Sunday, March 31, 2013

CLP Blog Tours: When Girlfriends Step Up

Today is my stop on the When Girlfriends Step Up blog tour! I am so glad I signed up for the CLP Blog Tour for this title because I adored it. Author Savannah Page has created a great series!

Here's the synopsis:
A novel about love and support, and learning that with enduring friendships, no woman is ever alone.
Robin Sinclair is young, determined, and has a promising career at a small publishing house in Seattle. Even though she considers herself unlucky in love, Robin still dreams of eventually meeting Mr. Right and having a happily-ever-after kind of life. And at twenty-five, the world of opportunity is wide. But it’s been a difficult year filled with trials…and it’s only just begun.
While long-time friendships are finally on the mend, and things are starting to look up again, Robin is faced with her biggest challenge yet. She’s single and pregnant.
Uncertain now of her future and scared of being alone, Robin must re-examine her life and choices, and summon the courage to step up.
With the love and support of her best girlfriends from college, especially her best friend and roommate, Lara, Robin will learn that when the going gets tough, the best of friends become family. And, perhaps, with their encouragement, Robin can mature and gain the confidence needed to become a single mother. And, who knows about being unlucky in love. Things are suddenly getting interesting with Robin’s attractive co-worker, Bobby.
This is the endearing sequel to When Girlfriends Break Hearts about maturity and perseverance. It’s a story about friends coming together as family, about finding the strength within and around, and about writing your own happily-ever-after. About what happens when girlfriends step up.
My first thought about the book didn't have anything to do with the plot or the author or anything like that. No, my first thought was "How the heck did I miss that this was the second book in a series?" Followed by a bit of internal cursing. I hate reading books out of order and was annoyed at myself for not realizing sooner that I should have picked up book one before this one. Alas, I did not have enough time to read When Girlfriends Break Hearts before I needed to dive into book two for this tour. As it turns out, I was able to figure out what had happened in the previous book because Page did a great job of summarizing the action and letting me know where the girls stood at the start of book two. Since I was all caught up, the only annoyance that remained was due to the fact that I wanted to spend even more time with these girls and wished that I had started at the beginning with them.

I loved that the characters were all in their mid to late twenties, since that's the stage of life my friends and I are at now as well. It was so easy to relate to them and I could find qualities of myself and my friends in the six girls in the novel. I think the friendship between Robin, Sophie, Lara, Claire, Emily, and Jackie was my favourite part of the book. Their interactions were so realistic and it was so much fun to read about their escapades.

The actual plot was also realistic. I found myself completely immersed in the story and really felt like I was going through everything right alongside Robin. Though I must say that that was actually quite terrifying as I'm the same age as Robin and am scared to death of ending up in the same situation she found herself in. But other than that little detail, I really felt like I was part of Robin's inner circle.

I think the When Girlfriends... series by Savannah Page is a must read for all chick lit fans. I loved When Girlfriends Stepped Up because it shows the power of great girlfriends and was a really enjoyable read. I was definitely happy that I had the third book in the series, When Girlfriends Make Choices (review is up on the 4th), ready to read immediately after finishing this one. I couldn't wait to see what happened next!

Happy reading :)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Rereading Sarah Dessen: This Lullaby

I'm taking part in the I Eat Words Sarah Dessen Read/Reread Challenge this year and it's already month two! Check out this post that explains the details about the awesomeness that is this challenge. This month we read This Lullaby. This has long been my favourite Dessen novel and I must say that I was terrified that I wouldn't love it as much as I used to. Read on for the thoughts of myself and my best friend, Sandy.

Here's the synopsis:
When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn't mess around. After all, she's learned all there is to know from her mother, who's currently working on husband number five. But there's something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy's rules. He certainly doesn't seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can't seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy's starting to understand what those love songs are all about?
About the Story
Main  Character: Remy Starr
Age: 18
School Year or Summer?: Summer
Boy: Dexter
First description of boy: Not a good first impression as Dexter falls into a chair and knocks Remy into a wall. She’s less than impressed and ends up calling him an asshole. “It was a guy with black curly hair, around my age, wearing a bright orange T-shirt. And for some reason he was smiling.”
Crushable?: Yes. He’s funny and sweet (without being annoying), and a musician to boot.
Big Secret?: No. Remy has enough drama without having to hide something. Though someone else is hiding something (part of a minor storyline).
Heavy Storyline?: Sort of. Remy doesn’t believe in love because she’s watched her mother remarry over and over again. This has messed her up more than she, or anyone else, realized.
Parents Together?: No.
Siblings: One brother, older.
Takes Place In: Lakeview
Cameos: Yes, a newly realized one for me. Scarlett from Someone Like You is the manager of the coffee place where one of Dexter’s band mate’s works.

About the Book
Released: May 2002
Epigraph?: Yes, two. "In the depth of winter, / I have finally learned that / within me there lay / an invincible summer." – Camus. “She’ll be back soon. / She’s just writing.” – Caroline
Format (of the copy I read): Paperback (which is starting to show its wear!)
Own?: Yes.
Signed?: Yes.
Read or Reread: Reread
Age when first read: Likely 15 but possibly 16
New cover vs older cover: I really love the new cover!

