. "Oh, I wanted a break from my text books" was used quite often. There's a sort of stigma attached to the genre - that those who read and write chick lit don't have the brains to read or write anything more "literary." Not true. As time's gone on I don't find myself defending my reading choices as much as I used to. Is that because I no longer give a hoot about what others think or is it because those others are finally realizing that there can be substance behind those bubblegum pink, shoe adorned covers? Maybe it's a bit of both.

I used to work in a book store and for awhile I was the only one who enjoyed reading anything remotely close to chick lit. Some of my co-workers may have mocked chick lit readers in the past (you know who you are) but I like to think that I helped change their perception of the genre and those who love those books. But maybe I didn't and they just continued to make fun of me behind my back :)

I like reading other types of novels as well but I'm not about to force myself to read something just because it's a so-called literary masterpiece. For example, it seems like everyone and their brother has read the Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and so on). I thought about reading it because I felt like I should but then I thought, why bother wasting my time? I want to read for pleasure and enjoy the book. Not read something just because everyone else is reading it.

Which brings me back to my love of chick lit. Yes, the stories can often be silly and frivolous and the covers look like they belong in a cupcake shop but there is so much more to this genre. The stories don't always focus on romance (though I always enjoy a good love story). There's usually something else going on other than "oh, will I ever find a man who loves me?" It could be family or friends or a career (or lack of one). Something else is always present other than the all important quest to find a husband.

Some of the "classics"

Basically, it comes down to the fact that I enjoy reading chick lit. It makes me feel good. I love the characters and I enjoy laughing, crying, and feeling right along with them as I read their stories. You can't read "literature" all the time. At least, I can't. I like fun and if others can't handle that and my love of this genre, that's too bad for them. I will always enjoy my candy coloured, martini covered novels and nothing's going to change that.

Happy reading! :)