Saturday, September 28, 2013

Taking It Off the Shelf: The Devil Wears Prada

For this month's Taking It Off...the Shelf review, I decided to go with an iconic chick lit novel: The Devil Wears Prada. I've read author Lauren Weisberger's novels before, and enjoyed them, but I had not yet read her debut novel - even though I had seen, and loved, the movie adaptation starring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep. I picked this book for the feature because: 1. It's been around for awhile (ten years!) 2. I want to read the sequel. 3. It has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years (two or three, perhaps.) Last week I finally read it! Warning: this post may be a little more spoilery than usual because I figure anyone reading this post has at least watched the movie. Also, I'm not providing the synopsis (though you can read it here).

I don't often read a book after watching the movie. In fact, I can only think of two instances where this has happened over the past several years. Once with The Nanny Diaries (I thought the movie was cute after randomly finding it on TV one day and decided to read the book since there was a sequel coming out...I enjoyed all three) and now, with The Devil Wears Prada. I'm a book lover (duh) and I like being able to have my own images in my head before seeing what Hollywood thought of the story. I also like having all the information since adaptations (have to) cut out a lot of details.

The Devil Wears Prada was originally published in 2003 and I missed the boat on it as I was still in high school - not quite the target demographic, not yet anyway. Fast forward three years and the movie is released - starring one of my favourite actresses. I watched it, loved it, bought it. The years passed and I still didn't read the novel. My mom even gave me a copy of it. Then news broke of the sequel, Revenge Wears Prada, and I knew I would have to finally read the first book. I was worried because I liked the movie so much and I hadn't really heard amazing things abut the novel. I was only sort of liking the book for about three quarters of the way through but then it picked up and I ended up really enjoying it.

I think my problem has nothing to do with the story itself and almost everything to do with the fact that I already basically knew what would happen because of the movie. There were a few differences between the book and the movie in the beginning but not many. It was slow going as I was reading about Andy getting used to Runway, the Clackers, and her evil boss, Miranda. But once things started moving (just before Andy has to go to Paris, I think), I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. This was really only the last quarter of the book but it was enough to bump up my overall opinion of the novel.

I want to highlight some differences between the book and movie, for those who may have only seen the film. Some are minor, some are not:

  • Name changes: Andy's boyfriend is Nate in the movie but Alex in the book. Sexy author Christian (played by Simon Baker in the movie) has the last name Collinsworth in the book but Thompson in the movie.
  • Character Nigel, played by Stanley Tucci, is way different in the book (louder and more flamboyant) and also has a much smaller role than in the movie.
  • Speaking of Christian, things are much different with him in the movie. I prefer the book version. And, while Simon Baker is attractive, he seems too old to play the character.
  • In the book, Andy's friend Lily has a huge story arc that is one of the reasons Andy leaves Paris. I couldn't even remember who played Lily in the movie. The arc is a good one and is, I think, one reason why some may say the book is a bit darker than the movie.
  • Replacing Lily's story in the movie is the changes Miranda orchestrates and reveals in Paris (the one that screws over Nigel). This story doesn't exist in the book.
  • It seems like they bumped up the ages of Andy and her friends, as well as altered the jobs they had. In the book they're straight out of college, 23, and all in entry level jobs. Alex is a teacher but Nate is a chef. Lily in the book is a masters student, in the movie she's a gallery owner. And they seem to be in their mid-twenties instead of early twenties.

I'm glad I finally gave the book a chance. The Devil Wears Prada was enjoyable and had a good story. I tried really hard not to let the movie alter what I thought but I know it affected my judgement, especially at the beginning. One thing this did teach me is that I'm definitely a read-the-book-before-the-movie kind of girl. I can't wait to read Revenge Wears Prada!

So what's up next for Off the Shelf? I think I'll probably read Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs. I think it's fitting since October is Thanksgiving in Canada and that means lots of comfort food!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Spotlight: The Billionaire's Best Friend + Giveaway!

Last week I was asked by Krista of Bridging the Gap Promotions to spotlight a new title: The Billionaire's Best Friend. I read the synopsis and thought Christina Tetreault's new novel sounds like such a cute romance story! I hope you'll all think so as well.

Here's the synopsis:
Despite a wonderful family, a career she loves, and great friends, a void has existed in Lauren McDonald's life ever since her best friend Callie married billionaire Dylan Talbot. Although they have remained close, Lauren and Callie now lead very different lives, that is until Lauren meets wealthy CEO Kevin Walsh. Lauren believes he could be the man who will help make her life whole again.  That is until the night Nathaniel Callahan, her high school sweetheart and the one man she has always loved, shows up.
 Although Nate ended things with Lauren before heading off to The Naval Academy and his life with the Marines, he never stopped loving her. Now 15 years later he is back to correct the mistake he made all those years ago.
 With Nate back in town, Lauren must decide between the man who promises her the world and the man who has the power to crush her heart again.
Now, this is technically a series but from what I can tell you don't really need to read the books in order unless you want the full backstory. The first novel, The Teacher's Billionaire, is actually about Callie and Dylan (and, PS, it's free on Amazon).