My Thoughts
Remy is a great character and I think she's the reason why this This Lullaby will stay near the top of my favourite books list. She had to take on some more responsibilities than she should have when she was younger. Nothing too drastic, but her mom always seemed to need an extra push or helping hand - like with planning yet another wedding. Remy is incredibly organized. In fact, calling her anal would not be out of line. She's an 18 year old girl who is desperate to move on to the next stage in her life - college - and trying her hardest to keep love out of her life. She's strong, smart, and terrified of love. Dexter (literally) crashes into her just when she needs it and he does his best to convince her that he (and love) is worth a shot.
This is one of Dessen's novels that has a lot to do with the romance but it's not really the love story that is the point. Remy needs to work on herself and her belief that love is a sham and anyone who falls for it gets their heart broken. What I like about her novels is that the romance is there and lovely but not in an "in your face" kind of way.
So, the big question this still my favourite Dessen? Honestly, I'm not sure. I think it was my favourite because it was what I needed to read at the time. I was a little bit like Remy in high school and dated and had crushes on lots of boys (it was all quite innocent, I assure you) and didn't really know what a successful relationship looked like. I still love this one but I think I will reserve judgement on my "favourite" until the end of the year.

Sandy's Thoughts
This Lullaby is the basic tale of teenage love with a twist. The main character Remy Starr does not want to be in love, she doesn’t believe in it. That is until Dexter literally crashes into her life and forces her to break all of her rules and forego her checklists.
Remy is a strong female character, one of Dessen’s strongest. She is no nonsense, cynical and not afraid to speak her mind. But like all characters she is flawed. Her inability to believe that love lasts turns her into a control freak and a bitter bitch as she describes herself.
Dexter is her total opposite. He is impulsive, optimistic and a deep-seated romantic. Once she allows herself to give in to his persistence she opens her mind and her heart to the question of love. She wonders what it would be like to love so strongly that you can’t control yourself or your actions. (page 161) She reluctantly gives in and by doing so only half gives herself over to the idea that she could fall in love. She never truly understands how to do such a thing. To her love is chaotic, it means impatience, disorder and an inevitable ending with heartbreak for those caught unawares.
Dexter ultimately has to be the one to prove that love is worth it and in the end that will take nothing but time.
The theme behind this story is timing. Everything has its own time and place in love and in life. The story begins with the ending of one time and the beginning of another, it takes place in what Dessen calls the in between. Timing begins the story of Remy and Dexter. Timing is a factor in bringing them together and tearing them apart. Decisions or actions that may seem minor or insignificant shape life on a daily basis and play a big role in all types of relationships
Dessen shows us that at the right time, with the right person Remy is able to break down the wall that her parents helped to build and find the love that she deserves. Her father may have created the precedent of men leaving while her mother reinforced it with her revolving door of husbands but Dexter can see through it because his own mother has had six husbands. He breaks down her wall by breaking all her rules. He gets involved in her life in a way no other boy has by being a determined and stable presence with a little bit of quirk for good measure.
“This Lullaby”, the song her father left her is another constant, one she has lived with all her life. When Dexter plays it that first time it freaks her out enough to end their relationship before it gets too serious. It scares her into hiding once again. “This Lullaby” becomes the soundtrack of her life, especially when she deals with men who barely know her and relationships that can never last. By the end of the book she has made peace with the song and with its meaning. Dexter has become her constant and “This Lullaby” itself has taken on a new meaning, that of hope for the unknown future.

Next month...Dreamland. I'm looking forward to this one because I don't really remember much of it, other than it's one of Dessen's heavier novels.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

CLP Blog Tour: Elly in Bloom

Welcome to my stop on the Elly In Bloom tour hosted by CLP Blog Tours. This novel by Colleen Oakes was sweet and sassy and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Here’s the synopsis:
Surrounded by lush flowers and neurotic brides, chubby 32-year old Elly Jordan has carved out a sweet little life for herself as the owner of Posies, a boutique wedding florist in St. Louis. It’s not bad for a woman who drove away from her entire life just two years ago when she found her husband entwined with a red-headed artist.
Sure, Elly has an embarrassingly beautiful best friend, a terribly behaved sheepdog and a sarcastic assistant who she simply calls “Snarky Teenager”, but overall her days are pleasantly uneventful. As a bonus, her new next door neighbor just happens to be an unnervingly handsome musician who has an eye for curvy Elly.
Just when she feels that she is finally moving on from her past, she discovers that an extravagant wedding contract, one that could change her financial future, is more than she bargained for.
With the help of her friends, staff and the occasional well-made sandwich, Elly bravely agrees to take on the event that threatens to merge her painful history with her bright new life, and finds herself blooming in a direction she never imagined.
Elly’s voice, both charming and hilarious, will appeal to those readers who have been looking for a new voice in chick-lit, and will give women of all sizes the realistic heroine they’ve been waiting for.
As much as I enjoyed this novel, it did take me a little while to really get into it...and I’m not entirely sure why. It could possibly have been the fact that I was, well, perhaps embarrassed on behalf of Elly for all the things she was going through. She seemed to have a knack for getting into uncomfortable situations and I wished I could help her out of them. Eventually, though, I was hooked on Elly and her story. I think I started to like her a little bit more once she gained some self esteem and started becoming the strong woman I knew she could be.

There’s a wacky set of supporting characters in this story and they provided for some really entertaining scenes. I think my favourites were the ones with Snarky Teenager (also, I love that that was how she was referred to) because we got to see a real range with her – her typical snarky self as well as a softer, more protective side. The scenes where she’s interviewing for floral designers are hilarious as well.

