Thursday, October 31, 2013

Taking It Off the Shelf: Comfort Food

For this month's Taking It Off...the Shelf, I chose Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs. I read her The Friday Night Knitting Club series ages ago and thought they were great. I think I came to own a copy of this book because I was working at the bookstore and it was a bargain book. 30% off $6 or $7? Sign me up! I don't really know why it had been sitting on my shelf for so long but I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. I really liked it!

This is the paperback cover. I actually own
the hardcover but this one's so much prettier!
Here's the synopsis:
Shortly before turning 50, TV cooking show personality Augusta "Gus" Simpson discovers that the network wants to boost her ratings by teaming her with a beautiful, young new co-host. But Gus isn't going without a fight-whether it's off-set with her two demanding daughters, on-camera with the ambitious new diva herself, or after-hours with Oliver, the new culinary producer who's raising Gus's temperature beyond the comfort zone. Now, in pursuit of higher ratings and culinary delights, Gus might be able to rejuvenate more than just her career.
Normally I don't love books that feature older women and/or moms. This is purely a personality and lifestyle thing. I am young (mid-twenties) and without kids (thank goodness). I also tend not to like it when there are multiple characters that require multiple backstories. This is because I either get confused with all the characters or frustrated because characters aren't getting the time I think they need. Comfort Food had all of these things but Jacobs made it work. I think the multiple characters was fine for me because Gus is still the heart of this novel. Everyone else, as her daughter Sabrina once put it, is in her orbit. I like that Jacobs gave just the right amount of background on each of the secondary characters to let the reader know where they've come from and why they are the way they are without being overwhelming or boring. Each character brought a different flavour (pun intended) to the story and I loved that.

I really liked the cooking show aspect of the story. I'm a sucker for the Food Network (and am sad I don't currently have the channel) so a behind the scenes type story was so much fun. It kind of made me think about what goes into the cooking shows I watch and why I watch the ones I do. Would I have watched Gus' original, taped show? Likely not, but I do love Bake with Anna Olson. Would I have watched the new, live show? Definitely more likely. Not necessarily because it was live but because it just had an entertainment factor that I look for when I watch TV. What kind of Food Network/cooking shows do you like?

Gus made for an great and interesting main character. She seemed perfect but she was as flawed as the rest of us. No one can be perfect so no one wants to read about a perfection. Struggling with turning fifty is, I imagine, an issue that many women face. Gus wonders how she can be so old when she still feels so young (which I think we all feel like at some points in our lives, right?) and is trying to come to terms with her view on herself and how she views her daughters. They're in their mid/late twenties and they aren't her babies anymore. Side note: I loved the daughters, surprise surprise. They added the youth perspective that made this novel so well rounded.

I'm really glad I finally gave Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs a chance. I shouldn't have been surprised that I liked it so much! Since we're inching closer to Christmas, I think this book should be your go to for any of the older women in your life (mom, grandma, aunt, mother in law, etc.). I think they'll love it!

Next month...I think I might pick a newer book because I have a lot of books that I've collected over the past year that I really want to read. I'm thinking either The Meryl Streep Movie Club or All the Summer Girls

Favourites with Romi Moondi

I started this "favourites" feature because I wanted a way for readers to get to know the authors attending BookBuzz Toronto, an event I'm helping with. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about these amazing women and I hope you can attend the event! Learn more about BookBuzz Toronto here.

Romi Moondi is one of the funniest authors I've read. Her novels are always hilarious and the story is so good. Her series includes Year of the Chick (free!), Last-Minute Love, and, the latest, Never or Forever. I still haven't read her newest one but I can't wait to see what it's all about.

About Romi...
Romi Moondi is a Canadian author who converted her 2008 blog “Year of the Chick” into novel form, and published it in 2011. Since then she’s added two more books to the “Year of the Chick” series, the most recent of which is “Never or Forever.” The latest book takes place in Paris, which is where Romi lived for six months this past year, after trading in her corporate job for an inspiration-seeking mission.
The books can be described as edgy romantic comedies, where happy endings are not a guarantee, but where real and embarrassing moments are in good supply. 
Romi also writes screenplays in her spare time, and her screenplay “Best Before” made it to the semi-finals or better in eight international screenplay competitions in 2011.
She’d like to see her books adapted into films one day, with the crown jewel of Canada a.k.a. Ryan Gosling as one of the male leads. Naturally.

Movie - It’s so hard to pick one, so here’s a few I love: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 500 Days of Summer, and Before Sunset
Chick flick - Again, it’s hard to narrow it down so I’ll say: Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary, You’ve Got Mail and Serendipity (Blogger Note: I love all these too. Romi, can we have a movie date?)
Alcoholic beverage - After living in’s gotta be champagne!
Warm beverage - hot chocolate, particularly viennois hot chocolate in Paris
Junk food - Doritos
TV show - there’s no way I can narrow this down, so: Seinfeld, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation
Travel destination - from what I’ve seen so far, Switzerland, and also New York, forever New York!
Ice cream flavour - Rocky Road
Sports team -Toronto Maple Leafs, of course!
Actor - Ryan Gosling, and Leonardo Dicaprio
Book boyfriend - Mark Darcy all the way!

Connect with Romi...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rereading Sarah Dessen: Keeping the Moon

Another month, another I Eat Words Sarah Dessen Read/Reread Challenge read! Check out this post that explains the details about the awesomeness that is this challenge. October had my BFF Sandy and I rereading Keeping the Moon. This was one of Dessen's novels that I really couldn't remember much about so having the chance to reread it was great. Overall thoughts: I liked it but didn't love it but Sandy plans on recommending it to all customers at the bookstore where she works.

