Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rereading Sarah Dessen: Dreamland

Hosted by I Eat Words
Welcome to month three of the I Eat Words Sarah Dessen Read/Reread Challenge! Check out this post that explains the details about the awesomeness that is this challenge. This month we read Dreamland, a novel that I didn't really like when I first read it. Would my opinion change with this reread? Read on for the thoughts of myself and my best friend, Sandy.

Synopsis:
Wake up, Caitlin
Ever since she started going out with Rogerson Biscoe, Caitlin seems to have fallen into a semiconscious dreamland where nothing is quite real. Rogerson is different from anyone Caitlin has ever known. He's magnetic. He's compelling. He's dangerous. Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else--her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lackluster life. But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?
About the Story
Main  Character: Caitlin O’Koren
Age: 16 (It’s her birthday when the story starts)
School Year or Summer?: School year
Boy: Rogerson Biscoe
First description of boy: “He was standing next to the black BMW, arms crossed, looking down at the car.  He was in a short-sleeved shirt with a kind of tribal print, and old khaki pants with worn cuffs. His hair was brown , a mass of curls, thick enough that they were almost like dreadlocks, and he had a dark, olive complexion. He wore a leather cord necklace around his neck and penny loafers with no socks on his feet.” (page 50)
Crushable?: No. Not to me. But the sad fact is that guys like him are crushable to so many girls and women.
Big Secret?:  Oh yeah.
Heavy Storyline?: Yes.
Parents Together?: Yes.
Siblings: One sister, two years older.
Takes Place In: Lakeview
Cameos: None that I could find.

About the Book
Released: 2000 (which I got from the copyright page, everywhere online says 2004)
Epigraph?: No.
Format (of the copy I read): Paperback (new cover)
Own?: Yes (as of a few weeks ago!)
Signed?: No.
Read or Reread: Reread
Age when first read: Probably 15. This was a catch up on, I think, as when I discovered Dessen, she had already published this one.
New cover vs older cover: I think I like the new cover more, which is good. I wouldn’t have bought it if I hadn’t liked the cover!

My Thoughts
This is probably Dessen's heaviest novel. Just Listen (which we've already read and reviewed) comes close but I think Dreamland "wins" because we actually see the abuse taking place. (I didn't want to give that away but I feel like I need to to really give a good review.) I remember not really liking this one when I first read it. I wonder now if it's because I just didn't get it. Part of that may be because I was so naive but maybe I also just didn't get why Caitlin, or anyone, would want to stay with an abusive guy. I think Dessen did a good job of showing the realities without glamourizing it (is that even a word? We'll say it is.)
I found that there were some things in this book that show up in slightly different ways in later novels. For example, Caitlin doesn't understand how her older sister can be in love. She just doesn't get it. That's quite similar to Remy in This Lullaby (Dessen's next novel) but, unlike Remy, I think it's just because she's young. Also, Caitlin loves Top 40 pop music and Rogerson hates it. He likes bizarre music that features wailing and chimes. Does this sound familiar? Yep, kind of like Owen and Annabel from Just Listen (published two novels later.) Interesting to note.
Once again, I found myself playing the big sister role when reading this book. I'm a decade older than Caitlin and I wished that I could protect her. There's one quote that stuck with me so much that I snapped a picture of it. I wanted to be the one to save her.


I'm really glad I gave Dreamland a second chance. I don't think it'll make the top of the favourites list but I can see how this is one of those novels that makes YA so important. Talking about real issues in a real way is important and I think Dessen did a great job of this. Keeping that in mind, if you're thinking of recommending this to a teen girl you know, make sure she's old enough and mature enough to handle the subject matter.

Sandy's Thoughts

Dreamland was this month’s book of choice and I was once again a little leery of  re-reading. I work in a bookstore and Sarah Dessen is always my first recommendation for teen girls. However, I am always hesitant to recommend Dreamland because of its intense subject matter. After reading it for the second time I realize that in the end the message this novel shares is one of strength. Strength of heart, choice and mind. Caitlin feels weak but to others she is strong and she pulls through, even offering strength to others when needed. She is a survivor and that is an important lesson for teenage girls.
After her sister Cass leaves, Caitlin becomes transient. She focuses on being the opposite of her sister so she doesn’t have to acknowledge the loss of that sister in her life. She tries not to do what people expect of her and she loses herself in a boy, Rogerson, and the lifestyle he introduces her to. Almost from the start she gives in to what he wants her to be. By doing so she doesn’t have to deal with missing her sister and filling the void Cass left at home for their parents. Caitlin escapes into Rogerson’s world and becomes a girl she believes her sister would barely recognize.
But the bond between sisters is stronger than that and Cass makes her presence known in the Dreamland their mother taught them about. She leaves behind a journal into which Caitlin exorcises the demons that she comes across in her sister’s absence. Though Cass is living a new life she is never far from Caitlin’s thoughts.
Caitlin uses Cass’s journal and Dreamland as an escape from her reality. She spends most of the novel searching the dream spaces of her life for Rogerson, for Cass, and most importantly, herself.  From the time Cass leaves, Caitlin tries to be anybody but who she really is. She becomes a cheerleader, a druggie, and a slacker in school. When she meets Rogerson it seems like he will finally be the one to bring her out of the shadows but he just creates new ones for her to hide in.  The only good thing he brings her is Corinna, who acts like a substitute for Cass in Caitlin’s new world. For Caitlin, losing her sister means losing herself. Cass was her guidepost and throughout the novel it is through Cass’s eyes that Caitlin defines herself. In finding Rogerson and living his life she sees a different side of herself that Cass would not approve of. Cass leaving and Rogerson appearing help Caitlin find her identity, but at a price.
Dreamland is a novel that showcases the meaning of “to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In the case of Caitlin, her sister leaving equals a romance with Rogerson and the consequences that relationship brings her as well. One event can impact a life drastically; it can take someone down a path they never imagined could happen. Life can become a mirage, an illusion or even a dream. Cailtin is woken up but many others never are. 



Monday, April 29, 2013

Guest Post: Jenn Flynn-Shon

Last week I reviewed Reckless Abandon by Jenn Flynn-Shon for the CLP Blog Tour. In case you missed it, you can catch up on the review here. Longish review short: I really enjoyed the novella! Today Jenn is here to share a little bit of insight on her writing routine. I hope you enjoy it!


