Saturday, September 29, 2012

Just Finished: Happier at Home

I read Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project a few years ago after a particularly stressful year of school when I was feeling like there was no chance of finding a real grown up job. I saw the book on the shelf at the store and thought, "Hey, that could be a happy book to read. (Duh, it had "happiness" right in the title) I'll give it a shot." What I got didn't necessarily tell me how to be happier but it was definitely an entertaining research project presented in a way that made me think about how I could apply the ideas to my own life. When I was given the chance to review Rubin's latest book, Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life, I jumped at the chance. It turns out I loved it just as much as The Happiness Project.

Here's the (incredibly long) synopsis:
In the spirit of her blockbuster #1 New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin embarks on a new project to make home a happier place.
One Sunday afternoon, as she unloaded the dishwasher, Gretchen Rubin felt hit by a wave of homesickness. Homesick—why? She was standing right in her own kitchen. She felt homesick, she realized, with love for home itself. “Of all the elements of a happy life,” she thought, “my home is the most important.” In a flash, she decided to undertake a new happiness project, and this time, to focus on home. And what did she want from her home? A place that calmed her, and energized her. A place that, by making her feel safe, would free her to take risks. Also, while Rubin wanted to be happier at home, she wanted to appreciate how much happiness was there already.
So, starting in September (the new January), Rubin dedicated a school year—September through May—to making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort, and love.
In The Happiness Project, she worked out general theories of happiness. Here she goes deeper on factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, and parenthood. How can she control the cubicle in her pocket? How might she spotlight her family’s treasured possessions? And it really was time to replace that dud toaster.
Each month, Rubin tackles a different theme as she experiments with concrete, manageable resolutions—and this time, she coaxes her family to try some resolutions, as well.
With her signature blend of memoir, science, philosophy, and experimentation, Rubin’s passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire readers to find more happiness in their own lives. 
I'm not one to usually read lifestyle/self help/memoirs but there's something about the way Rubin writes about her research that I love. Her happiness projects are so personal (obviously, as everyone's project would be so individualized) but I still loved reading about them. She's, essentially, a regular person doing regular work and family related things but she's allowing us to see how she uses herself as a guinea pig when it comes to happiness research. I was constantly learning things from her research and thinking about how I would apply what she was doing to my own life.

I was particularly interested in her first month - Possessions. I have a lot of stuff. I admit it. I sometimes think that I don't really have a lot of things but then I move (and I've done that quite a few times in the last several years) and realize that I have a lot of silly little knick knacks. Sometimes I feel like I should get rid of a bunch of it and stop buying things but then I realize, I like these things. I don't have little china cats covering every inch of my house (I think my boyfriend would leave me if I did). I have the odd item that (usually) has some sort of meaning. The little shelf of giraffe figurines? I have those because I am tall like a giraffe and the goofy looking animals make me smile. The white ceramic owl that's really a vase but is sitting next to my Percy Jackson books? I bought that purely because I thought it was cool looking. And I don't think there should be anything wrong with that. Buy what you like but once you find yourself being suffocated by stuff...well, then you've got a bit of a problem. I think it's all about balance and I think that's what Rubin was getting at with this chapter as well.

I've often thought about doing my own happiness project but I'm guilty of thinking that it would be too much work. What kind of things would I focus on? I can't just copy her project as I am in a completely different place in my life. I'd like to do it. Really, I would. I think it would be interesting to gain some more insight on my life and figure out how to be happier. But, for now, I'm still keeping it in the "something to try" file. I'll keep you updated if I decide to give it a try :)

I would definitely recommend Happier at Home. I think Gretchen Rubin has a great knack for sharing information while also writing an interesting and compelling research book. You don't necessarily have to read The Happiness Project first but I suggest reading it at some point in time. Even if this kind of book isn't your usual reading material I encourage you to give it a try. You might learn a tip or trick that just might make life a lot...well...happier.

Thank you to Random House Canada for the copy to review in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mini Review: Build a Man

I had heard great things about Build A Man by Talli Roland but it took awhile for me to get around to reading it. Now that I have, I can't believe I waited that long! I loved this book!

Here's the synopsis:
The perfect man is out there . . . he just needs a little work.
Slave to the rich, rude and deluded, cosmetic surgery receptionist Serenity Holland longs for the day she's a high-flying tabloid reporter. Unfortunately, every pitch she sends out disappears like her clients' liposuctioned fat, never to be seen again. Then she meets Jeremy Ritchie -- the hang-dog man determined to be Britain's Most Eligible Bachelor by making himself over from head to toe and everything in between -- giving Serenity a story no editor could resist.
With London's biggest tabloid on board and her very own column tracking Jeremy's progress from dud to dude, Serenity is determined to be a success, even going undercover to gain intimate access to Jeremy's life. But when Jeremy's surgery goes drastically wrong and Serenity is ordered to cover all the car-crash goriness, she must decide how far she really will go for her dream job.
Some of you know that I also write reviews for Novel Escapes (and if you didn't before, now you do!) and I was asked to review Construct A Couple, the second book in the Serenity Holland series (my review is here). I really don't like reading the second (or third) book in a series before reading the first so I set out to get myself a copy of book one. Happily, I was successful (thank you Smashwords!) and I dove right into the book.

I loved Serenity. She was funny and just clueless enough to make things amusing but not frustrating. I noted in my review of book two that she reminded me of Becky Bloomwood from the Confessions of a Shopaholic series. Becky drives me crazy so Serenity had all of her best qualities. I liked that Serenity was real and relatable. I liked her so much that I hated that she was dating such a boring guy. Peter was clearly not good for her and I couldn't wait for her to realize that. Does she? Doesn't she? Read the book to find out ;)

Some other quick thoughts: The whole premise of the book was unique without being too crazy. I loved the budding romance between Serenity and Jeremy. Her best friend is a great BFF. I love books set in London.

