Saturday, December 29, 2012

Excerpt: Twelve Months

A few months ago I was asked by author Steven Manchester to read and review his novel Twelve Months. While I have yet to read the book myself, I've heard good things about it. (Check out the Goodreads page for the synopsis and some reviews). Since I couldn't review the book right away, I agreed to post an excerpt of the novel. I hope it intrigues all of you as much as it did for me!


Though there were empty tables up front, Vic escorted Bella and me to a darkened back room where no one else was seated. The table sat in the center of the room and was very nicely decorated. I could tell by Bella's face that it seemed peculiar to her. As we took our seats, Vic lit a candle. “I’ll be right back,” he said.
Bella started to question it, but I shrugged it off. “There must have been reservations for the other tables up front?” I suggested.
She nodded, and then noticed a man seated on a stool a few tables over. He was holding a guitar and squinting at some sheet music.
He looked over and smiled. “I hope you guys don’t mind, but I’m trying out tonight for a weekend gig at this place.”
“Oh, that’s great,” Bella said, with no idea Gary had already landed the job.
“Not a problem,” I added, acting as though I’d never spoken to the man. And through an acoustic set of love ballads, Gary was just as convincing.
Bella had no idea but the order had already been carefully spelled out – drinks first, Pinot Grigio for her; beer for me, and the itinerary would begin. Vic approached with both drinks on a small round tray. “Appetizers tonight?” he asked.
I smiled. “Why don’t we start with an order of little necks in garlic and oil?”
Vic nodded once and headed for the kitchen, while Gary swooned, “You say it best when you say nothing at all…”
Bella leaned into my ear and whispered, “How did he know I wanted white wine?”
I was into my second shrug when Vic returned to the table with a gorgeous arrangement of long stem red roses. Without a word, he placed them in front of Bella and rotated the vase until the card faced her. “Your appetizer should be out in a few minutes,” he said and strutted away again.
Gary was already on his second number when Bella plucked the card from the arrangement. It read: “Bella, I love you, forever – Don.” She looked up to find the entire restaurant staring at us.
“And always will,” I whispered when she leaned over and kissed me.
After the steaming appetizer and another round of drinks, Vic placed a silver platter before my glowing wife. It held a scrolled sheet of parchment secured by red ribbon. She looked up at him, but he never let on. She glanced over at me. “What…”
“Open it,” I said, while Gary strummed away in the background.
She did. It was the one thing she'd always wanted from me, but had never gotten – until now.
Moments of Destiny
From the moment I met you,
I knew there was a fire between us
that even hard, driving rain could never put out.
From the moment we spoke,
I knew I’d spent my entire life
in search of your deep and passionate love.
From the moment we kissed,
I knew my heart was no longer mine
and I’d finally found my future.
From the moment we laughed,
I knew there would never be enough time
to share all the things I needed to share with you.
From the moment we danced,
I knew, at last, what the phrase ‘better half’ meant
and surrendered to your gentle touch.
From the moment we walked hand-in-hand,
I knew I’d discovered my partner
and that my dreams were suddenly within reach.
From the moment we lay together,
I knew I’d made it to heaven
and thanked God for blessing me with you.
From the moment you agreed to be my wife,
I knew my journey was now worth taking,
through days of sunshine –
or nights of hard, driving rain.
As her watering eyes read the final verse, the musician stopped playing, the restaurant went silent and I went down to one knee. I opened the ring box. “Isabella,” I said, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you be my wife…again?”
She never hesitated and dove into my arms. For a while, we just hugged.
“I love you so much,” she cried into my shoulder.
“I know,” I said. “But…”
She pushed away from me and looked into my eyes. “But what?”
“But I need your answer?” I said, grinning.
“Yes…the answer is YES!” she gasped and jumped back into my arms.
The crowd shared a collective sigh, and everyone was clapping when Bella and I returned to reality. It took a few moments before each table returned to its own conversation and half-eaten meals.
Chuckling, I introduced my beautiful wife to Gary, the musician. As they shook hands, Gary admitted, “I was so nervous.”
I bought the man a beer when Vic delivered two previously ordered dinners to our table. Though Bella couldn’t touch hers, I ate and listened to Gary fill the room with a soothing melody. By the time the chocolate covered strawberries arrived for dessert, Bella was emotionally spent. She grabbed me once more for a kiss. “This has been the perfect night,” she whispered.
“And for all these years…you’ve been the perfect wife, my dear.”
As we left the restaurant, another round of applause carried us to the front door. I opened it for my new fiancĂ© – only to discover a white stretch limousine idling at the curb. She quickly turned to me. “It’s not over?”
I shook my head. “It’ll never be over for us.” As we made our way to the limo, waves of nausea threatened to drown me. This is Bella’s perfect night, I told myself, our perfect night. Whatever you do…do not throw up now!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Just Finished: Mick Jagger


Confession: Before reading Mick Jagger by Philip Norman I would not have been able to tell you how many band members are in The Rolling Stones, let alone what some of their names are (or were). I know Mick and I know Keith but after that? Clueless. So why did I decide to read this biography if I didn't know much about the band? Because I'm intrigued by them and wondered what their rise to fame was like. I know (and really enjoy) a lot of their songs so I was looking forward to learning about their popular front man.

The first thing I learned was that Mick was not involved in the writing of this biography. From what I understand, Norman has been interviewing the band for years and took some of the information he learned from those interviews as well as information from memoirs or biographies about people from Mick's past (former managers, wives, girlfriends, and the like) and put it all together to create this bio. Is this a bad thing? No, not really. My issue was that it didn't feel very personal. Norman has written a couple of biographies on John Lennon and I'm interested to know if those bios have the same feel. To me, when biographies don't have personal statements from the subject or some acknowledgement from them when they are still living, it doesn't feel...legitimate, I suppose. In the long run, it really doesn't matter too much but I think readers should be aware of the nature of the bio before jumping in.