Colie expects the worst when she's sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast -- first for being fat and then for being "easy" -- Colie has no friends at home and doesn't expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina. But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along.
About the Story
Main  Character: Nicole "Colie" Sparks
Age: 15
School Year or Summer?: Summer.
Boy: Norman
First description of the boy: "...a guy with shoulder-length brown hair, a tie-dyed T-shirt, cutoff army shorts, and Birkenstocks. He had about a million of those Deadhead hippie bracelets on his wrist and he was wearing sunglasses with blue frames." (page 8)
Crushable?: Sort a way that sneaks up on you.
Big Secret?: Not really.
Heavy Storyline?: Yes.
Parents Together?: No. Colie's never met her father.
Sibling(s)?: No.
Takes Place In: Colby.
Cameos: Definitely The Last Chance, but I'm having a hard time nailing down which novels it pops up in. I also think the big pot hole Colie's aunt Mira mentions on their road features in, I think, The Truth About Forever.

About the Book
Released: 1999
Epigraph?: No.
Format (of the copy I read): Paperback
Own?: Yes.
Signed?: No.
Read or Reread: Reread.
Age when first read: Oh boy..15? 16?
New cover vs older cover: New. The jean shorts and bare midriff are all wrong for Colie, even if the sunglasses fit in. The new one features fireworks, which play into the story.

My Thoughts
I can't quite decide what made me not love Keeping the Moon. It's still a really great story and a fabulous one for young girls because Colie's growth is so well defined and shows what can happen when you really start to believe in yourself and learn that other peoples' opinions don't really matter all that much. In a non-hokey way. Promise. There's still the depth and realness in this book that I love in Dessen's work.
Something Sandy and I have talked about before was the fact that the name of the restaurant that comes up frequently in Dessen's books has changed over the years. In this novel, it's the Last Chance Bar and Grill. At some point over the years, Dessen changed it to Last Chance Cafe and, in fact, it's changed in the synopsis and on her website on the Keeping the Moon page. Why did this happen? A simple oversight or the fact that a "bar and grill" isn't the best or most glamourous place for teens to be hanging out?
Looking back, I know I was pretty lucky in high school. I didn't have to deal with the crap that Colie did with her weight. I was actually more like Morgan as she says, "I was so skinny you could see my collarbone from a mile off. ... Plus I was ten feet taller than any of the boys. And since my mom never wanted to buy me any new clothes and I kept growing, all my skirts and pants were too short. My nickname was Highwater." (Page 133) Yep, I was that girl with the too short pants. Not because my mom wouldn't buy me clothes but because we couldn't find any that fit me. This is a problem that still haunts me today!
Anyway...even with all of the problems in her life, or perhaps because of them, Colie is a strong girl, deep down, as all Dessen's characters are - even if she doesn't realize it at first. It was so amazing watching her "become a butterfly" (if you read the book that makes sense!). I think it was even better watching her transform because she was so young. She was learning some great lessons at just fifteen and I'm confident that the last couple of years of high school will turn out ok for her (as ok as high school can be!).
For those wondering about the romance, it's there in this story but it is by no means the central story (which is true for most of Dessen's books). This story is about Colie finding herself, true, but I think the other reason the romance doesn't play a huge part is because she's only fifteen. Norman isn't your typical leading man and, as I stated earlier, his charm and personality sneak up on you and you eventually realize that he's an incredibly decent guy.
Would I still recommend Keeping the Moon even though I didn't loooove it? Absolutely. I think this is a great one for younger teens both because of the age of Colie and the overall story and themes. I liked it and I'd definitely still recommend it.

Sandy's Thoughts
Keeping the Moon is one of the first novels by Sarah Dessen that I ever read. As with every one of her novels the characters are strong and vivid. From the moment you start reading you are transported into Colie’s world and into the summer that transforms her.
We are introduced to Colie after she has changed her outward image from fat and frumpy to skinny and obscured. She is still trying to figure out who she is on the inside and how to show the world that girl. After an adolescence of shameful hiding she is used to being alone or being treated as the punch line. When she arrives in Colby she finds an aunt who is treated much the same way. She assumes that Mira is just like her, the fat girl who internalizes all of the insults thrown her way. Mira is different; she focuses on the good in her life and not the bad. She finds good in everything around her and that positive attitude begins to change the way Colie sees herself and the people around her.
After years of abuse from the stereotypical mean girls Colie is hesitant to let anyone in. This makes her apprehensive about every new person she meets even the ones who take her in at the Last Chance Café. Morgan, Isabel and Norman are all quirky in their own ways but not afraid to show their true selves to anyone who might be looking. Morgan is emotional, Isabel is bitchy and Norman is artsy. Colie makes snap judgements about all of them and is taught a valuable lesson. No one is perfect, no character or heroine in any Sarah Dessen novel is, and like all people they have flaws. It is these flaws that allow the reader to identify or sympathize with the character and cheer for them to have a happy ending. In life the flaws about a person are often what you end up liking most. (Blogger note: YES! This is exactly what I was thinking but just couldn't express.)
Sarah Dessen explores a very interesting topic in this novel. She focuses on the very real existence of girls bullying girls. Colie is mercilessly teased for no reason. No one in any of the schools she has attended takes the time to get to know her, they just judge her based on her looks. That is every teenage girl’s greatest fear. The problem is that there will always be bullies, people who believe they are better than others and use put downs and insults as a way to show it. When you grow up you learn that all that matters is what you believe about yourself. It is important not to let the negative voices be the ones telling you who you are. It takes a summer and a lot of personal discovery but Colie is eventually able to stand up to her tormentors. Every girl bully is a pro at dishing out the insults but once confronted they have no higher ground to stand on and judge. Also, the old tale about strength in numbers is valuable by today’s standards. If a bully sees that you have people who could care less about what they say about you, it takes away a lot of their power as well.
As I was reading the parts that described what Colie’s school life was like I couldn’t help wishing that she had come to my public school. New kids were so rare in our little community that everyone wanted to be friends with them, or at least get to know them, in our grade anyway. It is cruel for kids be so mean to someone, just like them, who already feels awkward and left out. I was so happy when Morgan and Isabel took her under their tutelage and showed her what is was like to have real friends. Confidence comes from having a network of support that you can count on. A group of people who believe in you and accept you the way you are is essential during all points of time. Friends are the best support group for any girl from nine to ninety.
I find Mira’s philosophy to be the perfect antidote to self-shame or misjudgements. She tells Colie that “perfect is a lot to expect from something… we all have our faults.” And “ If something doesn’t work exactly right, or maybe needs some special treatment, you don’t just throw it away…Sometimes we need to have the patience to give something the little nudge it needs.”( Page 118/119) Mira is a wise woman. Everything, everyone has a use, has a purpose and we all deserve to be seen as worthy. Tweaking is necessary to life and to appliances. But everyone has the right to be useful and feel wanted.
Keeping the Moon is a fabulous guide to gaining confidence for young girls. You can be bullied and feel like a loser because of it, but you are only what you believe. Somewhere out there is the perfect set of friends for you, the people you belong with and they know the real person you truly are. Finding them helps you to find yourself and create a bastion against the harshness of life by having people to share in life’s goodness.

