Friday, May 31, 2013

Armchair BEA: Non-Fiction

Design credit: Sarah of Puss Reboots
When I’m looking for a book to read I don’t normally reach for non-fiction. In fact, I could probably count on one hand the number of non-fiction books I’ve read in the last couple of years. OK, I just created a non-fiction shelf for Goodreads and it appears I have read eight non-fiction books in the past two years. Because there are so few titles I thought I’d list them for you! (Links lead to my reviews.)

Under the Tuscan Sun – Frances Mayes
Bitter is the New Black – Jen Lancaster
The Book of Awesome – Neil Pasricha
Mick Jagger – Philip Norman

They’re all pretty similar, right? Some travel, memoirs, biographies with a couple research type books thrown in there too. Obviously I don’t really stray from what I like when it comes to non-fiction. Which, I suppose I sort of knew when it comes to wandering bookstores. I’ll always look in the same few sections.

One of the reasons I don’t read a lot of non-fiction is because I’m really slow at reading them. This is odd and frustrating because I’m such a fast fiction reader. About half of the above books took me forever to read, even though I liked the majority of them. The ones that I gobbled up were The Tall Book, Happier at Home, and The End of Your Life Book Club. (The Book of Awesome is one of those books that I read a few pages at a time over a few months but it could easily be read in an afternoon.) I loved The Tall Book because it was interesting and relatable to me (I’m 6’ tall!) and was full of interesting stats and research. I love the way Rubin writes and combines her research with personal experience and have thoroughly enjoyed both her Happiness Project books. The End of Your Life Book Club was such a moving story and I highly recommend it to everyone.

What I discovered with Mick Jagger was that I’d rather read memoirs than biographies. It also didn’t help that I didn’t like the way Norman wrote or that Jagger didn’t have anything to do with the book. Sure, memoirs may not be super objective but I didn’t feel like this particular bio was objective either (Norman thought the sun rose and set with Mick, I think).

So those are my thoughts on non-fiction! I know I was very specific in titles but I think it does show what kind of books I like when it comes to non-fiction. What about you? Do you read any non-fiction? What are some of your favourite titles?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Armchair BEA: Literary Fiction

Design credit: Sarah of Puss Reboots
When I’m searching for books to read, I don’t normally turn to literary fiction. The silly thing is that I do enjoy the odd literary novel. I just don’t give enough of them a chance. As I mentioned yesterday, I love chick lit and women’s fiction so those are the books I turn to because I know I’ll enjoy them. I want to focus on one particular part of literary fiction: Canadian fiction. (In case you didn’t know, I live in Ontario.)

Confession: I never used to read much Canadian fiction. Why? In part it’s because I like my chick lit and there aren’t many Canadian chick lit authors out there. Happily, since I’ve started blogging and reading self published works, I’ve come across more chick lit authors (Heather Wardell, Kathleen Kole, and Samantha Stroh Bailey are just a few amazing Canadian chick lit authors).

Another reason is that I had a stereotype in my head that I’m sure is shared by many others: that Canadian fiction is boring. I had kind of bad experiences in English classes in high school and read two really uninteresting Canadian novels (Shhhh…don’t tell anyone but one was a Margaret Atwood novel!)

Now, you’re probably wondering what I’m getting at with this post. I’m here to tell you that I was wrong about Canadian fiction. I will also say that I would not have come to this conclusion had it not been for my current internship. Right now I’m working for a non-profit called ProjectBookmark Canada and this is what they’re all about:
Project Bookmark Canada is a national, charitable organization that places text from stories and poems in the exact, physical locations where literary scenes are set. We’ve established 12 Bookmarks (poster-sized ceramic plaques bearing up to 500 words of text) since 2009, with installations in Ontario, Newfoundland and British Columbia.
Our vision is a network of hundreds of Bookmarks around the country, so that Canadians and visitors can read their way across Canada. Our mandate is to establish a permanent and prominent presence for literature set in Canada—enhancing Canada’s reputation as a nation of storytellers; expanding the readership for fiction and poetry set in Canada; and encouraging residents and visitors to see our literary landscapes, adding to local and national tourism.
Pretty cool, eh? (I figured I may as well play up the whole Canadian thing.) Part of my job right now is to read up on Canadian books – specifically ones set in Calgary, Alberta. I’ve also read two of the books that have already been Bookmarked – one in Ottawa and one in my small hometown. Even though some of them have confused the hell out of me, a lot of them have been really enjoyable. I’m so glad that I’ve gotten the chance to be exposed to so many great Canadian reads and authors through this internship. And, hey, if you’re feeling particularly charitable and think Project Bookmark Canada is a good cause, we’d love donations. (If I can’t use my blog for good, what’s the point? Hehe) I’ll even make things easy…all you have to do is click right HERE to be taken to the donation page. 

Because we all love book recommendations, I’m going to give you a little list of books that I’ve read recently for Bookmark. I realized after I'd posted this that I definitely listed a couple of books than aren't technically literary fiction. Silly me. I've left them in because I think they're good reads!