Elly in Bloom by Colleen Oakes is a must read for chick lit fans, especially those who enjoy Jennifer Weiner’s novels. Make sure you check back on April 1 for a fabulous guest post from Colleen. Seriously, I love it!

Happy reading :)

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Just Finished: Sand Castle Bay

If you’re looking for a sweet and easy to read romance, Sand Castle Bay by Sherryl Woods is a great pick. This book is the first in the Ocean Breeze trilogy, a series that follows three sisters as they try to find love.

Here’s the synopsis:
In a trade-off she's lived to regret, Emily Castle left home years ago to become an interior designer. The youngest of three sisters, Emily desperately wanted to prove herself. Success, though, came at the cost of leaving behind the man she loved. For Boone Dorsett, losing Emily left his heart shattered, but another woman was waiting in the wings. Now a widower with a young son, Boone has a second chance with Emily when a storm brings her home. But with his former in-laws threatening a custody suit, the stakes of loving her are higher than ever.
Will fate once again separate them—or is the time finally right for these two star-crossed lovers?
I don’t typically read true romance novels (ie the ones you’d find in the romance section of your local bookstore) but every once and awhile a romance series will interest me. What caught my eye with this series was that it features a different sister in each book. I find that it’s more entertaining when all the males or females are related (as you’ll see in an upcoming review, I love the Inn Boonsboro series by Nora Roberts that features three brothers). There’s just an added tension and possibility for deeper conversations and connections when they’re siblings. Maybe that’s all in my head but I enjoy it so that’s all that matters, right?

The other thing about a series like this is that you can see the beginnings of the romances that will be featured in the following books. I have a feeling I know which guy each of the other sister's will end up with and I’m looking forward to seeing how that comes about. There are some obvious obstacles between the possible couples and it should make for some entertaining and emotional reading.

I have to say that I was expecting this series to be a little…well, spicier. I’m not sure why, exactly. The romance between Emily and Boone was sweet but there was a sexual tension that I expected to be described a little bit more. Instead, there wasn’t a single actual sex scene put into writing. Normally this kind of thing wouldn't bother me. I think because there were references to when they were younger and couldn’t keep their hands off each other that I was expecting a little bit...more. Not a deal breaker for me, just an observation. You could see this as a bonus if you’re not into reading sex scenes! 

Sand Castle Bay by Sherryl Woods was an easy and enjoyable read. If you’re a romance reader looking for something to pick up, I’d recommend this one. I can’t wait to dive into book two, Wind Chime Point, which features another sister, Gabi (my review will be up May 2).  

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Harlequin, in exchange for an honest review*

Monday, March 25, 2013

Guest Post: Sara Palacios

Last week I had the pleasure of reviewing Love In Translation, the debut novel from Sara Palacios. (Read my review here if you missed it). Today Sara has a guest post for you all that talks about her road to publication. I'm always interested to see what it was like for an author to go from idea to actual book and I would like to thank Sara for this lovely post. I hope you all enjoy it!

I’ve dabbled in writing for a few years now. I finished my first book, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, shortly after I graduated from college but didn’t really think that it was good enough. I think I saw it merely as practice and appreciated it for what it was. But then, I decided to really give it a go and write another book and see how it turned out. If I felt like it was good enough, then I would pursue publishing which was obviously the ultimate goal. So, I gave it another go and spent many months working on what would become LOVE IN TRANSLATION. Actually, back then it was titled A SUMMER TO REMEMBER, but I like the new title so much more. Anywho, I finished the book and thought it was decent, so I decided to give it to an editor. I began working with Erica McCormick who is a friend of one of my best friends and she was amazing. She really helped tighten the writing and reel me in during scenes where my writing was all over the place. After she went through it very thoroughly, I went through it again myself at least a dozen more times and really tried to make it shine. Then I presented the book to a really great gal pal of mine, Cristina Reyna. She read the book in its entirety and really helped help bring the story to life. After that, I sent my MS out to a handful of publishing agents and had a few bites, but nothing really solid so I decided to pursue self-publishing. By that time, I had been working with Samantha Robey over at Chick Lit Plus for roughly a year and saw firsthand how successful an author could be when self-published, so I went for it. I think deep down I was always intended to self-publish because I had so much fun with it all.  Luckily I had my husband to help me out with everything, and together we converted my book into ebook formats and designed the book cover (which was by far one of my favorite aspects of publishing). Then, I set a date and went from there.

Overall, it was a lot of work but it has been so worth it. I think ultimately the deciding factor was giving birth to my son. For so long I’ve dreamed of being a writer and had always been so scared to pursue my dream fully. Sure, I’d written things here and there but had never been published. After Ethan was born, I needed to prove to myself that I could do it and I needed to show him that he could do anything … be anything he wanted to be. How was I supposed to convey those messages when I was scared to do it myself? So, I dove in head first and went for it and I haven’t looked back since. Now I am on tour, with lovely bloggers (like you, Kaley) and I am having such an amazing time. I am so lucky that I have been able to do this and I am so grateful that I’ve been able to experience all of this. 