Next month
We're getting near the end! November's Dessen novel is What Happened to Goodbye. I didn't love this one as much as I had expected and I'm hoping I like it more this time around.

Favourites with Lydia Laceby

I started this "favourites" feature because I wanted a way for readers to get to know the authors attending BookBuzz Toronto, an event I'm helping with. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about these amazing women and I hope you can attend the event! Learn more about BookBuzz Toronto here.

Today you get to learn about one of my favourite bookish ladies: Lydia Laceby. Lydia is one of the other organizers of BookBuzz Toronto and it's been SO great working with her. I also write for Lydia's blog, Novel Escapes, and have thoroughly enjoyed her debut novel Redesigning Rose. We've known each other for almost two years now (crazy!) and I'm so proud of her for publishing her book. Enjoy her favourites!

About Lydia...
Lydia Laceby is the co-founder of Novel Escapes, a chick lit and contemporary women’s fiction review website. Since 2009, she has read and reviewed as much women’s fiction as humanly possible while designing, organizing and expanding the website from two reviewers to seven.
In her spare time, she knits cute baby hats, would pick cheese over chocolate–if she had to choose–and regularly cheats on her allergy free diet.
Lydia has always wanted to write and began her career writing a soap opera at the tender age of thirteen. It never aired. Redesigning Rose is her first novel.

Movie - Braveheart and The Last of the Mohicans. I guess I’m a sucker for historic, romantic, violent movies.
Chick flick - Bridget Jones’s Diary and Sex and the City (the first one - I don’t even want to talk about the second movie)
Alcoholic beverage - Vodka soda.  Raspberry vodka is best.
Warm beverage - Tea
Junk food - Salty: Chips of any flavour. Sweet: Reese’s peanut butter cups
Dessert - I don’t really eat dessert unless it’s a special occasion. I suppose I’m a bit odd. If I had to choose, I’d pick a pie. Again, any flavor. Great. Thanks, Kaley. Now I want pie. (Blogger note: *smiles angelically*)
TV show - This is not a fair question. The Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Parenthood, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother… Shall I go on?
Travel destination - Anywhere that isn’t home. I love exploring and would love to venture out to see more of the world!
Ice cream flavour - Peanut butter and chocolate
Sport - Hockey. Yep, I’m a good Canadian girl. I also grew up with two little brothers whose games I rarely missed.
Actor - Johnny Depp – because he’s such an incredible actor. It has nothing at all to do with his looks. Nope, nothing at all. Nor the fact that his Teen Beat posters were plastered all over my wall during his 21 Jump Street days or that he’s been my imaginary boyfriend for over two decades. Nope. Not at all. Seriously though, it helps that he’s such an incredible actor. For real.
Animal - Wolf
Pet - Dog! I can’t wait to get another pup again soon!

Connect with Lydia...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Favourites with Francine LaSala

I started this "favourites" feature because I wanted a way for readers to get to know the authors attending BookBuzz Toronto, an event I'm helping with. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about these amazing women and I hope you can attend the event! Learn more about BookBuzz Toronto here.

Today's featured author is Francine LaSala. I've read her novel Rita Hayworth's Shoes (my review is here) but I have not yet checked out The Girl, The Gold Tooth and Everything - and I plan to as soon as I find the time! Francine is one of the original BookBuzz authors and helped plan the New York City event this past May and I'm happy she's making the trip up to Toronto for this event, too!

About Francine...
Co-founder of BookBuzz, Francine Lasala has written nonfiction on every topic imaginable, from circus freaks to sex, and edited bestselling authors of all genres through her company, Francine LaSala Productions. She is now actively taking on indie clients for manuscript evaluations, editing services, copywriting (covers, blurbs, taglines, queries, and more), website and blog creation, and developing kickass social media campaigns.

The author of novels Rita Hayworth’s Shoes and The Girl, The Gold Tooth & Everything, and the creator of The “Joy Jar” Project, as well as one of the she lives with her husband and two daughters in New York.

Movie - Annie Hall
Chick flick - Love, Actually
Alcoholic beverage - Vodka Martini, dry, up, olives
Warm beverage - Coffee
Junk food - Potato chips--sour cream and onion or salt and vinegar
Dessert - Creme brulee
TV show - The Daily Show
Store - Kate Spade
Travel destination - Any Caribbean island
Ice cream flavor - Chocolate
Author - Currently, Christopher Moore
Actor and/or actress - Hugh Jackman / Tina Fey (though it's probably more the writer Tina Fey I love)
Song - This changes by the hour. (Blogger note: That's the same for me, too!)
Band - All time fave no doubt is... No Doubt
Animal - Feeling inexplicably partial to peacocks lately.
Pet - Still miss my Maine Coon kitty who died more than three years ago. Fluffy's irreplaceable, and makes many cameos in my stories.
Literary character - Candide
Book boyfriend - My true love, Deck Thomas from Rita Hayworth's Shoes, who I wrote from my heart.
Board game - Cards Against Humanity (And yes, I understand it's more of a card game, but I don't really do board games...)

