Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourites of 2013

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.

It's the time of year to go through all of the books we read this year (thank goodness for Goodreads) and decide which ones we loved the most. It's hard to determine which ones were better than others. Sometimes they really were better all around - great writing, amazing story, excellent characters - but sometimes it was just the perfect read for that moment in time. You'll get to hear more about my favourites later once I get my End of Year Survey done (damn lack of internet) but for now here are ten...ahem, eleven...of the best books I read this year. Links lead to my review. What were some of your favourites from 2013?

Blogger Girl - Meredith Schorr
I love Meredith and I freaking adored her latest book. It was chick lit at its finest and it even included a blogger heroine to boot!

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
If twisty and weird historical novels are your thing, this book is for you. So good.

Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan
As I said in my review, I was addicted to this novel. It had everything you could want in a story but it all worked well together.

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
Just all around amazing.

Divergent/Insurgent/Allegiant - Veronica Roth
I read the entire series this year and really liked it. Even the ending.

Just One Day/Just One Year - Gayle Forman
Read these books. Clear your weekend, stock up on tea and snacks, and snuggle under a warm blanket. You can thank me later.

Sweet Thing - Renee Carlino
This was one of the first New Adult books I read and I really loved it.

Anna and the French Kiss/Lola and the Boy Next Door - Stephanie Perkins
A lot of people had told me that I'd probably like this series since I'm a huge Sarah Dessen fan. Those people were correct. I loved the characters Perkins created! I cannot wait for Isla and the Happily Ever After.

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
This was another book that took me awhile to read but, boy, am I glad I did. Such an imaginative world.

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
This book deserves all the sales it got once it was revealed Rowling was the author. It's a solid mystery filled with the descriptive language that Rowling is so good at.

The Bone Cage - Angie Abdou
This was, hands down, my favourite CanLit book of the year. I'm so glad I had to read it for my Project Bookmark Canada internship. It's a great story about two athletes working towards the Sydney Olympics.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review: Sleigh Bells in the Snow

Christmas romance stories are my favourite kind of Christmas stories so it’s no surprise I loved reading Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan. It had some of my favourite romantic Christmas elements: small town, beautiful scenery, family traditions…oh, it was lovely!

Here’s the synopsis:
Once upon a time, Christmas was Kayla Green's favorite time of year. Now all the workaholic wants for Christmas is for it to be over—as fast as possible! So when duty calls her to snowy Vermont to close a deal with a new client, Kayla is grateful for an excuse to avoid the holidays for another year.
Jackson O'Neil left a thriving business behind to return home and salvage his family's resort—it's in his blood, and he can't let it fail. Now that he's got marketing whiz Kayla Green working with him to put Snow Crystal on the map, success is on the horizon. The fact they strike enough sparks off each other to power all the Christmas lights in Vermont is just an added bonus.
Kayla might be an expert at her job, but she's out of her depth with Jackson—he makes her crave the happy-ever-after she once dreamed of, and it's terrifying. As the snowflakes continue to swirl, will the woman who doesn't believe in the magic of Christmas finally fall under its spell?
I think one of my favourite things about this novel was the setting. Snow Crystal, Vermont sounds like such a nice spot and the way Morgan described the Inn and the grounds made me want to visit. Now, I don’t ski and I’d probably be just as scared as Kayla was about the prospect of seeing a black bear but it still sounds amazing. I especially liked the idea of the secluded log cabins, complete with fireplaces and hot tubs, and I was so jealous that Kayla got to go on a dog sled. I’ve since added ‘dog sledding’ to my list of life goals! I don’t think this novel would have been as lovely as it was had it not been for the idyllic setting Morgan created.

There was a good balance of heavy emotional scenes and humorous scenes in this novel. Kayla had a lot of issues to work through (issues that, of course, were made worse at Christmas) and the Inn was in serious trouble but Morgan worked in some lighthearted moments. Personally, I loved every scene that mentioned a moose. Kayla had never seen a moose before and was terrified of them – especially after Jackson explained how dangerous it can be to hit one with your car. One example of an amusing moose scene (and there were many) was when Kayla’s assistant pulled up a picture of a moose on her computer since Kayla was under the impression they were cute looking animals. Her response? “Dear God – “ Kayla recoiled. “That is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.” Poor moose. :)

The romance in this novel was completely predictable but I was ok with that. It was kind of amusing to read along as Kayla and Jackson tried to deny their feelings for each other. Once they gave in, woo boy, sparks flew. And the setting for their first kiss? Swoon! It was nice to watch Kayla become more relaxed the more time she spent with Jackson and I could tell that they were really good for each other. 

I can’t end this review without discussing the Christmas elements to the novel. I was so glad I got the approval from Netgalley just in time to read it before Christmas. Of course, that being said, you can still read this at any time and enjoy it. Christmas is important in this book but there’s a lot more going on in this world than just the holiday. I loved that Jackson’s family, his mother in particular, went all out for the holidays. There were oodles of cookies, a live tree, presents, and a large family meal. It sounded wonderful! I also loved that they provided real trees for the guests who were staying at the cabins over the holidays. Talk about service!

Sleigh Bells in the Snow was such a great read. I adored the world author Sarah Morgan has created and I am so glad that she’s making this into a series (not that it was surprising with the backstories she created for Tyler and Sean, Jackson’s brothers). I can’t wait to return to Snow Crystal. This is a fabulous winter read that I think all romance lovers will enjoy.

*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: How to Fall in Love

I've been a fan of Cecelia Ahern for years (possibly since the movie P.S. I Love You was being promoted as I would have read the book before the movie was released!) so when I received an advanced copy of her latest, How to Fall in Love, I was thrilled. It was released back on October 24th but it took me awhile to get around to it. Craziness as I ended up devouring it in one day. It was a perfect Sunday afternoon read!

Here's the synopsis:
She has just two weeks. Two weeks to teach him how to fall in love – with his own life.
Adam Basil and Christine Rose are thrown together late one night, when Christine is crossing the Halfpenny Bridge in Dublin. Adam is there, poised, threatening to jump. Adam is desperate – but Christine makes a crazy deal with him. His 35th birthday is looming and she bets him she can show him that life is worth living before then.
Despite her determination, Christine knows what a dangerous promise she’s made. Against the ticking of the clock, the two of them embark on wild escapades, grand romantic gestures and some unlikely late-night outings. Slowly, Christine thinks Adam is starting to fall back in love with his life.
But has she done enough to change his mind for good? And is that all that’s starting to happen?
Friends and family had been asking me what I thought of this book as soon as I said I finished it. That was good preparation for this review! I realized that I didn't love this because it was amazing in a literary sense but because the story completely grabbed me and would not let go. I was invested in Christine and Adam's story and I was feeling Christine's nerves when she worried about "saving" Adam before his birthday deadline. I also really liked reading about the love and affection that grew between the two of them. Their feelings grew naturally and they had a lot of fun together - even though they were dealing with a super serious issue. I also liked that it wasn't just Christine helping Adam but that he helped her as well. They learned from each other and I enjoyed seeing that.