Here's an excerpt to get you even more interested:
The main doors of the room opened as Lauren paused her scan; the guest of honor was about to enter. Grabbing her camera, Lauren stood—only to immediately collapse back down into her chair when her knees gave out at the sight of Nathaniel Callahan standing in the doorway.
            “Oh my God.” Her stomach hit the floor.
            “What's the matter? Are you okay?” Callie's concerned voice sounded as if it were traveling a great distance to reach her.
            Lauren glanced over at Callie and then toward the door again. Perhaps she'd imagined him. After all, why would he be here? The last time she'd heard anything about him, he was doing his third tour in the Middle East. Despite her hope that she'd started to hallucinate, when she looked again, he was still there, dressed in a black suit rather than his Marine uniform, his brown hair cut military short and looking much the same as he did the summer he'd broken her heart. She latched her hand onto Callie's arm. “Nate Callahan. He's here.”
            She kept her eyes on him. Since that awful day the summer after senior year, she'd only seen him once. She'd been home visiting her parents during holiday break her freshman year of college. She’d spotted him in his parents' driveway from her bedroom window. They'd received more than two feet of snow the night before and he was helping his father shovel. That morning she'd stood and watched until the entire driveway was cleared. When he and his dad finished, he went back inside his house without so much as a glance toward her home.
            “What?” Callie asked, her voice louder than necessary.
            Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kevin and Dylan headed back to the table. "Nate just walked in," Lauren hissed.
            "Lauren that . . ." Callie's voice trailed off and she sat up straighter. Her head moved to keep him in sight as he walked toward his parents. "What's he doing here?" she asked, her voice lower now.
            Leaning closer, Lauren whispered, "I don't know. We don't exactly speak."
So what do you think? Does it sound like The Billionaire's Best Friend something you might read?

About Christina
I wrote my first story with characters similar to those in the Sweet Valley Twins books at the age of 10 on my grandmother's manual typewriter. As I got older my stories and characters became more mature. During my freshman year at UMass Dartmouth, I read my first romance novel and fell in love with the genre. I have been writing contemporary romance ever since.
Today I live with my husband, three beautiful daughters and two dogs in Massachusetts. Whenever I have a free moment you'll find me either reading a romance novel or working on my most current story.

Here are some links if you want more information about the books or want to connect with the author:

Finally, Christina has agreed to give away a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to one winner!
 a Rafflecopter giveaway. Good luck!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Win a Blog Make-Over!

By now some of you may have heard about Avery's Designs, a design service run by fellow blogger Avery of Avery's Book Nook. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Avery in person (yet) but I always love chatting to her on Twitter. Avery's aim with her design service is to make blog design easy and affordable- with blog packages, including a header, button, and avatar, for just $25. She's having a grand opening celebration and you are invited! You can enter to win one of two complete blog makeovers (including winner's choice of her premade designs and installation of said design- $35 in value)! Just click on the Rafflecopter link below. I've taken a peek at her designs and they're lovely. My favourite is the "Piled Up Princess". 

This is the perfect opportunity for those who have always wanted to start a blog, but have yet to do so, or for those seasoned bloggers who feel like their blog could use a facelift! As Avery notes on her site, you can use your own blog name and choose the font you'd like for whatever package you choose. Make your blog stand out with her one-of-a-kind, professional designs!

Good luck!
Avery's Designs

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mini Review: The Midwife of Venice

Surprising news: I haven't read a really good historical fiction in awhile! This month's Retreat by Random House Book Club pick is The Midwife of Venice and they're having a chat with author Roberta Rich tonight. Fun! So, I figured it was as good a time as any to finally read this book. I had actually been given it by the publicist when I was interning at Random House earlier this year. She knew what kinds of books I liked and when I was helping her clean out her office bookshelves she thrust a copy at me and said "Read this! You'll like it!" And she was right - I ended really enjoying this novel! Thanks Adria! :)

Here's the synopsis (I've summarized the ridiculously long synopsis that you can find on Goodreads):
Hannah Levi is a sixteenth-century Venetian midwife. A Christian count comes to her home in the Jewish ghetto pleading for her to look after his wife who has been in labour for days and is nearing death. Jews are prohibited from providing medical treatment to Christians but Hannah cannot bear to let the woman die. She negotiates an enormous fee so she can save her husband, Isaac, who has been captured in Malta. Will Hannah save the Countess and the baby? Will she escape persecution? Will Isaac survive as a slave?
This novel was so dramatic but it totally worked. I was on the edge of my seat and was worried about what would happen to the characters. That being said, I kind of wish we didn't get Isaac's point of view. It showed what life was like as a slave in Malta, sure, but it wasn't really necessary. I wish there had been more of Hannah. 

I found the historical portions of the novel to be so interesting. I had no idea what a sixteenth century woman, let alone a Jewish midwife, would have to deal with. I knew it was just a story but Rich included so many details that made things realistic and informative. In fact, I'm interested enough to do some more reading on the time period.  

I really enjoyed reading The Midwife of Venice but there were a few things that were a little too convenient (things that will give away some details so I'm not mentioning them!) so those things might irk historical fiction fans. These little issues didn't really bother me and I'd still recommend Roberta Rich's debut novel. I'm so excited for the chat tonight. I also cannot wait to read the sequel, The Harem Midwife and find out what happens to the couple!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bunch of Mini Reviews 5: Yet Another Library Edition

Yes, folks, it's another round of mini reviews featuring books I got from my library! This edition includes two YA books that are part of a series (but not the same series...very different ones, in fact) and an adult novel I've been meaning to read for years.

Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry (synopsis)
I hadn't heard much about this first book in the series but when the second, Dare You To, was released I realized every YA blogger was talking about it. Once I heard book #2 had a baseball player as the love interest, I put a reserve in at my library for book #1, Pushing the Limits.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this book. In fact, I actually thought that it was a New Adult book when I had first heard about the series. Nope, YA. The characters are still in high school. Once I realized that, I prepared myself for some overly Happily, it didn't come. Sure, the situations Echo and Noah are in are extremely dramatic, and I'd hope not many teens would have to deal with those kinds of issues, but McGarry does a good job of making it realistic and relatable.
As many bloggers like to say, this book had all the feelings. Really. I was constantly feeling up and down and sideways because I was so invested in these characters. Echo and Noah were real people to me. They were just kids. Kids who had been dealt an incredibly shitty hand in life but were just trying to make it work while also dealing with the normal agonies of high school.
I really liked Pushing the Limits. At times the situations are so hard to take but I think that's what makes it so great. Author Katie McGarry doesn't shy away from issues. She presents them head on because she knows her readers can handle it. I'm looking forward to reading the next book, Dare You To, which has Noah's friend Beth as the heroine and the aforementioned baseball player as the hero. I must say that I'm not sure how I feel about this because I wasn't too crazy about Beth and it seemed like her romance was already set up at the end of Pushing the Limits. Hopefully I won't have to wait too long for the next book to become available for me at the library!

Austenland - Shannon Hale (synopsis)
This novel has been out since 2007 and I've probably been meaning to read it since it was released. Most of you know that I'm an Austen fan so it's probably surprising that I haven't read it. It's partly due to the fact that I couldn't buy it in store. Seriously. Chapters just didn't carry it. I thought about buying it when I was in the States last year and at a Barnes and Noble but I decided to pass on it. I could have ordered it when I made other online orders but I just never did. I decided to finally request it from the library because there's going to be a movie and I didn't want anything spoiled for me. Unfortunately, I accidentally found out who is playing Jane, the main character, so I wasn't able to form my own picture of her in my head. Oh well!
I was worried that I wouldn't enjoy this one simply because I had been waiting eons to read it. Happily, I ended up really liking it. It was a quick read (it was a much smaller book than I expected!) but an enjoyable one. My favourite part about it was that it was funny - a clever funny, just like Austen's novels. I found myself laughing out loud at numerous parts. Example A:
"I wasn't aware until this precise and awkward moment that when startled in a strange place, my instincts would have me pretend to be a ninja."
Example B:
"It's not something you tell your single best friend. It's like rubbing your nose in the poop of my happiness."
Sorry, no page numbers as I just tweeted the lines and didn't make a proper note. Just rereading those lines make me giggle again.
All in all, I liked reading Austenland. Shannon Hale didn't blow my mind with her story but it was clever and cute and had great Austen-esque touches. Plus, it had probably the best dedication ever:

What's not to love about that? Now I can watch the trailer, read the news about the movie, and check out the sequel, Midnight in Austenland. Fun!

Insurgent - Veronica Roth (synopsis)
I couldn't wait to dive into book two of this series. I rushed to the library as soon as I found out it was in but I had to put off reading it until I had finished some others - so hard to do! I had heard that the second book wasn't as good as Divergent but I still really enjoyed it.
It's very much a war book - lots of death and dealing with the aftermath (emotionally and physically). Tris is still reeling from what she had to do at the end of the first book and I don't blame her one bit. There were so many heart wrenching moments that I think were well written.
There were a few occasions when Tris' age was brought up. Sometimes she's referred to as a child, sometimes an adult (reminder: she's sixteen). I don't know if it was intentional but I'm glad it was part of the story because it helps the reader remember that she's a young girl having to deal with issues she shouldn't have to (which builds from the above point).
This review was a lot harder to write than I thought! I think it's because I don't want to give anything away and it's one of those cases where I just loved it so I don't know what to say!
There are still many questions that need to be answered as Insurgent was left on a bit of a cliffhanger. I had planned my reading of this series so I wouldn't have to wait too long for the third and final book, Allegiant, to be released but I'm already wishing the days would move faster! The book will be published on October 22 (a month yesterday!!) and I am second in line for my library...and I just checked and there will be two copies. I'll still have to wait for the book to be processed but at least I'll get it!

Happy reading :)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pumpkin Spiced Fall TV!

Earlier this week I talked about pumpkin spiced reading so I thought it would be fun to talk about the pumpkin spiced television today! Fall TV shows have already started premiering and I am so excited. Anyone else? I know some people may think that it's silly to get so attached to TV shows but, hey, I enjoy it.

I've got all my upcoming shows noted in my calendar on my phone so I don't miss anything. Even though I'm not sure what time each episode is on at or on which network. I have the added confusion of having to check the Canadian sites and figure out which networks are carrying shows instead of just going to the show's original source network. Lots o' fun.

Here are the returning shows I'm looking forward to watching this year:

Monday, September 16 at 8 Fox/Global
This one's already aired and it was a pretty good one. I can't wait for them to kill Pelant and for things to get back to normal. And, as much as I love the show, I think this should be the last season. It's in its ninth season  now and I think it might be time to move on.

Monday, September 23 at 10 ABC/CTV Two; Sunday, September 22 at 9 CTV Two
I'm currently marathoning Castle right now. I'm just finishing season three and I doubt I'll even get through four before Sunday (woohoo for being able to watch it earlier in Canada!). I can't wait to see if Beckett says yes!!!