About Sara:
Sara Palacios is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a major in Advertising and a minor in English Literature. It was during her time in college that she really fell in love with the written word and ventured into writing her own stories. In addition to writing, Sara spends a majority of her time reading the works of other authors.  She reads most genres  – but thoroughly enjoys chick-lit, women’s and historical fiction. When she isn’t busy reading or writing, Sara enjoys spending time with family and friends. She is happily married, the owner of two precious doggies and a new mom to a handsome baby boy. Sara is also an avid animal-lover, runner, yoga enthusiast and wannabe vegan.

Connect with Sara:
Twitter: Sara Palacios
Facebook: Sara Palacios

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mini Review: Rosy George's Convention Conundrum

Time for another quickie review! I read Rosy George's Convention Conundrum by P.J. Young just over a month ago and am *finally* getting to my review. This British chick lit novel was entertaining but I felt like there was just a little something missing.

Here's the synopsis:
Twenty nine-year old Londoner Rosy dreams of writing like Pinter, marrying before thirty and NEVER leaving London.
But although Shrek lookalike fiancĂ© David’s MBA means just that, her parents’ village of Lytton holds surprising attractions.
Such as theatre and sexy schoolteacher Angus.
And when David’s infidelity sparks a blissful affair with Angus, with a brand new ‘happy ever after’ a bouquet toss away, Angus is exiled.
David returns ... but his ‘deal-breaker’ means Rosy must discover her REAL dreams …
I liked Rosy but I didn't love her. It could be because I thought she needed to smarten up a bit and leave David. She obviously wasn't happy with him. She also resisted the feelings she had for Angus for awhile and then didn't seem to want to give him a chance to explain things. She was a little quick to judge, I think, but I suppose I can understand that to a point as she hadn't been in ideal relationships. It was still fun to see how she reacted to all the changes in her life and watch as she navigated a new world.

This is a kind of odd thing to mention, but the title of this novel kind of confused me. I don't know if "convention" is used in this sense (start your career, get married, have babies) more in Britain, but in my event planning mind, convention means a conference of sorts. I had read the synopsis so long ago that I had forgotten what the book was about and was honestly waiting for a literal convention. Duh.

Overall, I enjoyed Rosy George's Convention Conundrum by P.J. Young. It was nice but it did lack a little bit of oomph and, unfortunately, was not too memorable for me. I think this can be one of those books that you enjoy reading at the time but it won't necessarily stick with you (yikes, I hope that doesn't sound too harsh). If you're looking for a fun read, check it out because you also get a lovely happily ever after with this one, and who doesn't love that?

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

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cover Reveal: The Karmic Connection

I first met Libby Mercer when she reached out to me to review her novel Unmasking Maya last year (I loved the book, by the way). Since then we’ve emailed back and forth and since I like to think we’ve struck up a bit of an online friendship, I was more than happy to do a cover reveal for Libby’s upcoming novel.

Drumroll please…

Isn’t it a fun cover? I think it perfectly captures the fun and slightly quirky nature of Libby’s novels. I also enjoy that the main character, Lorraine, appears to have the same crazy hair I do! :)

Here’s what The Karmic Connection is all about: 
What is the universe up to? 

Guilty of nothing more than working too much - or so they say - Adam Stowe is dumped at a "wellness center" in the middle of nowhere by a couple of concerned colleagues. When he meets Lorraine, the beautiful and bewitching yoga instructor, his spirits start to lift, but once he discovers what a flighty fruitcake she is, they drop back down to subterranean levels. 

For Lorraine Jameson, Luna Wellness Center was a beacon of solace when her life was falling apart, and she can't stand the way Adam's toxic energy is poisoning the peace. He embodies everything negative about the life she discarded eighteen months ago. Despite being fiercely attracted to the arrogant man, she's determined not to let Adam Stowe anywhere near her heart. 

Adam and Lorraine couldn't be more unsuitable as a potential couple... so why is the universe so dead set on uniting these two?
The Karmic Connection is a different kind of love story with a cast of quirky characters and a mystical, magical New Age-y flavor.
The Karmic Connection will be released on April 25th so keep your eyes open for it and my review!

Happy Friday and happy reading!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

CLP Blog Tour: Love in Translation

I am so happy to be part of the CLP Blog Tour for Love In Translation by Sara Palacios! I've gotten to know Sara over the last few months in her capacity as assistant to Samantha, who runs, among other things, CLP Blog Tours. When I found out Sara was publishing her own novel, I knew I had to read it. While I don't think this novel will quite crack my favourites list for this year, I enjoyed reading Emily's story.

Here's the synopsis:
Still reeling from the unexpected breakup with David, Emily nurses her broken heart by spending time with her best friends and taking one-too-many vodka shots. After one long night, she takes a good, hard look at herself in the mirror and doesn’t like what she sees. She realizes that she has sacrificed too much in her failed relationships from the past and vows to never settle for anything less than almost-perfect again. As she picks up the pieces and regains her confidence, a sexy Spanish chef moves in across the hall and completely knocks her off her feet. What ensues is an unexpected and tantalizing affair that opens her eyes, and her heart, to a whole new world and leaves her feeling sexier than she has ever felt. Emily finally sees how easy love is supposed to be. Is happily-ever-after actually possible? Just when she starts to think so, she realizes that sometimes life gets more complicated before it gets easier. And complicated is an understatement when Steven (her best and oldest friend) confesses his love for her. Everything spirals out of control as Emily must make a choice between love and friendship, and in doing so, possibly risk it all.
LOVE IN TRANSLATION is a modern day love story about following your heart to unexpected places and taking chances in life … because sometimes you will find exactly what you are looking for.
I was really drawn into Emily's life. I hated that she had been dating such an idiot and I was glad she was rid of him. She has some fabulous girlfriends who help her through the break up and provide some amusement for the reader along the way. I really cared for Emily and wanted things to work out for her. I'm also glad we got a peek into her family life as I think it added a bit more depth to Emily and her story.