There wasn't a magical element to this novel like with some of Ahern's others but there was still a strong sense of fate and how that plays into our lives. By this I mean that there seemed to be some cosmic reason for what Christine had gone through and why she and Adam met. It sort of makes you think about how, why, and when certain people come into your life.

Even though this book is dealing with Christine trying to keep Adam from killing himself, a less than cheerful topic, there were still a lot of lighthearted moments. Christine's family, for example, provided a lot of comic relief. I also loved hearing about how Adam first asked his ex-girlfriend out. He dressed up as Waldo from Where's Waldo? and showed up everywhere she was for an entire day but didn't say a thing to her. How much fun is that?

I can't really give a concrete reason why I loved How to Fall in Love so much, I just did. It was one of those books I adored reading from start to finish. Cecelia Ahern's latest novel is by no means perfect but the issues I had didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of this novel. It was a definite winner for me!

*An advanced copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, HarperCollins Canada, in exchange for an honest review.*

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reviews: Just One Day and Just One Year

My original plan for my review of Just One Day was to pop it in one of my mini review posts. Then I read Just One Year and decided to put the two together in one post. I feel like they’re meant to be talked about together since they’re essentially the same story…two sides of the same coin, if you will. These books are all about fate and accidents (not the disastrous kinds) and my friend and I experienced one of these accidents ourselves. Fellow blogger Natalie, of Browsing Bookshelves, and I both read Just One Day (synopsis here) on the same day without the other knowing it. How’s that for a coincidence? We needed to meet up to discuss the book but then decided to wait to talk about it until we had both read Just One Year (synopsis here). Unfortunately, because of Christmas craziness, we still haven't been able to meet up!

I had been hearing great things about Gayle Forman for awhile. Truthfully, most of that positive praise came from Jamie of Perpetual Pageturner and The Broke and the Bookish. After she talked about meeting Forman at a signing that happened to take place on her birthday (check out her post…I love how happy she looks!) I thought I should finally get around to reading Just One Day to see what it was all about. I’m so glad I did! It was an emotional and amazing read and Just One Year was no different.

I read Just One Day in one sitting. Literally. I sat on the couch, started the book, and did not move until I finished it. (Keep in mind I am a fast reader!) I got so sucked into Allyson and Willem’s story that I had to keep going until I finished it. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! Forman has written an incredibly compelling and modern love story. It’s fantastic. Just One Year was the exact same and if I didn’t have to go out (to meet Natalie, actually) I would have stayed in my chair and finished that one in one go, too!

I loved the traveling aspect of the stories. I’ve never really traveled anywhere and I think I’d like a guided tour, like the one Allyson and Melanie were on in Just One Day, but, like Allyson, I think I might feel a little let down by the sights as they whizzed by. Watching her explore Paris with Willem and other cities on her own was a lot of fun. Because of Forman’s writing, I felt what she felt (amazement, anxiety, love, and so on) as she traveled and experienced new things. Reading about Willem’s solo adventures was even more interesting. He was a seasoned traveler and knew who to talk to, where to stay, where to eat, and so on. I like that both Willem and Allyson easily made friends with fellow travelers and how those turned into more than just a passing acquaintance.

I’m a lot like Allyson – always doing the right thing, being the good girl – so I really connected with her. I hated seeing her upset after everything fell apart in Paris. The first year of college or university can be hard enough without being heartbroken and becoming estranged from your best friend. Allyson’s circumstances and reactions could be seen as completely over the top but Forman makes it work.

I loved learning more about Willem in Just One Year. I didn’t think I would but I ended up really loving it. And, in all honesty, I fell a little bit in love with him, too. (Oh come on, like you’ve never crushed on a fictional character…hehe.) There was a lot going on in his world that we only got a hint at in the first book. The second book really shows why he is the way he is and what motivates him and I thought that was excellent.

When reading Just One Day I was on edge for almost the entire book, wondering if and when Allyson would ever find Willem again. I desperately hoped they would because I didn’t think my poor heart could take it if they didn’t! Then, when reading Just One Year, I couldn’t believe how anxious I was. I knew what was happening in Allyson’s world as Willem searched for her. The number of times they came close to finding each other was maddening. And even though I knew what would happen at the end, I was still stressed out!

I’m so glad I finally read Just One Day and Just One Year. I now understand why everyone is in love with Gayle Forman! If you’re looking for a great contemporary read, check out this series. I’m definitely going to make a point to read some of Forman’s other books, particularly If I Stay as it is being made into a movie right now. Have you read Gayle Forman’s books? What did you think of them?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: A List for Santa

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.

Is it too late to add to my Christmas wish list? Probably just a tad. But Santa’s magical and can bring me anything – including these books! I know there are probably a bazillion titles I could have picked and I just know that I'm missing some but here are ten books I wouldn't mind seeing under my Christmas tree tomorrow. What books are on your holiday wish list?

Harry Potter Film Wizardry - Brian Sibley 
I got this for my sister a few years ago and I kind of want one for myself, too. Especially since they’ve updated it with new info from the final movie. (Shhh…don’t tell my sister. She’ll be annoyed.)

Any John Green
I still haven’t read any of his books. The shame! I need to get on that – especially The Fault in Our Stars since the movie will be out before we know it.

The Orenda – Joseph Boyden
I didn’t have enough time to read it when it was my turn to have it from the library. I got about 70 pages in and knew it was something I needed to read. I actually haven’t red Boyden before but I think I’ll make a point to look up his others next year.

The Best Man – Kristan Higgins
I’ve wanted to read this book for awhile because it sounded cute. I was thrilled when I saw it was at my library. I reserved it and then waited. And waited. And waited. Then I realized the copy had been lost. Sigh.

Takedown Twenty – Janet Evanovich
I stupidly didn’t put a reserve on this book and by the time I thought to do it I was number fifty something. Boo! The Stephanie Plum series makes me laugh but I do hope this is the last one. I just feel like it’s gone on for much too long.

I adore Jessica Darling and have for about a decade (woah…crazy). I’m interested to see what middle grade Jessica is like!

The I Heart... series – Lindsey Kelk
I know, I know. I haven’t read this series either. I have the first two, finally, but they’re really hard to find in store and I really wanted to have the same covers. I’ve given up on that and now just want the rest of the books.

Finding Colin Firth – Mia March
I just finally read March’s debut novel (The Meryl Streep Movie Club) and loved it. I need her second book now!

Hunger Games series - Suzanne Collins
I've already read and loved these books but I don't actually own them and I love this paperback box set.