After finishing this book (which took me forever, by the way, as I'm a slow non-fiction reader and this book is 640 pages long), my first thought was, "How are these men still alive?!?" The amount of drugs and alcohol that were consumed is just mind boggling. But that's part of the mystique of the Stones, isn't it? How much did they do? And the other big question - how many women did they sleep with? Norman does a good job of making sure this doesn't become a little black book list and tends to focus on the relationships Mick had instead of the women he was fooling around with on the side. Which leads to a few other interesting tidbits: Mick has seven children (with four different women) and four grandchildren and he used to date Angelina Jolie. The latter was pretty mind boggling, let me tell you.

The other thing I didn't really like was that Norman was portraying Jagger in a very positive light. I could see the negatives in his personality but they were almost glossed over. He also didn't seem to be fond of Richards and was always on Mick's side when writing about the problems he and Keith had over the years. There was one particular passage that just completely slammed Keith and I had to read it aloud to my boyfriend - a Richards fan - because it was just so biased. Final issue: Mick was knighted in 2003 for services to music and, I'm not kidding here, every single time Mick was mentioned after that section, Norman referred to him as Sir Mick. Every single time. I get that he's now knighted and is a Sir but I thought it was overkill.

I know this review is coming off as very negative, but I did enjoy reading this biography. Really! It was so interesting to learn about Mick and the band. They've been around for so long (technically, 50 years but the Stones don't consider 1962 as their "birth" year as Charlie Watts didn't join until the next year, according to this article in Rolling Stone) and have a fascinating history. Surprisingly enough, no band member has ever died of overdose (see above re: extreme drug usage), although one, Brian Jones, may or may not have been murdered (nope, didn't know that either). They never really broke up either, just took a short hiatus or two. How many other bands can or will be able to say that?

Overall, I think Mick Jagger was a really interesting read. While I wasn't a fan of the way author Philip Norman wrote the bio I enjoyed learning about Jagger and the Stones.

Finally, I leave you with the video of one of my favourite Stones songs. What's your favourite?




*I received a copy of this book from Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review*

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mini Review: How Santa Became Santa Claus


Have you ever had to tell a child about Santa Claus? Who he is, what he does, how he does it? As I don't have any kids myself, I haven't had to teach any children about Santa. When the author of How Santa Became Santa Claus asked me to review her short story, it got me thinking about how I would introduce the myth.

This is the description of the book:
This children's story will answer all the questions you've always had about Santa Claus:
Who is he?
Where does he come from?
Where did he get all those powers from?
Why does he distribute gift on Christmas?
This is a fantastic and magical story that you will never forget.
I think the author had an interesting idea but I'm not sure I would read this story to my own (imaginary) children. I'm a big fan of Santa and Christmas which is why I agreed to review this book. That being said, I'm not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination so I was a little...let's say indifferent to the appearance of God and how Nicholas actually became Santa. I imagine this would be a nice story to tell kids who have had a religious upbringing but I can't really comment on that.

I'm glad I got the chance to read How Santa Became Santa Claus even if I wasn't in love with it. It made me think a little bit more about how kids are told about Santa. This might be a good story for some parents but not for all of them.

Merry Christmas and happy reading! :)

Merry Christmas!


I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your friends and family. And may there be many books under the tree for you!

Top Ten Tuesday: Christmas Edition


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.

Because today's Tuesday happens to fall on Christmas, we get a freebie week. I decided to do a bit of a combo list. Five of these books are lovely children's Christmas books and some are classics and some are ones that are special to my sister and I. The other five are Christmas themed books that I would like to read and it's no surprise that they're all chick lit novels! :) What are some of your favourite Christmas books?

Don't forget to check out their blog for a full list of everyone participating in this week's list!


A Porcupine in a Pine Tree - Helaine Becker and Werner Zimmermann
This is probably the best adaptation of the 12 Days of Christmas ever because it's so Canadian. The countdown includes beavers, moose, Toronto Maple Leafs, Stanley Cups, and, of course, a porcupine in a pine tree. The illustrations are adorable. My best friend bought me the book and the little stuffed porcupine last year for Christmas!

The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg
This is such a classic book. The illustrations are just fabulous and I love the story. I have yet to own the book but I do have the movie and the bell ornament from Hallmark!

The Jolly Christmas Postman - Allan and Janet Ahlberg
If you don't know the Jolly Postman, you are missing out. This postman goes about and delivers mail to all sorts of people - like Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks. The best part of these books? The letters that you can pull out and read. Just awesomeness.

Do I really need to explain why this one is on the list? So much fun.

This is another one that my sister and I would read every year. I loved the I Spy books growing up so it was always fun to pull out the Christmas one each year and try to find everything again. Like the pickle ornament!


The Gift - Cecelia Ahern
I've read a few of Ahern's books and haven't gotten around to this one yet.

Christmas with Mr. Darcy - Victoria Connelly
Austen and Christmas? Count me in.

Winter Wonderland - Belinda Jones
I just recently learned that this novel takes place during the winter carnival in Quebec, which is something I've always wanted to check out.

Married by Christmas - Scarlett Bailey
I haven't read any of Bailey's books but I've heard lots of good things. Why not start with a cute Christmas story?