Thursday, September 26 at 10 CBS/Global
My boyfriend and I got hooked on this show last year. I love the twist they created with this Sherlock and Watson - placing them in New York City and making John a Joan. I also realized that I was missing the crazy hero with House being done. (PS I can now say that I'm watching the BBC's Sherlock...just started it last week and am loving it!)

Thursday, September 26 at 10 NBC; Friday, September 27 at 8 CTV
I started watching Parenthood because of Lauren Graham - Gilmore Girls is my favourite TV show ever. I missed part of season...three, I think...but watched last season anyway. I was worried that they would finish the season but I knew there were more stories to be told.

Once Upon a Time
Sunday, September 29 at 8 ABC/7 CTV
I was so excited when I first heard of Once before it had premiered. A modern day fairytale show? I'm in. I've really enjoyed the past two seasons and I can't wait to see what happens next! It's a little cheesy but I think that's what makes it so much fun!

And the new shows I want to check out:

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 
Tuesday, September 24 at 8 ABC/CTV
I'm not really into superheroes and I don't know the backstories to a lot of them but I'm still interested in seeing what this show is like. I've really enjoyed the Marvel movies I've seen so I'm hoping the TV show is just as good. We'll see!

The Crazy Ones
Thursday, September 26 at 9 CBS/City
Robin Williams. I don't think there really needs to be much else said! But, here's what the show is about, from the official site: "(The Crazy Ones is a) workplace comedy about a larger-than-life advertising genius whose unorthodox methods and unpredictable behavior would get him fired... if he weren't the boss". Sarah Michelle Geller plays his daughter, the dude who screwed everyone in The Newsroom (the actor, Hamish Linklater, who played Jerry Dantana) is also in the show, and Zach Cropper, played by James Wolk, is another main character. It sounds like it'll be funny so hopefully it lives up to its expectations!

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
Thursday, October 10 at 8 ABC/City
Since I love the original Once, I figure I should at least check out this spin-off. It's supposed to be a retelling of Alice in Wonderland but, if the original is anything to go on, we know other fairytale characters will show up.

Obviously, these are all network shows. Sons of Anarchy (FX) just started this month, too, but I haven't decided if I want to watch this season or not. I watched last season and, while I love the story, it's just so crazy violent and I am a huge wimp. So, I think I'll be replacing that with The League (FXX). Totally different, I know, haha. My boyfriend watches both those shows and that's why I've seen some episodes. I'm particularly interested in The League this year because Adam Brody is in it...aaaand, I love him. :) PS Fun fact I just learned...I can't even go to the FX site...have to go to the Canadian specific one. Ridiculous.

So what TV shows are you most excited about? Are there any new ones (or old ones!) I'm missing that you think I would like?

Happy watching! :)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: Double Click

A couple of years ago I decided to read Click: An Online Love Story by Lisa Becker because of all the good reviews I had read through a CLP Blog Tour. I didn't love it as much as I had hoped (my full review is here) but when Lisa asked if I would read the sequel, Double Click, I was excited because I wanted to find out what happened to the characters. I kept putting it off but I finally read it in one sitting the other day. It was so much fun and I enjoyed it much more than the first book.

Here's the synopsis:
Fans of the romantic hit Click: An Online Love Story will enjoy another voyeuristic dive into the lives of Renee, Shelley, Ashley, Mark and Ethan, as Double Click picks up with their lives six months later. Are Renee and Ethan soul mates? Does Mark ever go on a date? Has Shelley run out of sexual conquests in Los Angeles? Will Ashley's judgmental nature sabotage her budding relationship? Through a marriage proposal, wedding, new baby and unexpected love twist, Double Click answers these questions and more. Readers will continue to cheer, laugh, cry and cringe following the email exploits of Renee and friends.
I think because I had already spent some time with all the characters in the first book, I had a better idea of what they were like and felt more invested in their lives. I admit that I couldn't really remember what had happened at the end of Click, since I had read it in August 2011. I went back and read the last chapter of the book so I could be reminded of who was with who and where they were at in their lives. Once I got back into the story I remembered that the characters had a lot of fun together and were all really great friends.

Speaking of the friends, I'm glad there wasn't a lot of drama between them (even if Ashley and Shelley don't really get along...think Samantha and Charlotte from SATC). In that I think about, not a whole lot happened in the novel...maybe that's why it was such a fast read. There were some typical relationship issues, some pregnancy emotional issues, and some secrets but nothing major. The friends were all there for each other, which I loved. Other than the whole no one really liked Mark's new girlfriend thing. Cassidy, said girlfriend, really just seemed to be involved to give Mark someone to be with and provide some humour.

One of the things that had annoyed me about the first book was Shelley's crazy promiscuity. She was always talking about her conquests and it got sort of tiring after awhile. In the sequel, Shelley seemed to calm down a bit. I started to wonder if something was up with her and my hunch ended up being correct! I loved where her story went in the sequel, even if it was a little sad for the girls. (Nothing serious, I promise!)

I really hope Lisa Becker decides to write a third book in the series because I really want to know what happens with the characters after Double Click ended! Every character seems to have their life in order but I'd like to see how things play out for them. I can't say much because I don't want to give things away so I'll just simply say I want another book :) This novel was a fast read but a really enjoyable one. I loved spending time with Renee and her friends and I think other readers would, too.

