Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Top Ten "Tuesday": I Obviously Love These Authors

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.

Yes, I know today is Wednesday. But I had a super busy (but awesome) weekend and just didn't get the chance to put together this week's list. I wanted to share it though because I love talking about my favourite authors. And clearly I own a lot of books by my favourite authors! It was actually kind of difficult to come up with this list because half of my books are at home and the other half are at my mom's. So, here's a pretty much accurate list (with a few bonus entries)! Which author dominates your bookshelves?

Sarah Dessen - 11
She is my all time favourite author so it's no surprise that I own every single one of her books. And a good number of them are signed, too!

Emily Giffin - 7
Giffin is another auto-buy author and I own all of her books - most of them in hardcover. And, bonus, four of them are signed!

Jennifer Weiner - 7
I love Weiner so it's not really surprising that I've somehow managed to accumulate 7 of her 11 books. I just wish I had had a few more of them with me to get them signed when I met her last month!

Catherine McKenzie - 5
I was hooked on McKenzie's writing ever since I read Spin a couple of years ago and I now own a copy of each one of her books.

Beth Kendrick - 6
I have yet to read a Kendrick book I don't like so I will happily buy her new ones as soon as they're out!

Ann Brashares - 6
This is actually a bit of a cheat since I no longer own six of Brashares' novels. I still have all five in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series but I donated another of hers that I didn't exactly love.

Jane Austen - 6
I haven't read all six yet (shame on me) but I WILL. I own them so there's no excuse!

Mindy Klasky - 6
I own two of her trilogies and they're both such fun magical romance type novels (Jane Madison and As You Wish - check them out!).

Series Authors
Megan McCafferty - 5
LOVE Jessica Darling.

J.K. Rowling - 9
Duh. I have all of Harry Potter plus Quidditch Through the Ages and Tales of Beedle the Bard (a super fancy edition my boyfriend bought me years ago!)

C.S. Lewis - 7
I have the whole Narnia set but still haven't finished it.

Lucy Maud Montgomery - 7
I really need to do a reread of the Anne books soon!

Laura Ingalls Wilder - 9
I love my boxed set of the Little House books. I should really reread these ones, too!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Life as a Bookworm: Am I in a Slump?


I've been a lucky blogger. In the almost four years since I've been blogging, I haven't really hit a rough patch or a slump. I hear bloggers talking about it all the time but I never experienced it myself.

Until now.

Yes, my friends, I've hit a wall. But, the good thing is I think I know why.

If you've been following along with my life and posts, you'll know that I was unemployed for a good chunk of 2013 and part of 2014. While that sucked (A LOT) for my wallet and mental well being, it was great for Books Etc. I had lots of time to read, in between searching for jobs of course. And I was able to write reviews as soon as I finished the book so I could move onto my next read. This is huge for me, and for a lot of other bloggers, because we want to get our thoughts on one book out and recorded before moving on to the next world, er, book. Because I wasn't constrained by a work day, I could finish a book at 10am, bang out the review, and move onto another book that afternoon. It was great.

Then the sky parted and rainbows and unicorns arrived to deliver me a job. Wahoo! Finally, I'm back to contributing to the world and making (a little bit of) money.

But...that means I'm back to only being able to read at lunch time or after work. Reviews must be written in the evening when all I want to do is hang out with the boyfriend, watch TV, go out with friends, or play with my pet bunny. Once I started my job I realized that I had completely forgotten how to balance work, life, and blogging. It doesn't help that I work at a very busy and very small non-profit so lunch breaks are basically only for making sure you're nourished. I stretch it out and make sure I take a half hour break but that's not a lot of time for reading and eating (and chatting to coworkers and volunteers since you're eating in the communal kitchen/office where everyone is). So, it's not uncommon for me to start a book at Monday at lunch and only be halfway through by end of day Friday. In fact, this has happened the last three weeks in a row and it's super frustrating.

I suppose I can be glad that this slump I'm in doesn't seem to affect my desire to read. I know some bloggers just don't feel like reading what they "have" to and that puts them off all books altogether for awhile. Sure, my TBR pile is daunting as hell and I don't know how I'm going to get all of them read but at least I'm excited about reading them. I still have a healthy sense of "I'm blogging because I want to and even though all these lovely authors and publishers want me to read their book ASAP I will get to it when I can and when I am in the mood for it" and I think that has helped.