The Bone Cage – Angie Abdou. Do you love the Olympics and sports? Read this one. It’s about a swimmer and a wrestler who are off to the Sydney Olympic Games. (,

Swallow – Theanna Bischoff. Darcy has to deal with the aftereffects of her younger sister’s suicide. It’s not what you’d call a light and fun read but it’s a really good story. (,

The Enchantment Emporium – Tanya Huff. This book is for the fantasy fans. Alysha inherits a junk shop from her grandmother but there’s a whole lot more going on than meets the eye. (,

The Space Between Us – Jessica Martinez. YA fans, this one’s for you! Amelia is always covering for her younger sister Charley. Those antics go a little too far and the girls are forced to move from sunny Florida to wintery Banff, Alberta. (,

The Queen of Unforgetting – Sylvia Maultash Warsh. This is the one that’s set in my hometown and was really great. I had no idea how it was going to end and I loved the little history lessons throughout (the main character is researching a Jesuit priest who tried to convert the natives in the area.) (

Of course, I’m also a huge fan of Anne of Green Gables and I’ve loved all of Catherine McKenzie’s novels. I also cannot wait to read The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan and Studio Saint-Ex by Ania Szado – two books that have been on my shelf for far too long.

What are your thoughts on literary fiction? How about Canadian fiction? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check on my igloo and pet moose and have some maple syrup :)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Armchair BEA: Genre Fiction

Design credit: Sarah of Puss Reboots
Because of birthday celebrations over the weekend and last night, I'm only just now finding the time to write about the second topic for today - genre fiction. These are the books that the snooty English majors wouldn't be caught dead reading, you know, romance, sci fi, fantasy, horror. All that good stuff. (Please note: I know not all English majors are snooty. I know several and they're lovely people with interesting reading tastes. So please don't hate me.) I don't read any of those genres but I do love one that is constantly being ridiculed: chick lit.

I love chick lit and I'm one who doesn't mind calling it that. True chick lit lovers know there's more to the genre than bubblegum pink covers adorned with shoes and cupcakes. Personally, I'm glad the covers are all so bright and distinctive as it's immensely helpful when sifting through books at a used book sale! (True story. Recently I snapped up a copy of I Heart New York because the pink stood out against the books.) Back to what the books are all about...when I think of chick lit, I think of funny, feisty, and occasionally flighty, heroines. They could be in their twenties or their forties. They could be single or married. They could have kids or they could stress about even looking after a plant. They're your every day woman and could easily be your friend (Let's not get into the whole "likeable" debate right now, k?). A romance is usually present, that's true, but it's not really the main point of the book. There could be a career issue, family drama, or backstabbing best friend. Or all of the above. The story is usually light but that doesn't make it mindless.

I've written about chick lit before, on a few occasions, so I don't really want to repeat myself. A year ago I wrote a post about the genre in honour of International Chick Lit Month, which is just wrapping up. The post, which you can read here, talks about why I read the genre and why I don't make excuses for liking it. A week or so later I wrote about the "queens of chick lit" - the authors who immediately come to mind when talking about this genre. For a recent Top Ten Tuesday post, we listed ten books we turn to when in need of light reading. Seven of the ten authors I chose are chick lit authors.

You can see many authors in the links I listed about but I'll give you a quick list here: Emily Giffin, Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Weiner, Cecelia Ahern, Carole Matthews, Beth Kendrick, Heather Wardell, and Talli Roland.

What genres do you like to read? Do you ever find yourself defending your choices or judging genre readers?

Armchair BEA: Blogger Development

Design credit: Sarah of Puss Reboots
Today’s post for Armchair BEA is all about blogger development. I like to think I’ve come a long way since I started my blog two and a half years ago. I probably have, but I also know there’s a lot more I could do. Even though I’m not always sure what those other things are!

One thing I know for sure is that I’m always a little jealous of the professional looking blogs out there. One blogger I follow just redesigned her site and brought on a friend to be another reviewer. I adore her new site (you can see Bookish Comforts here) and was blown away when she said they did it themselves. This made me realize it’s time to learn some new skills, brush up on some old ones, and design something myself.  Of course, I just need to find the time to do these things. These sites just look so clean and fresh and I want something like that for myself.

About a year into my blog I because an associate reviewer at Novel Escapes. This has helped me read even more books that I wouldn’t have otherwise and it’s helped me gain a new friend in Lydia, the woman who runs the site. I don’t think I could have asked for a better person to work with because she has been so incredibly when I’ve been delayed in sending reviews or reading books due to several crazy life changes. The reviews I write for her are still in my own voice but I notice that they’re just a little bit different from what I write for my own site. Interesting to note, I think.

When I first started reviewing I didn’t realize how big this book blogging community really is. Because of that, I just started writing in a way that felt right to me – and I still do that. If something reminds me of a story from my own life, I’m going to include it. I love personal touches when I read other blogs and I try to make mine fun and entertaining – and personal.