There were also quite a few laugh out loud moments thrown in this novel as well. I'm sure my fellow commuters were wondering what I was laughing at when I got to this part in the book:

I had a bit of a hard time with the romance in this one. In most books and movies, the sexy foreigner is never the long term love interest. I am also a sucker for "boy and girl are friends and end up falling in love" stories. All that being said, it was no surprise that I went into reading this novel with the assumption that Andres was just a fling and that Emily would end up with Steven. I won't say much more because I don't want to give the ending away. I will say that I was, well, annoyed that Emily was so clueless when it came to Steven's feelings for her. There only needed to be one "I'm in love with you, Emily" scene and there were a couple - a bit unnecessary for the overall story.

There were a few little things with the writing that I felt could have tightened or polished just a little bit more. These weren't deal breakers or anything (and I'm not saying I could do any better) but just things that stuck out a bit for me. For example, I noticed there was a lot of description of clothing. When I read, I'm assuming the characters aren't naked so I don't notice when clothing descriptions are sparse or non-existent. I also know that when girls are getting ready for dates or a night out with their friends, it's nice to know what they're wearing. For some reason, I just thought there was a little bit too much description of the clothes and not enough action in them - and no, I don't mean that in a dirty way...get your mind out of the gutter ;) I also noticed a few repetitive words and phrases ("sounds good" is the only one I can specifically recall) that could have been cleaned up a bit. I'm not saying I could do better, but I wish the writing was a bit smoother.

I wanted to love Love in Translation since I knew how hard Sara Palacios, like any author, worked on it. While I didn't love it, I did really like it and would definitely recommend it to someone looking for a light, sweet read. I know Sara will continue to grow as a writer the more she works at it and I look forward to seeing what she comes out with next.

Happy reading! :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I HAD To Buy But Are Still Unread

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.

Confession: I'm a bit of a book hoarder. I think this started when I was working at a bookstore throughout university. I had a sweet discount but no time to read (damn textbooks) so I kept buying books that I was interested in and just waited for the time to read them. For some of these poor books, the time has not yet come - and I haven't worked at the store in over two years! This week's list, Books I HAD to Buy But Are Still Sitting On My Shelf Unread, was created in one shot and without looking at my bookshelf. Clearly, I have a problem. :)

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

Beginner's Greek - James Collins
I actually know how long I've had this one. I saw it when we were moving stores and thought it looked interesting. That was in October 2009. Yikes.

Beth Kendrick x2
I have her two latest (The Bake-Offand The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service) on my shelf because I just needed to have them when they were released. 

I was really excited when I learned this was being released and bought it with some giftcards I had at the time. It's supposed to be lovely, I just wouldn't know it since I haven't cracked it open yet. 

I bought this one because the movie made me want to learn even more about Jane Austen. I'm still waiting to learn.

Life After Yes - Aidan Donnelley Rowley
This was a book I found out about shortly after getting into book blogging. I ordered it, it arrived, and it has sat on my shelf since then.

Girls in White Dresses - Jennifer Close
This wasn't actually a purchase, it was a gift request for my birthday last year. I'm so behind that Close has another book being released soon and I still haven't read this one!

The Distant Hours - Kate Morton
I was in love with Morton's The Forgotten Garden (read it if you haven''s freaking fabulous) and this was the book she released next. I was able to score the hardcover at 60% off but still haven't read it. She's another author who has since released another book.

Carole Matthews x2
I adored her earlier novels and picked up a few books while working at the store. After a few slight disappointments, I got away from reading her novels. I'll have to get back to her!

Juliet - Anne Fortier
This novel got huge buzz when it was released in 2010. I happened upon the hardcover in a used bookstore over a year ago and paid a whole $2 for it. Yet I still haven't read it.

If You Could See Me Now - Cecelia Ahern
There aren't many people who haven't at least heard of P.S. I Love You and I've read a few of Ahern's other novels since enjoying that one (so different than the movie!). I've had this one for ages and I just picked up another of hers a couple of weeks ago. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mini Review: Live Out Loud

Once again, Heather Wardell has given me a fabulous read! Live Out Loud was a great, thought provoking, and emotional novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Here's the synopsis:
Amy's a hobbyist songwriter with big dreams, but not the usual 'making it as a musician' kind. No, Amy wants to honor her late best friend by finally starting the support center for teenage girls they'd dreamed of when they were just girls themselves. She doesn't know where to start, but when one of her songs becomes an overnight internet sensation she sees a quick path to the money she'll need to make the center a reality.
As white-hot pop sensation Misty Will, Amy finds a whole new world opening to her and realizes she loves being on stage holding an audience spellbound. She also loves how her young fans look up to her and draw strength from her songs, but of course they don't know the awful thing she did after her friend died and how badly she could have used a support center herself. She knows, though, and also knows that she simply has to leave her new pop princess identity behind and become Amy the center director as she's dreamed of for eight years.
Doesn't she?
This is the sixth book in Heather's Toronto Series and I really like that this series isn't a typical one. All the books take place in Toronto (or with characters from the city who happen to be on vacation) but the main characters change in each book. What's fun is that sometimes characters from previous novels make brief appearances in following books. For example, the main couple from Stir Until Thoroughly Confused (Mary and Kegan, who I loved) show up Live Out Loud. I was annoyed at myself because I accidentally read this one before book five, A Life That Fits (I think I got confused by the Ls and the fact that I didn't have the list in front of me when I started this one on my Kobo). It doesn't really matter in the long run, but I didn't know if any characters from book five showed up in book six.