The Time that Works Best for Creativity
Writers frequently run around saying they have certain times of day, times of year, they enjoy writing the most. As the winter fades away and record highs have taken over this week in Phoenix, Arizona I’m coming face-to-face with this very dilemma. What time of day should I make the effort to get the words out and what season do I find my best creativity comes rising to the surface?
I used to be a night owl and loved the quiet of the city after the ten o’clock hour. In my twenties I felt my best functioning hours were 10:00 – 2:00 on both sides of the clock. Staying up late meant sleeping in later in the morning and I was always most productive with creative thoughts right after I got up in the late morning. Now that I’m approaching forty I find the same thing rings true. The difference is I don’t think I could tell you the last time I saw two o’clock in the morning and now I rise at about 7:30 every morning.
 With a shift in my body clock while working in corporate America I noticed the shift in my productivity hours. Even though I’m working for no one but myself these days that same body clock has held fast. Now when I write I find my most creative thoughts come at around eight o’clock in the morning and by two o’clock in the afternoon I’m toast. I’m still most productive in the morning I just approach it earlier these days. But that isn’t the only change to my schedule. Time of year also plays a big role in my writing and effectiveness with creativity.
When I lived in Boston I frequently hibernated in the winter to avoid going outdoors in the harsh cold of our northeast winters. I completed NaNoWriMo a few years in a row during November and spent December through February editing and formatting. Once I moved to Phoenix that weather pattern was no longer as grueling and I found my natural tendency was to be outdoors in the winters instead. But I struggled with giving up my summers and the fun that tends to go along with them. That is until my first summer in Phoenix.
 Temperatures can hit anywhere from 100-115 here from June to August and sometimes, like this week for example, the temps can go out of control on either end of that summer season. The only thing I want to do during the summer now is to stay indoors in my air conditioned house, or be out in the pool, to remain as cool as possible. And this has sparked some creativity to bubble up. Last August I wrote Reckless Abandon, my latest Romantic Suspense and it only took me the month to get a good first draft down on paper.
 I set the novella in the middle of summer and the weather played a small background role for the main character, Shaw, as she experienced the different kind of heat that New York City has to offer in the summer as opposed to her dry but oven-like climate in Phoenix. The experiences of having lived in that thick and gooey kind of warmth helped me to write her reaction to it with more honesty. And I was able to take shelter from our summer heat by using that time to my best advantage with my work.
 Now as I’m working on the sequel I’m finding my creative juices are starting to rise with the temperatures. All winter long I was empty, there was nothing particularly creative rolling around my head. However, during that time I was collecting information while out and about meeting people, doing things, exploring, and living life. As a Writer I like things loosely structured and now, knowing my best times of year to collect as well as write, it helps me stay on track to completing my next piece of fiction without it feeling forced.
 As the temps heat up this spring I’m finding the next storyline for Shaw is heating up as well. Will I make the next book a scorcher? Only time will tell on that one but I can assure you I’ll be working on it first thing in the morning and spending the late afternoons in the pool. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe


Like most Gilmore Girls fans, I just about lost my mind when I found out Lauren Graham had written a novel. I've been a little bit in love with Graham since she first showed up on my TV screen as the beautiful and hilarious Lorelai Gilmore. Someday, Someday, Maybe, Graham's debut novel, was a really enjoyable read and had the same kind of tone and characteristics we've come to expect from Graham's work.

Here's the synopsis:
It’s January 1995, and Franny Banks has just six months left of the three-year deadline she set for herself when she came to New York, dreaming of Broadway and doing “important” work. But all she has to show for her efforts so far is a part in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters, and a gig waiting tables at a comedy club. Her roommates―her best friend Jane, and Dan, an aspiring sci-fi writer―are supportive, yet Franny knows a two-person fan club doesn’t exactly count as success. Everyone tells her she needs a backup plan, and though she can almost picture moving back home and settling down with her perfectly nice ex-boyfriend, she’s not ready to give up on her goal of having a career like her idols Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep. Not just yet. But while she dreams of filling their shoes, in the meantime, she’d happily settle for a speaking part in almost anything—and finding a hair product combination that works.Everything is riding on the upcoming showcase for her acting class, where she’ll finally have a chance to perform for people who could actually hire her. And she can’t let herself be distracted by James Franklin, a notorious flirt and the most successful actor in her class, even though he’s suddenly started paying attention. Meanwhile, her bank account is rapidly dwindling, her father wants her to come home, and her agent doesn’t return her calls. But for some reason, she keeps believing that she just might get what she came for.
Someday, Someday, Maybe is a story about hopes and dreams, being young in a city, and wanting something deeply, madly, desperately. It’s about finding love, finding yourself, and perhaps most difficult of all in New York City, finding an acting job.
I liked the fact that this novel took place in 1995. In a way it reminded me of watching older Sex and the City and Friends episodes (in fact, Franny's dad suggests she tries out for that new sitcom.) I loved that she had a Filofax (and that there were illustrations from her planner throughout the novel) and received scripts via fax. Sometimes I forgot that this book was taking place almost 20 years ago. Which, I suppose, is a good thing? Perhaps not for aspiring actors since they're still struggling in the same way they were in the nineties! I also found myself wondering, probably far too often, how much of Franny's life was similar to Lauren's own experiences as she was trying to make it as an actress.

I absolutely loved Franny's dad. Their interactions were mostly through phone calls or messages but their relationship added amusement to the novel. One of the parts that stood out the most in this book was when her dad finally leaves a message on the answering machine because it's been so long since they've talked. I don't have a finished copy so forgive me for paraphrasing...he says something along the lines of "Franny, it's your father. From Connecticut. In case you've been mistakenly calling your other father." Basically, he had a good sense of humour and you could tell through the various interactions that he really cares for his daughter.

I went into reading this novel with really high expectations and, while I still really enjoyed reading it, I think I wanted a little something more from the story. I think I struggled with really connecting with Franny. Sure, I cared about her and was rooting for her but I didn't have that "Oh my god, I wish she was a real person because we could totally be best friends" feeling that I sometimes get.

Overall, I really did like Someday, Someday, Maybe. Lauren Graham wrote an entertaining debut novel that provided a little bit of insight into the world of a struggling actress. It was cute and real and I think Graham's fans will be pleased. I hope that Graham continues writing and look forward to what she comes up with next. For now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have myself a little Gilmore Girls marathon!