Stats Canada: Satire On A National Scale - Anonymous
Their Twitter account is freaking hilarious and I've flipped through the book in store and found it amusing. I'd like to sit down and actually look at all of the graphs and charts they included in this book.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: The Holiday Gig

Have you ever read a book and realized that you weren’t in the right frame of mind to read it? Maybe you were too tired or had another book you wanted to read first. Either way, this potentially good book just rubbed you the wrong way. I think that’s what happened with me and The Holiday Gig. I started reading it one night and I couldn’t let my issues with it go and I was being very nitpicky. I finished Erin Brady’s novel the next morning and I was able to get into the story a bit more and ignore (most of) the issues I had.

Here’s the synopsis:
Taylor Barnes has a dilemma. She is 32 and about to realize her dreams of making partner at her New York City high-powered law firm with a fancy office and a huge salary. She has no time for anything else in her life -least of all a boyfriend. Yet something stands in the way of her coveted promotion: Charles Wigs, family man and managing partner at Gotsall and Craig who questions whether the single Taylor Barnes can project the right image for the firm.
Not only does her own boss question her singledom, but so does her entire family back home! When an invitation to her cousin's Christmas wedding lands on her desk, Taylor must head back to Pennsylvania to face the music.
It seems as if Taylor has to convince everyone that she's got the perfect life with the
perfect boyfriend -all before the clock strikes twelve on New Year's Eve. But how is she to make this happen?
Taylor thinks she’s found the answer. Why not hire a temporary boyfriend to help her get through the holidays? It’s the best of both worlds and without any of the emotional baggage that comes with a real relationship. However, when handsome Hunter Ryan answers the ad for the position, Taylor finds herself with more than she bargained for. Ryan can certainly talk the talk, but does he have what it takes to walk the walk? Could he possibly cost her that coveted partnership that she has been working for since the beginning of her career? Could something that starts out as a simple employment proposition turn out to have her questioning everything she has worked so hard to achieve? Will this Holiday Gig turn Taylor's professional and personal life on its head?
I mentioned I had some issues with this book and I’m just going to get it all out there first. I found the flow to be a bit off, especially with dialogue, and wording and descriptions to be odd. I found Brady explained too much and repeated unnecessary information (the description of what Hunter looks like, for example). There were also a lot of italicized words and I didn’t understand why. One example: "Youd think she was hosting royalty or a reality show celebrity rather than her own daughter." What’s the point of that emphasis? There were also a few grammatical issues and spelling mistakes. I was reading a Word doc final version and the job ad for her fake boyfriend was missing. These things may seem small but it really took away from my enjoyment of the novel.

Why do lawyers always seem to be so heartless? I mean, I’m sure that being a lawyer is stressful and it’s a huge deal to make partner but to never see your family for any holidays when you’re only a few hours away? And to not even remember that your assistant has actually been giving you messages from your mother for a few weeks? I don’t care how much Taylor tries to insist that she’s not heartless and work is too busy…you should at least recall that your mother called you. It was hard to get over that but I had faith that Brady would change Taylor for the better and I was right. Watching her realize she could balance work and life was so great and I loved that part of the story.

I loved Hunter. I could tell right away that he was going to be very good for, and to, Taylor. I found myself desperately hoping that Brady would give me the Happily Ever After I wanted for the two of them! There were so many times I found myself yelling at them to just kiss and acknowledge their feelings for each other. I was so worried about people finding out that Taylor had hired Hunter to play her boyfriend, especially at the first holiday party, but “Tom” was so smooth it made me giggle. He really settled into the role but it was Hunter who stole my…er…Taylor’s heart.

So, I’m not giving The Holiday Gig a super high review. Erin Brady has written a pretty good book with an interesting story but I think it needs more editing before it can really wow. You should keep an open mind though and read it yourself if you think it sounds interesting. It’s not super Christmassy so you can still read it after the holidays and you won’t be overwhelmed with holiday spirit (Taylor’s cousin’s wedding was the most festive part of the book). In the end, watching Taylor change into a better person was my favourite part – the holidays just made it that much better!

*A copy of this novel was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.*

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bunch of Mini Reviews 6: You Guessed It, More Library Books

This edition of library books mini reviews features two books I read ages ago and have since read the next book in the series as well as a holiday book. It's a diverse post with something for everyone!

Dare You To - Katie McGarry (synopsis)
I originally wanted to read this series because I had heard the male main character in book two was a baseball player. Why? Because my boyfriend is also a ball player and I find that there aren't nearly enough baseball playing characters in books these days. Then, I read the first book in the series (I have to go in order!), Pushing the Limits, and was sucked in. I wanted to love the second as much as I loved the first but I didn't quite have all the feels like I had before.
I can't quite put my finger on why I didn't love Dare You To as much as the first. I wonder if my issue was with how supremely messed up Beth was. Her home life is brutal. I can't even imagine how awful it'd be to live her life. Or Ryan's life, for that matter. His family is picture perfect on the outside but there are some serious issues there, behind closed doors. His father was a hard character to like and get a read on. I like that the story was realistic, portraying all kinds of lifestyles (sadly, kids like Beth exist) but I had to wonder: how real is too real? The characters in this series are seriously screwed up. Drugs and abuse feature prominently and I, at 26, found it hard to read. That being said, I was a really sheltered teen. I'm a small town girl and I was so naive when I was young. Would I have fully understood this book if I had read it at 16? Doubtful. (I thought the same thing in my review of Sarah Dessen's Dreamland.) This isn't a "teens are too young to read about tough subjects" kind of rant. Trust me, teens should read whatever they want. They can handle it, though they might not get it. I just wonder if maybe some of the tough subjects are taking things too far and aren't explained well enough. Both Beth and Echo, from Pushing the Limits, are so completely faithful to their moms even though each mother is destroying their daughter. I don't think either book showed the girls really getting the help they needed since they were both too closed off. Nitpicky? Maybe. But it was something that stuck with me that I just couldn't shake.
In a way, I like that McGarry held back some information - why Ryan's brother isn't around, what's in Beth's mom's apartment, etc. - but it drove me a little crazy waiting to find out what these "big secrets" were.
I really did like getting to know Beth more. In Pushing the Limits she was such a standoffish character that I wondered how on earth I would enjoy her story. Even though I had issues, I did like reading about her. It was heartbreaking to read about her life and watch as her uncle, Ryan, and Lacy tried to get through to her.
Dare You To is a tough read but it's a good one. I really liked reading about Ryan and Beth's relationship and seeing her realize she can rely on people to help her. I'd still recommend that people read book two before three (Crash Into You which I loved - full review here) because it will help you understand how Beth and Isaiah's relationship ends up.