I also think it’s so important to be honest when writing a review. Let me be clear on what I mean by honest. I don’t mean trashing the book or the author. That’s just rude and inconsiderate. I mean actually writing what I think instead of worrying about hurting the author’s feelings. Is that easy? Absolutely not. Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with this too often. There are really only a handful of books that I didn’t love, or didn’t like as much as I thought I would, and have caused me some issues when writing the reviews. What makes me feel better about my being honest approach is that I’ve had a few authors tell me that they love my reviews simply because I’m honest. I’m very careful with my five star reviews on Goodreads (Side note: I don’t star things on my blog because it was just one more step I didn’t feel like taking and I also usually don’t put up my reviews on Goodreads – not because I don’t want to, just because I’m lazy. That will be changing soon. I hope.) and will only rate a book that high if I was absolutely, positively in love with it. That does happen though, I promise!

One of the other things I really want to do is create a review archive type page. My mom even suggested I do that, which I thought was cute. It’ll mean a lot of work since I have so many reviews now but it’s something that should be done. I can’t decide if I want to list the review by author, title, or rating. Thoughts or suggestions on that?

I also want to get in touch with more publishers. I have a fabulous relationship with Random House of Canada (the fact that I interned there earlier this year definitely helped matters) but there are still a few other houses that I’d like to work with. Progress is being made but these days I’m more focused on getting myself a job in publishing than getting myself on a list for review copies!

Well, this has been a pretty rambly post but that really shows you what I’m like. I tend to go off  on tangents but I usually always end up back where I wanted to be. I hope you enjoyed this post! Tonight I’ll bounce around the blogosphere and see what everyone else has to say about their own development and see if I can pick up any tips!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Armchair BEA: Introductions

Design credit: Sarah of Puss Reboots
Welcome to my intro post for Armchair BEA! I participated last year and had a lot of fun and since, once again, I wasn't able to make it to NYC for BEA (*sobs*) I'm taking part in this great event again. There will be many posts throughout the week (you can see the whole agenda here if you want to know what's coming up or if you want to take part in the event). For now, I hope you enjoy getting to know me!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? 
This is my bunny Tonks!
First things first, my name's Kaley. As of today, I'm 26 (happy birthday to meeeee!). Technically, I started blogging over four years ago but the first two blogs I made were for my university seminar course. Books Etc. has been around for two and a half years. I started it because I was already familiar with how blogs worked and wanted a way to talk about books all the time. 

Where in the world are you blogging from? 
I'm blogging from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. For those of you who have no idea where that is, I'm about 20 minutes away from this:

And in case you can't tell what "this" is, that's Niagara Falls. I've only been down to the Falls a handful of times. It's always magnificent and I'd love to go a bit more but trying to find parking and then having to pay a ridiculous amount for it is a bit of a negative. 

What are you currently reading, or what is your favourite book you have read so far in 2013? 
As I write this (the weekend before the post goes up), I'm reading The Queen of Unforgetting, a novel that takes place in my small hometown. Very cool.
I've also decided to cheat a bit and list some favourites in different genres (hey, we all love book recommendations, right?). Literary Fiction: The Bone Cage. Fantasy: The Night Circus. YA (contemporary): Anna and the French Kiss. Chick Lit: Finding Lucas

If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why? 
I would love to hang out with Sarah Dessen. She's my favourite author and when I saw her speak about a year and a half ago when she came to Toronto and between that and her excellent tweets, I think we could be good friends. 

What literary location would you most like to visit? Why? 
I really want to visit Great Britain and would love to see Jane Austen's England, particularly Bath. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Happy Birthday to Me...and these books!

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.

Today is a freebie Top Ten Tuesday and, as you probably guessed from the title of this post, it's also my birthday! Whee! I had a couple other ideas for what to do for this post: books featuring birthdays or protagonists in their mid-twenties. I discovered that it was a little more difficult than I expected to come up with books for either of those topics. Then I had the brainwave to figure out which books are going to share their birthday with me! As it turns out, May 28th isn't a blockbuster release date but there are some gems hidden in the list of books being published today. Some of these books I want to read, others are just noteworthy titles or authors, and some just looked like fun. Do you plan on reading any of these or have you read any of them already? Am I missing any?

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

The Last Camellia - Sarah Jio (really want to read this one!)

Just One Kiss - Susan Mallery

Sea Glass Island - Sherryl Woods (I have this one to read and my review will be up next week!)

Looking for Me - Beth Hoffman

Boo ABC: A To Z With The World's Cutest Dog - J.H. Lee, photographed by Gretchen LeMaistre (because, why not?)

Dare You To - Katie McGarry

I'll Be Seeing You - Suzanne Hayes, Loretta Nyhan

Paperback shout-out: Shadow of Night - Deborah Harkness

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Bunch of Mini Reviews

Welcome to my first batch of mini reviews! My friend Natalie over at Browsing Bookshelves does a version of this called Ten Second Reviews and I've "stolen" her idea. I have so many reviews I wanted to write so I could acknowledge the books I read but I lacked a lot of time to do full reviews. I hope you enjoy them!