This is more of an observation than anything else, but when I was reading this novel, I was sort of picturing Amy as similar to Katy Perry. Perry is also pop-y and appeals to young girls but has a bit of a serious side as well, just as Amy does. Of course, the bright coloured wigs and costumes Amy-as-Misty wears further set the comparison in my head!

Like all of Wardell's novels, Live Out Loud was a balance of sweet and fun, and serious and inspirational. Amy had some tough decisions to make throughout this novel - Who should she sign with? Should she stay with her boyfriend? Should she keep being Misty? I saw this novel as a "follow your heart" kind of story and I really enjoyed it. If you still haven't picked up any of Heather Wardell's books (even after me bugging you to every time I review one of her novels), get to it. She's a great writer who always tells a wonderful story and I can't wait to dive into her next book.

PS In case you're wondering about all the mini reviews you've been seeing (and may continue to see...) - I'm way behind on reviews due to a lack of downtime for writing since I started my internship. I'm getting a TON of reading done on my commute but the reviewing part has fallen by the wayside. I'm hoping to get my act together soon so expect some more reviews in the next little while!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mini Review: A Taste of Chocolate

A Taste of Chocolate by Vonnie Davis was a sweet and mystical short story. It didn't thrill me as I'd hoped but it was still enjoyable.

Here's the synopsis:
Hope Morningstar has the worst luck with men. One boyfriend wrote her a “Dear John” letter while serving overseas. Her latest romantic interest broke up with her in a text. When a traffic detour puts her in an unfamiliar neighborhood, she stops at Freya’s Coffee Shop where she gets more than directions. She gets another chance at finding love.
Declan Fleming, scarred by a cheating ex-wife, has given up searching for love. He’s taken the route of a few other men and engaged the services of Freya, the matchmaker. Still, he’s been waiting for a year and he’s just about given up hope. Then Freya sends him Hope.
When feelings of insecurity and trust issues come into play, can finding love stand a chance? Can the magical influence of this matchmaker create a happy ending? After all, finding that one special love often involves a bit of special magic, does it not? 
This was quite a short short story, coming in at just 31 pages. The pace of this story wasn't too bad but I think Declan came on WAY too strong and, if I were Hope, I would have run in the other direction. I think a lot of the strong feelings came from the fact that he had been working with Freya for awhile and was waiting for his perfect match. Hope just sort of gets thrown into things. Not only does she have to deal with a...well...aggressive suitor (that may be a bit harsh but I can't think of a better word) but she has to try and make sense of Freya. What is she, exactly? Is she a witch? A fairy? Who knows!

A fun (I think) aside: Hope's reading a story in this story and I'm fairly certain it is the same That Dating Thing that is also published by Still Moments Publishing! I could be wrong and it could just be a coincidence but it made me giggle when I read it.

I think a lot of people would like A Taste of Chocolate by Vonnie Davis. I wish I had liked this one more as I thought I'd really enjoy it. I think I was just a little put off by how passionate Declan was and the intensity he had when pursuing Hope. Overall, it was sweet but was only an ok read for me.

*A copy of this short story was provided by the publisher, Still Moments Publishing, in exchange for an honest review.*

PS Fun fact! This is my 300th post! Whee! :)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Blog Tour: Swimming at Night + Q&A

Have you ever a novel that just floors you at the end of it? Swimming at Night by Lucy Clarke was one of those books for me. And I mean this in the best possible way. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it.

Here's the synopsis:
A young woman travels the globe to retrace the final months of her sister's life in search of answers about her death in this dark, gripping debut novel of family, secrets, and loss.
Katie's world is shattered by the news that her headstrong and bohemian younger sister, Mia, has been found dead at the bottom of a cliff in Bali. The authorities say that Mia had jumped—that her death was a suicide.
Although they hadn't spoken to one another since Mia suddenly left on an around-the-world trip six months earlier, Katie refuses to accept that her sister would have taken her own life. Distraught that they never made peace, Katie leaves behind her orderly, sheltered life in London and embarks on a journey to find out the truth. With only the entries of Mia's tattered travel journal as her guide, Katie retraces the last few months of her sister's life, and—page by page, country by country—begins to uncover the mystery surrounding her death…
This novel ripped by heart out. I know that's not usually a positive thing but it was when it came to this book. I was so invested in Katie and Mia's world and wished for a way for everything to work out well. It couldn't, of course, because we know right from the get go that Mia is dead. Nothing can change that. What could change is what we know about the circumstances surrounding her death. Thinking back, I'm not sure if any answer would have made things better. There were really only three options - it was suicide, an accident, or a murder. Not very positive, is it? I wish I had someone to talk to after finishing this book because the end had me reeling. I actually finished it on the train ride home and I'm fairly certain I said, "Woah," out loud! It was a fitting ending for such a powerful and emotional story.