With Love at Christmas - Carole Matthews
I really enjoy Matthews' novels so I'd like to give this year's Christmas book a read.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Just Finished: Christmas Spirit


Christmas Spirit by Liberty Blake was one of those quick and entertaining short stories that you need to read every once and awhile. This short story is one of Still Moments Publishing's and I was happy to give it a chance when they asked me to review it. I'm a sucker for all things Christmassy :)

Here's the short and sweet description of this story:
Cross a Christmas phobic male with a caterer with Christmas bells on...can she ignite the Christmas spirit in him?
I blew through this story in a lunch hour at work this past week, which was great. Sometimes it's nice to be able to wrap something up in one sitting because you don't want to have to re-enter the character's world. This was a really short short story at just 28 pages so I had no problem reading it at lunch. It was a lovely break for the day!

Sometimes I find short stories too short, especially when they try to rush things. It can sometimes be particularly bad with romances because you have to wonder how quickly people can really fall in love. Even though this story was very short, I didn't have that feeling. I thought there was just enough time given that it made sense that the characters could end up with each other. I did think that I would have liked some more back story on a few things, like finding out why Harry hates Christmas. That almost felt abrupt and I didn't think enough time was given to that part of the story.

While the story itself wasn't one of my favourites, I thought it was well written. It had Christmas, it had a steamy romance, and it also had a theme of loss and learning to let go and enjoy things again. Very well done, considering the length of the story.

I'm really glad I got the chance to read Christmas Spirit by Liberty Blake. Check it out if you're looking for a little shot of Christmas before the big day!

Happy reading :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Author Interview: Samantha March


It's my last post for the CLP Blog Tour for The Green Ticket by the lovely Samantha March. I reviewed the novel the other day (I loved it and you can read the review here) and Samantha wrote a great post about meeting her characters for Books Etc. as well. Today I have an interview with Samantha for your reading pleasure! I hope you all enjoy it :)

Favourite movie?
It’s a toss-up between anything with Reese Witherspoon or Will Ferrell ;)

Favourite author/book?
Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin

Favourite (or dream) travel destination?
Italy!

Favourite indulgence (food to eat, store to shop in, etc.)?
I love Coldstone ice cream – cake batter with Oreo’s to be exact!

The Green Ticket is your second novel. How was the writing/editing/publishing/promoting process this time around compared to with your first novel, Destined to Fail?
I felt like it was better all around. I felt more confident in my writing and also more pressured to get another book out there! I also felt like I had a much better marketing plan in place the second time around – though I basically had none with DESTINED TO FAIL and really learned that lesson!

What is your writing routine like?
When I am in writing mode, that is really all I focus on. I give myself goals each day – write 1,000 words or 5,000 words of finish a scene. I enjoy writing in the mornings since my nights can get a bit hectic, and my goals really help me stay on track!

What kinds of things do you like to do when you're not writing?
Reading! I run ChickLitPlus.com and have a lot of book reviews due day to day! But I also enjoy dancing and working out – particularly yoga and kickboxing! 

What is your favourite thing about writing and being an author?
That it was a dream I had when I was nine years old and after a lot of mis-steps and hesitance, I’m doing what I love.  

How did you come up with the idea for The Green Ticket?
I actually became fascinated a few years back with the money versus morals topic when I watched a young girl marry an older man (we are talking a 50 year age difference) and be fine that people knew she married him for money. Well, fascinated and quite disturbed I should say! That gave me the spark to write THE GREEN TICKET and even though the plot is entirely different, the concept is still there.

Do you find yourself giving your characters qualities that you or people who are close to you have?
I do. I think a lot of authors find inspiration from those around them, even if it’s something very miniscule. For example, in THE GREEN TICKET Henry mentions that he doesn’t like eating chocolate cereal that turns his milk into chocolate milk – which is a trait my fiancĂ© has as well :)

Author Bio:
Samantha March is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, and all around book lover. She runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up to date on all things health, fitness, fashion, and celebrity related. In 2011 she launched her independent publishing company Marching Ink and her debut novel Destined to Fail. When she isn’t reading, writing, or blogging, you can find her cheering for the Green Bay Packers.

Connect with Samantha:
Website 


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Promo: Kaira Rouda

A few weeks ago I was asked to promote a holiday promo for author Kaira Rouda. While I haven't read her books I've heard nothing but good things about them and was happy to help promote her books and a giveaway! Make sure you go to her Facebook page today since it's the last day for the fun giveaway! Enjoy :)




Are you feeling Naughty or Nice? Doesn't matter, with this giveaway, you could win a prize to make both sides happy!
To have a little fun with the holidays, Kaira “asked” a leading lady from each of her two novels what she would pick for a Holiday giveaway prize.  Kelly, the protagonist of HERE, HOME, HOPE, is represented by the “Nice” gifts.  Ellen, one of the stars of ALL THE DIFFERENCE, made the special “Naughty” selections. To win this amazing prize, please visit Kaira's Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/KairaRoudaBooks or her website's blog: www.kairarouda.com/blog and sign up. The giveaway is open to US and Canada residents. Good luck!


Wait, there’s more!
As a special holiday gift for everyone, HERE, HOME, HOPE and ALL THE DIFFERENCE are 99 cents for your eReader now through December 31st so if you haven't had a chance to read both of Kaira's novels, now you can! 
Buy All The Difference

About the Books


HERE, HOME, HOPE
Desperate Housewives meets The Middle Place in a warm, witty tale of one suburban woman’s journey from midlife crisis to reinvention, with the help of friends.
“Witty and uplifting, a charming debut that explores the courage it takes to reshape a life and how to do it with a dash of panache.” ~ Beth Hoffman, NYTs bestselling author

ALL THE DIFFERENCE
A novel of suspense and choices with a nod to Susan Isaacs's tales of suburban murder.
“An intriguing cast of characters and an untimely death set the stage for a chick-lit, murder mystery. A light, engaging read that keeps readers guessing until the end.” ~ Kirkus

Connect with Kaira:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guest Post: Libby Mercer

Earlier this week I reviewed Libby Mercer's novel Unmasking Maya (check out my review here if you missed it). I really enjoyed it and am so happy to have a guest post from the author herself for you all! I think this is a fabulous post and I hope you all like it. Thank you to Libby for writing this post!