Star Crossed - Jennifer Echols (synopsis)
When I came across Echols' Stargazer series one night while poking around NetGalley, I got really excited. The first reason was because I read some of her YA books when I was younger and loved them (particularly the Boy Next Door series). The other reason was because this series was all about characters who work in PR. I love reading about people in PR. I think it's because it's something I'd like to do but I don't think I am actually cut out to be a publicist. I don't have the right personality. So, after finding the series, I requested book two and went to my library the next day to pick up the first book. I read the majority of this book on a recent train ride into Toronto and I was hooked. I was so into it that I actually wished the ride was longer and was afraid I'd miss my stop on my way home. So. Good.
I liked that the story didn't focus too much on the romance. It was just part of the larger work/personal storyline. There was also a surprisingly dark part of the overall story. I think that also helped this book from being too fluffy or romance heavy. I already knew I was completely invested in the story and the characters but I realized to what extent when I had to walk through an almost empty parking lot at midnight and I was worried the bad guy from the book was going to come after me!
The sneak peek into the lives of the stars was entertaining. Wendy and Daniel's clients, Lorelei and Colton respectively, seemed like your typical twenty one year old stars and they were crazy without being too over the top. As a reader we got to experience some of the glitz and glamour of Vegas and that was fun.
Finally, a final note about the romance between Daniel and Wendy. I knew it was going to happen but it was not at all predictable. Echols threw in enough twists to keep me on my toes. Also, a word of caution for those who don't like sex in their books, this book is steamy! Whew! There aren't many of those scenes (3 or 4 at most) but they're explicit enough that some people might not like it. And your teenage daughter who has read Echols' other works should not be reading it! :)
I loved reading Star Crossed and I cannot wait to dive into book two, Playing Dirty. It will feature Wendy's friend and colleague, Sarah. I'm interested to see how that one works out!
Update: I wrote this well before I read Playing Dirty and you can read my full review of book two here.

The Gift - Cecelia Ahern (synopsis)
The Gift is a book I’ve been meaning to read for awhile. It was released in 2008 and it’s always been on my radar because I love Ahern but I just never got around to picking it up. I was at the library a few weeks ago and they had their Christmas books all out on display (one of my favourite things) and there, sitting on the shelf, was The Gift. I couldn’t leave without it so I took it home with me. This is a novel that really makes you think. It makes you consider the true meaning of Christmas and of life. It’s heavy but it’s good.
Like a lot of Ahern’s work, there is a magical element to this story. When businessman Lou meets homeless man Gabriel, or Gabe as his friends call him, we know that there’s something more going on – even if Lou doesn’t. 
I also liked how Ahern told the story. The book opens with a teenage boy throwing a turkey through the window of a family home and then we move to the police station (since, obviously, tossing frozen fowl into houses is frowned upon). This is when we realize that there’s going to be more to this story than just a turkey, two police officers, and a business man. Sergeant Raphael O’Reilly is essentially narrating the story for us as well Turkey Boy. Every few chapters the story goes back to the holding cell, O’Reilly, and Turkey Boy and we get more insight into what really happened that day. This may sound like it could be frustrating but it all worked together really well.
I desperately wanted Lou to figure out how badly he was screwing up his life. We could see it, his family could see it, mysterious homeless man Gabe could see it…but he couldn’t. And, of course, if you can’t see your problem you aren’t going to fix it. I hoped for a different ending but deep down I knew I wouldn’t get it. And that was ok because then this story wouldn’t have had the impact that it did.
The Gift isn’t your typical Christmas book. It’s not really full of holiday cheer but it does make you think about how you spend your time, especially around the holidays. Are you rushing around like Lou trying to get a million things done at once? Or are you pausing to enjoy the season with your family and friends. Cecelia Ahern’s novel makes you think twice about what you’re doing with your life and I really liked that.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Taking It Off the Shelf: Home for Christmas

This month I chose to read Home for Christmas by Cally Taylor for my Taking It Off...the Shelf feature. I thought it was fitting since 'tis the season for holiday reads! I received this book after winning a contest earlier in 2013 but held onto it until the Christmas season. To say I was disappointed with this book would be an understatement. I actually toyed with the idea of not finishing it because it was just so blah. I pushed through (by doing some major skim reading) and finished it though. Sigh. Hold onto your horses because this will probably be one of the most negative reviews you've ever see on here!

Here's the synopsis:
Beth Prince has always loved fairytales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she's finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck!
There's just one problem - none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it any time soon.
Desperate to hear 'I love you' for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands - and instantly wishes she hadn't. Just when it seems like her luck can't get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he's determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas.
Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?
One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to holiday books is when they're advertised as having something to do with Christmas (like this title and cover) and then they barely touch on the holiday. This book didn't have anything to do with Christmas, other than it being a deadline for Beth to get a new job or leave for Australia with her mom. If Christmas doesn't play into the story in a huge way do not put it in your title. 

I found this novel to be way too predictable. I knew exactly how things would end up as soon as I started the book and the journey to the end of the story was just not exciting. 

Carl, a colleague and former classmate of Beth's, was absolutely horrendous. It made me sad that Beth had to deal with his cruel and constant put downs and she never stood up for herself. This was an obvious example of adult bullying. I also found the final revelation with Carl at the end of the book to be ridiculous and out of the blue. It didn't excuse any of his awful behaviour.

Matt had a loony toons ex-girlfriend and before he realized he had feelings for Beth he considered getting back together with her. He knew she was nutty and was stalking him but he still thought about it. Argh! This made me like him even less than I already did.

Finally, Beth needed to grow a backbone. She did, a bit, by the end of the story but it wasn't enough of a change, in my opinion. I just couldn't connect with her or even get a really good handle on who she was as a person.

So. Home for Christmas was a big fat fail for me. I don't know if my thoughts are common among others who have read it or not but I just didn't like it. I wonder what Cally Taylor's other work is like but I don't know if I'll ever pick one up to find out.

I haven't picked a book for next month because I think I might take a break from this feature. I'm loving it but I'm doing two reread challenges next year and I want to see how I balance those with my other reading before picking another book for this feature.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Blog Tour: Merry & Bright

I knew I was going to like Merry & Bright, a collection of chick lit Christmas stories. I had been looking forward to reading it ever since I heard about it…so much so that I actually purchased a copy for my Kobo (this is a big deal for this unemployed book blogger…have to watch what I spend!). I’m thrilled that I bought the book as I didn’t just like it…I LOVED it. The anthology features stories by Lauren Clark, Cindy Arora, Nancy Scarfano, Isabella Louise Anderson, Libby Mercer, and Laura Chapman and is edited by Lucie Simone of Simon and Fig. The ladies did an amazing job and created a fabulous Christmas anthology!