Happy reading :)

*I received a copy of this novel from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.*

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dewey's Readathon: A Delayed Start

dewey
Hello friends! This weekend marks the spring edition of Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. I attempted to do last fall's read-a-thon but didn't plan well enough in advance. This year I thought I'd be on the ball and try to do as much reading as possible because I am way behind on my stack o' books. Well. It's now almost two hours into the event and I'm jut doing the intro post. Woot! I'm ok with taking a lazy approach to it because I do have other things to look after today. Like putting together a new booshelf (woohoo!) and looking after my bunny who just had surgery this week. But, I will read and do as many challenges as possible because who doesn't like reading? :)

Without further ado, here are my answers to the intro questions!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I'm in St. Catharines, Ontario (right near Niagara Falls)
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Confession: I didn't even really plan out what I was going to read! Gasp! I know. I would liked to finish The Queen of Unforgetting. It takes place in the tiny town I grew up in which is super cool.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
It's a little time consuming but I think I need to have popcorn at some point today. I have this delicious flavouring - maple sugar - that is, well, delicious!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I'm trying to get into the world of publishing! I was a publicity intern at Random House of Canada from January to April and now I'm an intern at a great nonprofit. I'm not making much money but I'm learning a lot! And getting lots of free books!
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I'd like to actually finish two books. That shouldn't be too hard, right? Like I said, I'm taking a laid back approach because there's just too much going on at the moment for me to start stressing about how much I've read or what challenges I've completed! Fun is the name of the game.

CHALLENGE! Book Spine Poetry
After some thought I decided I wanted to put my own unique spin on things and have created a Canadian bookspine poem. Enjoy!


Update #1
I honestly don't even know what hour we're in right now. 8? Maybe? No matter. I have, finally, finished my first book. It's not that exciting since I was well into it when the day started, but I finished it nonetheless. The slow reading day was due to a necessary errand for library books for my internship and chicken noodle soup for the boyfriend.


Ta-da! Dreamland is complete. I want to get into The Queen of Unforgetting but I think I might check out the Harlequin romance I need to read for an upcoming review. Time for another cup of tea!


Mid-Event Survey
Time for another update and a little survey! We're eight hours in now. I got distracted from another cup of tea earlier because my boyfriend put together my new bookshelf for me!


It was desperately needed and, as you can sort of tell, I'm eventually going to need another! Now, survey time!
1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?
No sleepyness on my end yet. It's just 8pm in my world.
2) What have you finished reading?
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen.
3) What is your favorite read so far?
Well, that's the only book I finished and the one I'm reading now is a cute little romance. While it's enjoyable, it's no Dessen so Dreamland wins over Wind Chime Point.
4) What about your favorite snacks?
The red velvet cake tea I had earlier was delish but the aforementioned boyfriend made one tasty supper for us. I have much to look forward to this evening, though I'm not sure how well my plan of beer and reading will end up going.
5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!
I have to admit that I haven't been bopping around too much so I haven't really come across anyone new. Perhaps tomorrow I will check out some blogs and see if I can find some new favourites.

Now, where's that beer I was mentioning... :)

MINI CHALLENGE! Share a Quote
As you can tell, I haven't really been taking part in many mini challenges. After finishing book #2 (woohoo!), Wind Chime Point by Sherryl Woods, I decided to check out the website and see what was happening. When I saw that it was a share a quote challenge, I knew I wanted to throw my hat into the ring. Why? Because I actually took a picture of a page in Dreamland because a quote made an impression on me. Here's the picture:

It's a little long to type out so I hope you can all see it in the picture alright. It starts in the last full paragraph with "I stood..." and ends with "...save her." That save her part is why it hit me so hard because I spent a good portion of this book wishing I could save Caitlin. She's a decade younger than I am and I wished I could hop into the book and protect her from her boyfriend.

Now, I have to decide what book to dive into next, even though I know I probably won't be reading for much longer tonight. I also have a bunny to look after and she needs tonight's round of meds. It took us 25 minutes to get them into her this morning, complete with a scratch on my arm. Think good thoughts for us! Then, it's reading, another beer, and that popcorn I mentioned earlier!

End of Event Survey
Well, it's an hour and a half past the end of the read-a-thon and I just got up a half hour ago. My laid back attitude carried on and I decided sleep was important :) For those who are interested, beer was delicious, popcorn was tasty, and I got some more scratches on my arm when trying to give the bunny her meds. Sigh. I think she hates me now. I also started a new book, Vanity Fare, which was an excellent choice. I can't wait to dive back into it later today. For now, here is the end of event survey. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and cheered me on!


1) Which hour was most daunting for you?
Since I didn't really do too much, I can't really answer this. I didn't stay up late or have cat naps to keep me going. It was a regular day of lots of reading for me!
2) Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Hm. Good question. I think it's all up to the reader. Last night when I was trying to pick a book, I went with something that was closer to my favourite and most comforting genre (chick lit) instead of going for two of the really popular historical fiction novels I have and really want to read.
3) Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Can't really think of anything...I think any improvements I want to make are just on my own stuff!
4) What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
I know a lot of people really enjoy the cheerleaders so make sure you keep them around!
5) How many books did you read?
I read two and a bit books.
6) What were the names of the books you read?
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen, Wind Chime Point by Sherry Woods, and part of Vanity Fare by Megan Caldwell.
7) Which book did you enjoy most?
Tough one...even though I'm only partway through Vanity Fare, I think I have to go with that one.
8) Which did you enjoy least?
I guess Wind Chime Point, which isn't to say I didn't like it. It was a lovely little romance and I enjoyed reading it.
9) How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? 
I'd like to participate, it just depends on when it is. I'd also like to really be able to do the full 24 hours. I wish I had known about this when I was still living alone because once you throw in someone else in your house (not to mention a recovering bunny), it's hard to say "I am spending my entire day reading and ignoring you, please go find your own fun." :) So, we'll see if I show up again for the next read-a-thon! 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

CLP Blog Tour: Reckless Abandon


Welcome to my stop on the Reckless Abandon CLP Blog Tour! I was really touched when author Jenn Flynn-Shon asked Samantha to make sure I was on this tour (I reviewed her debut novel Ripple the Twine awhile back - read the review here.) The synopsis of her new novella sounded intriguing so I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm really glad I did because it gave me a great dose of suspense and romance.