I did find that I enjoyed Construct A Couple more than Build A Man so if you read this one and can't feel bothered with reading book two, I strongly encourage you to give it a shot! I was so happy that I had book two on my ereader when I was on a train trip and finished book one. I was able to pick up on Serenity's story without any delay. Unfortunately, now I have to wait for Talli Roland to finish the next book in the Serenity series! In the meantime, I'll have to find more of her novels because she's become one of my favourites.

Happy reading :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Guest Post: Romi Moondi

I'm so excited to welcome author Romi Moondi to Books Etc. today. I reviewed her hilarious and awesome novel Last-Minute Love earlier this week (review is here) as part of a CLP Blog Tour and today she is here with a guest post. Since I knew a little bit about her publishing journey I was curious to find out how it turned out compared to the vision she had in her head. Thanks to Romi for this awesome post!

Hi Kaley, thanks for letting me guest-post here, and I have to say, I love your question!

I guess the best measure of how I thought it would turn out goes back to early 2010, when I’d scored a literary agent in New York for “Year of the Chick.” After sending out all those query letters, dealing with the rejections, and finally securing representation, I could picture the next several years of my author life, and I imagined it going like this:

-Most publishers reject me, but one really loves my book and offers me a deal. The book takes off with the right publisher-aided marketing (ha!), I go to book signings in different cities, my agent sells foreign right in several countries, and I use my riches to write full-time…hooray!

And this is how it actually turned out:

-Publishers liked, or enjoyed, or “insert positive adjective” my book, but they didn’t love it.
-My agent didn’t like my second book, which was a humorous essay parody.
-I liked my essay book anyway, and I’d been hearing so much about Amazon self-publishing that I left my agent. I self-published “The Book of Awful” in spring of 2011.
-I realized how obscure you are as an author if you don’t do any advertising or promotions (crikey). So I started doing some advertising and promotions, by learning about various websites from author message boards.
-In November of 2011, I dusted off “Year of the Chick,” and after another minor re-write (owing to my “fresh writer eyes”), I went ahead and self-published it too.
-After doing a couple of free promotions for “Year of the Chick” and getting some great reviews, I realized there was an audience out there for my book, even if it’s not for everyone.
-In early 2012, I took a week off work (yes, my own vacation since I still have a full-time job!) and wrote the entire first draft for the sequel to “Year of the Chick.” That’s fifty-eight thousand words in six days, and I almost went insane doing it.
-After a gruelling re-write and stressful final edits, the sequel “Last-Minute Love” was released, and it’s been out for three months now. I’ve sold almost 2,000 copies of this book, and almost 4,000 copies across all my titles.
-I still have a full-time job, and I will self-publish another book in my series in 2013 (unless of course a publisher discovers my book on their own, and offers me a wonderful author-friendly contract I can’t pass up).

Okay…whoa, that is NOT how I thought my journey would turn out!

The real-life version has been anything but glamourous, but it’s been the most satisfying journey of my life. Every time a reader emails me to tell me how much they loved the series, or to even “thank me for writing,” (you’re thanking ME for writing? That’s insane!), it reminds me how this ONE special part of the journey I always imagined, the part where I would reach random strangers with my words…that part actually came true.

As for the rest? Well screw it! It’s a brave new world of publishing, one in which, granted, I fully support every writer who gets a literary agent and finds a publisher (let’s make that clear), but also one in which I’m fully independent as an author.

And it feels good :-)

(Thank you Amazon, Kobo, iTunes and Barnes &  Noble for the ability to self-publish!)


Author Bio:

I am Canadian, and here are some strange personal facts:

-I wore denim-top-to-bottom in high school (there is a direct inverse relationship between how much denim I wore and how few tongues were launched down my throat at school dances...or anywhere in high school at all).
-A homeless lady in New York once told me "You're just a bitch on vacation with no money!"
-I always hated those insufferable couples who would cuddle and make out on the subway...until I became half of one. But now I'm back to being none of one so I hate them again.

The thing I love most in the world is writing. When I first started publishing on Amazon it was my "crazy" humour side ("The Book of Awful," and "NOT Love Poems For Real Life"). Since then, everything has focused on my "Year of the Chick" series, because it's the most important thing to me in the world right now. I guess that would tend to happen, when your writing is inspired by real life, including all the satisfaction and risks that come from that.

My "Year of the Chick" series can be described as "edgy rom-com," which helps me account for the blunt conversations and mortifying family moments in the book ;-).
Book 3 in the "Year of the Chick" series will be written and released in 2013; until then I have some adventures to go on! 

Connect with Romi:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Haven't Finished

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature. 

This week's list is all about the series that we haven't finished. I'm the kind of person who usually always finishes a series so I didn't know how easy it would be to come up with ten that I hadn't finished. As it turns out, there are a few (yes, ten) that I haven't finished! 

Don't forget to check out their blog for a full list of everyone participating.

In no particular order...

Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
Yep. Haven't finished this one. I read The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring way back when I was in high school and I haven't really had any desire to finish the other two. Not too sure why as I remember enjoying the books and I usually like fantasy. 

Heroes of Olympus - Rick Riordan
I'm cheating a bit here as I haven't even technically started this series. This is the same world as in the Percy Jackson series but different characters and, I think, it takes place a few years after the last Percy book. I've been waiting for all of them to be released before diving in because I don't want to wait!