The Second Assistant - Clare Naylor and Mimi Hare
This was one of those early chick lit novels (it was released in 2004) that I had been meaning to read for years but just never got around to it. I saw it at my local library and decided to give it a shot. The novel follows Lizzie as she leaves her political job behind and moves to Hollywood to work as a second assistant to an agent. I found it to be a cross between Lauren Weisberger's novels The Devil Wears Prada (full disclosure: I have yet to read the book but I do love the movie) and Everyone Worth Knowing. I had to keep reminding myself to stop comparing it to her books because just because I read/watched those first doesn't mean that this one wasn't as good. This one ends on a bit of a cliffhanger so I really need to get back to the library to get The First Assistant. I had fun reading The Second Assistant and think other chick lit lovers would enjoy this one too.

Best Friends Forever - Jennifer Weiner
I love Jennifer Weiner so when I was looking for an audiobook (my very first audiobook!) for a road trip to Ottawa I was happy to find Best Friends Forever on my library's shelf. My drive was about six hours each way so I wanted to make sure I got a book I knew I'd like and one that would be long enough to last for the majority of my drive. Well. I have a bone to pick with my library. I knew to check to see if it was abridged or not, I'm not totally new. However, the part of the jacket/case that said it was abridged was cut off and I didn't realize it was adapted for audio until it was finished. And I still had four hours of driving ahead of me. Le sigh. Anyway. That's not really the point. The point is that this was a great read, er, listen. It had a serious plot (check out the Goodreads page to get an in depth synopsis) that discussed weight issues, assault, friendships, mental illness, and infidelity. I was invested in the characters, especially Addie, and wanted everything to work out for them. Apparently I really wanted to read this one because I discovered a hard copy on my shelf a week later that I bought at a book sale last year. *Facepalm* Final verdict of this novel: read it. It was a good one.

A Life That Fits - Heather Wardell
I also love Heather Wardell. I have read eight of her twelve novels and I have loved every single one of them. I've put this book in my mini review pile because I'm running out of ways to gush about her books but still wanted to acknowledge this great novel. Alex was an interesting character and one that I enjoyed learning about. I was invested in her attempt to change her life after her boyfriend of fourteen years walks out on her. Romance is never the main focus of Wardell's novels but almost always plays a large role. The romance in this one is probably one of my favourites. It was both sweet and steamy and I was rooting for the couple. One of the things I love about Wardell's novels are the cameos that pop up in each one. I've been bopping around her list so I hadn't realized that I should have already known some of the characters in All At Sea, which I read last October. If you haven't yet tried Wardell's novels I cannot recommend them enough. They're all just so amazing and well written stories. Bonus: her first, Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo is free at all ebook retailers (check out Kobo,, and You can't lose. Trust me!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Taking It Off the Shelf: Beginner's Greek

Welcome to my first review for my new feature! As you may recall from my intro post, I decided to read Beginner's Greek by James Collins. I have had this on my bookshelf since October 2009. About time I read it, eh?

Once again, I'll provide you with the synopsis:
Is love at first sight possible or just an old-fashioned romantic idea? And what if, to further complicate things, you meet the love of your life and then lose her phone number? Then what if, after the impossible happens and you find her again, she's now about to marry a roguish lothario who is also your best friend? The complications don't end there for Peter Russell, the winning hero of James Collins' charming, generous, and romantic first novel. Part modern-day Jane Austen, part Tom Wolfe,is a romantic comedy of the highest order, with characters who are perfectly, charmingly real as they swerve and stumble from fairy tale to social satire and back again.
I can't remember what it was exactly about this book that made me want to pick it up. Perhaps it was because of the interesting twist on a romance and a second chance at love. Even if it wasn't because of that, the romance aspect was my favourite part of the novel. Peter and Holly had to deal with so many obstacles and I worried that maybe they wouldn't ever get together. I really like second chance novels so it really isn't surprising that I liked this story.

What really took away from my enjoyment of this novel was all the background information on every character. Seriously. I think every character who was featured for more than five pages had a whole back story. It was a little bit ridiculous and a tad frustrating. I found myself skimming a lot because I just wanted to move the action along and was irritated when I had to learn all about the childhood of Peter's fiancée's step-mother. I wanted to learn more about Peter and Holly and I felt like their stories were lacking because they had to share so much page space with the other characters.

All in all, I liked Beginner's Greek by James Collins but it definitely won't make any favourites lists for me. I was worried about this one being a let down since I've had it for so long but I still think it was worth a read. The core plot is a good one. I just wish the story was written in a different way.

For my next pick, I'm going to read Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close (after writing this review I realized that I'm going with two J.C. authors in a row!). The story behind this one is that I had heard amazing things about it and then asked a friend for it for my birthday last year. I haven't had this one nearly as long as Beginner's Greek by I have a shiny new hardcover of Close's new novel The Smart One that I really want to get to soon. Check back next month when I review the next book off my shelf!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reading Bingo: The Night Circus

I'm slowly but surely moving along on my Reading Bingo card. I've been meaning to read The Night Circus for forever. I had no excuses, really. I knew it was great. I had even won a signed copy and it was sitting on my shelf, just waiting for me to make time for it. It seemed like everyone but me had already read Erin Morgenstern's novel and I decided I would finally set aside some time to read it. Boy, am I glad I did. This is such a terrific book.