Happy reading :)

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Pumpkin Spiced...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.

Ah, fall. It's not quite fall yet but the weather's turning colder, the trees are starting to think about changing colour, the stores have lovely sweaterish outfits for sale, and everyone is losing their mind about pumpkin spiced everything (hence the post's title). For a booklover, fall means tons of new releases, comfortably snuggling under blankets, and drinking copious amounts of tea. In this week's Top Ten Tuesday (Top Twelve for me...couldn't narrow it down!) we're tackling that first point: new releases. What follows is my fall to be read list - and they're all new books! To keep things simple, I've ordered them by release date. What new releases are you looking forward to reading?

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

Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction's Most Beloved Heroines - Samantha Hahn (August 27)
This isn't really a fall release but it's going on my Christmas list. I figure if I bookend the season, it can be considered fall! The pictures are gorgeous and it's such a fun idea.

Jessica Darling's It List: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection - Megan McCafferty (September 3)
I adore Jessica Darling so I can't wait to see what middle grade Jessica and friends are like!

The Orenda - Joseph Boyden (September 10)
Confession: I haven't read any of Boyden's work. I'm a bad Canadian reader. But, for some reason, The Orenda has intrigued me. I'm also planning on looking into his past books too, since they're so popular. And, hey, maybe this one will be a Giller Prize winner!

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell (September 10)
I CAN'T WAIT TO READ THIS BOOK! I'm third on the list at my library and I'm just hoping they order more than one copy and it comes in soon!

The Bride Wore Size 12 - Meg Cabot (September 24)
I actually haven't read the rest of this series but I want to and that's why I included this one! I adore Meg Cabot.

Zoey and the Moment of Zen - Cat Lavoie (October)
Cat's debut novel, Breaking the Rules, was my favourite book of 2012 so I can't wait to see what her next book is like!

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants - Malcolm Gladwell (October 1)
Between the boyfriend and I, we own all of Gladwell's books. I haven't read them but I want to and this new one sounds really interesting.

Longbourn- Jo Baker (October 8)
This is probably my most anticipated novel of the year. I've been hearing about this one since I was doing my internship at Random House of Canada earlier this year. It's a big title (clearly, since they've been talking about it since Januaryish) and I NEED IT IN MY LIFE. Immediately.

SECRET Shared - L. Marie Adeline (October 15)
I really liked S.E.C.R.E.T. and since it ended on one hell of a cliffhanger, I'm excited to read the next book in the series.

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy - Helen Fielding (October 15)
Bridget Jones. Enough said.

Allegiant- Veronica Roth (October 22)
I only just recently read Divergent (and I'm picking up Insurgent from the library today!) but I'm so so excited about the final book in the series.

Takedown Twenty - Janet Evanovich (November 19)
While the Stephanie Plum books aren't quite as exciting as they once were (nothing is happening and I feel like they're really repetitive) but I still read each new one. One of these days she'll have to choose between Ranger and Morelli! Also, I just read the synopsis and apparently there is a giraffe named Kevin that is running wild in the streets. Amazing.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Review: The Rosie Project

I had heard SO many good things about The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion when it was first released in Canada this past May. I belatedly put myself on the library hold list and finally got the chance to read it (I say finally because my library didn't realize how popular it was going to be and didn't order enough copies even though Natalie from Browsing Bookshelves, a librarian in my city, told them to!). By the time I got the book I had totally forgotten what it was about and I think that was a good thing. I was able to enjoy the novel and getting to know main character Don without any expectations.

Here's the synopsis:
A first-date dud, socially awkward and overly fond of quick-dry clothes, genetics professor Don Tillman has given up on love, until a chance encounter gives him an idea.
He will design a questionnaire—a sixteen-page, scientifically researched questionnaire—to uncover the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver. Rosie is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent, strangely beguiling, and looking for her biological father a search that a DNA expert might just be able to help her with.
The Rosie Project was completely different than any other novel I've read - which was awesome. I think some might compare it to A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time but I haven't read that one myself. One of the big things that makes the story different is the narrator. When we first meet Don, a genetics professor, he's about to present a lecture on Asperger's. It quickly becomes clear that he may have some characteristics that are associated with Asperger's. Since the story is told in first person, we really get a sense of Don and his...quirks, shall we say. He's very particular, analytical, and seemingly formal. For example, here's a paragraph from right at the beginning of the book:
The sequence was initiated by Gene insisting I give a lecture on Asperger's syndrome that he had previously agreed to deliver himself. The timing was extremely annoying. The preparation could be time-shared with lunch consumption, but on the designated evening I had scheduled ninety-four minutes to clean my bathroom. I was faced with a choice of three options, none of them satisfactory. (page 1)
The whole novel is written like that and while it may seem annoying it actually makes the book amazing. To the average person, Don's actions may seem odd but by reading in the first person we can see Don's motivations and understand why he's acting the way he is.

I wasn't sure how things were going to turn out in the end. There were so many options and I realized that I was really hoping that Don and Rosie would realize they were in love with each other and could be happy together. I really liked how Simsion wrapped up the story and thought it was a great way to end the novel.

The Rosie Project won't be for everyone but I found Graeme Simsion's enjoyable. It was a unique novel filled with both humour and serious topics and I think many others will like it as well.

Happy reading!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Cover for Just Friends With Benefits!