Katie Chandler - Shanna Swendson
I adored Enchanted Inc. and the four books that followed. The last book in the series came out in 2008 and I was so sad as I felt like there was more to come. Cue major excitement when I learned that Much Ado About Magic, the next book in the series, has been released! Can't wait to dive in.

Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
Yet another fantasy series that I enjoyed but just never got around to finishing. I read the first few when I was in elementary school and then stopped reading them. I'm just now realizing that it may have been due to Harry Potter becoming popular...

Stephanie Plum - Janet Evanovich
Technically I'm just behind one book on this series. And it's not because I dislike it (though they're really not literary masterpieces by any means). It has more to do with the fact that I don't want to buy these books and I haven't gotten around to requesting it from my library nor have I snagged my best friend's mom's copy (a little more difficult now that she's over two hours away from me). I'll get around to it one of these days.

The Mediator - Meg Cabot
This was a series that I really enjoyed when I was in high school. I think I stopped reading them just because I grew out of it. A really enjoyable series though and, if I remember correctly, they've now been rereleased with new (and better) covers so teens now can get into them. Tell your resident teenager to read these ones!

Gossip Girl - Cecily von Ziegesar
This is another series that I grew out of. My sister borrowed the first few from a friend when I was in high school (judging from the release date I would have been in grade 10) and we devoured them during the summer. Then...I just stopped reading them. And no, I haven't watched the TV show.

Georgia Nicholson - Louise Rennison
Oh, Georgia. I freaking loved her when I was in high school. One of my best friend's, her sister, and I read every single one of these books and would often shout out the most ridiculous things because of the series. In fact, I was just at a bachelorette party the other weekend and busted out the phrase "cosmic horn." Obviously we haven't matured in 10 years :) Another series I'd highly recommend to teen girls. Now, to find the last couple of books I never read...

The Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot
Yet another series I got a bit too old for (I know you're never too old to read YA but when the final books in a series come out when you're in university and busy reading textbooks and books geared to your age group these ones kind of fall by the wayside). I love love love the movie and, quite honestly, never loved the books as much. Probably another reason I never finished it, even though I believe my sister owns every book.

The Wolves of Mercy Falls - Maggie Stiefvater
Finally, a series that I didn't finish because I just plain disliked it. Actually, I never even finished the first book, Shiver, that's how much I didn't like it. And I only just found out that the series is called The Wolves of Mercy Falls. How's that for not caring?

Are there any series that you haven't finished? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Happy reading :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

CLP Blog Tour: Last-Minute Love

I was incredibly excited when I learned that Romi Moondi was going on tour with Last-Minute Love, the sequel to her novel Year of the Chick (which I reviewed earlier this year). I eagerly signed up for this CLP Blog Tour and I'm so glad I did. I loved this book!

Here's the synopsis:
What's a girl to do when she meets the Internet man of her dreams, he's better than she expected, but he lives an ocean away? And let's not forget her parents,who are trying to lock her up in arranged-marriage doom... 
In this fast-paced story of culture clash and romantic pursuits, there's a big fat Indian wedding, the struggle to keep a long-distance flame alive, and an unexpected mystery man who could set a new course in motion. 
All the while, our heroine abandons what was once an all-consuming man-search, which helps her remember the person she used to be, and the person she hopes to become; the history-loving nerd, the hopeless romantic, and the emerging author with dreams of ditching the corporate rat race. 
This is the book of living in the moment, making the grand gesture, and putting it all on the line. This is when Romi Narindra comes alive...
In my review of Year of the Chick I noted that it took me awhile to get into the story. That was not the case with the sequel. I was immediately reminded of how funny Romi is and how much I adore her sense of humour. I started reading this at the gym and I'm sure I got some strange looks as I was literally laughing out loud. I just couldn't help it! The humour carries on throughout the entire novel, even when things get a little more serious and confusing for our heroine.

I realized after I finished the book that I think I connected with it so much because I felt like I was actually with Romi (the character) through all of her adventures. Romi (the author) did a great job of writing this book to really make sure her readers were fully immersed in her character's life. It was descriptive and really well done.

Even though I loved the book for the humour, there were some more serious moments in the story. I don't want to give much away but I actually found myself tearing up when Romi was discovering that, who...she wanted just wasn't going to work out for her. I was both sad and angry for Romi. I hated that she got treated in such a crappy way.

Last-Minute Love isn't going to be for everyone. Romi has a particular sense of humour (one which includes multiple f-bombs) that isn't going to appeal to all readers. If you don't have delicate sensibilities and if you love a feisty heroine then I definitely recommend Romi Moondi's novels. You don't necessarily have to read Year of the Chick first but it's probably best. I'm so excited that Romi is planning on writing a third novel in this series and will eagerly await more information about the book.

A slight aside: last week I wrote a post about the ten bookish people I'd like to meet in real life. I think I need to add Romi (the real person, not the character, obviously) to that list. If she's as awesome as her fictional alter ego, I definitely want to meet her. Bonus: she's in Toronto (yay Canadian authors!) so it's not totally unreasonable. :)

Overall, I loved Last-Minute Love and I think others would love it as well. It's an amazing book that would be great for any twenty-something female. There's so much more I could say about this book but I think you should buy a copy and make up your own mind :) Make sure you check back on Wednesday when Romi stops by Books Etc. with an awesome guest post!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Guest Post: Lucie Simone

I was fortunate to review Lucie Simone's latest novel Picture Perfect last week as part of a CLP Blog Tour (check out my review here if you missed it). Today, Lucie was kind enough to write a fab post for Books Etc. I hope you all enjoy it! Oh, and try not to feel too jealous... :)

Star Gazing 
By Lucie Simone

One of the great things about living in Los Angeles is that on any given day, you could run into an A list celebrity at the doctor’s office, encounter a cavalcade of cars and police cruisers escorting the president to a party at a movie star’s home in the Hollywood Hills, dine alongside a megawatt pop star at a trendy restaurant, or even rub elbows with a style icon at a posh bar in downtown. It all happens here. All the time.