Here's the synopsis:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. 
As soon as I started reading this I could see why everyone was raving about it when it was released a few years ago. It was fantastically magical, deliciously twisted, and so odd in a completely understandable way. When I was reading it I knew that it was made up but I still thought, "Of course these illusions could be real. Why wouldn't they be?" Like all fantasy books you have to allow yourself to believe that these things could actually be happening and once you do that you can really enjoy the book.

I really liked how the story was told. There was present day where you, the reader, are visiting the circus yourself. Then there's what I was calling the past-past which starts at the beginning of the challenge (roughly) and moves forward from there. Finally, there was the past that starts with Bailey's story. As the novel went on I was really looking forward to what would happen when the two pasts converged because I knew that would be when I would get most (if not all) of the answers I desperately needed.

I definitely recommend reading this book in one sitting if you can manage it. If not, reserve it for a weekend. I needed to read a book that was a little different after reading two very similar books back to back. This book won for the "little different" aspect and I read the majority of it on my commute to my internship. This, I learned, was a mistake. The Night Circus needs to be savoured and thoroughly enjoyed and that needs to be done on the couch with a mug of tea, not on a packed commuter train!

Overall, I loved The Night Circus. Erin Morgenstern's debut novel is fabulous and I highly recommend it. You need to like those books that are a little different, a little fantastical, to really enjoy this so if that's your thing, make sure you read this one. You won't be disappointed!

I'm now all caught up on my Bingo reviews but I have a couple already set for other squares (Canadian and would have read as a teenager are two of them) so stay tuned for more reviews in the next month or so!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Covers

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

This week we're listing our ten favourite covers from the books we've read. Seems easy enough, right? My list was originally fourteen titles long so my issue came from deciding which ones to cut. I must say, it was really interesting to see which covers appealed to me. Can you see a bit of a pattern? Read on to see which books made the list and have covers that make me swoon.

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

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson. A good chunk of my review of this novel is spent talking about how much I freaking love this cover and how much better this Canadian version is than the US and UK versions. I just love it.

Gold - Chris Cleave. I love bold colours, fancy/fun font, and simple graphics. This one has them all (and, bonus, is also a great read).

Bride Quartet series - Nora Roberts. I was drooling over the cover of Vision in White long before I actually read the books. My mom mentioned the series to me and when she finally remembered the title and I looked it up, I said something along the lines of, "Oh, those books with the gorgeous covers!" So pretty.

Vanity Fare - Megan Caldwell. Cookies and books. Need I say more?

Someday, Someday, Maybe - Lauren Graham. There's just something about the blue tone with the pop of red that I really like about this one.

Twilight Saga - Stephanie Meyer. Say what you will about the content (and I'll say they're entertaining) but I really like the covers. It goes back to the simple and bold concept I like.

Emily Giffin's novels. Just lovely. Simple and recognizable.

How to Eat a Cupcake - Meg Donohue. One word: cupcakes. 

Winter Wonderland - Belinda Jones. This is just too cute and perfect for this story.

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell. Once again, simple and striking wins my heart. This perfectly illustrates the start of their relationship and I love it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Double Dose of Nora Roberts

I've had a review to write of The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts for well over a month so when I finished Whiskey Beach last night I decided to just combine the reviews into one big Nora Roberts lovefest. Sounds like fun, no? :) I'm not really a true romance reader and I don't frequent that section of the bookstore or library. My mom was the one who got me interested in Nora Roberts when she told me about the Bride Quartet series. I had noticed them because of their gorgeous covers so I gave them a shot and I was hooked! I'll start my mini reviews off with my thoughts on Whiskey Beach and then move to the conclusion of the Inn BoonsBoro trilogy.

Here's the synopsis for the new novel (released April 16th) from Roberts:
For more than three hundred years, Bluff House has sat above Whiskey Beach, guarding its shore—and its secrets. But to Eli Landon, it’s home…
A Boston lawyer, Eli has weathered an intense year of public scrutiny and police investigations after being accused of—but never arrested for—the murder of his soon-to-be-ex wife.
He finds sanctuary at Bluff House, even though his beloved grandmother is in Boston recuperating from a nasty fall. Abra Walsh is always there, though. Whiskey Beach’s resident housekeeper, yoga instructor, jewelry maker, and massage therapist, Abra is a woman of many talents—including helping Eli take control of his life and clear his name. But as they become entangled in each other, they find themselves caught in a net that stretches back for centuries—one that has ensnared a man intent on reaping the rewards of destroying Eli Landon once and for all…
This was a much different book than I was expecting. So far I've only read really romancey novels by Roberts but Whiskey Beach has a mysterious/thriller aspect to it that was really interesting. I liked this because it kept the novel from being too predictable. Abra and Eli will end up together, that's a given, but that didn't really matter to me (though I did hope they'd be able to work through their issues and that there would be a proposal by the end of the novel...and I'm not telling you if I was right or not). What did matter was finding out who the killer is. I was completely invested in Eli's life and desperately wanted his name to be cleared. I was on the edge of my seat at some points because I was so worried about what was going to happen to the characters. Roberts did a great job of keeping things hidden (sometimes literally) and revealing things at just the right moment. There were great twists, an interesting family history, romance, and a dog I really wanted to have for myself (it will make sense when you read it...). Overall, I think Whiskey Beach is a novel for those who like their romance with a little extra something. I really liked reading it and trying to figure out the mystery. This would be great for a rainy weekend read!