Here's the synopsis:
How far would you go for love? Young Adult fiction Author, Shaw McLeary, returns from Whole Foods to discover her husband, Danny, is gone. So is their stash of cash, his clothes, passport, and her wedding rings. He took off in a hurry and left her behind. While trying to piece it all together Shaw witnesses a cop’s murder in her home. Determined not to become the next victim, she flees. She fears dirty cops are involved in Danny’s disappearance. There's only one person she can trust to help her - JJ Anderson, Private Investigator. Also, her ex-fiancĂ©.
A retired Phoenix cop turned PI, Shaw hopes JJ will be inclined to take her case. Despite his resentment for how their relationship ended, he agrees to help her track down leads on Danny. They chase the clues from Phoenix to Manhattan to upstate New York. In such close quarters Shaw finds it difficult to maintain a professional distance from her first real love. Then what happens if she finds Danny? Can she still love a man who abandoned her or is she too drawn to fixing her past mistake to let go of JJ again?
Sounds pretty exciting, right? I'm not one to normally read mystery stories but there was something about this one that grabbed me. It was a really quick read which makes it great for a one sitting read. I think that's what helped me get really into the book as I was easily able to finish it in one evening. This allowed me to really get into the story and become even more invested in the characters. I felt like I was riding right alongside Shaw and JJ as they tried to figure out what was going on and where Danny was.

The only negative feeling I had with this book was due to some lingering questions. JJ tries to come clean to Shaw about something about their past and I don't recall ever finding out what that was. I also felt like some of the motives of certain characters needed to be clearer and that there needed to be less people involved in the...erm...issue. I think with a novella, the less characters, the better.

What I really liked about this story was the past that Shaw and JJ shared. It added a great element to the already suspenseful storyline. I found myself conflicted (in a good way...if that even makes sense...) because I really wanted Shaw and JJ to end up back together but I recognized that she was still married and we had no idea what was going on with her husband. Shaw was a great character to root for and I found myself hoping for a happy ending for her.

Reckless Abandon was a really enjoyable read for me. I think Jenn Flynn-Shon has grown as an author and I can't wait to read what she comes out with next. Mystery and romance lovers alike would find this novella interesting as it has a nice mix of both genres. Stay tuned later in the week for a really interesting guest post from Jenn herself!

Happy reading :)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review: Wedding Night


Sophie Kinsella is a must read author for me. I've been reading her for so long that I can't even remember when I first picked up one of her novels. I was so excited when I heard that she was releasing a new book and Wedding Night did not disappoint. It was exactly what we've come to expect and love from Kinsella - funny, sweet, and crazy chick lit.

Here's the synopsis:
Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose during lunch at one of London’s fanciest restaurants. But when his big question involves a trip abroad, not a trip down the aisle, she’s completely crushed. So when Ben, an old flame, calls her out of the blue and reminds Lottie of their pact to get married if they were both still single at thirty, she jumps at the chance. No formal dates—just a quick march to the altar and a honeymoon on Ikonos, the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago.

Their family and friends are horrified. Fliss, Lottie’s older sister, knows that Lottie can be impulsive—but surely this is her worst decision yet. And Ben’s colleague Lorcan fears that this hasty marriage will ruin his friend’s career. To keep Lottie and Ben from making a terrible mistake, Fliss concocts an elaborate scheme to sabotage their wedding night. As she and Lorcan jet off to Ikonos in pursuit, Lottie and Ben are in for a honeymoon to remember, for better . . . or worse.
Some of you may know that I just recently completed an internship at Random House of Canada (you can read my recap of it here if you like). In my first couple of days I realized that Kinsella is a Random House author so I was eagerly waiting for the ARCs to come in. One day I was grabbing something from the book room, looked down, saw the box of advanced copies, and, I kid you not, gasped and held my hands to my chest. That is how excited I was to see the ARCs in front of me. Knowing the right people paid off and I left work that day with a copy in my hands.

I do find that it has gotten to a point that I go into reading Kinsella's novels knowing the main character will drive me at least a little batty. I'm not sure that's a good thing, either. I mean, I'll keep reading her novels because I always end up loving (or at least liking) the character. It can just get a little frustrating when they act so silly and flighty.

As much as I enjoyed the two perspectives (Lottie and Fliss), I think I needed a bit more...something...from both sisters. I was chatting with someone about this book over a month ago now and she mentioned that it seemed like Kinsella didn't always know when she planned on switching perspectives. I can kind of see that. There didn't seem to be any real rhyme or reason to when it was Lottie or when it was Fliss. Overall though, that was a minor detail and I appreciated getting to see things from two points of view.

The story itself was amusing. I liked that it took place in an exotic location and there was a travel element involved. I am also SO glad that Fliss' son was part of this story (don't have my copy in front of me and his name is escaping me!) because he was so hilariously adorable and clever. He was around seven years old and some of my favourite scenes involved Fliss and Lorcan talking in code around him. I won't get into detail but let's just say the words "sausage" and "cupcake" were used, to my great amusement. I liked seeing Fliss and Lottie evolve, shall we say. They both had some major issues and they worked their way through them with minimal collateral damage.

All in all, I enjoyed reading Wedding Night. Sophie Kinsella had me laughing throughout the novel, as is typical with her books. I wondered if this might be the one to overtake Can You Keep a Secret? as my favourite Kinsella novel, but it just wasn't meant to be (hm, should really reread that one...). Maybe Kinsella's next novel will become my new favourite! Wedding Night is released this upcoming Tuesday, April 23rd, and if you're a chick lit fan you should definitely check it out!

Happy reading :)

*I received a copy of this novel from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review*

Friday, April 19, 2013

Just Finished: For Internal Use Only


I was really looking forward to reading For Internal Use Only, Cari Kamm's latest novel. I read her debut novel Fake Perfect Me awhile back (review is here) and even though I didn't love it, there was something about it that made me pay attention to when Kamm would be releasing a new novel. When I was asked to review For Internal Use Only, I read the synopsis, liked what I read, and agreed to a review. Once I finally received my copy I dove in and...well...I struggled. I wanted to like it but there were just too many things that kept me from thinking, "This book is awesome."