With so many celebrities roaming the streets of Los Angeles, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy and excitement of star gazing. Oohing and aahing over seeing a famous actor at In & Out Burger is all very fun, but after many years in Tinsel Town, I barely even notice them anymore. Well, unless Johnny Depp ever crosses my path. I’m pretty sure I would drop to my knees and propose my undying love. Or throw up. Either way, Johnny would not be pleased about it one bit. Because in Tinsel Town, you gotta keep your cool.

The trick to not geeking out over a celebrity is to simply ignore them. Sure, take a gander. Size ‘em up. See if they really are as attractive in person as on the big screen. (The answer is always yes, or even more so). But gushing over them, squealing with excitement, or making public proclamations of undying love (except in cases of Johnny Depp, of course) is considered to be the height of impropriety. Acknowledging them with anything more than a head bob or a bored, “hey, man” is likely to send them running for cover. For you see, celebrities (I’m not including reality TV stars here – they crave that kind of attention) are like animals in the wild. They’re skittish, and if you try chatting one up while standing in line at Trader Joe’s, they’re going to bolt.

Over the years, I’ve spotted loads of celebrities just out and about, carrying on with their personal business like regular people. Tim Robbins at CVS; Josh Brolin, Eliza Dushku, Meg Ryan, and even Dick Clark at the grocery store; Edward Norton at the mall; Steven Spielberg at the gas station; Arnold Schwarzenneger in a parking lot off Sunset Strip where he very nearly ran me over with his Hummer; Giovanni Ribisi at a French restaurant; Dustin Hoffman at a video store; Vince Vaughn at the farmer’s market; Ben Affleck at The Coffee Bean; Jason Lee at Starbucks; Dave Chappell at a Greek restaurant; and on and on. (And yet, Johnny Depp still eludes me!).

It’s always a little fascinating to see celebs out in public like that. Like a tiger that’s escaped from the zoo. What’s even more interesting is to watch all the regular people slowly realize that there’s a star among them. Heads turn, whispers float. You can feel the buzz of energy rise through the crowd as everyone takes a peek at the tiger on the loose. A quiet hum making its way across a busy restaurant or winding its way through fruit stands at the farmer’s market. But no one, not a soul, ever dares ask for an autograph, a picture, or in any way acknowledges their celebrity status. They aren’t at a red carpet event, after all. They’re just hanging out. Or running errands. Or just, you know, keeping it real. So, like the sign says at the pet store, Keep Your Fingers Out of the Cage!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Recap: Bookstravaganza

This past Tuesday I attended the first ever Bookstravaganza! This excellent bookish event was hosted by Random House of Canada and Chatelaine and was held at the Ritz Carlton in Toronto.

I haven't been able to attend many events like these because I've always been just a little bit too far from Toronto to justify it - about two hours away no matter where I've moved to (and I've lived in a few towns and cities). Since I've decided to start making more of an effort networking-wise with my blog, I decided this would be a really fun event to go to. And I was right!

Me, on the left, and Lindsay
I made plans to meet up with Lindsay (from Turning the Pages) at Union after we both got off our respective GO trains and we made the quick walk over to the Ritz. I had been worrying all day that it was going to pour but the rain held off and we stayed dry, yay!

Admittedly, Lindsay and I were like little kids when we got off the elevator. We were trying to take everything in and we got pretty excited by the sight of the swag bags. Hey, don't try to tell me you don't love free stuff ;) We checked in, got our raffle ticket (I swear the jar was rigged as each of the tickets called weren't even close to ours. Where were the 700-and something tickets?), and said hello to Lindsey from Random House. Being able to meet people, like Lindsey and Lindsay, that I've only interacted with online was definitely one of the highlights of the night.

We made our way further into the lobby and discovered that ladies from Bourjois were there armed with samples of lip gloss. Um, yes please! And this wasn't just any lip gloss. Oh, no. It was lip gloss that adjusts to the wearer's lip colour for a personalised pink!

Crummy quality, sorry. Darn phone. 
Once we were made up, I made sure we made a pit stop at the bar. I could see that there was a special drink made just for this evening called Ms. Chatelaine - and it was delicious! There was also a candy bar which was equally delicious.

We weren't really sure what the event itself would hold so we waited expectantly for the presentation portion of the event to get under way! Various editors for Random House imprints as well as editors for Chatelaine made presentations about new fall books that they've enjoyed. I have to admit, my favourite revelation was learning that Gerry Dee's new book, Teaching: It's Harder Than It Looks, has a chalkboard on the inside covers. A CHALKBOARD!!! Bet you haven't heard of that before.

Random House also debuted six (well done) videos that showcased their new fall books - fiction, mystery, non-fiction, memoir, TV/movie, and lifestyle/food. You can watch all of them on their YouTube channel if you're interested. Authors Annabel Lyon and Shauna Singh Baldwin were present to talk about their new books, The Sweet Girl and The Selector of Souls respectively. I always love hearing authors talk about their work and this evening was no different. There were happy gasps and squeals when we were told that we would all get a copy of each book and would be able to get them signed at the end of the night!