Hi Kaley, and thanks so much for having me here today!

A few years ago, back when I was running a little boutique in New York, I had a bizarre glimpse at the life I might have had. To properly explain, I’ll have to rewind a few more years to when I worked as a freelance fashion journalist.

It wasn’t a bad situation. I absolutely loved writing about fashion, but money was tight. I had to supplement my funds with soul-destroying temp jobs, and I was dying for a steady, stable position. The whole time I was a freelance journo, I applied and interviewed for editorial positions in dozens of glossy fashion mags. Well, if you’ve read or seen The Devil Wears Prada, you’ll know how high my goals were as I tried to land “the job a million girls would kill for.”

Then one day, I had an interview at Cosmo that went fabulously well. Days later, the editor called to offer me the position, but informed me it would no longer be an editorial assistant post – it would be an internship. I’d been out of college for over three years by then, and I’d already had three unpaid internships, so (regrettably) I turned her down.

Fast forward to that day in my boutique. I was chatting with a customer who happened to mention that she worked at Cosmo. Turns out, she’d taken the internship I turned down a couple of years back.

It was wild, and it got me thinking: what would my life be like if I’d taken the internship? Why did I choose not to? Sure, the idea of yet another unpaid job was my reason, but I could have gotten by (just) with my freelance work. Cosmo was major. I hadn’t been offered a position (paid or not) with a magazine of its calibre before. In retrospect, it’s kind of strange that I turned it down.

I know a lot of people believe everything happens for a reason. I’m still officially on the fence about this one, but I’m warming to the idea.

Let’s press rewind again, and revisit my life as a freelance journo. While seeking out stable employment and bringing in some income, I was also writing fiction. Not to toot my own horn (well… okay, to toot my own horn) but I did quite well in college. I majored in creative writing, and because my profs loved my stuff, I was sure the world would too. Needless to say, I envisioned a fabulous life just around the corner as a successful author.

Pride cometh before the fall, of course. Immediately after graduation, I started sending out my stories. And I was met with rejection after rejection for year after year. But that didn’t stop me. Even though all those rejections were tough to endure, I never gave up. And I never stopped improving. This is key. And this is what makes me think perhaps everything does happen for a reason. If someone had taken a chance on me way back when, it would have been disastrous. My writing was pretentious and I hadn’t fully grasped story structure. No doubt my book would have flopped.

So even though my twenty-two year old self would have been mortified if she’d known it would take me/her/us so long to reach published author status, if I could travel back in time and tell her one thing, I’d say, “Chin up, babe. There’s a reason for all this rejection. You’re not ready yet.”

What do you think? Do you believe everything happens for a reason?

Author Bio:
Born and raised in the Midwest, Libby Mercer’s adventurous spirit kicked in after graduating from high school, and she’s since lived in Boston, NYC and London. San Francisco is the city she currently calls home. For several years, Libby worked in fashion – first as a journalist and then as a shopkeeper. She also dabbled in design for a while. Even through the crazy fashion years, Libby never let go of her dream of being a published author, and has since developed her signature writing style, crafting quirky chick lit/romance hybrids. Fashioning a Romance was her first published novel, and Unmasking Maya will be her second. Libby has a third novel, The Karmic Connection, scheduled for release in 2013.

Connect with Libby:
Blog
Goodreads
Twitter
Facebook
Buy Unmasking Maya on Amazon!

Guest Post: Samantha March

Yesterday I reviewed the fabulous novel The Green Ticket by the equally amazing Samantha March. Today, I have a guest post from the author herself! I knew Samantha had tried something a little different when it came to planning her second novel so I wanted to know how she got to know her characters in this book. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did!


Meeting the Cast

Getting to know your characters can be a tall order. Some simply pop into my mind all planned out – I can visually see them, I know instinctively what they like and what they do for a career, etc. Other times, I have no clue. That is when I like to use a character interview. I have a set of questions that range from what do you drive to what is your favorite food to what is your favorite childhood memory. Some questions might not seem like they would mean a lot to a plot, but as you put together each answer, a little sliver of your characters comes to life. By the time I have them all answered, I have a much better idea of who my character is and what they bring to the story. I tend to only do these for my major characters. In THE GREEN TICKET for example, some I used the interview on was Lila, Henry, and Hannah. (I had Alex pretty well planned out and didn’t feel the need to use one.) I think this is a great tool and have already started using the interviews with the characters to book number three! 



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourites of 2012



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 I've listed my favourite reads of 2012. It was SO difficult to pick only ten! I read so many good books this year. Each link leads to my review of the book (other than #3 as I haven't reviewed that one yet). Are any of your favourites on this list? What was your top read of the year?

Don't forget to check out their blog for a full list of everyone participating in this week's list!

I decided to count it down from 10 to 1...here goes!