Here's the synopsis:
Chloe Kassidy has just been accepted into one of Manhattan’s most exclusive art exhibits, Love Through Light. However, with her singular dedication to her career, she soon realizes that in sacrificing her personal life, she has never been in love. A hopeless romantic who is terrified of heartbreak, Chloe begins to enlist the help of her circle of friends to learn about love through their very different stories and experiences.
In Chloe’s emotional rollercoaster to having the greatest love story ever told, she’ll learn that like her photography she must use the negatives in life to develop and prove that she’s a strong woman who found her way to love through light.
Inspired by the notion that women grow up with ideas of true love and destiny, For Internal Use Only approaches those ideas with a decidedly twenty-first century viewpoint. A humorous love story with an edgy and dramatic twist, For Internal Use Only is a vastly entertaining novel that gives each of us a new fairy tale to look forward to: our own.
I have to be honest: this book was almost a Did Not Finish and that is a very rare thing for me. As I mentioned, I really struggled with it (my family can verify that as I was reading it when I was back home for the Easter long weekend and I was fairly vocal with my thoughts as I was reading this one.) First of all, the whole main plot isn't even mentioned in the synopsis. Chloe is introduced via email to a guy by someone she apparently met at a book club she was being dragged to and the majority of the novel is about her developing a relationship with this guy. The only allusion to this in the synopsis is the "edgy and dramatic twist." And the synopsis also refers to her friends helping her figure love out. Not really the case. She hardly tells them anything about her love life and I really wished she had. That wasn't just because I was worried about her safety (I was) but because I felt like I needed more scenes with her friends. They didn't seem like they were as close as they were based on how they interacted.

Second, the flow of the novel was really off. This isn't normally something I notice unless I don't like it because it disrupts how I'm reading the book. There were times that I was genuinely confused about what just happened in the story. For example, Chloe starts talking about how the Disney Princess notion of Prince Charming has screwed up many a female from a few generations. True, we've heard that argument before and I have no problem with it. What I did have a problem with was that she suddenly started talking about her strained relationship with her mother. I reread the section probably three times and still couldn't come up with a connection. This was just one example but there were other occasions where I wasn't sure how things were connected or felt that I was missing some information.

It wasn't just the flow that caused me issues but also some of the word choices. At times I felt that the way things were described were too...well, honestly I've been struggling with a good adjective for a few weeks. It's not quite pretentious or academic and not quite as simple as being too wordy. Instead of saying "closed my eyes," Kamm wrote something along the lines of 'eyelashes fluttered against my cheek' or something (I didn't mark the page so I'm not sure of the exact phrasing.) I handed the book to my mom to check out and after just reading a page or so she was able to see why I was struggling (but, unfortunately, was not able to help me pinpoint exactly what the issue was.)

Obviously, you can tell that For Internal Use Only was not a winner for me. So why did I write the review? Because not all books and reviews can be filled with sunshine and lollipops, right? And just because I don't like it doesn't mean that others wouldn't. In fact, if you pop over to the book's Goodreads page, you'll see that many others really enjoyed it. I'm always going to write an honest review and that's why I included the review of Cari Kamm's latest. I will say that I really liked how things eventually turned out for Chloe, even if there were some rough patches along the way. I had a hunch about how things would work out and I'm really glad I was right. Oh, and I love the cover!

So, long review short, I didn't love this book. I'm not even sure if I really liked it. But remember, I'm just one opinion out here in the land of book bloggers.

*I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review*

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

CLP Blog Tour: Transplanting Holly Oakwood


Today is my stop on the CLP Blog Tour for Transplanting Holly Oakwood by Di Jones. I'm always interested in British chick lit so I was looking forward to this one. I wasn't disappointed as the novel was cute and kept me entertained.

Here's the synopsis:
Finding her lover in bed with her best friend was the worst thing ever, but leaving London for Los Angeles pushed trouble to a whole new level.
Holly Oakwood’s cosy life is shattered when her boyfriend has an affair with her best friend. Determined to mend her broken heart by throwing herself into her career, but unable to hide her contempt for her new boss, she loses her job as well.
She lands a dream job in a Consulate in LA, but that’s when her troubles really begin. She struggles to settle, loneliness begins to bite, and everyone around her is thin and shallow. She loses her confidence, makes a fool of herself once too often, and her new boss hates her. Can she salvage anything from the train wreck of her new life, or should she return to England?
What ensues is a comically entertaining series of events that catapult Holly into new friendships, the promise of romance and the realization that home is where the heart is.
This was a quick read. The novel is only around 200 pages and I thought it was just enough to get to know Holly and follow her on a seemingly crazy adventure. I don't blame her one bit for picking up her life and moving to a new country. I do wish that she had been able to leave on her terms on at least the job front, though the scene where she gets fired did have me chuckling.

There was the wackiness that you come to expect from a lot of British chick lit, which was entertaining, even though the book doesn't technically take place in Britain. Now that I think about it, Holly is actually from New Zealand. So. Take from that what you will, but I can't recall being overly irritated by Holly - always a plus. :) I did wish that she and her sexy boss explained themselves a little bit more. I found myself saying, "Just talk to him and tell him the truth!" and vice versa. Why don't characters ever just talk to each other?

The lack of communication translated into the main conflict of the novel as well. Holly is a smart woman and I can't understand why she did not see how evil Brittany was and why she didn't try to push her innocence. ("Innocence for what?" you ask? Nothing too major but I don't want to give anything away!)

I liked that there were different POVs but it sort of took awhile to see how people were connected and why it mattered that I was reading things from their perspective. I can see how reading from Brittany's eyes helped connect some dots but I almost wish her POV had been left out.

Overall, Transplanting Holly Oakwood was a cute read. It wasn't one of my favourites but I am looking forward to the other Di Jones novel I have to read for an upcoming tour. If you're a chick lit fan looking for a quick and funny read, I think you'd probably enjoy this one!

Happy reading :)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Reading Bingo: From Notting Hill with Love...Actually


From Notting Hill with Love...Actually had been on my to be read list for ages. I had heard of Ali McNamara's novel who knows when and I was incredibly pleased when I discovered it on my library's shelf! Time to check off another spot on the Random House Reading Bingo!