More signed books! 
Alas, the evening had to come to an end at some point. The swag bags were handed out, final goodbyes were said (including a quick hello and goodbye to Michele from Just a Lil' Lost and Brenna from Esther's Ever After), and Lindsay and I made our way back to Union. Another rushed goodbye as I had to run off to catch my train. As I made the trek back home I made the decision to try to and get back to Toronto more often for these kinds of events. We'll see if my wallet approves of that decision... :)

Goodies from the fab swag bag

Friday, September 21, 2012

CLP Blog Tour: Picture Perfect

Welcome to a stop on the Picture Perfect tour hosted by CLP Blog Tours! I was excited to take part in this tour because I had heard so many great things about author Lucie Simone's work. Confession: I've had a copy of her novel Hollywood Ending on my shelf for awhile and I just haven't gotten around to reading it. After reading, and loving!, Picture Perfect I can't wait to read more from Lucie!

Here's the synopsis of Lucie's latest novel:

For Lauren Tate, a high-powered TV producer, sex, lies, and scandal make for a great movie-of-the-week, but when she becomes the target of a smear campaign, even the most salacious of Hollywood’s tales can’t compare to her real life drama. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband leading the effort to sully her reputation, and her former assistant threatening to snatch her hard-earned position at Timeless Television out of her hands, Lauren’s perfectly planned life quickly begins to unravel at the seams.
Clawing her way back to the top of the TV food chain is no easy task, especially in an industry where backstabbing is a sport and gossip is a full time business. But Lauren learns just how cut-throat showbiz can truly be when the hottest scandal in Tinsel Town turns deadly and the Hollywood hunk who’s stolen her heart is missing in action. Can she salvage her career, her reputation, and her love life? Or will Hollywood be the death of her?
By the time I started the book it had been awhile since I had read the synopsis so I couldn't remember a thing about what this novel was about. I was expecting your typical chick lit but what I got was so much more! I loved the mystery aspect to this book. Lauren has to try to clear her name in a murder investigation and it is heartbreaking, tense, and even a little amusing. Lucie does a great job of pushing the limit when it comes to Lauren channelling her inner Nancy Drew. There's a great scene when Lauren and her best friend, Justine, visit the scene of the crime looking for some evidence. If it wasn't so well written it would have been more hokey than entertaining. The mystery part of the novel had tons of twists and turns and Lucie kept me guessing for the entire story. The final outcome was a surprise for me and that was so much better than knowing "whodunit" right from the start.

Lauren is a fabulous character. She thinks she has her life completely sorted out when, suddenly, everything goes to hell. Some women would fall apart. In a way, Lauren does. But she also realizes that she can't fall to pieces if she wants to get past everything. She showed amazing strength while also showing her vulnerable side. I thought it was interesting that Lucie made mention on a few occasions that Lauren uses food, sweets in particular, as a crutch when she's stressed. It was just enough to make me, as the reader, realize that she had little issues and insecurities just like everyone else but it wasn't so much that it took over the rest of the story. I would love to read more about Lauren and find out what happened with her after Picture Perfect ended.

There was a fun and supportive cast of characters surrounding Lauren as well. I loved Justine. I think she and Lauren complimented each other exactly like best friends should. Jack, the new Hollywood It Boy Lauren hooks up with, kept me guessing and I alternated between wondering if he was hiding something or if he was too good to be true. Both Justine and Jack stood by Lauren - in very different ways - as she went through the hardest time of her life.

I started this book on an hour train ride. I was so engrossed in the novel that the trip (both there and back) just flew by. In fact, I almost wished it was longer so I could keep reading! Picture Perfect is well written, sweet, and humorous - even when dealing with a Hollywood murder.  I wholeheartedly recommend Lucie Simone's latest novel to all readers, whether you normally read chick lit or not.

Make sure you check back on Sunday when Lucie stops by with a lovely guest post!

Happy reading :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish People I Want To Meet

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature. 

This week we're to come up with ten bookish people we want to meet. They could be authors, bloggers, and the like. I decided to split my list into the two (since I couldn't think of any other bookish people I'd like to meet! haha).

Don't forget to check out their blog for a full list of everyone participating.

Authors (in no particular order)

1. Jane Austen
I think this is a no-brainer for me. I figure if I have the power to meet anyone, I also have the power to bring people back from the dead! I love Austen's work and I'd love to be able to talk to her about what it was like to live and write when she did. 

2. J.K. Rowling
Another no-brainer. Rowling is the author of one of the best series ever and it would be so awesome to just be able to talk to her about her life and how it changed after publishing Harry Potter.

I actually just recently "met" Emily when she was in Toronto but she seems like so much fun and I'd love to hang out with her for the day.

Again, I did get the chance to meet Sarah when she was in Toronto last September. That was when I realized how much we had in common. I love reading her blog and think it'd be great to hang out at the beach with her - her favourite place. 

I recently read Cat's debut novel and also had the chance to interview her. Not only did she write a kick ass book but it turns out we have a lot in common. We live in the same country so it shouldn't be too difficult to pop over to Montreal to share a good chat over cupcakes!

Bloggers (in no particular order)
I'm cheating a bit since Samantha is also an author :) Samantha's been a great help to me since I started my blog. If I have a question she never hesitates in answering it for me. We've had several entertaining email exchanges and I'd love to meet this fabulous lady in person!

Another author/blogger pair! I think it would be so cool to meet them and have a drink or two and chat about the chick lit genre.

Laura and I have similar tastes in books. Most important is our love of the Little House series. Laura has actually been to Laurapalooza - which sounds amazing. I'd love to buy her a drink to thank her for the bookmark and pen she picked up for me while she was there and then chat books - and sports!

Lindsay and I read a lot of the same books and we've recently been messaging back and forth about various things and books. And - this is the awesome part - I will actually be meeting her tonight! We're off to the same bookish event in Toronto and will finally meet in person! Yay!