10. A Girl Like You – Maria Geraci
9. Gold – Chris Cleave
8. The Tall Book – Arianne Cohen
7. I Couldn’t Love You More – Jillian Medoff
6. Shadow of Night – Deborah Harkness
5. Where We Belong – Emily Giffin
4. Blank Slate Kate and All At Sea – Heather Wardell
3. The Runaway Princess – Hester Browne
2. The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
1. Breaking the Rules – Cat Lavoie

CLP Blog Tour: The Green Ticket


I cannot tell you guys how excited I was to read The Green Ticket. This is the second novel from the fabulous Samantha March - author and book blogger extraordinaire (she runs the popular site Chick Lit Plus). I read and loved her debut novel, Destined to Fail late last year (check out my review here if you missed it). So, did her second novel live up to the expectations I had? Oh yeah. I loved it.

Here's the synopsis:
College junior Alex Abrams scores her dream job at the ripe age of twenty – manager to a successful salon and spa. Thrilled to finally have a real adult job, Alex enthusiastically jumps into the world of schedules, conference calls, and getting a massage when interviewing prospective employees. What she doesn’t expect are the very grown-up issues that comes with a demanding boss. Kevin Dohlman quickly becomes Alex’s worse nightmare – covering up his affairs, dealing with his enormous ego, and trying to protect her female staff from him becomes a full-time job in its own right. Alex has also befriended Kevin’s wife and co-owner, Dani, and is trying to keep Kevin’s secrets hidden from her. The situation only worsens when Kevin starts paying Alex off to make sure she keeps her insider knowledge to herself. 
While struggling to keep her wits and stay happy with her new grown-up job, Alex is juggling college courses, a new love interest, and keeping up with her close group of girlfriends. When her roommate and best friend Lila gets offered an opportunity to move to Los Angeles and sign with an agent, Alex realizes her life truly is changing, and everyone around her – including herself  is growing up. Knowing she is faced with some hard decisions ahead, Alex struggles with keeping her job at Blissful. But does she really want to throw away what she dreamed of as a career – or will the secret-keeping for Kevin become too much to handle? The Green Ticket is a story about morals versus money, and how one young woman navigates the shaky line between the two.
One of the things I remember liking about Destined to Fail was that I could really relate to the characters. The girls were college students and it hasn't been that long since I graduated from university. The Green Ticket was just the same way. I could completely relate to Alex's lifestyle at school. She and her girlfriends all lived in the same dorm at their college. That brought back fond memories of my dorm in first year and then living with some of my closest friends for the next three years. It was so much easier to hang out when they were just upstairs or down the hall - instead of 3 hours or 6 hours or...apparently Google can't calculate the directions from where I live now to where one of my old roomies is in Nunavut. OK, a ridiculously long way away. Point is, I miss the days when my friends lived close enough that I didn't have to put on real shoes to see them (something Alex mentions in the book). I really liked that aspect and I think March does a great job of writing some really real friendships - so much so that I wish I could be one Alex's friends, too!

What I also liked about this book was that the romance wasn't the central storyline. This is a minor spoiler as you'll notice that it's not even mentioned in the synopsis. Now, don't get me wrong, I love that there was a (wonderfully written) romance with Alex and Henry but I'm glad it wasn't the main focus. I do think that they are an adorable couple and am glad they found each other.

The only negative I found with this book was that there was a chunk of time that was just skipped over - from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve. March caught me up and let me know what happened during that period of time but I just found it odd that over a month was just bounced over.

I couldn't believe the...well...crap, that Alex had to put up with at Blissful. I don't know what I would have done if I had been in her position. Though, I doubt I'd ever be in her position because there's no way that I would have had enough confidence in myself to run a spa when I was in my third year of university. I really admired Alex and I thought she was a fabulous main character.

I'm sure I could continue gushing about The Green Ticket, but I won't. Instead, I'll urge you all to buy a copy of it so you can see for yourselves how fabulous it is. I'm so glad I was able to take place in this tour and I'm happy to let you know that I'll have a guest post from author Samantha March herself, as well as an interview coming up later in the week. While you're waiting, hop on over to the main tour page and check out some of the other reviews. Maybe they'll help convince you to buy this book!

Happy reading :)

Guest Post: Cara Alwill Leyba


CLP Blog Tours is currently hosting a tour for the book Sparkle by Cara Alwill Leyba. While I have not read the book (I knew things were going to be crazy busy this week!), I find the idea of it really interesting and I wondered how Cara came up with it. I think you'll really enjoy this guest post, and maybe find it inspiring, too! 

Cara Alwill Leyba
Behind the Scenes of Sparkle: How the Book Came About

Sparkle was a work in progress up to the last minute. When I first wrote my book, it was originally titled The Champagne Diet. It later became The Champagne Diaries, and eventually, it turned into Sparkle.

Let me explain.

The book’s original concept was a humorous weight loss memoir about how I lost “the dead weight” both physically and emotionally after discovering and falling in love with champagne (check out my blog for more on that!). After about a year, many changes took place in my life. My blog readership grew and the things I started to write about evolved. I found myself immersed in motivational topics and spent the bulk of my time writing inspirational pieces for my readers. It was less about food and fitness and more about lifestyle as a whole.

I decided to change the book from a memoir to a narrative nonfiction all about how to live your most effervescent life. Champagne was a huge focus in the book and I included all sorts of chapters from “How to Throw the Perfect Champagne Girl’s Night In” to “The Marvelous Magic of Champagne” which chronicled the numerous health benefits of bubbly.  I got a literary agent and we began working on my proposal. As much as I loved the book, I faced one issue yet again: I was evolving.

During the time that my agent began pitching the book to mainstream publishers, I made a huge decision to become a life coach. I always knew I wanted to work with women one on one to help them live their most sparkling lives, but up until this point it never really extended beyond my writing. When I discovered life coaching, I found a whole new avenue to connect with women. As a trained coach, I could do private coaching, create workshops, and really understand the women who were reading my words.