Connect with Francine...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Favourites with Kate Hilton

I started this "favourites" feature because I wanted a way for readers to get to know the authors attending BookBuzz Toronto, an event I'm helping with. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about these amazing women and I hope you can attend the event! Learn more about BookBuzz Toronto here.

Of the ten authors attending BookBuzz Toronto, Kate is the only author I haven't read! I hope to rectify that soon!

About Kate...
Kate Hilton has worked in law, higher education, public relations, fundraising and publishing.  She has an English degree from McGill University and a law degree from the University of Toronto.  She holds down a day job, volunteers for community organizations, raises two boys, cooks, collects art, reads voraciously and likes her husband.  In her free time, she writes. On good days, she thinks she might have it all.  On bad days, she wants a nap.
The Hole in the Middle is Kate’s first book.  It is forthcoming from HarperCollins Canada in December 2013.  Kate is represented by Beverley Slopen of the Beverley Slopen Literary Agency.

Chick flick - Sense & Sensibility
Alcoholic beverage - Champagne (preferably pink).
Warm beverage - Skim milk latte (the first one before 8:00 a.m.).
Junk food - Homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Dessert - Salted caramel anything.
TV show - True Blood.
Store - Rue Pigalle, an amazing accessories store at 927 Queen Street West in Toronto.  I’m doing a book launch there on Saturday, December 7, with a portion of the proceeds going to my favourite charity, Rethink Breast Cancer.
Travel destination - Italy.  Italy.  Italy.
Ice cream flavour - Pistachio.
Sport - Tennis, but only to play, not to watch.
Actor -  Johnny Depp.  I know he’s kind of nuts, but I’ve had a crush on him for 25 years so I’m not stopping now.
Song - It changes every week or so.  Right now, I have Katy Perry’s Roar on constant rotation.
Animal - I’m digging pandas at the moment.  My sons have panda fever after seeing them at the Toronto Zoo.
Literary character - Atticus Finch.
Book boyfriend - Mr. Darcy and his chick lit alter-ego Mark Darcy.
Board game - Scrabble, of course!

Connect with Kate...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Event Recap: Jo Baker and Pride&Prejudice

When I first heard of the event being held at the TIFF Bell Lightbox featuring Jo Baker, her new book Longbourn, and a viewing of the movie Pride & Prejudice, I really wanted to go. I read Longbourn and enjoyed it (read my review here) and thought it'd be great to see her speak. Not to mention rewatching the 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice at the TIFF theatres would be quite the experience. However, I decided that I couldn't quite justify spending money on getting to Toronto (I'm about an hour and a half drive away) as well as buying a ticket so I decided I wouldn't go. Then, on the Friday before the event (which was on a Monday), International Festival of Authors (IFOA) held a super easy Twitter contest - retweet their tweet about the event and you might win two tickets. Retweet I did and I won! Author, fellow blogger, and friend, Lydia, was my lucky plus one and we had a great evening!

Eleanor Wachtel, host of TIFF's Books on Film and the CBC's Writers and Company, was the event's host. She chatted with Jo for a few minutes before the viewing started. They talked a little bit about her book and the Joe Wright P&P adaptation. Jo mentioned a few of her favourite parts in the movie: the massive pig walking through the house and a scene where the servant girl is walking up the stairs, singing. I remembered the pig from previous viewings of the movie but I couldn't recall the girl. And that's really kind of the point of Longbourn - taking notice of how things were done in Pride and Prejudice. I, along with others I'm sure, made a mental note to pay attention to the scenes involving the servants. Then it was time for the show!

While watching the movie (which I own and have seen multiple times), I was reminded of the feeling I got when I went to film screenings for class when I was in university. Even though a lot of the movies we watched were easily accessible (and therefore able to be watched on our own in our PJs on a Sunday morning), the profs always encouraged us to go to the screenings for the experience. Everyone goes to the screening for the same purpose and you have a much better experience by watching it with others and feeding off their emotions and reactions (laughter, gasps, and so on). I had the same feeling as I watched Pride & Prejudice at this event. You'd think it would be the same feeling as when you go to the local theatre to watch the latest movie but it's not. There's a different sort of camaraderie or companionship when you're watching a movie and trying to get a little more out of it than the simple entertainment factor.

After the movie was over, Eleanor and Jo sat down to talk some more. I found Jo's inspiration for Longbourn to be really interesting. How many of you Austen readers remember the line "...the very shoe-roses for Netherfield were got by proxy" from Pride and Prejudice? (Hopefully that quote is right...found it on the oh so trustworthy internet!) It didn't stick out for me when I read the book many years ago but it did for Jo. She wanted to know who "proxy" was and her novel evolved from there. Another comment that stuck out for me was when Eleanor also asked Jo about the way she portrayed Mr. Collins. Jo said that a lot of people have caught on that she's quite sympathetic to poor Mr. Collins and said "We all have awkward moments...his is just lasting a lifetime." I think that's such a good way to describe it and I must say that I will watch and read about Mr. Collins in a new light after reading Longbourn and hearing Jo talk about him.

Once Eleanor and Jo wrapped up their discussion and the Q&A portion was complete, it was time to line up to get my copy of Longbourn signed. It was already quite late so Lydia headed home (after making sure I knew how to get back to Union on my own...I'm so glad she looks out for little ol' me when I go to the big city!) I was lucky and didn't have to wait too long to get my book signed. Jo is absolutely lovely. The accent helps! I said that I liked that this retelling of Pride and Prejudice was so different and that it made me think about the characters and story in a new way, through the eyes of the servants. Jo said that she thinks of her book as a "subquel", not quite a sequel but close. Interesting way to think of it, isn't it?