Really, any of the ladies from CLC would be great to meet but Amy's always first to retweet one of my reviews or mention any giveaways I do. She's incredibly supportive to everyone in the book blogging world. She deserves a chocolate cupcake for all she does (two of her favourite things) and I'd love to be able to give her one in person!

Wow. I didn't realize how easy that would be. There are soooo many other bookish people I'd like to meet! How about you? What author would you LOVE to be able to meet in person?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Blog Tour: Released PLUS a Giveaway!

Welcome to a stop on the blog tour for Amber Polo's novel Released: The Shapeshifters' Library! The tour is hosted by Collette over at ABG Reads. Make sure you stop by the tour page to see what others have to say about this interesting, unique, and thoroughly enjoyable fantasy novel. After you read my review, of course ;)

Here's the synopsis:

Love dogs? Love books? Love libraries? Hate Book-burning werewolves?

Once long ago the Shipsfeather Academy was a training ground for an ancient race of dog-shifters whose mission was to protect the world’s knowledge. A powerful curse sealed these librarians in the basement of their building and gave the control of the town to a pack of book-burning werewolves.

Librarian Liberty Cutter watches in horror as the town’s public library goes up in flames and plans to re-establish the library in the abandoned Shipsfeather Academy building. Chronus, the Old English Sheepdog headmaster of the academy and leader of the dog-shifters, knows he must make some changes to continue to keep his pack safe. But even if he could persuade Liberty to believe in a talking sheepdog, how far can she be trusted? And will she ever be able to care for him as a man. He has to try, because Liberty Cutter and her staff of zany librarians may hold the key to the dog-shifters’ freedom…and the future of the town
When I first read the synopsis for Released I was a little hesitant. It seemed a little...out there. Shapeshifters? Book-burning werewolves? Right. Author Amber Polo had actually originally requested I review her novel and when she emailed me she noted that I don't usually read fantasty/paranormal but would I enjoy one set in a library? I thought, what the heck. I sometimes read these kinds of books and since I adore libraries, I thought it couldn't hurt to give it a try. Guys. I am SO glad that I did. Released ended up being well written and entertaining.

I definitely really liked the fact that this book was so library focused. It was interesting to think that there was some sort of power in the books that helped the dogs become stronger. I love small town libraries (used to work in one myself) and the new library in Shipsfeather was lovely. Except for the whole having to fight off book hating werewolves thing... :)

There was a lot of action in this book, which was great. It kept the plot moving and kept me interested. There was always something going on. I also loved that I didn't exactly know what was going to happen. I had ideas of why things had happened (Liberty's parents disappearing when she was young, for example) but I still ended up being surprised (in a good way!) once everything was revealed.

Overall, I really enjoyed Released. It kept me interested with the town history, library, magic, action, and characters. I'm looking forward to the second novel in the series - Retrieved. I need to see if the town can get rid of those werewolves once and for all! I do think that you need to enjoy fantasy stories to really like this one so if that's your thing I definitely recommend Amber Polo's Released.

Oh, and did I mention the best news? There's a giveaway with this tour! Amber is giving away a lot of really neat goodies: large canvas Shipsfeather Library book bag, 4 signed books by Amber Polo including The Shapeshifters’ Library Book 1: Released, Amber's Relaxation CD, 2 collectible dogs, a tuft of Arctic wolf fur! Trust me, it's worth it just for winning this novel. Though I'm jealous the winner gets a bag! I'd LOVE a Shipsfeather library bag :) All you have to do is follow the steps found here - a Rafflecopter giveaway - and hope Rafflecopter randomly picks you at the end of the tour! Bonus: the giveaway is for US AND Canada, yay!

Good luck and happy reading! :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just Finished: Sex, Life, & Hannah: Volume 2

I was away on vacation at the beginning of September and thought it was the perfect time to dive into the second volume of Sex, Life, and Hannah series by Dorata Skrzypek. I read the first a few months ago (my review is here if you're interested) and while it didn't rate at the top of my list, I was genuinely curious about what was going to happen in Hannah's life. As it turned out, I felt the same way about the Spring Season volume.

Here's the synopsis of Volume 2: 
Hannah feels him stir. Holding an ice pack to her swollen face and stuck in a hospital elevator is not how she envisioned running into The Ex. She assesses the situation: Is she still in love with him? Is he still in love with her? They start kissing, then petting, then heavy petting, until she can feel his growing hardness against the inside of her thigh...
The Spring Season is a continuation of Hannah’s fall from perfect twenty-something grace. Hannah’s run-in with The Ex is more about icing her nose than melting her heart. She seems to be making all the wrong decisions about all the right men; rejecting the doctor who makes her vagina quiver for Mr. Smyth who turns out to be tall, dark, and sophisticated...with just one problem. The unexpected twists would drive any woman to the opposite side of nice girl, which is exactly what happens to Hannah. But a bad girl can have some fun along the way.
Let me start off by saying that I don't consider myself a prude. I love the ladies of Sex and the City and I did read the Fifty Shades trilogy. However, there's something about Hannah and her friends that just makes me cringe when I read about their escapades! Perhaps it's because I think there should be some mystery between friends. I really don't need to know the specifics from my BFF's night with her boyfriend, thank you very much. This shouldn't have been such a big deal, and it wasn't really when I read the first volume, but I think the over-sexualized content of this novella sort of turned me off (wow...that really makes me sound like I'm 25 years older than I am...). Do I think others would enjoy it? Most likely, yes. If you also enjoy the tell all nature of SATC, give Hannah a try.

I still wondered why Hannah was so set on The Ex. He seems like a bit of an idiot. Sure, she did spend a good chunk of time in a relationship with him but if something's not meant to be it shouldn't be forced. Right? Or does that sound too self help-y? :) She gets the chance to spend some time with some great guys but throws it away for a non-relationship with an older guy who doesn't actually want to be in a committed relationship. It was hard to read at parts because I wanted to realize what was best for her but at the same time I knew she had to go through these growing pains to, well, grow up.

