Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Blitz: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Welcome to the book blitz for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Marie Landry. This book blitz is hosted by Jessica Sankiewicz and Marie Landry. I'm a sucker for Christmassy books so I was definitely getting involved with this blitz!

Here's what the book is all about:
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, right? At least that’s what twenty­year­old Ginny Bailey’s grandmother always told her, and Ginny believed it until Grama died. She even put on a brave face the following two Christmases, carrying on Grama’s traditions and decorating her house and cafĂ© with Grama’s favorite decorations.
But Ginny can’t pretend any longer. When she finds out she’s going to be alone for the holidays this year, her Christmas spirit goes out the window, along with her luck. Everything that can go wrong does, and Ginny just wants to spend the holidays hiding under the covers...until Dean Riley comes back into her life. With a shared past, old feelings begin to resurface almost immediately, and Ginny thinks Dean might just be the Christmas miracle she’s been waiting for to help her remember why Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.
Here's a little teaser for you, too:

Buy The Most Wonderful Time of the Year for just 99 cents

The final piece of exciting  news...there's a giveaway happening!
From Jessica: An amazing prize pack of goodies, including an adorable snowman mug, Kahlua­flavoured coffee, a chocolate cookie bar, and mini bookmarks from Marie’s Angel Island series ~ open US/CAN

From Marie: Don’t worry international friends, you’re not being left out! 1 international entrant will win a $5 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Author Interview: Petit Four Collection

Yesterday I shared some info on the newly published short story collection Petit Four: Four Stories, Frosted with Love. I'm happy to have been a part of the Chick Lit Plus blog tour blitz because it gave me the chance to ask the awesome authors a few questions. I hope you enjoy the answers as much as I do!

Books Etc: What is your favourite occasion for cake? Other than days ending in y!
Sue Watson: When I write the first sentence of my new novel, I have to stop for tea and cake… then again when I finish a chapter, or a large paragraph.  Oh, and if I make it through a whole day’s dieting I always reward myself with a cake. I mean what’s a girl meant to do? Starve? And it’s so lovely to get to the end of a hard day’s writing and celebrate with a delicious slice of cake and a cup of hot chocolate! Mmm I suppose my answer is – I celebrate every day with cake! And why not?
Joel Zlotnik: Birthdays ... because not only is there cake, but also wishes and presents, too!
Cindy Arora: I love having a cake with a friend, just for those moments when we are catching up after a long week! Much like Olivia in my short story "Cake Therapy", I really do think that sitting down with a cup of coffee, a slice of cake and a friend is one of the best occasions to really connect with someone --while also getting to eat your favorite piece of cake.
Lucie Simone: I love having cake at family gatherings. I don’t get to see my family very often as they live on the other side of the country, but when we get together (usually for holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas), a banquet table full of desserts is a must! And hopefully there is a chocolate cake in there somewhere!

BE: What do you like about writing short stories?
SW: I don’t write many short stories, I’m usually too busy with novels, but I so enjoyed writing my story for Petit Four.  I found the short story so much more manageable than a huge novel and could see the light at the end of the tunnel far sooner. And as it was about two of my favorite subjects: love and cake, it was a pleasure.  To write a novel you have to remember what has gone before, and it can be time consuming going back over the parts you’ve already written and trying to keep everyone in character. A novel can be an unwieldy thing to control and keep track of, but a short story is so much more manageable.  That said, the short story is an art form all of its own, and one has to be succinct and make every word count. I see a novel as a lovely big chocolate fudge cake to work my way steadily through, whereas a short story is like a delicious cupcake, and each mouthful has meaning!
JZ: I've always loved reading short stories because of the way you get quickly drawn into a world and its characters, and then you get to follow it to its conclusion relatively fast. I rarely get the chance to read for hours and hours and finish a novel in one or two sittings. So it's great to be able to invest a short period of time with a story and get rewarded with seeing it through to the end. I think the same thing is true when it comes to writing short stories. 
CA: I like that you have to find the heart of your story right away. You have less time and space to create a character that the reader will know, so every sentence counts and every moment matters.
LS: I like writing short stories because it allows me to explore different subject matters and even genres before launching into a full length novel. In fact, “Aprez Vous” marks my first foray into Women’s Fiction (as opposed to Chick Lit). It was fun, but challenging to find the right voice for that particular story.