Over the past few months I've come to think of author Meredith Schorr as an online friend. (And hopefully she feels the same otherwise this post has quickly turned I adored her latest novel, Blogger Girl (review is here) and I enjoyed A State of Jane as well (review is here). But, even with all this love, I have yet to read her debut novel Just Friends with Benefits. Craziness! I'll be reading it soon but I wanted to share the lovely new cover today. I love what Meredith says on her website to explain the update:
I also assume that Just Friends With Benefits, the oldest of my three “children” might be feeling a bit left out and jealous of the attention bestowed upon A State of Jane and Blogger Girl and so I’m sure she’ll appreciate the makeover Booktrope is giving her in the nature of a new cover and some editorial tweaking.
I'm loving the new look of the cover. The font is super cute and I love the conversation hearts.

Here's what the novel is all about:
When a friend urges Stephanie Cohen not to put all her eggs in one bastard, the advice falls on deaf ears. Stephanie's college crush on Craig Hille has been awakened thirteen years later as if soaked in a can of Red Bull and she is determined not to let the guy who got away once, get away twice. Stephanie, a 32-year-old paralegal from Washington, D.C., is a 70's and 80's television trivia buff who can recite the starting lineup of the New York Yankees and go beer for beer with the guys. And despite her failure to get married and pro-create prior to entering her thirties, she has so far managed to keep her overbearing mother from sticking her head in the oven. Just Friends with Benefits is the humorous story of Stephanie's pursuit of love, her adventures in friendship, and her journey to discover what really matters.
Have you read Just Friends With Benefits yet? Or any of Meredith's other novels? Let me know what you thought of them! I can't wait to dive into this one :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Book to Screen

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

It's been awhile since I've taken part in TTT! This week was just too good not to pass up: Top Ten Books I Would Love To See As A Movie/TV Show (set in a perfect which movies don't butcher the books we love.) I'm a fan of adaptations and understand that they're two different things but, as a booklover, I'm of course going to be upset with some of the choices made by filmmakers. (See my TTT for my best and worst list of adaptations.) Read on to find out which books I'd like to see made into a movie or TV show! (Links lead to reviews)

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

Any Sarah Dessen novel.
I'm not picky. That Summer and Someone Like You were already combined into a movie ten years ago (How to Deal) and I really enjoyed it. If I had to choose, though, I think I'd go with either Along for the Ride or The Moon and More. I'm partial to those, especially AftR, because they take place in the beach town of Colby.

Blogger Girl - Meredith Schorr
Once Meredith writes a sequel (she doesn't have a plan for that but I will convince her, haha), this would make for a great TV show, I think. It has a fun and flirty tone that I think would lend itself well to the small screen.

Finding Lucas - Samantha Stroh Bailey
This would make for a hilarious rom-com. And it would allow for some actors to really play up the wacky - I'm thinking of those who would play Jamie's moms and roommates. So much fun!

The Space Between Us - Jessica Martinez
This Canadian YA novel would be so great as a movie. The main characters are forced to move from Florida to Banff, Alberta because of some bad choices. It's a great book, which is part of why it'd make a good movie, but it could also highlight Banff - one of the most beautiful parts of Canada (so photos tell me, I've never been myself, alas!)

The Runaway Princess - Hester Brown
It's like a grown up The Princess Diaries. This needs to happen.

A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness
History, magical creatures (including the ever popular vampires), and a great story. I think that'd be a win, don't you?

Where We Belong - Emily Giffin
There's already been success with a Giffin adaptation (let's get Something Blue on the go, shall we Hollywood?) and I think Giffin's latest would make a great movie. There's a lot of drama and is a great mother/daughter story. It could allow for a young actress to make a splash.

The Single Girl's To-Do List - Lindsey Kelk
I picked this one because it'd be a fun rom-com and also because it would allow for some more Canadian exposure. The characters spend time in Toronto and Niagara Falls and I'd love to see that on the big screen.

Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan
OK, this is a bit of a cheat because it is going to be made into a movie. But it hasn't been made yet (it's still in the very early days) so I'm counting it! There are so many lavish details that will translate well and I cannot wait to see it.

Arranged - Catherine McKenzie
This is another sort of cheat one because it is going to be made into a short film. The story is good and it has the added bonus of beachy awesomeness because part of it takes place in Mexico.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Review: Fool's Gold Cookbook

Let's get something out of the way right up front: I don't cook. I can (obviously since I'm still living) but I kind of hate it. There are a few recipes that are my specialities but for the most part my boyfriend is the one keeping me fed. So, it may seem strange that I'm reviewing a cookbook but I was intrigued by Fool's Gold Cookbook. The recipes were divided into seasons plus there was a short story included throughout as well. Then, when I got the book, I realized that Susan Mallery chose the recipes because of their simplicity. Simple? Sounds perfect for me!

Not only were the recipes divided by season but each season was subdivided by occasion: light meals, celebrations, breakfast and brunch, comfort food, and holidays are examples of what was included. You could find a recipe for almost any event and I loved that.

As I mentioned, the recipes in this book had been selected because they're quick and easy. However, when my boyfriend was making the Baked Potato Leek Soup (page 157) he found himself asking questions like: "Should the potatoes be peeled?" "Does the pot need to be uncovered or not?" He had to ask because the recipe was not clear enough And then he realized that there were no directions for the bacon. I had noticed a few recipes seemed overly simplistic in their directions so I worry this problem may come up again. These things aren't a huge dealbreaker but it's a problem for someone who doesn't cook ever (like me). Oh, and the soup? Freaking delicious.