There's not a whole lot I can add to my review of volume one. Hannah still has crazy neighbours and friends, she's still trying to find The One, and wants to figure out what's in store in the future for her career. I still also thought the format was pretty neat - being laid out like a magazine. There were some flow issues though and I don't know if that was more to do with the way the book was set up or with the actual writing.

Like I said, I wasn't crazy about the book as a whole but I really do want to find out how Hannah's life all turns out in the end. Does she get back together with The Ex? Does Mr. Smyth decide to make a commitment? Is she finally going to find her dream career? I'm looking forward to seeing how things work out for Hannah so I'm glad I have Volume 3 waiting for me on my bookshelf!

Happy reading :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Guest Post: Sarah Bridgeton

I want to thank author Sarah Bridgeton for stopping by Books Etc. today! Earlier this week I reviewed her novella The Undiscovered Novelist as part of a CLP Blog Tour. (If you missed it you can check out my review here). I was curious to find out what Sarah's inspiration was for both writing in general and for her story ideas. Below is her response. I really enjoyed learning more about her process and I hope you all do too!

My own experiences inspire me. The good, the bad and the humiliating! Despite my best intentions to keep it impersonal, I always start with my own agenda. Eventually, I get sick of writing about myself and my imagination takes over. The process goes like this. First, take an event, usually something deeply personal, and use it for a story idea. Once I have an idea, my imagination spews it into a story.   

The Undiscovered Novelist is about a naive writer trying to break into the publishing industry. As a writer, I could definitely relate to it. I was totally clueless about how the business worked when I set out to find a publisher for my first manuscript. Once I figured it out, I thought it would be a great setting. And the best part was I could give it a different ending. It left plenty of room for my imagination.

Then I created my heroine.  

At first, she was just like me—an ordinary stay-at-home mom. But that became old rather fast. Who was my heroine? Well, she was definitely a mom. Motherhood is a major theme in my story. So I had the beginnings of my heroine, but she still needed some backstory and a personality. I had such fun imagining a young, stylish, former New Yorker who loves books and literature. Jordyn is a delicious character. Ambitious and hard-headed, she’s the girl I wish I had been when I was twenty-seven.  

I am also inspired by the places I write about. New York was my inspiration for The Undiscovered Novelist. With many publishers based in New York, it only seemed appropriate to use it for a backdrop. I live in Tampa. Can you get any different? I’m used to quiet beaches. Not city streets or crowded subways. I fell in love with New York while writing this story.

About Sarah:
Sarah Bridgeton never thought she would become a novelist. She has always loved books, but in college she majored in Economics. After college, she held a variety of jobs in the insurance and health care industries. She left the workforce to be a stay-at-home mom when her daughter was born. When her daughter started preschool, she decided to write a novel.
She currently resides in Tampa with her husband, daughter, and two cats. When she’s not reading, writing, or taking care of her family, she likes to exercise. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

CLP Blog Tour: The Undiscovered Novelist

Thanks for coming by for another stop on the CLP Blog Tour for The Undiscovered Novelist! I really enjoyed this novella by Sarah Bridgeton.

Here's the synopsis:
Twenty-seven-year-old Jordyn Simmons has almost everything she’s ever wanted—a sexy live-in boyfriend, an adorable son, and a finished novel she plans to publish. The only two things missing from her life are a publisher for her book and a relationship with her estranged mother, Debra. As Jordyn pursues her novelist ambitions, her world collides with Debra’s, and both women are forced to make decisions that will change their lives forever.
This novella was cute and quick and I really loved reading about Jordyn. She was very relatable and it was a joy to read her story. I felt her successes and disappointments right along with her, which is a testament to Bridgeton's writing. She created a story and characters that I connected with, which was great.

That being said, I was a little confused about how I should be feeling about certain characters. Was I supposed to dislike Debra because Jordyn was having issues with her? Was Tyler (Jordyn's boyfriend) a bad guy just because Debra thought he was? Turns out both of those characters were good people. Tyler was a loving father and boyfriend and in my head he and Jordyn eventually get married - just for them and not because they're "supposed" to. I initially disliked Debra because she seemed to be a negative influence on Jordyn. Then I realized that Jordyn was behaving just as badly and I desperately wished for them to make up. Debra was actually a wonderful character and I'm so glad that Bridgeton wrote from Debra's perspective as well.

I also wish there had been a bit more information at times but I think that came just from the structure of the story. It is a novella after all. I think this would be excellent as a more developed novel. For example, I wanted to learn more about Jordyn's twin sister, Naomi. There could even be a whole other story with her as I felt she had a journey to go on as well and I'd love to find out if she eventually got a husband and/or a baby. What do you think Sarah? I think it'd make a great stand alone story! :)

Also - a quick note: I am incredibly jealous that Debra fell into a job as an editorial assistant. (No, that's not in the synopsis but I'm not really giving anything away.) I want to be reading in a coffee shop and be hired by the head of a huge publishing house who just happened to come in and start chatting to me. Note to self: start reading more in coffee shops...

Overall, I'd definitely recommend The Undiscovered Novelist by Sarah Bridgeton. It's a great read for someone looking for a pick me up kind of story because you learn that things really can work out if you work hard and have the right kind of people around you. I'll be keeping an eye on what Bridgeton writes next and think you should too. Stay tuned for a guest post from Sarah tomorrow when she writes about her inspiration for writing and her story ideas.