It's funny that this slump seems to be focused around the physical act of blogging and promoting. I love writing (but no, I'm still not ready to write a novel), I love interacting with other readers (I could happily talk about books ALL DAY), and I love social media. But, for some reason, I'm loathing the time I have to put into sitting down and writing something. I cannot tell you the last time I actively set out to comment on others' blogs. And I've been so focused on making the social media channels at work awesome that I don't feel like managing another page when I come home. It's weird, right?

I'm trying to get better. I know that I'm having a sort of scheduling crisis and I'm being mindful of setting aside time to read and write. For example, this weekend I'm heading up to my mom's house up north and I hardly ever get time to read when I'm visiting. We're a family of readers but I don't visit nearly enough so we want to spend time together actually doing things instead of immersed in our own little worlds. But this weekend I must make time to read. (Sorry, Mom.)

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts. I'm hoping putting this out there will help turn things around somehow. And maybe someone out there has an awesome tip for me (please share!). But for now I'll just keep plugging away at my TBR list and fitting in the actual blogging work when I can. That's just going to have to be ok :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: Elly in Love


Elly in Love was one of my most anticipated reads of the summer. I had fallen in love with Elly in Colleen Oakes' first novel, Elly in Bloom (review here) and I couldn't wait to get back to her world and see how she was doing. Happily, the sequel held up and was a great read.

Here's the synopsis:
Curvy wedding florist Elly Jordan has had quite a year. First, she had to design her ex-husband’s wedding to the mistress who split them up, and then she broke up with the hottest musician this side of St. Louis. Three months have passed since then, and now Elly is primed for what promises to be the best wedding season of her life.
Helped by her loyal friends, Elly is on the verge of opening a chic flower boutique uptown when BlissBride, a popular wedding reality show, asks her to design the wedding of a famous—make that infamous–celebrity. Elly is about to get everything she’s ever wanted, when a stranger shows up at her store with a request that changes every aspect of her life–including her budding relationship with deli owner Keith. As she struggles to stay calm in the midst of growing chaos, Elly will learn the true meaning of love and sacrifice.
It had been just over a year since I had last visited Elly but I remembered almost everything about her and her friends. I'm glad that all of the supporting characters I loved from the first book were present in the sequel. Snarky Teenager was, once again, fabulous. I liked watching her grow as much as I did Elly. The women had a lot of growing pains to work through but I knew they'd make it through and have a fabulous end result. I also enjoyed that we still don't know what Snarky Teenager's actual name is. I imagine Oakes will have a grand reveal for the final book (a la Sex and the City).

The only thing I didn't like about this book, and probably why I didn't give it five stars, was how Elly was acting with Keith. Not to give too much away, but he was hiding something (I totally called what it was, by the way) and she did not appreciate it. I totally understand why she was behaving the way she was...so perhaps I should amend my earlier statement...I didn't like how Keith was acting with Elly. He was, frankly, being an idiot. He explains, in the end, but I wasn't convinced. I may be too critical but this part of the story felt weak for me.

One of the things I loved about Elly in Bloom was how funny and real the story and Elly were. That realness carries on in Elly in Love. Elly isn't your typical heronie. She's clumsy, she's clueless about fashion, and, well, she's also overweight. It's a bit of a bummer that I, as a reader, still note when a main character isn't stick thin because it's still not the norm. I'm hopeful that things are changing though. I said it in my last review but I'll say it again: the way story is told and the type of character Elly is reminds me of Jennifer Weiner's novels. If you like her books I definitely suggest checking out Colleen Oakes.

I'm really happy with the way things turned out for Elly in Elly in Love. Colleen Oakes has written yet another fabulous novel about an equally fabulous heroine. I cannot wait to read the next Elly book!

*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, Spark Press, in exchange for an honest review.*

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review: No Relation


Believe it or not, No Relation is my first Terry Fallis novel. I have no excuse either - all three of his previous novels are in my house! I figured it was high time to finally read one of Fallis' books so when I had the chance to review his latest book, I jumped at it. I'm really glad I read it and I found it to be a good read and it was really funny.