Here’s the description of the collection:
Sip your eggnog, linger under the mistletoe, and make a Christmas wish. Merry & Bright brings you six tales of Christmas cheer, featuring stories of budding romances, Southern charm, lost loves, heaps of humor, and lots of pie by authors Isabella Louise Anderson, Cindy Arora, Laura Chapman, Lauren Clark, Libby Mercer, and Nancy Scrofano. From sunny Los Angeles to the Rocky Mountains to the Deep South, Merry & Bright will take you on a heartwarming adventure you’ll love to visit again and again. Wrap yourself in holiday mirth and prepare to be swept off your feet.
I really liked that Lauren Clark’s story, “A Very Dixie Christmas”, slightly tied into her novel Dancing Naked in Dixie (I loved the book and you can read my review here). I loved that she made sure to give enough background that you could see the connection between the two but you could still read this story as a standalone and not be confused. I also adored the Christmas spirit in this story. Main character PD’s little girl, Ella Rae, is questioning Santa and I loved how she was convinced that Santa really does exist. “A Very Dixie Christmas” was one of my favourite stories in this collection!

Cindy Arora’s story, “Christmas at Mulberry Inn”, was really sweet. I loved that it focused on friends spending the holiday together, main character Saffron and her BFF Taylor, who owns the Inn. They discover their own kind of family during the story though and I loved that. Saffron helped open Taylor’s eyes to a man who was right in front of her and Taylor, in turn, threw Saffron into situations designed to help her get over her divorce. There was a very homey feel to this story, which was interesting since it didn’t actually take place in a home, and that made it feel nice and Christmassy.

I’ve never tried speed dating and I don’t want to. After reading “Ice Dating” by Nancy Scrofano I can now add speed dating on ice skates to my list of things I never want to try! Can you imagine how stressful that’d be? I’m not the world’s most graceful person to begin with so it’d just be a recipe for disaster :) What I liked most about this story was that it was all about finding love in the most unusual ways. Quinn is obviously no stranger to love as she’s been engaged four times. And honestly, that kind of irked me…small thing, I know, but why did it have to be four times? Why not just once? Or even twice? For some reason it just made me think that she was in it purely for the wedding and not the relationship. Unfair, perhaps, but it was how I felt. Anyway. I do love how she met Cameron and how fate seemed to intervene to get them back together.

Isabella Louise Anderson’s story, “Meet Me Under the Mistletoe”, had a picture perfect setting. Main character Lexi is an author (I love when authors write author main characters!) and rents a rural cottage so she can complete her manuscript before her deadline. This was one of the stories that didn’t quite hit the mark for me. In part it was because of the immediate love connection between Lexi and Sterling. It just wasn’t very realistic (or even book realistic) and it was hard for me to get past that. The idea is a solid one but I felt like the story needed just a bit more tweaking so it could really shine.

I loved the idea of a holiday treasure hunt in Libby Mercer’s story, “Secret Santa”. It was a unique idea, at least one I hadn’t run into in a Christmas collection before, and it was refreshing. Plus, I just love Mercer’s writing and the characters she creates! I learned last month that Libby is a fellow tall girl so I giggled when I read that main character Abbie referred to herself as tall. :)

I was SO excited to read my virtual bestie, Laura Chapman’s, story in this collection. I know how hard she’s been working on her story and novel (the recently released Hard Hats and Doormats) so I was thrilled to see her name in a published book! And, I might be biased, but “Twelve Drummers Drumming” was one of my favourite stories in the book! Like Mercer’s story, it was a unique idea for a Christmas story. I can’t say much because I don’t want to ruin it but I adored the surprise at the end!

If you only read one Christmas book this year, make it Merry & Bright. It was thoroughly enjoyable and I couldn’t get enough of it. Some of my favourite chick lit authors have come together to create one fabulous collection that I think everyone can enjoy.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Review: Sugar Spun Sister

There are a few authors who are on my automatic review list. They're the ones who get a enthusiastic "hell yes!" when they email me to ask if I can review their latest book. Anna Garner is one of those authors. She had told me a bit about her new series awhile ago and when she eventually asked if I would review the first I said of course! Sugar Spun Sister is the first in the Sweet Dreams series and I. Loved. It. Anna, you have another winner!

Here's the synopsis:
Life isn’t exactly sweet for Cricket Whittier. Her boss hates her, her work is soul-destroying, and the sexy guy she’s hooking up with doesn’t want to date her. But this girl is far from hopeless. When Cricket’s in the kitchen with her ice cream maker and a few choice ingredients, her troubles slip away as she becomes a delectable dessert-designing powerhouse. She loves it so much, she dreams of opening her own ice cream shop one day.As it turns out, “one day” just might be closer than she thinks. Propelled by the help and encouragement of her best friends, Lindsay and Nora, Cricket starts making plans to set up shop. Which is easier said than done what with the internal squabbling, the sky-high costs, her parents forecasting failure and her increasingly complicated love life. Despite all these hurdles, will Cricket be able to make her sweet dreams come true?
Like with all of Garner's characters, I immediately fell in love with Cricket. She was so much fun and so easy to relate to. Also like most of Garner's characters, she's not afraid to drop the occasional f-bomb which, to me, makes her more real. I know some people could be put off by the swearing but that really doesn't bother me (because I've been known to swear like a sailor myself...). The dialogue between characters is totally believable and conversations always seem like ones I could have with my own girlfriends. But back to Cricket...I liked how invested she was in her little shop (once she finally realized her dream could be achieved) and that she allowed her friends to be a part of it. Sometimes I worried that she was letting them walk all over her but she learned how to balance business with friendship and how to keep the vision of her shop alive, even with the contrasting visions her friends had. I think she really learned a lot about herself by the end of the story.

I did find myself wondering about a few things...there was a lot of humour with how horrible Cricket's gargoyle boss was but sometimes I wondered if it was taking things too far. I also couldn't understand why she wouldn't try to make sure everyone knew that she wasn't living off of her uncle's money, even if he did help get her a job. I guess I just wanted to see her stand up for herself a bit more. There were also a lot of catering jobs that were described and sometimes I thought there were too many. The children's party was funny in a "can anything else go wrong?" kind of way but it didn't quite work with the flow of the story.

We've been seeing a lot of baking type stories in the chick lit/romance world the last little while (I've actually reviewed two just this week!) and I thought the ice cream shop was a great twist on this current fad. Garner did a great job of really showing both how hard it can be to open up your own shop and how fun and exhilarating it can be. Thanks to her writing I was both stressed and excited for the girls as they went on their entrepreneurial journey! And I really wish this ice cream shop existed in my neighbourhood! It sounds like it's just the cutest shop ever and it helps that they hired some hot guys to work for them too! ;) Still on the ice cream theme, I loved that Garner put recipes at the start of each chapter and that they had something to do with the chapter and Cricket actually made them within that chapter. Several of them made my mouth water...especially this one:

I'm a sucker for mint chocolate anything!