Garnished with sour cream and green onions.
Also served with my homemade buttermilk biscuits!
I may not like cooking but I do enjoy baking. I discovered after finishing the book that most of the recipes I marked are those for something sweet. What can I say? I like my desserts. I picked one that I was most excited to try: s'mores bars. I adore s'mores so was looking forward to seeing how this recipe turned out. This was a crazy easy recipe to make, which was great. While the final product was pretty delicious, it fell apart a little bit. The graham cracker crumb crust probably needed a bit more butter and when my boyfriend was cutting his piece the chocolate layer came right off the crust. I think I'd also use a different type of chocolate chip instead of semisweet. Overall though, this is an easy recipe and a tasty one. I think it'd also be a fun recipe to make with kids. They wouldn't be able to mix the sweetened condensed milk and the chocolate chips over the stove or pour it on the crust but they could help press down the crumb crust and stick the marshmallows and crackers into the chocolate.

Dessert isn't complete without tea!
As for the story aspect of the book, I enjoyed it. I've never read any of the Fool's Gold stories before but I've wanted to. I love small town romances and when past characters pop up in a new story. Because this was just a short story, I wasn't too worried about being lost with the setting or characters. I especially liked that Ana Raquel and Greg had known each other as children. They were sort of rivals but it seemed like Ana Raquel disliked Greg more than he disliked her. In fact, he didn't seem to dislike her at all! The story was cute but there really wasn't much substance to it. I'm going to assume that had to do with the fact that it was so short and in a cookbook and not as a testament to the Fool's Gold series as a whole.

I'm looking forward to trying a few more recipes from Fool's Gold Cookbook and also checking out the whole series by Susan Mallery. I would have liked a few more pictures, more substance to the story, and more detailed directions, but, overall, this is a pretty good book. Who knows, maybe this cookbook will help turn me into a halfway decent cook! ;)

Happy reading...and cooking!

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

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: The First Affair

I've read and enjoyed a few of Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus's past novels (including The Nanny Diaries) so when I was given the chance to read their latest, The First Affair, through NetGalley I thought, why not? The novel was a good one and while I didn't love it as much as their others, it still had me frantically flipping pages (so to speak) to find out what would happen in the end.

Here's the synopsis:
Jamie McAlister has resigned herself to the fact that in this job market, her painfully expensive degree might only get her a position at Starbucks, when she suddenly lands a prestigious internship at the White House. Although she doesn’t hit it off with the other interns—lockjaws who come from so much money that ten weeks without a paycheck doesn’t faze them—she is eager to work hard and make the best of the opportunity while it lasts.
An unexpected encounter late one evening with the charismatic President Gregory Rutland seems like just a fleeting flirtation, but when he orchestrates clandestine meetings and late-night phone calls, their relationship quickly escalates. Jamie knows what she is doing is wrong: he’s married, he has kids, he’s the President. Yet each time she tries to extricate herself, Greg pulls her back in.
With the conflicted desires of the most powerful man in the world driving her to her breaking point, Jamie can’t help but divulge intimate details to those closest to her. But she must have confided in the wrong person, because she soon finds herself, and everyone she cares about, facing calculated public destruction at the hands of Greg’s political enemies, and—perhaps no matter how much he cares about her—at the hands of Greg himself.
The best thing about this book was the feeling of being behind the scenes of a huge scandal. Just as Kraus and McLaughlin's novel Between You and Me (my review here) made you think about what Britney Spears was going through during her breakdown, The First Affair put you in a position to really consider how Monica Lewinsky was feeling during the scandal with President Clinton. It's easy to forget that what we hear in the media isn't just another fictional story. These books allow us to remember there's a real person behind the reports and lies.

I know I'm going to sound contradictory with my next statement. I love McLaughlin and Kraus's writing because it feels like I'm experiencing everything right along with the character. But...feeling some of those things makes for an uncomfortable experience. The fact is, Jamie is having an affair with the President of the United States. That's some heavy stuff. Even a character having an affair with a regular married man could be hard to take but the things Jamie has to deal with, particularly at the end of the novel, are gut wrenching. Though I sometimes felt emotionally uncomfortable while reading, I still think the authors did a great job of writing this story and the characters. Even though you know what Jamie is doing is wrong and so, well, stupid, you still feel for her and you want her to be ok.

I have to point out that the novel wasn't all doom and gloom. There were several moments that had me laughing out loud, particularly about Jamie's age and current point in life. Jamie's 21 and trying to enter an extremely brutal job market. When Greg asks her about how she ended up at the internship she replied:
I had a complex strategy my generation is really perfecting. First I applied for every job in America. Then I applied to every internship. 
This is the sad but true reality of twentysomethings these days. Thinking about this, I suppose this line is really not all that funny but since I am in the same boat as Jamie (though a few years older) I can see the dark humour in it. The next line, though, is one that I think everyone can find amusing. Jamie is talking to her mom about life and after asking a horrified Jamie if she's on the pill, her mom says:
Look, I'd rather you were a bad Catholic than a good mother right now.
I couldn't stop laughing when I read this line. Hilarious.