BE: Where do you find your inspiration?
SW: I find my inspiration from daily life. I write from home, and I spend much of the day alone at my desk so rely on friends and family who are always a great inspiration.  We laugh a lot, and I often find myself jotting down lines they say and situations we find ourselves in, and then they turn up in one of my books. My recent Christmas novel, Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake, was inspired by two friends of mine who are both sisters and celebrate Christmas in very different ways. I also take inspiration from TV. I LOVE reality shows, and I think the wannabe actress in me likes to get inside people’s skins and imagine other, very different lives.
JZ: I'm constantly finding inspiration from the people and experiences I encounter in my life. I've also always been someone who has a natural curiosity and very active imagination and if you mix that in with my love and talent for daydreaming, I have no problem coming up with ideas. The bigger issue for me is finding the time and having the discipline to follow through on them. 
CA: I find my inspiration from life. My life, reading articles in magazines, talking to friends or overhearing a conversation somewhere.  It's endless!
LS: I daydream all the time. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been filling the quiet moments of my days with a very vivid imagination. While brushing my teeth, cooking dinner, or folding laundry, you can bet my mind is busy dreaming up fictional storylines and new characters to explore. But sometimes I’m inspired by my own life and the people who populate it. My first novel, Hollywood Ending, was very much taken from my own experiences living in Los Angeles. My second novel, Picture Perfect, however, originated solely in my imagination.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Spotlight: Petit Four

Welcome to my stop on the Petit Four blog tour! This blitz is being hosted by Chick Lit Plus and I'm so excited to share a little bit about this awesome new short story collection.

Petit Four: Four Stories, Frosted with Love was published earlier this month by Simon and Fig. The collection, edited by Lucie Simone, features stories by Cindy Arora, Sue Watson, Joel Zlotnik, and Simone herself.

Here's the description of the anthology:
Cake is often a major part of life’s celebrations, both big and small. From birthdays to wedding days, cake, in all its delectable concoctions, marks joyous occasions with a sweetness that can’t be beat. But even better is the love that is shared when two people connect over a sweet confection. Maybe it’s a cute new guy wreaking havoc on a broken heart, or a beautiful woman testing the limits of love, or an old beau stirring up long lost desires. Whatever the circumstances, cake can always be relied upon to save the day when it comes to affairs of the heart. In this collection of short stories, cake is the delicious center around which each tale unfolds and romance blooms.When single mom and journalist, Olivia, sets out to find romance in Cindy Arora’s “Cake Therapy,” she gets a little help from her friends and more than a few slices of cake to coax her off the couch and into the arms of a truly great love. Lucie Simone’s “Aprez Vous” finds success-driven Tara in Paris reminiscing of her long lost love, Jean Marc, and her niece bound and determined to reunite them. In “The Heart-Shaped Secret of Raspberry Jam” by Sue Watson, cake enthusiast, Milly, meets her match in the kitchen, and other places, when new owners take over the tea rooms where she works and her talents and her heart are put to the test. And Scott, mayor of a small seaside community, flirts with political suicide in Joel Zlotnik’s “Her Charms” when he falls for new-in-town Nicole, an entrepreneur with a passion for cupcakes, and whose latest venture proves a little too sexy for the sleepy beach town.
From San Francisco to Paris, from small towns to tea rooms, this anthology tempts readers with humor, style, romance, and the powerful aphrodisiac that is cake. Petit Four is four stories, frosted with love. 
Like I said, I am so crazy excited to read this collection. I don't have a review date set for it yet but I do have a Q&A with the authors coming up tomorrow!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Books Etc. is Turning Four!

Image via The Daily Awe
I cannot believe that it's been four years since I started this blog. Between last year's three year blogaversary and now a lot has happened. So, let's get started!

The day before my third blogaversary was one of the best book events I've ever attended...and I helped plan it! Because I was unemployed, I had some time to work with authors Samantha Stroh Bailey and Lydia Laceby on bringing Book Buzz to Toronto. The event was absolutely amazing and I am so proud of what we put together.

Nine amazing chick lit and women's fiction authors...and me.
Work-wise, the past year has been better than the year before. I started a four month grant-funded job in April and then moved straight into a full time position this past September. Things are still a little rocky and I don't know when I'll stop panicking about money but at least now I can breathe a little easier and attend a few more book events! If you've noticed that I've been slacking in posting lately, it's because of this new job. I have a crazy commute and an early morning so blog writing and reading has fallen by the wayside. I'm hoping I figure out a solution soon!

Speaking of book events, I didn't go to many over the past year. In February, friend and fellow blogger Natalie (of Browsing Bookshelves) and I went to our local library to hear a talk about animals and Jane Austen. I also went to my second Emily Giffin event which I loved mostly for the girls night out vibe than actually meeting the author again. A week later I got to meet Jennifer Weiner at a signing and it was amazing. In early September I went to a signing with four awesome Atria authors (K.A. Tucker, Colleen Hoover, Jamie McGuire, and Abbi Glines) and Tucker recognized my name and Twitter/Instagram avatar. Late September had me traveling to Midland to help sell books with my best friend at two Joseph Boyden events. He's amazing.