Next up, the synopsis of The Perfect Hope, the third and final book in the Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy:
The Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother are breathing new life into the town of Boonsboro, Maryland, by restoring its historic hotel. And they’re finding their own lives revamped by love. This is Ryder’s story... Ryder is the hardest Montgomery brother to figure out — with a tough-as-nails outside and possibly nothing too soft underneath. He’s surly and unsociable, but when he straps on a tool belt, no woman can resist his sexy swagger. Except apparently Hope Beaumont, the innkeeper of his own Inn BoonsBoro. And though the Inn is running smoothly, thanks to Hope’s experience and unerring instincts, her big-city past is about to make an unwelcome — and embarrassing — appearance. Seeing Hope vulnerable stirs up Ryder’s emotions and makes him realize that while Hope may not be perfect, she just might be perfect for him...
I loved this series. Just loved it. So much so that I was actually quite sad when I finished this book. I wanted more! There's really not a whole lot that happens in the series - couples get together, buildings are built, a ghost story is solved - but I think that kind of what makes it enjoyable. I love the small town aspect of it and seeing the couples finally figure out that they're in love with each other. The Montgomery brothers are what make this series so much fun to read, I think. They're your typical guy's guy which, for me, is way more attractive than, say, a dominating billionaire (cough Fifty Shades cough.) I don't know if this was my favourite of the three but it was still a lot of fun to read. Ryder and Hope are both tough and slow to let anyone in so it was sort of even more enjoyable to read as they finally got their act together. I liked being able to see what everyone else was up to and how their stories were moving along in the background. Like I said, I loved this series and think The Perfect Hope was a great conclusion to the Inn BoonsBoro trilogy. Definitely check out this series if you're looking for a sweet and entertaining romance read.

So, there you have it. My Nora Roberts lovefest. My sister and I bought my mom another trilogy for her birthday and year?...anyway, so I have that one to dive into later this summer. Until then, happy reading :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Review: Finding Lucas

Finding Lucas was one of those novels I had been meaning to read for forever. Well, for a year (it was publishing in April 2012) anyway. Author Samantha Stroh Bailey is a fellow Canadian and we have become good Twitter friends over the past several months. I was excited to finally dive into her novel and it did not disappoint. It was sweet and hilarious and a great chick lit read.

Here's the synopsis:
Can you ever really go back to the past?
After five long years of living with Derek, her former bad-boy-turned-metrosexual boyfriend, Jamie Ross finally reaches her breaking point. She's had enough of his sneering disdain for her second hand wardrobe, unusual family and low-paying job as the associate producer of Chicago's sleaziest daytime talk show. When her new boss plans a segment on reuniting lost loves, Jamie remembers Lucas, her first love and the boy she'd lost ten years earlier. Spurred on by her gang of quirky friends, Jamie goes on a hilarious, disastrous and life changing hunt to track Lucas down. But are some loves best left behind?
One of the things I liked about Finding Lucas was that it felt very real - the circumstances, the dialogue, the characters, everything. I mean, there are some ridiculous situations but what chick lit doesn't have it's share of craziness (see: Confessions of a Shopaholic, hehe), right? Things could have been crazy and over the top but Samantha does a great job of keeping things balanced and it all works.

There were a few minor things that...irked me, I guess, but there wasn't anything that took away from my overall enjoyment of the novel. I was completely immersed and entertained by the story. These issues, if we even want to call them issues, were so minor, in fact, that I couldn't even recall them just a few days after finishing the book.

I love the romance in this book and part of the reason I love it is because it didn't take over. Even though Jamie is searching for an old boyfriend after leaving her twit of an ex, we got to see Jamie on a personal journey more than a hunt for a man. Does that make sense? She realizes so much about herself and that's the main point of her story. The bonus is that she finds love with an awesome guy (and I'm not telling you which guy it is!) and becomes more comfortable with herself and her family.

Speaking of family, this book is full of fabulous secondary characters. Jamie has a great best friend in Hannah and I loved reading about her story. Her parents (including step moms) are such a huge part of her life and it was so much fun reading the scenes with her family. Oh, and her roommates! Ha! Loved them. And I totally called the twist with them. "Twist?" you ask? Read the book and you'll understand. And probably laugh your ass off.