Here's the synopsis:
This is the story of a young copywriter in New York City. He's worked at the same agency for fifteen years, and with a recent promotion under his belt, life is good. Then, one morning this copywriter finds himself unceremoniously fired from his job, and after he catches his live-in girlfriend moving out of their apartment a couple hours later, he's also single. Believe it or not, these aren't the biggest problems in this copywriter's life. There's something bigger, something that has been haunting him his whole life, something that he'll never be able to shake. Meet Earnest Hemmingway.
What's in a name? Well, if you share your moniker with the likes of some of the most revered, infamous, and sometimes dreaded names in history, plenty. This is Earnest's lifelong plight, but something more recent is on his plate: His father is pressuring him to come home and play an active role in running the family clothing business. And as a complex familial battle plays out, Earnest's inherited name leads him in unexpected directions. Wry, clever, and utterly engaging, No Relation is Terry Fallis at the top of his form.
I found No Relation to be a good novel. That being said, I didn't love it as much as I'd expected to. There's no denying that Fallis is a good writer, and a funny one, but there was something keeping me from loving this book. And I'm almost positive whatever this something is, it's a personal thing. I have no problem recommending this novel to others. It just wasn't the perfect book for me.

The humour in this novel isn't going to be for everyone but I thought it was hilarious. It was sort of a dry wit, and very clever. I don't have any good examples because it's hard to share the funniness out of context!

There was a lot going on in this novel but, for the most part, everything worked well together. I loved meeting all of the others in the Name Fame group (talk about a cast of characters!). I loved the family dynamics (even if I was getting very frustrated with Earnest's father, EH3!). In fact, I could have happily read a whole novel from sister Sarah's perspective. The mystery of the struggling family business was much more interesting to me than the quest to vanquish Hemingway's ghost (it's not as sci-fi as that sounds, trust me). I enjoyed that part because there were some entertaining and sweet moments, and it allowed for seeing some new locations, but it just wasn't my favourite part of the book.

Even though I wasn't super in love with No Relation, I still plan on reading all of Terry Fallis' other novels and I will definitely be keeping an eye on what he comes out with next.

*A copy of this novel was received from the publisher, Random House of Canada, in exchange for an honest review.*

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Let's Talk TV

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.

We all know I love books. You do too if you're reading this blog. But us bookworms seem to have a love of other types of stories as well and that's what this week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about. I've decided to list my favourite TV shows of the past and present (trying to choose favourite  movies is WAY too hard). What are some of your favourite TV shows? Are there any that you think I should watch?

Past


Gilmore Girls is my all time favourite show. I own all the DVDs and would watch them over and over again as I did homework in university. I loved the women, the humour, the boys, and the story. I wish with all my heart that Amy Sherman-Palladino had concluded the series but I suppose what we got wasn't too horrible (ok, just think that it could have been worse). Also: I never missed a single episode when it was airing live. Big deal in the time of no DVR or easy online watching.


I got into this show a little late but I adored it. It lasted four seasons (which was the plan) and it was amazing. Being Erica has a bit of fantastical twist (time traveling!) but it's so real. Plus, I loved that Erica was trying to make it in publishing in Toronto. 


My family and I started watching House because we loved Hugh Laurie in Jeeves and Wooster (a must watch!). He played Dr. House so well and I watched this show religiously. Confession: I still haven't watched the final season so don't tell me what happens! (The boyfriend and I are working on rewatching the series but got side-tracked with trying to rewatch all of 24 before the new season started!)


Oh, be still my teenage heart. I was the perfect age for this show when it started (just a year older than the characters). I already knew (and loved) my future husband, Adam Brody (thanks to Sausage Factory and the aforementioned Gilmore Girls), so that's why I started watching it. I was hooked after the first episode. A friend of mine and I have actually been rewatching the series and it's been SO much fun.

Current


I was a latecomer to Bones. My mom watched it and a couple of roommates in university watched it so I had caught quite a few episodes here and there. A friend lent me the DVDs one summer a few years ago and I powered through the series in time to start the new season. I was feeling "meh" about it prior to last season but they had a stellar season and I'm looking forward to next year.


Castle is another one I was late to the game to. My sister got into it and, thanks to her DVDs, I caught up and now eagerly look forward to the new episodes every week. Nathan Fillion is fantastic and I love the chemistry between him and Stana Katic. I like that the show is so funny as well as dramatic.