Here's the synopsis for the novel:
She was a girl, standing in front of a boy...
Movie fanatic Scarlett O'Brien dreams of a life as glamorous and romantic as all the big screen flicks she worships. When a chance house-sitting job in iconic Notting Hill comes along, she knows living in one of her favorite movie settings is an opportunity too good to pass up.
Leaving behind her skeptical friends, family, and fiance, Scarlett heads to London and finds herself thrust into the lead role of her very own romantic comedy. But can real life ever be just like the movies? Larger-than-life new friends, a handsome but irksome new neighbor, and a mystery from her past may prove to Scarlett that living her life like a RomCom is more complicated than she thought!
Scarlett was definitely a little crazy and flighty but she was still fun to read about. I would definitely compare her to Becky Bloomwood from the Shopaholic series. What is it about British heroines? Is there something in the water? :) Scarlett has a bit of a problem with wanting her life to turn out like a romantic comedy. Sure, most girls would love to run into Hugh Grant in a bookstore, but that doesn't mean we're going to go out of our way to create a similar occurrence. Her friends and family try to tell her to get a grip on reality but she just will not listen. I admit, she got a little frustrating at times but I could tell that she wanted to work on herself, even if she was misguided, and she was lovable. So it worked for me.

I liked all the references to classic chick flicks and other films. It made me realize that there are a few movies I need to rewatch (I've only seen Pretty Woman once, years ago, and it's been ages since I've watched Notting Hill.) It was kind of fun to see her compare her life to the movies and I definitely wasn't as frustrated as her friends and family were.

From Notting Hill With Love...Actually is exactly what I love about British chick lit. The main characters are a little bit kooky, the language is great, and the story is so much fun. I can't wait to read the next instalment in the series, From Notting Hill to New York... Actually (also available at my library - woot!). Ali McNamara has created such a fun story and I'm really glad I got the chance to read it. This is a must read for chick lit (and chick flick) lovers!

Happy reading :)


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Reading Bingo: Life After Life


My goodness. What can I say about Kate Atkinson's latest book, Life After Life? Well, it was excellent. It was also a bit confusing. In a good way. I finished this a week ago and I'm still not entirely sure what happened. And that's kind of awesome.

Here's what this book is about:
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past.
Can you kind of see how it is possible to get confused? Living a life over and over again? I did like that each life was in a different section. For example, every time it went back to the beginning of Ursula's life, the day she was born, the chapter was titled "Snow" and during November 1918, the titles were "Armistice." I probably would have been even more confused had the chapter titles not been used.

I've heard a few people say that they found this book a little difficult to get into and I was no different. In fact, I started it on a Sunday, read a chapter or two and then decided it was a good time for a nap. (This didn't really have a lot to do with the book, I've been extremely sleep deprived lately.) I wasn't intrigued enough to keep with it but once I picked it up again a few days later...oh man. I didn't want to put it down. If you're one of the ones who aren't thrilled with the start of the novel, my advice is: STICK WITH IT. You won't be disappointed. I think what makes it a little slow to start is that she keeps going back to the beginning. It's not until a little later in the book that she really builds up a life (or two, or three). At that point, there were times where I wanted darkness to fall (that's the phrase used when Ursula dies) so we could move on to the next life. It took some getting used to but the reincarnations eventually, sort of, make sense. I think.

Can we just talk about the cover for a moment? I am absolutely in love with the Canadian cover (above.) So much so that I refuse to lend my book to anyone - even though I could easily take the jacket off. And, yes, I kind of want to put it in a place of honour somewhere. Which I do not find weird at all... Not only do I enjoy the Canadian cover more than the American and UK versions, but I just think it makes more sense with the story. The fox is present because the house Ursula grew up in is called Fox Corners. And, even though you can't see it, there's a rabbit on the back which fits in with the rabbits Ursula and her sister have when they're younger.

Left: Cover from the US.           Right: Cover from the UK
Isn't the lovely snow covered scene featuring a fox so much prettier that the above covers? There's only one possible explanation that I could come up with for the roses on the American cover, and it's not really integral to the story. I mean, it's not a bad cover but after seeing the pretty white one, it's hard to love it. Now. The UK cover. Blergh. I think this one's a little too obvious - there's the snow (that I've already mentioned the importance of); the brick wall that, I would guess, represents the bombings in London in WWII; the Roman numerals that, I suppose, represents the repetition of time; and the little girl, who is likely Ursula. Anyway. I'm totally biased since the one with the fox is what I'm used to but it's still my favourite. What do you think?

Even without the various reincarnations of Ursula, this would be an interesting story.You wouldn't get the full impact of what certain things, like WWII, were like without a few of her different lives, but the historical aspect of the novel makes it so much better. This story makes you really think, what if history could have been changed?

I want to note that this isn't really a pretty story, either. There are murders, there are deaths (two World Wars happen throughout the novel), there is abuse. There's one death in particular that I hated reading about as it came up again and again.

If you're looking for a new read that's a little bit different, pick up Life After Life. It's so enjoyable and Kate Atkinson has woven an interesting and thought-provoking novel. If you're a fan of The Time Traveler's Wife, check this one out. I think readers of all genres can find something to like about this novel and I highly recommend it.

As you can see from the title of this post, this was another box marked off for the Random House Reading Bingo. I've read and marked off a few more squares, I just haven't gotten around to writing the reviews yet! If you're taking part in the bingo, how are you doing?


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Life as an Intern


A lot of you knew that I had been doing an internship for the past twelve weeks. This came about because of the publishing courses I'm taking online through a university in Toronto. I had been thinking for awhile that I wanted to see what the publishing world was all about and I finally decided that it was now or never, applied for a few internships, got hired at Random House (more freaking out about that to come), quit my job, and prepared for the most ridiculous commute ever. 

I had my last day last Friday and, as I write this on Monday night, it still hasn't really sunk in that I'm done. For the last twelve weeks I was working at Random House of Canada. RANDOM HOUSE, PEOPLE! This is a publishing house that even non-obsessive readers recognize. They're a big deal. And I got to work there for twelve weeks. Amazing. 
The RHC imprint sign in the lobby
I had a lot to think about before deciding to do an internship. It wasn't just a matter of quitting my job and working for a ridiculously small amount of money. No, it was quitting my job to work for a small amount of money while spending more than that small amount of money to travel two hours to the internship. I had to drive 45 minutes to catch the train, spend 50 minutes on the train, and then walk 10 minutes to the office. I'm sure I was known around the office as the Insane Intern. Oh, and to get to work on time I had to make sure I was up at 5:30 am. Thank goodness for the Gilmore Girls reruns airing at 5 am. No surprise, I was absolutely exhausted at the end of my internship. Just completely wiped out. But I'm glad I did it. Even if I don't remember what it's like to be fully rested.