Overall, Finding Lucas was such a great read. Samantha Stroh Bailey wrote a novel that makes you laugh while also tugging at your heartstrings. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for their next chick lit read. I can't wait to read Samantha's next book!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Reading Bingo: Anna and the French Kiss

Time to check off another Reading Bingo square! I finally got around to reading Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins earlier this year. If you're a regular reader of my blog you'll know that I'm not a big YA fan, even though one of my favourite authors is Sarah Dessen. But, since I had heard so many good things about this book and knew it was similar to Dessen, I finally gave it a shot. And guys? I loved it.

Here's the synopsis:
Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.
But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?
Now, I read the book ages ago. February 18, to be precise. Soooo, this will be a short review. It's also going to be full of pictures. I'll start by saying that I just devoured this book. It was an awesome read in one sitting book and it was a great way to spend a holiday Monday. It's such a sweet and fun read and exactly the kind of YA I love.

I ended up doing a bit of a photo readalong of sorts when reading it so I will now share some photos before getting into more of a review.

As it was February, I required some tea while I was snuggled under a blanket on my couch. Unfortunately I cannot give you the book and tea pairing because I can't recall what I was drinking. Yes, that is a giraffe in my mug. And yes, he does have a name. Stanley. My sister gave him to me around this time of year last year. I remember that because we were watching Stanley Cup playoffs at the time. Clearly I wasn't too original in my naming choice :)

I love when books reference Harry Potter.

And a personally entertaining part of the book when St. Clair gives Anna a Canadian flag. If I ever get to go abroad I will make sure everyone knows I am actually from Canada and not a faux Canadian :)

As I mentioned, this book was the kind of YA I like to read. I'm not into super angst-y, super paranormal-y, or any other super -y. What I love about Dessen is that her characters are so real and relatable and I felt like Perkins wrote in the same way. Sure, the main characters want to get a boyfriend and think high school is the be all, end all, but I still enjoy reading about them. I've had to put down other young adult books because I couldn't handle reading about the life of the sixteen (or whatever) year old in the book. I never felt annoyed or frustrated with Anna. Instead I was able to recall what it was like when I was a teen. It's enjoyable, not irritating.

I really don't know what else I can say about Anna and the French Kiss other than: I loved it and think many others will too. I'm waiting for Lola and the Boy Next Door to show up at my library (they didn't have a copy so my friend who works there put in an order for it. It pays to know people.) and I can't wait to read it. Of course, I'm also excited for Isla and the Happily Ever After (release date is September 17th) but am not quite as anxious as those who have been waiting for two years. I will leave you with the new covers of Stephanie Perkins' novels, which some people are upset about but I personally love. What are your thoughts?

Oh, I lied. I will actually leave you with my Reading Bingo card. Are you playing along? How's your card looking?
Happy reading! :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Light and Fun Reading

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

This week we're to list ten books we turn to when we need something light and fun. Instead of books, I'm going to list ten authors I love to check out when I need a guaranteed good read. Some of the stories they write about aren't all sunshine and lollipops but I always enjoy them so that's why they're on the list! What are some of your go to reads for when you need something light?

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

Nora Roberts
I haven't read much by her (especially if you think about it in percentages, man, that woman writes a lot) but I've found each series I have read really sweet and enjoyable. I just recently finished the Inn Boonsboro series and I wanted there to be more. If you are looking to dive into the world of romance, start with Roberts.

Janet Evanovich
I've been reading the Stephanie Plum series since I was in high school and they're always good for a laugh. True, there may be about ten too many at this point, but they're still entertaining. I've read a couple of her others and enjoyed them as well but I always look forward to the new Stephanie adventure.

Joanne Fluke
I like to say that Fluke's Hannah Swensen series is a literally sweeter version of Evanovich's Plum series. Hannah owns a cookie shop and the books are full of recipes, hence the literal sweetness. She also has to choose between two men but sex has never been implied, let alone written about. They're fun little murder mysteries and great for a weekend read.

Talli Roland
I've been working my way through Talli's work and I just love her stories. They're funny and cute and clever and just oh so enjoyable.

Sophie Kinsella
Do I really need to explain this one? :)

Heather Thurmeier
So far I've read three of Heather's books and I've loved each of them, especially her reality TV series. In fact, I'm impatiently waiting for book number three to be released! I like to think of these ones as romance novels with sass, I guess. I literally just made that up. My point is that the books are romances at the core but there's more to it than just trying to get the guy. OK, bad explanation. Just read her books.

Carole Matthews
This is another author who I almost always love (I say almost because one of her recent Christmas books was such a disappointment to me) and enjoy reading. I think it has something to do with the fact that she's British and I adore British chick lit. I have a few of her older ones sitting on my shelves and I'd like to give some of her latest ones a try as well.

Romi Moondi
Romi's novels always have me laughing. She's got such a fabulous sense of humour and her books are so much fun to read. I can't wait for her to get down to writing now that she's in Paris (a lifelong dream of hers) and will impatiently wait for her third novel in the Year of the Chick series to be published.

Kathleen Kole
Kathleen's books have so much heart and are always amusing. Each of her books that I've read have been enjoyable and feature loveable heroines.