What made this story hit even harder was that we read both sister's perspectives. I think this was done well as it would have been hard to know things about Mia before Katie did. There weren't any duplications of stories, just details filled in.

The other thing I loved about this book was reading about Katie's journey. She needed to find the part of herself that was like Mia. I think, if she hadn't, her life would have carried on as it was and she would have been immensely unhappy. While the ending is a bit ambiguous, I like to think that Katie got her happily ever after, man and all.

I think Swimming at Night by Lucy Clarke is a must read novel for fiction lovers. I don't always read novels that are this heavy but I am so so so glad I gave this one a try. I suspect that you'll relate to (and therefore be more affected by) this story if you have a sister, like I do. Check this one out - and then let me know what you think of the ending! I'm here to help you through the "Oh my god" moments!

I hope you enjoyed the review. Onto the Q&A!

Dear Kaley,
Thanks so much for your interesting questions – and please find below my responses. Books Etc. is a fresh and exciting blog and I really look forward to being included within it.
All best wishes
Lucy Clarke

Books Etc. - How did you come up with the idea for Swimming at Night?
Lucy Clarke - The idea that sparked Swimming At Night came from my fascination with travel journals. I love the colourful places they’ve been written, the pages thick with smears of sunscreen and grains of sand. Whenever I travel, I keep a journal and I’ve often thought how intriguing and tempting it must be to read someone else’s travel journal. What an insight it would give you into who they are. With this in mind, I asked myself two questions that were to be the fuel for the story:Who could the travel journal belong to? And, who finds it and why? From there, the relationship between sisters Katie and Mia was born.

BE - What is your writing process like?
Lucy Clarke
Credit: James Bowden
LC - A typical writing day for me means getting up early. I’m a morning person, so I set my alarm at 6 am and get straight to my desk. I’m hopeless by evening – it’s as if my creativity fades with the day. I generally write Monday to Friday, so that I have evenings and weekends free to spend with friends and family. Being a full-time novelist is a luxury I’m still getting used to because, until recently, writing had to be fitted around running a business.
I prefer to write by hand – there’s something about the simplicity of a pencil and a blank page that appeals to the romantic in me. I always have a notebook stuffed in my handbag so it means I can jot down ideas wherever I am. I love to write to music, too. There are certain albums I play to help me step into a character’s mindset, or to inspire a particular atmosphere in a scene.
I also take lots of tea and chocolate breaks, and usually a longer break in the middle of the day where I try and get outdoors, whatever the weather.
My biggest distraction is sunshine – I can’t focus if I’m indoors and the sun is shining, so I often decamp to the beach on my bike and then I’m focused once again!

BE - What made you want to write a novel?
LC - It wasn’t so much a case of something or someone inspiring me to write a novel, rather it was a desire within me that took time to find. I always assumed I’d have a career in business and I pushed aside all the signals that I’d perhaps make a good writer: I’ve always kept diaries and journals; I read voraciously; I studied English Literature at university; I’m at my happiest with a notebook and pen in my hand. 
I was about 24 when I realized that I’d love to be a novelist. Then there was the small matter of actually doing it. Like most people, I had to work to support myself whilst trying to make it happen, so I set up a small business delivering events in schools, which afforded me both an income, but also a flexible schedule so I could always make time to write. It took me until I was 30 to sign my first book deal. I sold my business and am grateful daily for the luxury of now being a full-time novelist.

BE - What do you like to do when you're not writing?
LC - Travelling, windsurfing, paddleboarding, hiking, camping, reading, hanging out with friends, dancing, and eating good food.

BE - What can we expect from you in the future?
LC - I’m just finishing my second book, which is set on a beautiful, rugged island off the coast of Tasmania. The story is based around a young woman who has been recently widowed. She travels to meet her late-husband’s family, but begins to discover that the man she married wasn’t who she thought he was. I can’t say too much more just yet, other than expect plenty of twists and turns!

One final thing: Lucy will also be taking part in an online book club Twitter chat about Swimming at Night on April 10th at 6:30pm. You can find out all the details of the chat by following @BookaliciousCA or on Wanda’s blog This is a great opportunity to discuss the book with the author!

About the Author
Lucy Clarke has a degree in English Literature. She and her husband, a professional windsurfer, spend their winters traveling and their summers at their home on the south coast of England. Visit

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

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Series I Want to Start

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.

Reading a book series is both awesome and heartbreaking. On the one hand, you get lots of awesome stories and really get to become involved with characters' lives. On the other hand, you feel lost once you finish the last book and miss the characters you learned to love. Admit it - some of you are unsure what to do after finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows :) This week's TTT features the ten series that we've always meant to read but just haven't gotten around to. I must say, my list is quite eclectic! Feel free to give me some more recs, especially good YA. I'm looking to expand my reading horizons!

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

Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
This is a series I've been meaning to read for YEARS. My mom read the first few and enjoyed them and I've been told by many people over the years that I need to pick it up. Soon. I promise.

Divergent - Veronica Roth
A YA series I've heard good things about. Is it worth it, YA readers? If I do start it, it will be after the third book is released in the fall. 

Heroes of Olympus - Rick Riordan
I loved Percy Jackson and I was excited when I found out Riordan was writing a sort of sequel series. I'm waiting until they're all written before I start and I think I have another year or so to wait!