Happy reading :)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Just Finished: Spellbound Hearts

I never used to be a fan of short stories. I didn't think I could get the full experience from a little snippet of a story. My mind was changed in the last few years as I encountered several short stories that gave me everything a novel did. But...the anthology Spellbound Hearts left me wanting a lot more.

Before I get too much into my thoughts, here's the synopsis of these four stories:
Boxers or Briefs by Jillian Chantal
Magical Foundations, so much more than a lingerie shop.
The Beauty Within by Olivia Devereaux
Adele lives a privileged life. When one of the Council of Eight decides Adele needs to be taught a lesson, the pixie is cast down into the world of the sprite. Without the finery that made her one of the privileged of the society, Adele must find the meaning of true beauty and what love entails or be cast out forever.
Witchy by Clara Waibel
Love spells are illegal. The Council sends witches to jail for much less, but when Sally falls for the new guy at the office, resorting to an evil Fae's help will be her only hope.
Temptations Touch by Liv Rancourt
Geri cringes at the thought of a single touch, but when she finds herself stranded in the Fae world, the temptation is too strong to resist, connecting her to a binding love.
Let me start out by saying that I'm usually a fan of magical stories. I adore Harry Potter and devoured (the more grown up) All Souls Trilogy featuring witches, vampires, and daemons. I've always enjoyed these kinds of stories - confession: I had a huge fairy obsession when I was younger - so I'm not really sure why I didn't love the four stories in this anthology.

I think some of my issues came with the writing itself. Magical stories can be tricky to write and read. If things aren't written well or explained in a relatable way, they can seem sort of...well...hokey, I suppose. Maybe I just notice these things more now that I've been blogging for almost two years. I never used to pay attention to the way things were written but I now find myself editing the books I read when they're not working for me. Mostly I found some flow issues and some awkward phrasing and dialogue. Could I have done better? Probably not, but, as a reader, these little things did make a negative impact on my enjoyment of the stories.

What makes all this negativity surprising is that when I think about the actual stories, I can't find anything about them that I disliked. It was interesting to see how the witchy matchmaker fared when faced with a curious stranger. The relationship between the pixies and sprites was reminiscent of the class struggles we all face as humans. I wondered what I would do if I was a powerful witch who couldn't seem to find a guy who liked me. And I was intrigued about the Fae world that orphan Geri found herself in.

I've read stories by some of these authors before and enjoyed them so I found it odd that these ones didn't connect. Because of this, and because of the fact that I didn't dislike the stories themselves, I'd still give this anthology a recommend. I will say that you should definitely be into magic and fantasy stories to enjoy these though. If those kinds of stories only sometimes thrill you, I'd check out one of the other anthologies Still Moments Publishing has to offer (I'd recommend those anyway - they've got something for everyone!). A bit of a downer review, I know, but just know that this less than stellar reading experience hasn't deterred me from reading more short stories in the future.

Happy reading :)

Thank you to Still Moments Publishing for the copy to review.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Recap: Meeting Emily Giffin

That's right my friends. I got to meet Emily Giffin!

I was so excited when I found out she'd be coming to Toronto at the end of August and knew I had to make the trip to see her - no matter what! I'm a couple of hours away so I knew it would require some planning to get there. Luckily, my coworker, who was just as excited about this event as I was, grew up in Toronto and would be able to show my small town self where to go. However...she ended up having to cancel as she had plans for the Labour Day weekend. Hm. Ok, not to worry! I decided to hook up with some of my fellow book bloggers to see if any of them would want to attend. Happy days - two of them wanted to go as well! But THEN...they both ended up having to cancel as well. Seriously?? Is there something wrong with me that no one wants to hang out with me at a super awesome signing?

I'm pretty sure this picture was taken as I was telling Emily that I was there by myself as I got bailed on three times. She felt sorry for me and made sure I got a t-shirt. So, ladies who missed out (who shall remain nameless to protect the not-so-innocent... ;) kidding! love you all!) thank you for making me seem like a huge loser as I got a pretty adorable t-shirt out of it! Also, I babbled like an idiot when I got up to get my books signed. Anyone else experience complete stupideness when faced with someone famous and awesome? Ugh. Mildly embarrassing. Anyway...enough about my pathetic self!

All my goodies - plus a Starbucks treat!
Emily was amazing. Right off the bat she took photos of the crowd which we were to tag ourselves in on Facebook (if you're a fan of her page you can see the pics in her Toronto album). After telling us that she loves coming to Toronto, she spoke for about 20 minutes or so and we got to learn some fun tidbits. The one that stuck out the most for me was that Kirby (the teenager in her latest novel Where We Belong - you can read my review of this one here) has overtaken Darcy from Something Borrowed/Something Blue as her favourite character. She also shared that when her brother-in-law told her that he hated Marian (she's heard that a lot) her sister told him to be quiet. Emily said it was alright as the characters aren't actually real. She also told us that she relates most to Ethan (SOBO/SOBl) and Claudia (Baby Proof). She chatted with us for a bit longer before signing books for the insane number of fans who showed up at Indigo to see her.

My signed books! Could only manage to bring a couple with me :)
Thanks to Twitter, I got to share a wave with Michele from Just a Lil' Lost (check out her recap post here!) and Andrea from Cozy Up with a Good Read as well as a quick chat with Anum from Paper Wings and Ink. Love our book blogging community :)

Even though I went by myself, I'm so glad that I decided to go. Emily's one of my favourite authors and I would have been kicking myself if I didn't go see her while she was in Canada. I'll probably even go see her again the next time she's here so I can get a couple more books signed!

Here I am with the gorgeous Emily Giffin - note how crouched down I am :)
(Yes, the pic's blurry...stupid no flash rule and useless camera)