Finally, I liked that the romance in the novel took a bit of a backseat to the rest of the story. Sure, I always like having a nice romance in the books I read but I knew it wasn't the point of this story, not totally. But it wouldn't be a great chick lit without a little bit of relationship drama! I knew Cricket thought she was happy with Jimmy (and I thought it was hilarious that they called him Jiminy...you know, Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio?) and I was so hoping that she'd realize it was actually a toxic relationship. And also realize who she was supposed to be with! One of the reasons I'm looking forward to the next book is to see how they're getting along!

I think Sugar Spun Sister was amazing and I couldn't put it down! Anna Garner has created a great series and I can't wait to read the next book in the Sweet Dreams collection. I'd guess that Nora will be the next main character, only because her story was left totally up in the air at the end of this one. If you're looking for a fun, real, and sweet read make sure you check this one out!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Guest Post: Cindy Arora

Welcome to my second stop for the tour of Heartbreak Cake by Cindy Arora! I reviewed the novel earlier this week (my review is here) and I thought it was really sweet! Today Cindy was kind enough to stop by with a great guest post. I was curious to know how she made her novel stand out when there are all sorts of baking themed chick lit novels out there. I hope you enjoy her post!

When I set out to write HEARTBREAK CAKE, my desire was not to just write about a bakery, but to write about the food world as it stands today. These days, in the world of Twitter, Facebook, food blogs and Pulitzer Prize winning food writing, it can be said that chefs and food people have a certain level of celebrity panache—but  with that also comes a newfound level of accountability.

Here in Los Angeles, food culture has reached a new level of cool. People who are interested can get their daily dose of food gossip from media outlets. People follow with interest when new restaurants open, old favorites are closing, when chefs have tantrums or when they change their seasonal menus. Much like celebrity magazines or online news channels, people who love food and want to be in the know can easily find out “who’s who and what’s what” with the click of their mouse or iPhone.

I come from years of working in the food industry in one form or another—I’ve been a coffee girl, fromager, baker’s assistant, cocktail waitress and ornery breakfast slinger. The last 10 years, I worked as a food writer and publicist, so I was able to get behind the scenes and see how the media has become a huge part of the food industry. It also allowed me to witness how small the world is and how one’s reputation can and does precede you! So play nicely!

HEARTBREAK CAKE is set in a bakery, and there’s plenty of talk about cake, cookies and pie. But at the core of the book, it’s about the unique dynamic of the food community and how the main character, Indira Aguilar, must delicately weave her way through it in order to save her business while also trying to get over heartbreak with the wrong guy, deal with family issues, and also meet a great new guy.

When I created all of the characters, I pulled from different parts of the food world to play important roles for the heroine and her merry band of friends—the city Farmers Market, the luxury resort hotel on the California coast, a national award winning chef who works on a food reality television show, a French patisserie, and the media (blogs, newspapers, social media). They all affect Indira and the decisions she has to make in order to find the right journey for herself.

It’s a tough time for Indira, but nothing a little heartbreak cake, some laughs and good friendships won’t help her get through!

Thanks so much for having me here to talk about HEARTBREAK CAKE! It’s been a real pleasure. You can learn more about me and my book at www.cindyarora.com.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2013

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.

'Tis the time of year when everything starts compiling the best of lists! This week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about the best authors I read this year. Some authors I was totally behind the times on and others were pleasant surprises. Did you find any amazing authors this year? Links lead to my reviews.

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

Gayle Forman
I just recently read Just One Day and Just One Year and can't believe I haven't read Forman's novels before! I for sure plan on reading more of hers.

Stephanie Perkins
I fell in love with Anna and Lola (and Cricket) and I cannot wait for Isla. Perkins has written an amazing series in my favourite kind of YA: contemporary.

Meredith Schorr
I've been aware of Meredith for awhile but for some reason I hadn't read her until this year. Her third novel, Blogger Girl, is one of my favourites of the year!

Rainbow Rowell
Rowell's first novel, Attachments, has been on my radar for awhile (like a couple of years awhile) but I just hadn't read it. Then this year I read both Eleanor & Park and Fangirl and loved them both (especially Fangirl!).

Kevin Kwan
Kwan is technically a debut author so he's new to pretty much everyone but he deserves to be on this list. Crazy Rich Asians was an amazing novel - another favourite of the year.

Angie Abdou
I had to read a lot of CanLit for my Project Bookmark Canada internship this year and Abdou's The Bone Cage was the first that I read. I adored it and I really want to check out the rest of her work.

Tish Cohen
I was randomly asked to review The Search Angel, Cohen's latest novel, by HarperCollins Canada and I am so glad that I was. It wasn't something I ever would have picked up on my own but I really liked it.

Veronica Roth
How did it take me so long to read Divergent? Man. I absolutely adored this series - depressing ending and all.

Katie McGarry
I sort of fell into McGarry's Pushing the Limits series and I'm so glad. It's a great, gritty, intense YA series.

Mia March
I've had March's debut novel The Meryl Streep Movie Club on my shelf pretty much since it was released in June of 2012. I look forward to reading her second book, Finding Colin Firth, soon!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Blog Tour: Heartbreak Cake

I was so looking forward to reading Heartbreak Cake, the debut novel from author Cindy Arora. The story sounded delightful! This was a great chick lit novel and, even though I had a few issues with it, I would still recommend it to others.

Here’s the synopsis:
Business is sweet for pastry chef Indira Aguilar. Her indie bakery, Cake Pan, is fast becoming the talk of the wedding circuit for its unique take on cakes and homespun creations for the modern bride, garnering national recognition and drawing in celebrity clients. But while her professional life is blossoming, her personal life is crumbling.
Indira may have a talent for blending buttercream into bliss, but when it comes to relationships, she’s got a lot to learn. Considering that the love of her life, Josh Oliver, is not only married, but also runs the award-winning pastry department of her fiercest competition, Crystal Cove Resort, Indira puts much more at stake than just her heart when she ends her affair with him.
Rumors begin to fly as the small seaside community of Long Beach learns of her secret relationship, and Indira must defend not only her actions, but her wedding business and her reputation while trying to maneuver the choppy heartbreak waters of starting over, finding new love, and facing her past. With the support of friends and family, a fondness for butter, and a determined spirit, Indira may just bake her way back to happiness and possibly into the heart of Crystal Cove’s dishy new chef, Noah. But one thing is certain. Where there’s heartbreak, there must be cake.
My issues came from what I suppose you could call flow problems. I felt like things weren’t explained well enough up front, like what the relationship between Indira and Josh actually was and how long it had been going on. Things were gradually revealed but sometimes in an odd, out of sequence way that made it hard to follow. I also noticed a few little grammatical errors throughout (so I’m really hoping I was sent an advanced copy…). I also couldn’t really understand why Indira made some of the choices she did at the end of the novel. Obviously I can’t say much more than that but I wished she had continued to face her problems instead of running away and I didn’t see why she had to start over new. It just seemed a little odd.