Even though I had to rush to the train station in the rain and got home close to 1:00am, I am so glad I went to this event. Jo Baker was lovely (there really is no other word!) and Eleanor Wachtel asked some great questions. I learned a lot about how Jo came to write Longbourn, got to enjoy Pride & Prejudice on the big screen with a great friend, and had another book signed. What more could an Austen fan ask for?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Touring My Bookshelves: Update 2

Earlier I shared my updated bedroom shelf. Today I'm sharing the shelf that resides in my living room. I want to read all of the books on here as soon as possible but that is sort of an impossibility!

So of all these books I've only read the Harry Potter ones. Jeepers.

Ah, I am already a liar. I have read The Devil Wears Prada. Now I just need to find the time to read Revenge Wears Prada...and all these other amazing books!

So many good books here...including, in the shadows, City of Bones. I won a huuuuge prize pack awhile back, including a hardcover copy of the movie cover book. Must. Read. It. 

Who doesn't love bookish penguins?

This is my Harry Potter and non-fiction shelf. I really want to reread HP but I can't see that happening any time The non-fiction here shows a broad range of interests...there's baseball, Jane Austen, Malcolm Gladwell and more. I am quite diverse, apparently!

Now that my shelves have been shared...again...tell me, how are your bookshelves organized?

Happy reading :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Favourites with Chantel Guertin

I started this "favourites" feature because wanted a way for readers to get to know the authors attending BookBuzz Toronto, an event I'm helping with. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about these amazing women and I hope you can attend the event! Learn more about BookBuzz Toronto here.

I read Chantel's novel Love Struck ages ago (you can read my review here) and her new YA novel, The Rule of Thirds, is getting a lot of great buzz!

About Chantel...
Chantel Guertin is the bestselling author of two chicklit books—Stuck in Downward Dog and Love Struck—and one YA novel, The Rule of Thirds, which came out October 2013. She's also a beauty expert on The Marilyn Denis Show. She likes rollercoasters, notebooks and dressing up her cat, Mr. Baz, on special occasions, like Wednesdays. She also really likes jujubes, but never eats the green ones. She lives in Toronto.

Chick flick - Can’t buy me love. “Donald? Is that you Donald?” “It’s Ronald. Ronald Miller.”
Alcoholic beverage - Chardonnay. What am I, a desperate housewife?
Warm beverage - café mocha
Junk food - jujubes. Sometimes when I’m crazy, sour jujubes
TV show - The one that I’m watching and only two episodes from completing at the moment. Whatever that one is when you’re reading this. As I write it, it’s House of Cards.
Store - Kate’s Paperie
Ice cream flavour - Tiger Tail.
Author - David Sedaris.
Actress - Rachel McAdams
Animal - Koalas, if only they weren’t so sleepy
Pet - Mr. Baz
Literary character - Mr. Darcy
Book boyfriend - Dex in Something Borrowed

Connect with Chantel...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review: Mad About the Boy

Bridget's back! It's been well over a decade since we last read about Bridget Jones but Helen Fielding has brought back one of chick lit's favourite heroines in one of the most anticipated novels of the year. Mad About the Boy has been the topic of conversation for a lot of readers over the past few weeks due to the massive spoiler that was revealed in a British newspaper. I went back and forth about if I wanted to talk about said spoiler and I don't think I can get around writing a good review without it. So. If you don't want to know, don't read past the synopsis. Just know that Fielding has given readers the same Bridget we fell in love with all those years ago. She's older and has a whole new set of issues but she's the same person. The novel was funny, it was sad, it was pretty much exactly what I expected. And that was great.

Here's the synopsis:
With her hotly anticipated third installment, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Fielding introduces us to a whole new enticing phase of Bridget's life set in contemporary London, including the challenges of maintaining sex appeal as the years roll by and the nightmare of drunken texting, the skinny jean, the disastrous e-mail cc, total lack of Twitter followers, and TVs that need 90 buttons and three remotes to simply turn on.
An uproariously funny novel of modern life, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy is a triumphant return of our favorite Everywoman.
For those of you who know about the spoiler (or just don't care), read on!

Ready? Let's tackle this elephant in the room. Learning that Mark Darcy was dead completely sucked. I was upset, like everyone else. I could, however, sort of understand where Fielding was coming from. There had to be some sort of conflict because reading a whole Happily Ever After novel can get a bit tedious. No one is perfect! I found myself wondering: did he really have to DIE??? The more I thought about it, the more I realized, yes, he did. Mark Darcy is one of the most beloved male leads in chick lit and to learn that he was no longer living hurt a lot of people. But would you have wanted him to be alive and no longer with Bridget? No. I also can't understand the readers who cancelled their preorders and/or said they refused to read the book. I think that was taking things a little too far. Don't judge before you have the full story. When the news was first released I wondered why the hell they were telling everyone. It took awhile for me to realize that they had to. This way they were able to control the spoiler's outbreak and explain it more. So, did knowing Mark Darcy was dead affect how I read the book? Absolutely. I had also reread the first two the weekend before reading the third book because I couldn't remember what happened. Rereading them, knowing that Mark was dead in "present" day, was hard. Reading Mad About the Boy was also hard. The grief Bridget feels is palpable and there were a few times my heart broke for her and I found myself tearing up. All that being said...I fear this has taken over too much of the discussion of this book so far (granted, it was only just released so a lot of people haven't read it yet) and I think the rest of the story is being lost in the grief and anger readers feel about Darcy's death. What do you think of the whole drama? 

My favourite part of the novel? I loved that Bridget was still Bridget. Her personality hasn't changed over the last few years. She's still funny, caring, and clumsy. Of course, a few things have changed. She now has Twitter (it was hilarious watching her figure that out), too many TV remotes, and two young children (who provide several funny and heartbreaking moments). She's still keeping track of things, though there are less cigarettes and more Nicorette, less alcohol units and more nits (the lice scenes were amusing!). This is an older, wiser, and more world weary Bridget but she's just as (if not more) lovable than we remember.