Heather Wardell
I have absolutely adored every single one of Heather's novels. Seriously. I think all but one have gotten five star reviews and that was only because I hated what happened to one of the characters. Even though I got it, I was still upset. I don't know what it is about her books but they're all amazing.

*Fun fact about my list...first three are American, two are Canadians now living elsewhere (Talli's in England, Heather in the US), two are British (Kinsella and Matthews), and the rest (Moondi, Kole, and Wardell) are Canadian. I guess I like to cover the map!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A New Feature: Taking It Off...the Shelf

Truth: A lot of us book bloggers have a ton of books. Truth: I honestly don't think I can read all of the books I own. Not unless I win the lottery. Enter my new feature: Taking It Off...the Shelf. I have quite a few books that I've been meaning to read (some of them for almost five years) so I've decided to read one book off my shelves (the ones in the above picture) every month. It's not a huge commitment and I'm hoping I can read more than one, but it's a start.

First up, a book I bought when I was still working at the October 2009. Yeah.

Here's what Beginner's Greek is all about:
Is love at first sight possible or just an old-fashioned romantic idea? And what if, to further complicate things, you meet the love of your life and then lose her phone number? Then what if, after the impossible happens and you find her again, she's now about to marry a roguish lothario who is also your best friend? The complications don't end there for Peter Russell, the winning hero of James Collins' charming, generous, and romantic first novel. Part modern-day Jane Austen, part Tom Wolfe,is a romantic comedy of the highest order, with characters who are perfectly, charmingly real as they swerve and stumble from fairy tale to social satire and back again.
I'm hoping I can get my review up at the end of the month. Wish me luck!

Happy reading :)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Touring My Bookshelves: Shelf #1

Every book nerd loves to check out other people's bookshelves, whether it's in person or online. I mean, hello, there's a website called Bookshelf Porn. Obviously we like creeping other people's shelves. So, I thought I would bring you on a virtual tour of my own shelves. I have books all over the place. Just last weekend I finally put up a new shelf - and it's almost full already. I'm going to spread out the posts a bit so keep checking back for the next tour.

Today's post features the large shelf full of books that still live at my mom's house.

I have to give a shout out to my sister, who took these pictures for me. (And hey, if you're looking for another blog to read that doesn't have much to do with books but should prove to be entertaining, check out her new blog here.)

Here are some of my lovely series reads. Yes, I own Twilight. Scored those hardcover beauties after Christmas one year when Chapters Indigo had their annual 30% off hardcover sale. I should really reread those ones and see if I still enjoy them. Next: the super amazing Jessica Darling series. I first discovered Jessica when I was in high school (context: I'm almost 26 now.) I believe this was a series my best friend's older sister was reading and she thought we'd like them too. We did. Next are four of my Jane Austen books. "Why four?" you ask? Because these are the four I've read. The other two are living with me in my own house. Then, the Traveling Pants girls. Sigh. Adore these books. The first one is missing in this shot because it's also with me. Oh, and fun fact: that bear's name is Alps and he comes from Switzerland!

Here's a random hodge podge of a shelf. My Anne of Green Gables set is here, one that I've had for ages. I found that Beatrix Potter set at a secondhand shop for a price that I just couldn't pass up. A magic series, Carole Matthews, Cecelia Ahern, Katie Fforde (love!), Emily Giffin, and Sheila O'Flanagan (love!) round out the rest of the shelf.

Here's a jampacked shelf! A lot of these books are ones I enjoyed but were kind of forgettable - with a few exceptions. I adore the Mindy Klasky Jane Madison series. It's a chick lit series about a woman who finds out she's a witch. I also spy Shanna Swendson's Katie Chandler series in there as well. It's another magical chick lit series. Also here is one of the few Sophie Kinsella books I actually own, Remember Me?, which I really enjoyed. And finally, my lovely box set of the Little House on the Prairie books. If I remember correctly, my mom had the opportunity to buy this set at a really great deal. I was still in nursery school but, boy, am I glad she thought ahead. Also featured on this shelf is Reepicheep the talking mouse from the Chronicles of Narnia (Prince Caspian, to be specific.) He was made as part of an assignment in grade seven. He used to have a plastic sword but it disappeared long ago.

Finally, we arrive at the bottom shelf, another shelf of mostly forgettable books. Yes, you see One Day there. I wanted to love it. Really, I did. But I just did not enjoy it one bit. Same goes for The Last Summer (of You and Me). And, of course, the bears. On the left is Goldie, a bear sporting a shirt from Wilfrid Laurier University (my old school.) On the right is Dustin, as in Dustin McGowan, pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays (er, well, if he ever gets better...) I think I amused the guy working at Build-a-Bear that day. He was used to Mileys and Zacs (Hannah Montana and High School Musical were huge at the time.)

There you have it, friends. I hope you've enjoyed today's tour and that you'll stop by for tour #2, when I feature the books I loved and immediately gave to my mom (who is still working her way through them...)

Happy reading :)