Sigh. I love Downton Abbey: the story, the actors, the scenery, the time period. Just love it. I bingewatched the first couple of seasons and am addicted (I believe I watched season two in one day...). I'm actually behind on this one too, thanks to being busy/away for a few weeks, so as soon as I get a permanent job I will be buying the DVD set of season four so I can catch up. 


Speaking of bingewatching, the boyfriend and I signed up for Netflix and I saw that Sherlock was available to us Canadians. I had had many people tell me I would probably love it so we decided to give it a try. We could not stop watching it. We didn't realize when we started it, though, that each season was only three episodes so we quickly finished the first two and were all "what the hell?" Absolutely cannot wait for the next season.


I love fairy tales so I was excited when I first heard about Once Upon a Time. I still love it and I love that it is a little bit cheesy. It plays with the stories we know so well thanks to Disney and puts their own spin on them. It's so much fun to watch and I cannot wait to see what happens with Emma and Hook (swoon). 


Yep, I like both Sherlock AND Elementary. I started watching the NYC show first (since it was readily available on network TV). It filled the hole House had left (which makes sense since House is loosely based on Holmes). And I just love Lady Watson! 

Honourable Mentions
24 - I only watched one season but I am LOVING the rewatch the boyfriend and I are doing. Jack kicks ass.
The Crazy Ones - I don't watch a lot of sitcoms but Robin Williams' new one is freaking hilarious.
Justified - This show is so bad ass but clever (and lacks the extreme violence of Sons of Anarchy which kept me from sticking with that show).
Parenthood - I started watching this because, duh, Lauren Graham. I've missed a bunch of episodes but it really is a great show.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: I Don't Know What You Know Me From


I love Judy Greer. I have for years - probably since I watched The Wedding Planner for the first time. I had a feeling her book, I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star would probably be funny and really enjoyable but you can't always expect that with celebrity books. In this case though? Greer's book was awesome, funny and real, and I didn't want to put it down.

Here's what the book is all about:
You know Judy Greer, right? Maybe from The Wedding Planner, 13 Going on 30, Carrie, Arrested Development, or The Descendants. Yes, you totally recognize her. And, odds are, you already feel like she’s your friend.
In her first book of essays, I Don’t Know What You Know Me From, Greer writes about everything you would hope to hear from your best friend: how a midnight shopping trip to Walgreens can cure all; what it’s like to wake up one day with stepchildren; and how she really feels about fans telling her that she’s prettier in person. Yes, it’s all here—from the hilarious moments to the
intimate confessions.
But Judy Greer isn’t just a regular friend—she’s a celebrity friend. Want to know which celebs she’s peed next to? Or what the Academy Awards are actually like? Or which hot actor gave her father a Harley-Davidson? Don’t worry; Greer reveals all of that, too. You’ll love her because, besides being laugh-out-loud funny, she makes us genuinely feel like she’s one of us. Because even though she sometimes has a stylist and a makeup artist, she still wears (and hates!) Spanx. Because even after almost twenty years in Hollywood, she still hasn’t figured everything out—except that you should always wash your face before bed. Always.
I will admit that I haven't watched a ton of Greer's recent work (Archer, Arrested Development, and more). I am, as you can imagine, a huge fan of her roles in The Wedding Planner and 27 Dresses (in fact, I think I found her character more interesting than Heigl's in that movie...). The amusing thing about this is that Greer would probably be able to figure that out. Right off the bat she talks about this:
"...I could sit down with you and maybe tell you what you liked me from. I would look at your age, sex, and clothing and probably be able to pinpoint what role I've played that you responded to. It's a little like racial profiling, but with fans: fan profiling." (page xiii)
My favourite thing about this book was how real Greer is. She didn't hold anything back...not about her life growing up, not about how hard it was to get into the world of Hollywood (and how scary LA was to her in the beginning), and not about her life as a step-mom. Sure, we don't really have the whole story (do we ever get that?) but you can tell that she isn't trying to fake anyone out or make her life out to be something that it's not. She's up front about everything and I love it.

My second favourite thing about this book Greer's humour. She is one funny lady. I found myself laughing out loud more often than not as I was reading this one. That's not to say it was all fun and games, but the overall tone of this book is a lighthearted one.