So what did my internship involve? A lot of mailing. The bulk of my days were spent sending books to professional reviewers (newspapers, magazines, radio stations). Sometimes they were ARCs, sometimes they were finished books. They could also be cerlox bound manuscripts that my fellow intern and I had to bind. We actually didn't mind binding the odd manuscript because it was oddly relaxing. Except for the 900+ page manuscript the new intern and I had to bind during my last week. I'm pretty sure I'll start twitching when I see that finished book in store!

I also got to help out at a few launches. I admit, I didn't jump at the chance to do as many because I lived so flipping far away. Luckily, the two publicity assistants we were receiving direction from were more than understanding. My first launch was for The Lion Seeker by Kenneth Bonert. I actually got to go to some Indigo stores the day of the launch with the author and one of the assistants so he could sign stock. Very cool. Both that launch and the launch for The Juggler's Children by Carolyn Abraham were held at Ben McNally Books - an awesome indie bookstore in Toronto. These launches consisted of greeting people, pouring wine, and making sure crackers and cheese were always at hand. The third launch I helped out at was for I Am So the Boss of You by Kathy Buckworth and was held at Loblaw's in the old Maple Leaf Gardens. We wore super unattractive uniforms and were on guest list check. BUT I'll always have a soft spot for this night as it was the night I had my first celebrity sighting - David Sutcliffe (aka Christopher from Gilmore Girls) was in the store that night. Very cool.
Stacks of books I had to send to various reviewers
Time to talk about the bookish awesomeness of this internship. I was surrounded by books. Sometimes quite literally (see the above photo)! I felt totally behind sometimes because I was only just learning about some of the spring 2013 books and people were already talking about fall 2013 books. Speaking of talking about books, this was the place to go if you wanted to chat about a book you had read. I did a quick count the other day and I think I took home between 25 and 30 books during my internship. This is not a large number as there was a previous intern who apparently had six boxes of books to cart home when she was done. Of course, I'm not sure where I'm going to put all those books or when I'm going to read them all, but I have them!
The books I was able to take out of the book room on my last day
I mention the book room in the caption in the above picture. That was probably one of the most glorious places in the whole building (though some people had shelves full of books that I would probably hurt someone to get.) Almost all the new releases were kept in the room, organized by publicist. So, if Publicist A  asked me to mail a book to Reviewer B, I would go to A's shelf in the room and pull a book from there.

So, now that I'm all done my internship the big question is...was it worth it? Yes, I think it was. The long days just about killed me and I don't know how my boyfriend was able to put up with me near the end (thank you thank you thank you). But I got to meet SO many people and I really did learn a lot. I think I've discovered that I'm a bit of a passive learner - I learn by watching and doing what I'm asked and I don't always think to ask questions. Note to self: work on asking questions. I definitely didn't want to leave. The people were great and it'll be weird not seeing them every day. Of course, they're used to it. Interns come and go constantly and in all departments, so it was sometimes hard to feel like I totally mattered, you know? At the end of it though, I'm so glad I took a chance. If nothing else, I can now say that I worked at Random House of Canada for 12 weeks. Not many other people can say that.

Last week, a post went up on Retreat by Random House that my fellow intern, Caitie, and I wrote. We each came up with five things we learned as publicity interns. Some of the things I mentioned here are in that article as well, but I hope you'll check out the other points.

Now, you're probably wondering "what's she going to do next?" right? OK, if you weren't, just play along. I was searching for jobs and starting to get a little stressed but as of Monday I am the new intern for Project Bookmark Canada. It's an awesome bookish nonprofit that is putting Canadian literature on the map, literally. They put plaques (bookmarks) in the exact locations where literary scenes take place. Pretty cool, eh? I'm starting with some research this week and then I'll dive right in next week. I'm really excited and can't wait to share what I've learned there. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: What did I love before I started blogging?


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

This week we're listing our favourite books from before we started blogging. Sometimes I still consider myself a newbie blogger but I still have to think way back past two and a half years to think about my favourites from before I started this blog. I didn't really track my read books consistently (I think I started multiple lists several times but never kept with it. Silly.) so I'm going purely by memory. *Checks Goodreads* It appears I've added a ton of books I read prior to my blogging days. These were all obviously ones that stuck out and I came up with thirteen, in no particular order. I couldn't just pick ten!

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

Jessica Darling series - Megan McCafferty
This was one of the first series that I couldn't wait for the next book to be released. It makes me really happy that so many bloggers have been discovering this series lately!

Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling
Duh.

This was one of my first forays into chick lit and it holds a soft spot in my heart. I still remember not wanting to read the second book because I disliked Darcy so much in SOBO!

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series - Ann Brashares
Another favourite series. I loved these girls.

Nearlyweds - Beth Kendrick
This was the first Kendrick book I read and I absolutely adored it. I can still remember going for a walk in the summer evening after I finished it and thinking about how it had ended.

Georgia Nicolson series - Louise Rennison
My best friend, her sister, and I were obsessed with these books in late elementary school and high school. We would randomly quote the books all the time. In fact, sometimes we still do. COSMIC HORN!

Katie Chandler series - Shanna Swendson
I adore this magical chick lit series!

Confessions of a Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella
Another early chick lit love for me. Becky Bloomwood may drive me crazy these days, but I still have fond memories of discovering this series.

Peaches- Jodi Lynn Anderson  
This is a really great and, in my opinion, underrated, young adult series. It has a similar feel to the Traveling Pants girls but it takes place in Georgia on a peach farm. A great contemporary series.

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger 
My mom read this one before I did and kept hounding me to read it. I finally got around to it when the movie was coming out and finished it at 1am the day before (erm, same day as) going to see the movie. 

Anne of Green Gables series - Lucy Maud Montgomery
A classic from my childhood. I had a bit of an obsession with Anne and read the entire series one summer when I was...erm...12? Maybe? Anyway, my love of Anne goes way back.