The Champagne Diaries was not as well received as I had hoped, mainly because publishers were nervous to put out a book with such a heavy emphasis on champagne. I like to think this was a blessing in disguise, because my true book, Sparkle, was within me and would finally have the chance to be born – my way.

Rather than changing things again and pitching the book again as Sparkle, I decided to self-publish - for many reasons. First, the process of traditional publishing can be daunting. I wasn't up for another go-round and I was craving the creative control. I wanted to prove that I could write the book the way I wanted to and it would sell. I wanted to prove that my fans would love it exactly as it was. And they did. To date, I've sold nearly 500 copies of Sparkle in just 12 weeks, and I truly credit that to the creative freedom and enthusiasm that came along with my journey and experiences.

My advice to anyone (a writer or not) is simple: don’t be afraid to grow. Just because you write one genre doesn't mean you can’t try out another. Just because you self-published one book doesn't mean you should turn down (the right) traditional deal. And just because you feel one way about something doesn't mean you can’t change your mind. Freedom is power.

Author Bio:

Cara Alwill Leyba is a best selling author, and certified life and wellness coach from New York City who empowers women to live their most effervescent lives and celebrate themselves. She encourages women to indulge in the things that make them happy, and swears that every woman can live a "champagne life," no matter how busy she is or how tight her budget.

Her blog, The Champagne Diet, boasts a following of thousands of loyal readers and has been featured in Glamour, Shape, Cafe Mom, Daily Mail UK, MSN Australia, AOL UK Lifestyle, and a host of other publications worldwide. Cara's writing has been featured in The Huffington Post, xJane, Mind Body Green, MTV News, and many other sites.

Cara regularly appears on the “Ask Dr. Fritz” radio show on WWRL New York, where she helps host Dr. Fritz answer questions from callers about love, career, family, relationships and more. She also hosts her own lifestyle and wellness show, "Uncork Your Best Self" on Blog Talk Radio.

Cara's first book, SPARKLE, became an immediate #1 bestseller on Amazon in both the Happiness and Self-Esteem categories upon hours of its release. She celebrated the release of her book with a book signing in New York City this past fall.

When she’s not popping bubbly, blogging, or working with her coaching clients, Cara spends her days leading a digital advertising team at MTV Networks. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and dog-child. For more on Cara visit www.LiveCreateSparkle.com

Connect with Cara!

Cara's website: www.LiveCreateSparkle.com
Cara's blog: www.TheChampagneDiet.com
Want to learn how to sparkle? Join Cara's "Sparkling Start" workshop next month and kick off 2013 in glittering, shimmering style! http://www.livecreatesparkle.com/group-workshops.html 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Just Finished: Unmasking Maya


I really enjoy stories that have a twist or two that are unexpected. The characters in Unmasking Maya had a few secrets and author Libby Mercer revealed them at just the right times. I really enjoyed this novel!

Here's the synopsis:
Defamed, Disgraced and Displaced...
Fresh from a career-killing scandal, New York fashion girl, Maya Kirkwood, arrives in San Francisco to reinvent herself as a fine artist. She's offered the opportunity to create an installation at the Silicon Valley headquarters of a hot new tech company. Fabulous, right?
Not so much.
She can't stand Derek Whitley - wunderkind software genius and CEO of the company. Hot as he may be on the outside, inside the man is a cold, unemotional, robotic type. Way too left-brained for her right-brained self.
As Maya and Derek get to know each other, however, their facades begin to crack. She catches her first glimpse of the man behind the superhuman tech prodigy, and he starts to see her as the woman she used to be. But is this a good thing? Once that last secret is revealed, will it bring them closer together or will it tear them apart?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. It had some art (I loved that Maya was an artist), some secrets (on all sides), some romance, and some humour. Mix all that together and you get a really great read. I found myself laughing out loud while reading at the gym and I thought the humour really lightened up some of the story. Those secrets I mentioned? Kind of heavy. So the joking around between characters was welcome.

I loved watching the romance begin between Maya and Derek. The butterflies and the "does he or doesn't he" thoughts Maya has - so much fun to read about. I won't go any further than that so use your imagination on how that relationship may or may not turn out :)

Maya was a great character. She was sweet and strong and just a little bit spunky. I really connected with her and I desperately wanted things to work out for her. I was hoping that she kept landing good jobs, like the one at Derek's company, so she could get out of her crummy apartment. I'm also really glad she found a friend at the tech company. Life is so dull without good girlfriends!

Unmasking Maya was a fabulous read. I definitely recommend it for chick lit lovers and I, for one, will be trying to get my hands on Libby Mercer's other novel, Fashioning a Romance. Stay tuned for a lovely guest post from Libby herself coming up on Wednesday!

Happy reading :)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

December Chick Lit Challenge Read: Mistletoe in Manhattan


I have to tell you all how amazing Talli Roland is. I knew she had a new holiday novella out this year, Mistletoe in Manhattan, and had heard lots of good things about it. I have also read and loved Build a Man and Construct a Couple so I thought this would be a great Christmas read to buy. I don't have a Kindle, unfortunately, so I wasn't able to get it through Amazon. Off I hopped to kobo aaaand...nothing. Smashwords? Nada. Apparently it was just not meant to be and, guys, I was so distraught! I mentioned on Twitter that I wasn't able to find and buy the book and Talli, the fabulous person that she is, emailed me a copy and didn't expect a single thing in return. I, of course, thanked her profusely and am giving back by posting this review.