I really liked how the book was set up. It's not really written in a true memoir style. Instead, Greer has written many separate essays that come together to tell the story of her life, so far. I think this kept things from being boring as it meant she could quite easily skip over things that may not have been very exciting. I also liked that she made sure to tell her whole story - from childhood (Part 1 - Early Life), to figuring out the whole acting thing (did you know her name is a stage name?) and breaking into the business (Part 2 - Hollywood Life), to her current family life (Part 3 - Real Life). I think you really get a sense of who she is and what her motivations are.

If you're going to take away anything from my review, I hope it's that you understand that is not your typical book written by a celebrity. Greer understands her place in the hierarchy that is Hollywood. She embraces it and, at one point in the book, explains that she may not be the star of the show but she has been getting good, consistent work since she got into the business. So, no, I don't think you should assume that Greer has written this book simply to make more money or gain more exposure. I think she's doing this because she had the desire and skill to share her life with her fans in an entertaining way. You can't fault her for that, can you?

I absolutely loved reading I Don't Know What You Know Me From. Judy Greer is definitely my favourite co-star and I'm so glad she wrote this book. It's funny and real and I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it. If you're a fan of celebrities, or even well written memoirs, check this one out. It's perfect for the summer!

*A copy of this novel was received from the publisher, Random House of Canada, in exchange for an honest review.*

Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: Landline


The reading world fell in love with Rainbow Rowell in 2013 after she published two fabulous YA novels (Eleanor & Park and Fangirl - links lead to my reviews). She's gone back to writing for adults (her first book, Attachments, is an adult book) with her latest novel, Landline. The novel, released on July 8, has a fantastical element to it and it is sweet, real, and hilarious. I loved it.

Here's the synopsis:
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.
Maybe that was always besides the point.
Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.
When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.
That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts...
Is that what she’s supposed to do?
Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?
First things first. If you're an actual YA fan of Rowell, as in you are a real teenager and not an adult reading YA, you may not like this book. You're not necessarily going to get this book. Even I, at 27, didn't get some of the pop culture references in this book (thought I did get, and love, the Amy Sherman-Palladino reference...can she please write a Gilmore Girls reunion episode or movie? Pretty please?) because I'm, I think, over a decade younger than Georgie. I recognized almost all of the references but I didn't know specifics. This wasn't a dealbreaker for me but teen readers, and their parents, need to realize that this isn't a Rowell book targeted to the teenage set. Personally, I'm thrilled that Rowell has gone back to writing for adults...even though (major confession), I haven't yet read Attachments (soon, I promise).

The writing was, hands down, my favourite part of this book. Rowell is hilarious. I think we got glimpses of that in her previous works but because Georgie is a comedy television show writer, Rowell was really able to let her awesome humour shine. Speaking of Amy Sherman-Palladino...I feel like Rowell wrote in a similar way. So, if you know and love Gilmore Girls, you can appreciate the type of writing and humour you find in Landline.

I've already heard from a few bloggers/early readers that they didn't exactly love Georgie. I can see that, I think. Some people may not get why she let her marriage limp along for so long before doing something about it. They may not get why she's with Neal instead of Seth. And they just may not like her personality (I believe I've heard "whiny" used as a descriptor). I'm not saying I totally get her or even love her but I found her interesting. She is real. And that is why I love Rainbow Rowell and her novels. We don't get picture perfect heroines (or heroes) in her novels and their story isn't always wrapped up in a typical Happily Ever After way. I admit that I like when the main characters are totally likeable but I really liked reading Georgie's story.

I quite liked the fantastical element of this novel. It was a neat concept...a sort of time travelling phone. How interesting! It sounds so far fetched but Rowell totally made it work. I also liked that we weren't exactly sure how the phone was working or when the conversations were taking place. Well, we knew when Georgie was calling but was it Present Day Neal she was talking to or Past Neal? It was a fun idea and I really liked how it ended up. Funny and sweet and not totally crazy.

I really loved Landline. I read Rainbow Rowell's latest from start to finish in one sitting. I didn't want to put it down! I was lucky enough to snag an eARC but I'm seriously considering buying the book when it's released tomorrow. It's so pretty and so good and would fit in well on my bookshelf with my other Rowell novels! Landline is a must read for those who enjoy a real and relatable heroine and for those who love a good story with a lot of humour and heart.

*An eARC of this novel was received from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review.*