I do wonder what non-Bridget fans, especially, think of this book. Personally, if I had read the synopsis and didn't know this was a Bridget Jones book I probably wouldn't have picked it up. I don't often read about moms because that's just not what my life is like. I was able to get past the mommy (or should I say, mummy) issues I just don't relate to because I truly wanted to see what Bridget was like now.

The romances in the novel were easy to predict but that was OK. They were so real - funny, frustrating, sweet - and that made them so much better to read about. Nothing is perfect, especially not relationships, so it was great to see dates and encounters that were less than perfect. Besides, it wouldn't be Bridget if everything went swimmingly!

I would suggest you read Mad About the Boy in one sitting, if you can. Hunker down on a Saturday or Sunday with a blanket, some tea and snacks, and Helen Fielding's novel and read it from start to finish. I read most of it in one go and I really lost some momentum when I went back to finish the last third or so. I don't think you have to be a Bridget Jones fan to enjoy this one but I think it's best if you are. I wonder if people, myself included, are liking this novel purely for the nostalgia factor. Whatever the reason, I found Mad About the Boy to be an enjoyable read. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll get exactly what you came for.

Happy reading :)

Favourites with Cat Lavoie

I started this "favourites" feature because I wanted a way for readers to get to know the authors attending BookBuzz Toronto, an event I'm helping with. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about these amazing women and I hope you can attend the event! Learn more about BookBuzz Toronto here.

Today I'm featuring Cat Lavoie. Cat's debut novel, Breaking the Rules, was one of my favourite books of 2012 and I cannot wait to read Zoey & The Moment of Zen (released yesterday!).

About Cat...
Cat Lavoie lives in Montreal, Canada with her tempestuous cat, Abbie. Her debut novel, Breaking the Rules, was published in August 2012 by Marching Ink. If Cat isn't reading or writing, she's most likely watching too much TV or daydreaming about her next trip to London. Her second novel, Zoey & the Moment of Zen, will be released by Marching Ink in October 2013.

Chick flick - Love, Actually
Warm beverage - English Breakfast Tea
Junk food - Lays Salt & Vinegar potato chips
TV show - I'm a TV addict so I have a million favourite TV shows, but right now it would be The Paradise. The first season is currently airing on PBS and the second season will air soon on BBC. I'm in love with that show!
Store - My name is Cat and I'm a shopaholic. Amazon and Sephora are my biggest weaknesses.
Travel destination - London! It's my favourite city. I'd also like to visit Scotland and Ireland.
Ice cream flavour - Peanut Butter Cup
Sports team/sport - Love hockey, especially the Montreal Canadiens! Go HABS (Blogger note: I'm a Leafs fan, basically just because I've lived closest to Toronto my whole life, but I'll let this one slide, Cat ;) )
Song - Too many favorites to pick just one, but I just rediscovered the song "Nothing Ever Hurt Like You" by James Morrison and I've been playing it on repeat for the last few days. So good!
Pet - Abbie the Cat! She's awesome.
Book boyfriend - Jude Weatherington from Daydreamer by Brea Brown.
Board game - Scrabble, although I am HORRIBLE at it!

Connect with Cat...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Favourites with Heather Wardell

I started this "favourites" feature because I wanted a way for readers to get to know the authors attending BookBuzz Toronto, an event I'm helping with. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about these amazing women and I hope you can attend the event! Learn more about BookBuzz Toronto here.

First up is author Heather Wardell. She's the author of thirteen novels, twelve of which are included in her Toronto series. You can download her first novel, Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo, for free! (And you's excellent!)

About Heather... 
Growing up, I was an avid (rabid?) reader. I am a natural speed reader, regularly clocked at about 1200 wpm (I read Harry Potter 5 in just under three hours), and always have several books on the go, nearly all in e-book form on my Kindle.
I have always made up stories in my head, but never considered becoming a writer. Instead, I intended to be a high school music teacher. I was sidetracked by my enjoyment of my psychology courses in university, and ended up with a psychology degree with a concentration in computer science.
This took me to a major Canadian bank as a software developer. I stayed there for just over four years, and then went back to school to become an elementary school teacher. After four years teaching elementary school computer science, I took up the National Novel Writing Month challenge and attempted to write a novel in a month.
I succeeded, and the first draft of "Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo" was the result. I realized I love writing. I left teaching, and I haven't looked back since!
In my non-writing time, I read, run, swim, crochet, take care of my 55 gallon aquarium and my cat Trinity, and play drums and clarinet. Generally not all at once.

Movie - Hot Fuzz (brilliantly filmed, a great story, and hilarious)
Chick flick - Bridget Jones's Diary
Alcoholic beverage - pina colada
Warm beverage - whole-milk latte (just espresso and milk - delicious!)
Junk food - dark chocolate, the darker the better
Dessert - 'hof dessert' (not sure of spelling!) - this was apparently the favorite of some Danish king and my half-Danish mother serves it every year at Christmas - baked meringues topped with whipped cream and melted chocolate. SO GOOD. Insanely rich. Wouldn't be Christmas without it.
Store - Chapters-Indigo (or Barnes and Noble when I'm in the States)
Travel destination - New York City, specifically Manhattan - there's an energy there I feel nowhere else! I spent a month there in 2012 and two weeks in 2013 and I would move there in a heartbeat.
Ice cream flavour - mint chocolate chip
Author - Marian Keyes
Song - Jason Aldean's "Only Way I Know" - such a great "head down and get 'er done" message, plus I love singing along and copying his country twang
Band - Meat Loaf - I love his over-the-top energy and the way he does his own thing
Animal - given that my first book is "Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo" and every book since has included the words 'polar bear' at least once, I'd have to say... squirrel. (Blogger note: This totally cracked me up! Heather, you are too funny!)
Book boyfriend - the guy (whose name I've forgotten!) from Sophie Kinsella's "Remember Me". Such a great book and such a sweet guy!