Here's the synopsis of the novella:
As Little Missington's first Christmas baby in fifty years and the daughter of 'Christmas When You Like It' party-planners, Holly West has been surrounded by the holiday spirit since birth. Trouble is, she's not exactly filled with festive cheer. In fact, Holly can't wait to ditch the tinsel and Santa suits for champagne and celebs, and become a party-planner to the stars.
When British film star Dean Layton hires her parents' company to throw his holiday bash in Manhattan, Holly jumps at the chance to help, confident she can handle a little Christmas in exchange for access to Dean's exclusive world.
But New York and Dean's over-the-top demands are more than Holly bargained for. Can Holly deck the halls and make it a party to be proud of, or will this Christmas be one she'll never forget . . . even if she wants to?
I thought this was just such a fun Christmas read. Well, I suppose I should say holiday since it doesn't really feature Christmas too much. But that was fine with me. The Christmas aspect came with the party Holly was throwing and the fact that her parents want her home for Christmas (which is also her birthday).

I really liked the party planning aspect of the story. I have a diploma in event management so I've always had an interest in any wedding or party planning stories. Holly's story was really fun and different than anything else I had read before. A British party planner transplanted to New York City to plan a "real" Christmas party? Sounds like fun to me!

I do wish that the ending was a little different. I obviously won't say much because I don't want to give anything away so please forgive the vagueness. Holly meets a ridiculously good looking bar tender and they really hit it off. But what's going to happen when she goes back to England?

Overall, Mistletoe in Manhattan was a fabulous holiday read and I definitely recommend it. If I can find some time before now and Christmas, I'm also going to try to read Talli Roland's Christmas novella from last year,  Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts.

Side note: I meant to have this post up earlier today but then this happened...


This, my friends, is my new bunny. I've been wanting ones for awhile and today my boyfriend came home with this little one for me as an early Christmas present! I'm not sure if it's a boy or girl (apparently they didn't know at the pet store) but I think I'm going to name it Tonks. As in Nymphadora - from Harry Potter. If I had known it was for sure a boy, it would have been Willoughby :) Anyway, just wanted to share!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Author Interview: Heather Thurmeier


Today is my last post for the Falling for You tour organized by CLP Blog Tours! So far I've already reviewed  Heather Thurmeier's novel (loved it!) and she wrote a great guest post for the blog yesterday. Today's treat is an interview with the lovely Heather! Enjoy :)

Favourite movie?
Oh, so, so hard to pick just one. So here’s my current top 5:
Die Hard
Armageddon
40-Year-Old Virgin
Tommy Boy
The Notebook

Favourite author/book?
OMG, this is like picking a favorite child. Again, you get my top 5:
Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor series
Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series
Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series
**I'm actually going to stop at the top 4 instead because I think there are way too many books/series/authors that could be my number 5.

Favourite (or dream) travel destination?
Paris. I went once with my husband and we have the best week ever! We really want to go back with our girls.

Favourite indulgence (food to eat, store to shop in, etc.)?
Books. Lots and lots of books. Was there supposed to be another answer? Handbags. I really love handbags. I don’t own that many of them (regardless of what hubs says!) but I covet many. It doesn't matter what size or shape you are, a new handbag always fits!

Favourite reality TV show?
I have a top 3 (and a whole bunch of other that I love *almost* as much!):
The Amazing Race
Survivor
Bachelor/Bachelorette

What made you want to write romances?
I don’t know. I wanted to write a book for a long time, but never thought I could. I didn't have an idea for a book, just a desire to write one. Then one day an idea came to me, and it sort of festered in my brain for a while, taking shape. When I finally thought I had an overall idea and characters come together, I couldn't wait to write it. It just so happened to be a romance! I'm not surprised really. I love to watch romantic comedies, I love to read romance and chick lit, and I'm a huge romantic in real life!

Do you ever find characteristics of yourself or your friends and family creeping into your characters?
Yes! I think there is a little piece of me in every single one of my characters in some way or another. None of my characters are based entirely off of people I know in real life… that would be awkward! But each character has a little trait from someone I know, or in most cases, from many people I know.

What is your writing process like? Do you have a favourite place or time of day to write?
I write mostly in the morning and early afternoon while the kids are at school and the house is quiet. I find I'm very motivated in the morning to get my word count in and I usually have lots of energy to sit and focus on writing for a few hours. Once the kids come home, it gets harder to focus because they need a lot of attention. And after they go to bed, I'm beat! I get very little to nothing done in the evenings!

What’s your favourite thing about being an author?
I have two answers to this. First, I love that being an author allows me to set my own schedule. I like working as much or as little as my family life allows. It great to be able to work and still be home with my kids after school, to run them to activities and take them for playdates. And I love being able to do the job I love from the comfort of my home.  Secondly, I LOVE creating characters and telling their stories. It’s such a good feeling to be able to put down on paper these stories I have in my head and to have people actually read my books and enjoy them! I didn't realize how fulfilling this career would be when I started my first book, but every time I finish a book it gives me a sense of accomplishment I've never felt any other way. Being an author is incredibly rewarding and satisfying. I can’t imagine doing anything else as a career and I feel blessed that this is my job.