One of the best books ever. And the nicest authors ever. 
Once again, because I wasn't working, I had a lot of time to read. Silver lining, right? And I've read a lot of great books in the last year: Gayle Forman's Just One Day and Just One Year, three of K.A. Tucker's (Ten Tiny Breaths, One Tiny Lie, and Burying Water), Just Friends with Benefits by Meredith Schorr, Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman, and Judy Greer's memoir I Don't Know What You Know Me From, just to name a few.

I finished Allegiant last November (I didn't hate it but I did have a bit of a meltdown after reading it) and watched Divergent on opening night. I finally read The Fault in Our Stars (bawled my eyes out) and watched it on opening night (the theatre was full of sobbing teenagers and the mothers, no lie). All Shailene Woodley, all the time, apparently.

Many tissues were harmed in the reading of this novel.
One of the very best reading decisions of this past year has been rereading the Harry Potter series. There were a bunch of us bloggers who have been wanting to reread the series but hadn't been able to fit it into our reading schedules. We banded together and decided this would be the year we finally reread it (or read it for the first time, in some cases). I will always say that the Harry Potter series is one of my favourites but rereading it reminded me of how amazing it really is.

Two pretty awesome bookish things happened this year. The lovely Lucie Simone contacted me awhile back and asked if I would be willing to read manuscripts for her small press Simon and Fig. Getting a glimpse into the world of an indie publisher has been so cool. The second awesome thing is that I'm now writing book reviews for a real publication! Niagara Life is a magazine published by one of our local newspapers and it comes out every two months. It is a super amazing feeling to be paid for doing what I love - writing about books!

I'm published. Mind. Blown
The very best thing to happen was my trip to Australia. It was a once in a lifetime experience (that I'm really hoping I can have again). I can't even really begin to explain how amazing it was (which is probably why I haven't finished the posts I've been meaning to write for almost six months...) but I can link to the post where I talked about all the bookish parts of my trip. And urge you to visit Australia if you haven't!

Most of the books I read on my trip!
Overall, the last year has been...well, it's been interesting. Some awesome stuff (Australia! Jennifer Weiner! Reviewing for Niagara Life!) and some not so awesome stuff (not having a job for so long). But, I think this year has been more positive than negative. So that's something, right? :) Thank you, so very much, for reading. I think you're awesome, no matter if you've been here from the beginning or are a new follower. I hope I can continue to grow as a blogger and bring you great, honest reviews for many years to come. Here's to another great year!

PS I think it's super cool that I was able to work it that this post is number 600 on Books Etc. I can't even wrap my head around that!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Event Recap: Jennifer Weiner Signing

Way back in June I was lucky enough to meet one of my favourite authors - the amazing Jennifer Weiner. On June 23, my author friends, Lydia Laceby and Samantha Stroh Bailey, and I cleared our schedules and headed to Indigo Manulife  Centre for a signing. Whee!

Lydia and I made sure to get to the store early because we wanted to snag seats. Imagine our surprise when we arrived about an hour before the signing began and were able to get seats for the three of us in the front row! We had expected this event to be packed because it was the first time in five years that Weiner had been to Canada. All of the seats ended up being filled but I don't believe there were many people standing. So strange!

If Weiner is one of your favourite authors and you've never seen her in person, you need to change that. As soon as humanly possible. She is an amazing person, so real, and freaking hilarious. Case in point: the person introducing her almost screwed up her name (it's not weener, it's wine-er) so she told the story of when she was in New Jersey, exhausted after many events, and the MC mispronounced her name. She steps up to the podium and exclaims, "It's WINE-ER, motherf*cker!" A woman after my own heart...dropping f bombs without a care in the world. She also brought up The Bachelorette, as the signing was happening on a Monday night, the same time as the show. And if you're a Bachelor/Bachelorette fan, you have got to pay attention to her live tweets when the show is on. Priceless.

But it wasn't all laughs. She talked about gender inequality when it comes to book reviews in traditional published media. She also talked about how amazing it was to help author Sarah Pekkanen gain recognition when her first novel was published. There were a lot of other amazing parts to the signing but I foolishly made the mistake of not taking notes! I blame the drinks and food Lydia, Sam, and I had after the signing :)

As much as I adore Weiner myself, the best part of the signing (other than when she and I shared a little side convo about Chris from The Bachelorette - who will now be the newest Bachelor) was seeing how unbelievably excited Lydia and Samantha were. To them, Weiner is their idol. They love reading her books but they also love the way she writes. So, when this happened:
"Hey...are you Perfect Pen on Twitter?"
We thought we'd have to pick Sam up off the floor! She was so unbelievably thrilled that she was recognized!

I'm so happy I made the time to head into Toronto for this signing and I already can't wait until Jennifer Weiner comes back!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review: A Little Something Different

I love when books surprise me. It's been awhile but I was (oh so pleasantly) surprised when I read A Little Something Different by debut novelist Sandy Hall. I thought I'd be in for a sweet contemporary novel but I got a lot more than that.