Heist Society - Ally Carter
Two reasons I want to start this one: the premise sounds like fun and I have a copy of the first book. Sounds good enough for me.

Caster Chronicles - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Another YA one I've heard about, and not just because of the recent movie release! Thoughts?

Luxe - Anna Godbersen
See the reason for wanting to read Heist Society!

Jeeves and Wooster - P.D. Wodehouse
My family used to watch this show and we freaking loved it. I'd love to get the DVD set but just haven't set aside the funds for it yet. I'd like to see what the books are like and how they compare to the show. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, please enjoy this video:

Heather Wells - Meg Cabot
I adore Meg Cabot and have not yet managed to read this series and it's one both my mom and best friend like.

I Heart - Lindsey Kelk
Still can't believe I haven't gotten around to reading this chick lit series yet.

Austenland - Shannon Hale
I love Austen and I need to read these. That's about it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mini Review: Bullets and Buckets

Bullets and Buckets by Janelle Lee was a quick, romantic, country western story that, in all honesty, kind of confused me.

Here's the synopsis:
The last thing Michelle Hanlan was looking for when she arrived at her grandfather’s ranch was friendship let alone romance. She would do her time and then hightail back to the city where she belongs. That was the plan until Rick crossed her path, leading her heart to other ideas.
I mentioned that this was a quick read. This story was a whole 24 pages and almost wasn't enough to really get into the story. I think that's also what made me a little confused. There were things that I believe should have been explained better. For example, right at the beginning of the story Michelle is confronted with a rattlesnake that Rick ends up shooting to save her. She's completely ungrateful and I was a bit shocked. If someone shot a rattlesnake so it wouldn't bite me, I'd be pretty thankful. Michelle was just hard to like at first so it was a bit of a rough start with her.

I did like the romance, even if it did get off to a sort of odd start. There's a bit of mystery to Rick and it was nice to read along as Michelle started to figure him out. I do like that he calls her on her rudeness right off the bat. It shows that he has a sense of humour that can balance her...well, stuck up-ness.

I know this is a super short review but it's hard to write too much about a 24 page story! I wasn't really thrilled with Bullets and Buckets and think that author Janelle Lee probably could have impressed me more by writing a slightly longer story. I just didn't get enough out of this story, unfortunately.

*A copy of this story was provided by the publisher, Still Moments Publishing, in exchange for an honest review*

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Blog Tour: Stardust Summer + Giveaway

I'm so happy that I was able to take part in the ABG Reads Tour for Stardust Summer by the lovely Lauren Clark. I've read Lauren's two previous novels, Stay Tuned and Dancing Naked in Dixie, and enjoyed them both and wanted to see what her latest book was like. Happily, I ended up really liking it!

Here's the synopsis:
Single mom Grace Mason doesn’t believe in miracles, magic, or love at first sight. She likes the quiet life, complete with her eight-year-old son, their tiny house, and her teaching job. For Grace, happiness means that nothing much ever changes in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Then, one thousand miles away, tragedy strikes. A massive heart attack leaves Grace’s estranged father comatose in an Upstate New York hospital. While a team of doctors fight to keep Henry Mason alive, Grace and Evan rush to his bedside to say their final goodbyes.
Henry’s passing brings little closure for Grace, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to her new surroundings. What begins as a short trip results in an entire summer spent with Henry’s second wife, Kathleen, and her next-door neighbor, Ryan Gordon, the town doctor. When a series of unlikely events lead to Evan’s disappearance, Grace must face her worst fears to find her son and bring him back home.
Stardust Summer explores the complexities of forgiveness, what it means to be a family, and the fabulous possibility of falling in love—again.
When I read Lauren's other novels, I liked them but wasn't in love with them. I was wondering how I'd feel about her latest but, as I mentioned, this novel surprised me in the best possible way. I was also surprised when Lauren told me, via email, that she had actually written this book several years ago and had put off publishing it. I have no idea why. It was so good.

I was so invested in the characters in this novel. I was immensely sad that Grace and her father were not able to make up before he passed away. I can't imagine the regret she would have because, deep down, she really does still love him. Henry seemed like a great man and I actually wish I could have "met" him while he was alive. But then that would have changed the story so we'll just move on... :)

I do think that Kathleen went through way too much. There were just one too many incidents and I found myself thinking "How much more can this woman take?" I didn't like the last accident, even if it was the reason Grace went back. (How's that for vague and confusing?) That last accident also felt a little disjointed from the overall tone of the novel. But this was really the only thing that didn't sit well with me from this whole book.

Grace was standoffish and almost rude but I was never frustrated with her. I knew there had to be a good reason for how she was acting, I just had to wait for the explanation I knew Clark would give me. Sure enough, I found her actions justified once I was "told" her full story.

I really enjoyed the romance in the novel. It  played a large role but was understated, it didn't take over the novel. Ryan really understood Grace and seemed to know how to deal with her issues and lack of communication. He was patient and waited while she figured out her feelings. It was sweet and I found myself hoping for a happily ever after.

Stardust Summer was a great read. It's sweet and serious and has a great "family is most important" theme. I definitely recommend Lauren Clark's latest novel to fiction lovers!

Bonus! Good news for everyone who now wants to read this book. There's a Rafflecopter giveaway with this tour! Click on the link to go to the entry page. Good luck!