While I was reading this book I wondered if I had a different take on it because I'm not American. Political sex scandals just don't happen in Canada. Seriously, I looked it up and there are hardly any and they do not reach the proportions of, say, Clinton and Lewinsky. The most scandalous story I knew had to do with the wife of a Prime Minister fooling around with the Rolling Stones in the '70s. I know it really doesn't matter that I'm Canadian and the characters are not but I couldn't shake the sense that I was reading it differently than an American would.

While the story of The First Affair was interesting, I struggled with making the connections for some issues (I still have no idea what the deal was with Jamie's ex) and the characters weren't particularly captivating. I did like that I was able to be surprised by some characters' actions and motives. That being said, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus have written a solid novel. It explores an intense set of circumstances but allows for some lighthearted moments and does not shying away from the severity of the situation. I didn't love this novel but that won't stop me from picking up their next book.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Review: Lying to Meet You

I was really looking forward to reading Lying to Meet You by Anna Garner. Why? Because I've loved the two books I've read by Libby Mercer. Confused? Anna and Libby are actually the same person! Anna is one of the nicest authors I've come across through blogging and when she asked if I would like to read her new chick lit novel I jumped at the chance. There were a few little things that made the novel almost too cookie cutter chick lit but the story was cute and funny and I adored the main character. It was a win for me!

Here's the synopsis:
Does being in a relationship make you a hot commodity in the eyes of would-be suitors?
Chloe Lane is about to find out. When her childhood pal, Ethan Webster, asks her to play the part of his girlfriend in order to test this theory, she reluctantly agrees. As a work-crazed fashion designer, boutique owner and soon-to-be reality show judge, Chloe has no time for a real boyfriend, but being part of a faux pair will do just fine. Not that she has any intention of trying to attract someone else.
Opportunity unexpectedly knocks when Chloe meets fellow reality judge, William Shannon. Super successful and super sexy, this high-powered entrepreneur inspires Chloe to test Ethan’s theory herself. Now, on top of keeping her fashion business productive, carving out a new role as a television personality, maintaining a fake relationship and attempting to lay the groundwork for a future relationship, she’s lying to William, lying to her friends, lying to her family and quite possibly lying to herself. Will Chloe be able to keep it all together, or are things about to explode?
The only real issue I had with this novel was that I needed more at the end. I found that the story ended sort of abruptly so there were too many loose ends and I had a lot of lingering questions. I can't really share any though because I don't want to give anything away! It was really just a matter of wanting to know why certain people did the things they did and how others reacted to some situations.

I adored Chloe and thought she was an awesome heroine. She wasn't flighty or immature, like you sometimes find with chick lit characters. Sure, she's got issues but we all do (don't try to lie) and her little quirks and flaws made her likeable. I think the other thing that helped make her seem down to earth (and explain why she was so successful) was that she was a little bit older (she turns thirty over the course of the novel). She just seemed more grounded than a character in her early twenties might be. I liked that the story sort of began and ended with her being really kick ass. At the start of the book Chloe chases down shoplifters and the final part of the story has her figuring out who's trying to ruin her, both personally and professionally. I loved how she stood up for herself and that part of her personality helped make her an even better character to read about.

I really liked the relationship part of this novel. I knew what would happen (it's very chick lit-esque after all) but I wasn't sure how things would progress with Chloe and William. I wasn't sure what the issue(s) would be that would force them apart or even if Chloe would realize that she had feelings for Ethan (or vice versa). Reading about the developing flirtation between Chloe and William was a lot of fun and I loved the solid friendship between Chloe and Ethan. I love stories where male and female friends realize they have feelings for each other and I found myself rooting for Chloe and Ethan. I really wanted Chloe to get her happily ever after, since the business side of her life was doing so well!

Lying to Meet You by Anna Garner was a solid chick lit novel. I enjoyed reading it and being immersed in Chloe's life. There was fun, fashion, and flirting and characters that you want to be friends with. I can't wait to read the next book Anna writes!

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cover Reveal: Zoey and the Moment of Zen

One of my favourite books last year was Breaking the Rules by Cat Lavoie. I absolutely adored it (as you can see in my review) so I had no problem agreeing to do a cover reveal for Cat's upcoming novel, Zoey and the Moment of Zen. I don't know if I can wait until October to read it!

This is what the new novel will be about:
When coffee shop owner Zoey Everwood takes her obsession with ex-boyfriend Braden too far, everyone—except Zoey—is convinced a bit of fun in the sun at the Moment of Zen Wellness Resort will help her get over him once and for all.
But Zoey's relaxing vacation turns out to be anything but peaceful when she meets Shane Lawson, a resort guest who bears a striking resemblance to Braden. And things get even more complicated when the resort's owner starts spilling secrets about Zoey’s aunt Nessa, the woman who raised her. Add a snarky Wellness Coordinator and Nate Holmes—Shane's grumpy friend—to the mix, and you've got the recipe for a perfect tropical storm.
When Zoey comes back home with a new husband instead of tacky souvenirs, she must convince everyone she hasn't completely lost her mind. As Zoey and Shane struggle to keep the magic alive outside the resort, Zoey discovers that she isn't the only one having trouble letting go of the past. And when Nate drops a bombshell that changes everything, Zoey must decide if the old saying is true—what happens at the Moment of Zen stays at the Moment of Zen.
 Doesn't it sound like fun? Now, ready for the cover reveal? *drum roll*

I need a beach and I need it now. What do you think of this cover? I'm really liking it! Do you think you'll end up reading Cat's second novel?