Connect with Heather...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Where Did THAT Name Come From?

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.

Do you sometimes wonder how author's come up with their characters' names? I always do. Especially when the names are...shall we say...a little unconventional. This week's list is all about character names we love or that we find unusual. I've done a sort of combo list...mostly they're all memorable names but some I really like and others are very WTF. What character's names do you like or find really odd? Links lead to my reviews, where applicable.

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

Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling
The names are all a little odd but they're awesome. I also really like that there are stories behind some characters' names (Sirius, for example). There are also some names that I love (Luna, George, James...oh, probably more).

Hunger Games Series - Suzanne Collins
Katniss, Peeta, Primrose...yeah, theses names are a little out there!

Lola and the Boy Next Door - Stephanie Perkins
Cricket and Calliope. Enough said.

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
We meet the main character as Cath but we find out later that her name is actually Cather. Her sister is Wren. They tell their friend, when he wonders where the names came from, that their mom didn't realize she was having twins and didn't feel like coming up with another name. Hint: Say the girls' names together and you'll see what name their mom had chosen!

Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry
At first you really think Echo's name is bizarre (and Noah actually makes fun of it) but then you find out that she's named after a myth, as was her brother (I can't remember it, though! Curses.). I'm really glad we got the backstory because it made it a little less WTF.

This Lullaby - Sarah Dessen
For some reason, Remy's name sticks out for me. I like it because it's a little different but it's not so different that you'd really wonder what her parents were thinking. Honourable mentions from other Dessen books: Auden/Eli from Along for the Ride, Ruby from Lock and Key, Annabel from Just Listen, Scarlett from Someone Like You.

Sweet Thing - Renee Carlino
I just really like Mia's name!

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
Ursula is another name that has a story - and isn't necessarily as odd since she was born (over and over again) in the early 1900s (can't remember the exact year!). Her mother picked it because it means 'little bear'.

Where We Belong - Emily Giffin
I really wonder where Giffin came up with Kirby.

Go Small or Go Home - Heather Wardell
Forrest is one of my favourite guys that Heather has written...maybe even one of my favourites in all the books I've read. I admit that it has a lot to do with the fact that he's a pro hockey player (hello, I am Canadian) but he's a great guy. But where did his name come from?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: Cinderella Screwed Me Over

Like a lot of females, I love fairy tales and have loved them since I was a little girl. This love, according to the main character in Cindi Madsen's novel, is getting women into trouble when it comes to relationships. Cinderella Screwed Me Over was an amusing look at how fairy tales can warp a woman's sense of romance and how there really can be a happily ever after for everyone. I really liked reading it!

Here's the synopsis:
Darby Quinn has a bone to pick with Cinderella. Burned one too many times by ex-boyfriends, Darby has lost all belief in the happily-ever-after that the fairy-tale princess promised her. She's sworn off love, Prince Charmings, and happy endings and she's happy about it. Really. Or at least she was…until she met Jake, her gorgeous neighbor and the manager of her favorite restaurant. But Darby has rules about dating, ones she's culled from her years spent with so-called “princes,” and starting something with Jake would break all of them.
Charming, fun, and unwilling to give up on her, Jake doesn’t fit any of the profiles Darby has created from her case studies of ex-princes-gone-bad. Finally presented with her own Prince Charming, can Darby take a chance on a happily-ever-after?
Even though Darby was crazy negative about love (more on that in the next paragraph), I loved reading her story. She was smart and funny and had her life totally together (I love that she's an interior designer)...apart from a romantic relationship. I think she was a great chick lit/romance heroine and she's someone I'd love to be able to hang out with and have a drink with. I love when I love the main character! There were a ton of great secondary characters, too. Darby had a fabulous BFF in Stephanie. The scenes with the two of them together clearly illustrated how close they were and that was great to read. Darby's family was a lot of fun to read about (even though I wish there were more scenes with her mom) - Drew, one of her stepbrothers, especially. I also really liked Karl. He fit into the story perfectly and I think Madsen did a great job of establishing their relationship and making it completely believable.

The little negatives I had with the novel really didn't bother me too much, thankfully. Sometimes Darby's overly pessimistic and strict rules drove me nuts. I wanted her to open up and I had a hard time believing anyone could be that negative. Also, the case studies where Darby compares her exes to Disney Princes were cute but sometimes thrown in at an odd time and without no real lead. One chapter had a random, unnecessary paragraph and then went into a case study. It was a bit jarring and I wish they had had more reasons for being included.

As for the romance - sa-woon. That might be surprising considering Darby is doing all she possibly can to keep herself from falling for Jake. The way they met might seem cheesy but it totally worked for the story. I love that he kept popping up in Darby's life before she finally decided to give him a shot. He seemed like the perfect guy and I was rooting for the two of them!

Finally, I loved that the book was funny as well as sweet (and a little sexy). It had the perfect mixture of laughs and serious moments. One quote stuck out for me and I just have to share it. To set the scene: Darby is talking about The Little Mermaid and how things went wrong with Eric and her ex-boyfriend that could be compared to him (I stupidly forgot to note the page number, sorry!):
"And I can't hold much against Ariel, because she was young and naive and easily amused by things like forks."
Cinderella Screwed Me Over by Cindi Madsen was a total winner for me. There were a few hiccups and things that bugged me but it isn't enough to keep me from recommending this book. If you like fairy tales, romance, and chick lit, you should read this book!

Happy reading!

United Authors of Chick Lit

How much fun is this idea: all this week (October 21-25) chick lit authors from the US, Canada, and the UK are virtually crossing the ocean to spread the word about their novels with a different audience. When author Anna Garner asked me to feature their promotion I immediately said yes. You all know I'm a chick lit supporter and the more people who discover this genre, and learn to love it like I do, the better. I hope you check out the posts that are coming up this week on the authors' blogs...I know I will be!