What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When I'm not writing I like spending time with my family and friends. We enjoy going to movies, hiking, bike riding, and playing video games. One of our favorite outdoor activities is geocaching. We use a handheld GPS unit and a set of longitude and latitude coordinates to find hidden ‘caches’. Caches are containers that people hide and inside is always a logbook we sign with our geocaching name and usually there are other little trinkets inside too. Sometimes there are tiny toys for the kids that they can take, and sometimes we bring little things with us to leave in the cache as well. The kids call it treasure hunting! The second book in my reality TV romance trilogy is called Stuck on You and it’s a reality show loosely based on The Amazing Race but with a geocaching twist! I can't wait to see what readers think of it! 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Guest Post: Heather Thurmeier

As promised, today I have a guest post from the lovely Heather Thurmeier as part of the CLP Blog Tour for her new novel Falling for You. If you read my review from the other day, you'd know that this book features a show that is similar to The Bachelor so I wondered what her inspiration was for her trilogy and what it is about reality TV that we love so much. I hope you all enjoy this post as much as I did! A big thank you to Heather for writing this post. Stay tuned for an interview with Heather coming up on the blog tomorrow!

Hi, Kaley! Thank you so much for having me here today to chat about my ridiculous love for all things reality TV and especially The Bachelor/Bachelorette!

What is it I love so much about those shows that I was inspired to base a romance novel on the idea of a reality TV show cast and crew? Ah, so many things!

First, I love the drama of the show. I know, it’s awful, but I do. I love watching the drama between contestants each week. Sometimes there’s even drama between the contestants and the bachelor/bachelorette! I love to see the daggers get thrown as contestants clash. Tensions run high on these show and it almost always results in memorable TV moments!

Second, I love the challenges and dates! I love to watch each week to find out what crazy things the contestants have to do next. I love when they do something exciting like bungee jumping or rock climbing. I’m always amazed when contestants who are scared face their fears and do the challenge! The only challenges or dates that I don’t like are the ones where the contestants have to act or sing. I think it’s kinda cruel and unusual punishment to put them through that in such a publically humiliating way! And one of my favorite things to watch is when the Bachelor/Bachelorette takes a contestant on a fabulous date that would never happen in real life. Maybe they get whisked off in a helicopter to some remote island for snorkeling with dolphins and a sunset dinner on a private yacht. Or maybe they hike up the side of a mountain and have a picnic in the crater of a dormant volcano. Whatever they do, these dates are always unbelievable and I love to see what they’ll do next!

Last, I love to watch romance blossom. I love to watch as those initial sparks of attraction ignite. And when they start to come together as a couple, opening up to each other and sharing pieces of their lives with someone they just met… it just makes me happy! Is there anything better than watching two people fall in love? No, probably not. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. I think I like reading about two people falling in love even more! You can read all about Cassidy falling in love in FALLING FOR YOU, but she may not fall in love with who you think!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

CLP Blog Tour: Falling for You


Welcome to my stop on the Falling for You blog tour! I'm so glad I decided to take part in the CLP Blog Tour for Heather Thurmeier's latest novel. I loved it!

Here's the synopsis:
Newly single Cassidy Quinn is thrilled to be a contestant on the new reality dating show, The One.
But her excitement turns to horror when the gorgeous bachelor turns out to be her ex-boyfriend. Seeing Brad again makes Cassidy realize she might not be as “over him” as she thought—and then she meets hunky cameraman Evan Burke.
After watching his brother lose his wife in a tragic accident, Evan vows never to fall in love. But following Cassidy around as her personal cameraman makes him question his decision, and resisting her gets harder with every sunbathing, bikini-wearing day.
Cassidy and Evan begin a forbidden affair while her ex-boyfriend tries to win her heart back one groping, awkward moment at a time. If Cassidy can manage to stop falling off horses (literally), stop falling onto her ex-boyfriend, the bachelor (yes, literally), and stop falling in love with backstage playboy Evan, she might still make it through the show without becoming a tabloid sensation.
But soon Cassidy must choose between the ex who broke her heart and the cameraman who might never love her back. For Cassidy, this reality show just got real.
I don't watch a lot of reality TV but the franchise I do watch is The Bachelor/Bachelorette (I draw the line at The Bachelor Pad) so it was a lot of fun to read this novel. I really liked the "behind the scenes" sort of look I got at a similar reality show. Even though I know Thurmeier essentially made up the show, she would have done some research so it was a believable story. As believable as novels and "reality" TV is, of course (and that's not a knock at the book!) :) I watch these shows for the outlandish dates and to see if the contestants can actually find love. This novel was that and so much more. Reading about Brad and the other girls was hilarious - and just what I imagine those shows to actually be like.

I really liked Cassidy. She was a spunky girl and it was quite amusing to read about her adventure as a reality show contestant. I couldn't believe she had ever been with Brad. He was a bit of a...let's call him a twit, shall we? :) Evan, on the other hand, was delightful and their romance was so much fun to read. It was a lot steamier than I expected - an added bonus!

I am so excited that this is a series. The next book, Stuck on You, features Paige, another one of the girls on The One with Cassidy. She was such a sweet character and I really can't wait to read more about her - and find out what Cassidy and Evan are up to.

Even though Falling for You is more of a contemporary romance, I think chick lit lovers would really enjoy it as well. Heather Thurmeier is now one of the authors I stay up to date on because I've now enjoyed two of her novels. I can't wait to read the second book in her reality TV series! Stay tuned for a guest post from Heather and an interview with her coming up in the next couple of days!

Happy reading :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors


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 my list features my ten favourite new-to-me authors I read in 2012. I read quite a few new authors this year so it was a mission to narrow it down to ten! A few of the authors I picked are debut authors and their first novels were just published this year. Others have been published before but I just happened upon them this year. I've linked to the reviews that I have written and posted so far (they all have one but Tracie as I haven't gotten around to writing the review for her novel yet!) Who are some of your favourite authors you came across this year?

Don't forget to check out their blog for a full list of everyone participating in this week's list!

In no particular order, here are my favourite authors that I first read in 2012!

Tracie Banister