I really did like reading Indira’s story though. She was a smart woman who had made a really dumb decision and was being almost blacklisted because of it. I hated seeing people judge her without having all of the facts but, as she even said herself, I probably would have judged her too. 

I adored the baking aspect of the story. You see cute little bakeries in a lot of chick lit novels but Arora kept things from seeming too familiar. Indira and Pedro have a great chemistry (and I wish he had had just a slightly bigger role in the book) and reading about him interacting with (read: yelling at) the interns was amusing…but makes me never want to become a chef or baker (well, I wouldn’t become one anyway – I hate cooking!). I really wanted to be able to visit the Cake Pan Bakeshoppe and see, and taste, all of the delicious sounding goodies that are mentioned throughout the novel.

Even though I had a few issues with it, Cindy Arora’s Heartbreak Cake was a delicious novel (yes, pun intended). I think all chick lit lovers would enjoy it as I did – especially those who adore a good dessert filled story. Stay tuned as I have a guest post from Cindy coming up on Wednesday the 18th!

*A copy of this novel was provided in exchange for an honest review.*

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Review: The Parisian Christmas Bake Off

I really enjoyed The Parisian Christmas Bake Off! Author Jenny Oliver has written a really adorable story that mixes the Christmas season with a baking competition in Paris.

Here’s the synopsis:
Welcome to the most celebrated patisserie competition in Paris – ready, steady, bake!
Watching snowflakes settle on the Eiffel Tower, Rachel Smithson’s cosy English village feels very far way – as, thankfully, does her commitment-phobic ex, probably already kissing someone else under the mistletoe. But Rachel hasn’t come to Paris to mope she’s come to bake. Hard.
Because the search for Paris’s next patisserie apprentice is about to begin! And super-chef judge Henri Salernes is an infamously tough cookie. But Rachel isn’t about to let her confidence (or pastry) crumble. She’s got one week, mounds of melt-in-the-mouth macaroons and towers of perfect profiteroles to prove that she really is a star baker.
As well as clouds of flour, and wafts of chocolate and cinnamon, there’s definitely a touch of Christmas magic in the air… Rachel hasn’t come to Paris looking for a fairy-tale romance, but the city of love might gift-wrap her one anyway…
Not even a dusting of icing sugar could make The Parisian Christmas Bake-Off a more perfect Christmas treat!
I had a couple of wee issues with this book. I was really confused at the beginning because a lot of names were being thrown around (main character, friends, teachers, students, the parents of students) and I couldn’t really keep track of who was who. And, in the long run, it really didn’t matter too much. I think it would have worked if the book had been longer and there had been more of a back story with the town but as it was, it was just too much. Speaking of back story, I’m still not entirely sure what happened to Rachel’s mom other than she died at some point prior to the start of the book. I am left to assume that it happened around Christmas because Rachel does not like the holiday but I don’t know how old Rachel was when it happened or even what exactly happened. It was an odd thing but there were some times where I wanted more information and other times where I wanted to cut out the unnecessary info. It’s unfortunate because if these things had been fixed I think this would have been a knock it out of the park novella. 

Oliver does a good job of keeping the romance from seeming too predictable. I had a pretty good idea what would happen at the end but there were some twists and turns that I was not expecting and I so appreciated that. It kept things from being boring and we can all agree boring is not good!

While the romance makes this story that much sweeter (pun intended), Rachel’s journey isn’t about finding a man. She needed to learn to accept what happened with her mother and learn that she can use the memories she has for good instead of torture devices. While she’s in Paris she remembers why she used to love to bake with her mom and I really loved seeing her grow and finally come into her own.

The baking competition aspect of this story was a lot of fun. I adore watching those kinds of shows on the Food Network so it was a lot of fun to read about it. I really felt like I could see the creations the contestants were baking thanks to the way Oliver wrote. My mouth was watering as I read about some of the goodies they were making – hot cross buns, souffl├ęs, macarons, chocolate croissants…oh, I could go on and on!

The Parisian Christmas Bake Off is more of a novella than a full length novel (it’s just 125 pages) so Jenny Oliver’s story can give you just the hit of sweet Christmassy goodness that you need this time of year without taking a lot of time out of your busy schedule. It’s really enjoyable and I think many others would like it too!

*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Review: Sense & Sensibility

When I first heard about The Austen Project I was incredibly excited. As they explain it on their site, "The Austen Project is a major new series of six novels teaming up authors of global literary significance with Jane Austen's six complete works." Sounds awesome! I can't get enough of Jane Austen. Then I got to thinking...what if these retellings are awful? Sure, some great names have been attached to the updates (so far we know that Val McDermid will tackle Northanger Abbey, Alexander McCall Smith will update Emma, and Curtis Sittenfeld has the impressive task of taking on Pride and Prejudice) but that doesn't mean anything. They could butcher our beloved novels! After a bit of a panic, I decided to keep an open mind. I was glad I did because I think that helped me really enjoy Joanna Trollope's retelling of one of the classics, Sense & Sensibility.

Here's the synopsis:
John Dashwood promised his dying father that he would take care of his half sisters. But his wife, Fanny, has no desire to share their newly inherited estate with Belle Dashwood's daughters. When she descends upon Norland Park with her Romanian nanny and her mood boards, the three Dashwood girls-Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret-are suddenly faced with the cruelties of life without their father, their home, or their money.
As they come to terms with life without the status of their country house, the protection of the family name, or the comfort of an inheritance, Elinor and Marianne are confronted by the cold hard reality of a world where people's attitudes can change as drastically as their circumstances.
With her sparkling wit, Joanna Trollope casts a clever, satirical eye on the tales of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Reimagining Sense and Sensibility in a fresh, modern new light, she spins the novel's romance, bonnets, and betrothals into a wonderfully witty coming-of-age story about the stuff that really makes the world go around. For when it comes to money, some things never change. . . 
I know it might sound weird but I actually wish things had been more different in this book. Of course, I have no idea how that could have been accomplished. For those of you who don't know the story, the basic plot line is that the lady Dashwoods have been turned out of their home after their husband/father passed away because, in the olden days, everything went to the male heir. In this book, which takes place in the present, the same thing happens. There are vague explanations and mentions of how ridiculous it is for property to be passed down through the males in this day and age but it was like I was just supposed to accept that this was the norm. I did, I suppose, but I think I wanted more creativity (think The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) than just the story we know with a few mentions of iPads and Twitter thrown in. 

That being said, I'm glad the core story was still completely recognizable. The characters made sense and I enjoyed the slight changes that were made - Elinor wanted to be an architect, Marianne is a gifted guitar player, and Robert Ferrars is a very flamboyant event planner. I also have to say that I liked the more rounded characters of Mrs. Dashwood, Belle, and younger sister, Margaret (or Mags). The heart of the novel was still there and that's, in part, what makes us love Austen's novels so much. Trollope did a good job of making sure we were feeling what we expected to feel.