Fasten your seatbelts and put your tray tables in the upright and locked position. Over the next few days, some of your favourite Chick Lit characters will be jetting across the Atlantic to visit with fictional friends on the other side of the pond.

The event kicks off on Monday, Oct. 21.

On Tuesday, Oct. 22, read about Stella from Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes and Chloe from Lying to Meet You as they travel across the Atlantic to visit each other.

On Wednesday, Oct. 23, it’s time to discover what happens when Emma from The Pollyanna Plan and Kim from Blogger Girl meet.

On Thursday, Oct. 24, Izzy from Izzy’s Cold Feet and Jamie from Finding Lucas will be taking you on a trip alongside their characters.

And on Friday, Oct. 25, Kate from Sealed with a Kiss and Pilar from In Need of Therapy will be chatting about their overseas experiences.

Here’s a little sneak peek at the fun, frothy books and sassy gals featured in our international promo, all of which are priced at $3.99 or less:

Finding Lucas by Samantha Stroh Bailey – Daytime talk show producer Jamie Ross is beyond fed up with her toxic bad boy turned metrosexual boyfriend. Spurred on by her gang of quirky friends, she goes on a hilarious, at-times disastrous, and totally life-changing hunt to track down the ”one who got away.” But are some loves best left behind? Available on Amazon.comAmazon UK and Kobo.

In Need of Therapy by Tracie Banister – Handling the problems of hysterical hypochondriacs, lovelorn neurotics, and compulsive man whores is all in a day’s work for super-shrink Pilar Alvarez. But can she deal with her crazy Cuban family, a trio of unsuitable suitors, and a threat to her practice without ending up on the couch herself? Available on Amazon.comAmazon UK, and B&N

Lying to Meet You by Anna Garner – Overworked New York fashion girl Chloe Lane has no time for a real relationship, but when her childhood pal asks her to play the part of his girlfriend in order to test a theory, she decides to go for it. The lies start piling up and things start getting crazy. Will Chloe be able to keep it together? Available on Amazon.comAmazon UK and B&N.

Sealed with a Kiss by Rachael Lucas – Kate breathes a sigh of relief when she's dumped at her best friend's wedding. When she takes a job on the island of Auchenmor, she's determined to have a year off men, but that's before she rescues Flora the seal pup with the help of Roddy, her mysterious new boss... Available on and Amazon UK.

The Pollyanna Plan by Talli Roland – Emma Beckett has always looked down on 'the glass is half full' optimists. But when she loses her high-powered job and fiancé, Emma makes a radical decision: from here on in, she'll attempt to see the upside, no matter how dire the situation. Can adopting a positive attitude give Emma the courage to build a new life, or is finding the good in everything a very bad idea? Available on and Amazon UK.

Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr – Kimberly Long has two passions: her successful chick lit blog and Nicholas, her handsome colleague down the hall. But when her high school nemesis pops onto the chick lit scene with a hot new book and eyes for Nicholas, Kim has to make some quick revisions to her own life story. Available on Amazon.comAmazon UKB&N, and Apple iTunes(Blogger note: this is probably one of my favourite books of 2013!)

Izzy’s Cold Feet by Sarah Louise Smith – Izzy is engaged to Greg, who is everything a girl could want. The trouble is – all she can think about is the men she loved before she met him. In the week leading up to her wedding day, Izzy is forced to ask herself who she loves the most. And, given the choice, who would she want to spend her life with? Available on Amazon.comAmazon UKB&N, and UK Nook.

Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes by Sue Watson – TV Producer Stella is over worked, over weight and under fire battling to balance family, career and those weighing scales. In the past she’s always found comfort at the bottom of her mixing bowl but now the most delicious lemon sponge with zesty frosting has no effect. However, life is about to get even tougher... and Stella has to face some truths about herself, her life and her future. Available on and Amazon UK 


Tuesday, Oct. 22
Stella will be on Anna Garner’s blog and Chloe will be on Sue Watson’s blog.

Wednesday, Oct. 23
Emma will be on Meredith Schorr’s blog and Kim will be on Talli Roland’s blog.

Thursday, Oct. 24
Izzy will be on Samantha Stroh Bailey’s blog and Jamie will be on Sarah Louise Smith’s blog.

Friday, Oct. 25
Kate will be on Tracie Banister’s blog and Pilar will be on Rachael Lucas’s blog

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Touring My Bookshelves: Update 1

Since we last talked about my bookshelves, I've done some rearranging of my house. I decided that was a good time to shake up my shelves since I had to take all the books off to move the shelf anyway! I'll split this up into two posts so it won't be crazy long because of all the pictures.

First up, my upstairs bookshelf:

This shelf is now mostly for the books I don't plan on reading in the immediate future. Of course I will want to read them eventually but I have a whole other shelf plus all the review books I need to get to before these!

Such a random selection of books - purchased, gifted, won. Plus my pretty bunny from my BFF and (almost) all of my LEGO figures (still no librarian...grrrr).

This is the hardcover a few paperbacks that just didn't fit on other shelves. Again, there's a mishmash of won, gifted, and purchased books on here. Plus more bunnies. And a giraffe my sister's friend made! Isn't it awesome?

This shelf is almost only books I got while doing my internship at Random House. Crazy! I think 8 of the 20 came from other sources.

Here you'll find non-fiction titles on the left (some I've read, some I haven't) and YA titles on the right (all unread). Plus my Nintendo DS, stress balls (er, stress food?), and some funny looking hedgehogs.

Other than the Beautiful Creatures set (which I won), I've read all of these books on this mess of a shelf. 

So there we have it! This is the shelf in my bedroom where I sort of shoved all the books I won't be reading soon. Sorry to any authors on this shelf! Eek. 

I'll share my living room shelf (where I'm keeping all the books I want to read asap) in a few days!

Happy reading :)