Here's the synopsis:
The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.
Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together....
On the surface, A Little Something Different seems like every other contemporary story: boy meets girl, they fall for each other, have a conflict, resolve their conflict, and live happily ever after. Sure, the story follows that formula but the way the story is told is what makes this book so awesome. This love story is told from fourteen different viewpoints...except Gabe and Lea's. I know that sounds bizarre. I was skeptical but Hall totally makes it work. It's amazing how well a story can be told simply from others' observations. The synopsis mentions one of my favourite viewpoints: that of the squirrel. Yes, a squirrel in the park tells part of this story! It's a really funny one (the squirrel doesn't understand human but he flicks his tail adorably in the hopes he can get some nuts) but it also allows for some insight into conversations between Lea and Gabe that they wouldn't have in front of others (or at least other humans). 

It's not just the way the story is told that makes this novel, well, different. The characters are all unique with interesting back stories. The main characters had really great personalities, too, so it was easy to read about them and read their viewpoints. They're average...but not really. They all have their quirks and differences that make them really interesting to read about. Not boring at all. 

Finally, the story was so realistic. I think that's one of the reasons why I love reading contemporary stories so much. I love when the stories are believable and involve something that could happen (or could have happened) in my own life. These are people you could have met or stories you could have heard when you were in university or college. And I love that.

OK, one final note. I think this novel fills a gap in New Adult that a lot of people have wanted filled for awhile. And yes, no matter what tags you may see on Goodreads, this is not Young Adult. The characters are in college and dealing with more real world experiences than high school kids. But there's no major angst or tons of steamy sex scenes (actually, I don't think there are any sex scenes at all) like you may see in most other NA books. Yay! Something different!

A Little Something Different is just awesome. I loved Sandy Hall's debut novel and think so many others would too. It's sweet but not sickeningly so. It's real so it has humour and darkness. It involves a squirrel for crying out loud! How could you not want to read it?

*A copy of this novel was provided by Swoon Reads via Raincoast Books in exchange for review consideration.*

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Let's Talk About Rereading

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.

Last year I reread all of Sarah Dessen's novels. This year I reread the entire Harry Potter series. These are two of the best reading decisions I've made over the past couple of years. There's something awesome about going back and rereading an old favourite. Especially when it's part of a series and you can catch some of the references you didn't realize were important the first time around. Rereading is also great when you're much older than you were when you first read the book. Of course, as a blogger, I don't have a ton of spare reading time to reread books. There are so many new ones to get to (so many!) that it's hard to find the time to read something I've read before. If I had the time, the following books/series are ones that I would love to reread. What book(s) would you like to reread? Links lead to Goodreads.

Anne of Green Gables series - L.M. Montgomery
It's been ages since I've read this series and I have been wanting to reread it for the past few years. Perhaps a reason to buy new copies with gorgeous new covers?

Chronicles of Narnia series - C.S. Lewis
Technically, it'd only be a reread of the first three (or four if you put The Magician's Nephew at #1 though it was published as #6) as I've never finished this series. So clearly I need to get on this.

Something Borrowed/Something Blue - Emily Giffin
I've been wanting to reread these ones ever since the movie came out but just haven't found the time. I'm hoping I can before Something Blue is released! (Still no date on IMDd page yet!)

Anna and the French Kiss/Lola and the Boy Next Door/Isla and the Happily Ever After - Stephanie Perkins
I only just finished reading Isla a week or so ago and I already want to read them all again. I think it'd be great to read them back to back to back because I'd like to find all the little clues that will be sprinkled throughout. Again, this is an excuse to buy the pretty books...

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
I always say that I love Austen but I really want to reread her most popular novel. It's been awhile and I sometimes wonder if I'm unintentionally lying when I say that I love it!

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series - Ann Brashares
I adored this series and I always think that it'd be nice to reread all five books again.

Jessica Darling series - Megan McCafferty
This was another favourite in high school and I really want to see what I think of it now, as more than ten years have passed since I read the first book.

The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
This novel isn't on this list because I loved it. It's on here because I was in grade ten when I read it and I don't think I fully understood it. It's been on my mind ever since the movie was released. How much of the story did I really grasp at 15?

Little House series - Laura Ingalls Wilder
I devoured everything Laura Ingalls Wilder when I was younger (except the TV show...surprisingly, I don't think I've ever seen a full episode of the show). I still own the box set and I want to remind myself of Laura's story. And then dive into some more biographical books!

The Hunger Games series - Suzanne Collins
With the second last movie coming out, I've realized that the details of Mockingjay are fuzzy and I'd like to remind myself what actually happened in the book.