I did find that I couldn't shake the actors' images from the 1995 Ang Lee directed adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. It was especially hard to imagine the secondary characters as anyone else, particular Mr. Palmer who was played by Hugh Laurie in the film. I couldn't recall the actor who played Willoughby, though, and I was somehow able to put Alan Rickman out of mind when "Bill" Brandon was in the story. It's interesting to note how much actors and adaptations get into our heads when we go back to reread books (or read the next books, like in the case of Harry Potter). Do you ever find that? Do you think you could read this and not picture Emma Thompson or Kate Winslet as Elinor and Marianne?

Like most Jane Austen fans, I had my reservations about Sense & Sensibility. Could Joanne Trollope really do justice to such a popular classic? While I had my issues with the novel I really think that it was an enjoyable retelling of Sense and Sensibility. I think hardcore Austen fans might be more frustrated with it but if you go into reading this novel with an open mind, I think most will like it as much as I did.

*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, HarperCollins Canada, in exchange for an honest review.*

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cover Reveal: Liar, Liar, Hearts On Fire

Today's cover reveal is a fun one! I think Liar, Liar, Hearts On Fire sounds like an awesome read so I'm happy to share the cover with you today. Jennifer Zane's novel will be released on January 16 so mark your calendars!

Here's what the book is all about:
Violet Miller is a teacher savoring her summer break until she's been called in as emergency reinforcements—of the dating kind. She volunteers to help an old flame by pretending to be his girlfriend. In Alaska. At a family reunion. Since the guy is a handsome, lumberjack-sized doctor she's never quite forgotten, faking a relationship won't be hard work.
 Mike Ostranski is a desperate man on vacation. His mother wants grandchildren and sees a crazy Alaskan woman as a candidate for daughter-in-law. Mike needs Violet by his side to deflect the lady's advances.
 A week in Alaska as boyfriend and girlfriend should be easy for them. They grew up together, even had a brief fling. What could go wrong?

Doesn't it sound awesome?

Now, here's the cover!

It's totally not what I'd expect but I think it'll work. What do you think? Do you think this is a book you'd like to read?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Holiday Blog Tour: Hidden + Author Interview

Welcome to the holiday blog tour for Catherine McKenzie's latest novel, Hidden! This was one of my favourite books of 2013 and Catherine is one of my all time favourite authors so I'm so excited to be a part of this tour. In today's post you'll find an interview I did with Catherine and a repost of my review of Hidden (originally posted in June). Have you read this one yet? I know it's not out in the US yet but Amazon.com tells me it should be released in April. I hope you enjoy today's post!

Books Etc.: Your novel Arranged (my favourite!) is being made into a short film. Tell us about this experience. How did you find out about it? How involved are you in the production? What was it like spending a day on the set?
Catherine McKenzie: Yes, it is! In fact, as I write this, I've just gotten back from the set in Toronto. What an awesome experience - seeing my first novel being brought to life, even in a small way was surreal and exciting and just plain fun. I've known about it for a while - the producers had to buy the option on the film and then get their financing, and I had read the script months ago. I'm not involved in an active way (i.e. not writing the script or anything) but the producers are nice enough to keep me up to date and to have me on set.

BE: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
CM: Gosh, that's a hard one. I'm not sure if someone told me this or I just realized it, but learning to write when you're not inspired is I think the best advice I have.

BE: What’s your writing routine like? Is there a particular place or time of day that suits you best when it comes to writing?
CM: I don't tend to have much of a routine these days - I need to get one of those - but I find that either in the morning or in the hour or so after dinner are usually my best times.

BE: Do you create outlines for your novels or are you a write by the seat of your pants author?
CM: Much more by the seat of my pants, though I had to outline for HIDDEN given the more intricate plot lines and multiple points of view.

BE: Do you find yourself giving your characters qualities that you or people who are close to you have?
CM: I do sometimes give them qualities I have - exaggerated, usually - but I try not to do that for people I know. At least not intentionally!

BE: This year you pledged to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I love that idea. Your choices cover all sorts of genres but do you have a favourite genre to read?
CM: I find I kind of go through genre phases. Sometimes it's non-fiction. Sometimes it's detective fiction. Sometimes novels. Depends on my mood, really. That has been one of the hard parts of the project; having to read within some confines as opposed to whatever I feel like, but it's mostly been fun.

BE: What’s next for you? Are you working on another novel now?
CM: I should have a fun project coming out sometime in the first half of next year (sorry to be vague but still wrapping up the details), but I can say that fans of Spin will (hopefully) be pleased. (Blogger Note: Ooh, I cannot wait to hear more about this!)

Most readers look forward to many new books throughout the year but they usually have that one book they can't wait to get their hands on. For me, the book I was most looking forward to in 2013 was Hidden by Catherine McKenzie. I have read and loved Catherine's previous three novels and am constantly recommending them to others. I was curious to see if her fourth novel lived up to my expectations...it did! I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out what would happen next in this fantastic novel.

Here's the synopsis:
When a married man suffers a sudden fatal accident, two women are shattered—his wife and someone else's—and past secrets, desires and regrets are brought to light.
While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Not one but two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son and contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother—her ex-boyfriend—Tim.
With Tish’s co-workers in the dark about her connection to Jeff outside the workplace, she volunteers to attend the funeral on the company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life. Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, our personal choices and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.

One of my favourite things about this novel was that it is told from three different perspectives - Jeff, Tish, and Claire. It's all told in first person and you'd think it'd get confusing but it doesn't. Though, I admit, it did take me until I was about three quarters into the novel before I realized what the (clever) indicator was: different font for the first few words in each chapter. I think it takes real talent to be able to keep each thread both separate and connected, and to know which scenes to repeat from different perspectives and which to only touch on once. I think McKenzie did a fabulous job of telling the story from each perspective and I loved reading the inner thoughts of each character.

I really wasn't sure how things were going to end up by the last page and I loved that. What makes this even better is that even when I thought everything was all sewn up, McKenzie threw in a little twist. Admittedly, I'm not sure if I particularly likes how it ended but I know that was the right way to conclude the story.

As with McKenzie's previous novels, she's given us some fabulous characters. They are in no way perfect (hello, this story deals with a possible affair) but that's what makes them so awesome. They're real and relatable and so much fun to read about (er, perhaps fun is the wrong word to use when one of the characters is actually dead...). Even with the potential of a couple of affairs, you'll still fall in love with the characters and want the very best for them.

Catherine McKenzie has, once again, delivered a fantastic novel. Hidden will definitely make my top ten favourites list for 2013 and will be another novel I push on everyone who is looking for a good book to read. Friends, prepare yourselves!

*An ARC of this novel was provided by HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review.*