Little House series - Laura Ingalls Wilder
Another series that I loved when I was a kid. I'm so glad my mom bought the boxed set for me early on in life (I think I was 3 or 4 when she got it) and hung onto it until I was ready for it.

Percy Jackson series - Rick Riordan
This series is just so cool. It's filled with adventure and Greek mythology. I also love that this series was gobbled up by young boys. I used to love talking to those boys when I was working at the bookstore - so cute! This is a series that will apply to the young and old, similar to Harry Potter.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

CLP Blog Tour: When Girlfriends Make Choices


When Girlfriends Make Choices is the third book in the When Girlfriends… series by Savannah Page. After reading book two, When Girlfriends Step Up, which I loved, (read the review here if you missed it) I was really looking forward to the next book in the series. I'm glad CLP Blog Tours was hosting a tour for both books back to back so I could read them in quick succession!

Here's the synopsis:
A novel about forbidden love, the choices you make, and discovering what’s important in life.
Lara Kearns has it all. She has her MBA, a successful career in advertising in Seattle, and she’s even living with her best friend and single mom, Robin. Reliable, dedicated, and eager, Lara is the resident go-to-girl, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lara's that girl who has everything going for her…everything, that is, except for true love. With the big 3-0 on its way and no man in sight, Lara wonders if she’ll always be married to her career, or her cat, and never find the One.
But then, when she least expects it, a handsome and suave executive at her firm, Paul Mackenzie, makes a pass at her. Hesitant at first about striking up an office romance, Lara eventually finds herself falling for her charming colleague. And the best part? Paul is falling in love with Lara, too!
What happens, though, when the man of your dreams loves you…and his wife?
Battling with what the head and the heart want, Lara finds herself in a precarious situation. Life is spiraling out of control, but with the support of her therapist and friends, Lara must make a choice. Is she really prepared to chase after love…at all costs?
This is a provocative story about struggling between right and wrong. About what you will or won’t do for true love. About what happens when girlfriends make choices.
I was interested to see how Lara's life continued since I quite liked her when I read Robin's story in book two. I wasn't expecting the format to be any different so I was sort of thrown off by the way this one started off. Lara is seeing a therapist and those sessions are the present and then there's another part that's told in the past…I think. It was a little difficult to figure out what was the present and what was the past because it kind of seemed like two parts of the, well, the storytelling I guess, converged. I know I'm not explaining it very well but it's hard to explain a confusing concept! It didn't really help that book two and three overlapped – I was reading about the past and had already read about it from Robin's point of view and now I was reading from Lara's. This isn't a bad thing, it just required some more mental configuring, I think. *Reads over paragraph* Wow, yeah, that's confusing. Let's just move on, shall we?

I was just as drawn to the friendships in this novel as I was when I read the second book. I was especially glad that Emily (the friend who had spent almost the entire previous book in abroad) was back in their lives in Seattle. Just like the girls, I could sense that things weren't complete without Emily in town. I loved seeing what they were all up to and I'm excited to read the next book in the series (but I won't tell you what it's about or who it features because that will give away part of this story...so go read the books!).

I have to say that I didn't love the affair angle but Page made it work. Lara isn't the type of girl to start a relationship with a married man and it was hard to read about her finding out that Paul was married. I hated that he deceived her and found myself cursing him a few times throughout the book. It was even harder to read about Lara's downward spiral into obsession and I just wanted to reach through the pages to try and shake some sense into her! I was glad when she finally confided in her friends because I knew they'd do what they could to help her.

When Girlfriends Make Choices was an enjoyable read but I didn't love it as much as book two. That won't stop me from reading the fourth installment though! I am really looking forward to seeing what Savannah Page comes up with for the next book. I would still definitely recommend this series to chick lit lovers.

Happy reading :)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Guest Post: Colleen Oakes

Thanks for stopping by for my second tour stop for Elly In Bloom by Colleen Oakes. Before I started reading the novel (which I loved, by the way, and you can check out my review here), I knew there were some similarities between main character Elly and author Colleen. When it came time to suggest a post topic, I was curious to find out how Colleen found the balance between writing an autobiographical novel and a novel that happens to have a heroine with a few of the same characteristics she did. I love love love the post Colleen sent to me and I hope you do too!

At my book release party, my Dad approached my best friend Kim and asked her a hilarious question.  “Are you Kim?” he asked.  “Yes, that is my name.”  “No, I mean…are you Kim? Like in the book?”  She laughed. “Well, I’m not Elly!”  
My Dad smiled. “Well, of course not! Isn’t that my daughter?”
Often times, when you are the author of fiction, you can find yourself bordering the line between your own life and the bright, shiny lives of your own characters.  While I’m not sure this problem happens to the writers of say, science fiction (Am I am alien today? Nope, still me.), it can absolutely happen to writers who tread a little more in real life and a little less on the fantastical sphere.  Like say, if you used to be a chubby floral designer in St. Louis, and now you’re a chubby novelist writing a novel about a chubby floral designer in St. Louis.
Elly, my main character, is absolutely an embodiment of my own heart, my own insecurities, and a colorful collage of several extraordinary women in my life.  Her struggles with weight, food and men is very personal to me. She’s not a carbon copy in any sense of the word, but those fears that she overcomes are all something that I, or those I know, have conquered in their own life. As I wrote the book, there were times when I had to remind myself “That is what you would do, but it’s not necessarily what Elly would do.”  While Elly carries my heart within her pages and has a slew of issues that we share, there are also some key differences that kept me from falling head first into her life.  I luckily, have never found my husband tangled up in bed with a redhead.  I’m blessed to be married to an amazing man who is faithful and caring.  I do not have a weakness for artists, though I do have a weakness for beautiful things, be it a beach or a cute dress.  Elly has experienced the death of her mother, where I was lucky enough to treat mine to a movie this afternoon.  However, both Ellyn and I have a deep love for flowers and floral design. We both prefer hot chocolate over coffee, and we both tend to fall clumsily into the worst possible situation.  We can both be awkward, quick tempered and easily intimidated. And we’re both not entirely confident in dressing ourselves.
Finally, writing someone like yourself can be liberating, as if your typewriter suddenly took on the form of a therapist.  Writing someone like yourself can also be terrible, a revealing of your worst traits.  Walking the line between fiction and real life is at best a tightrope.  Veer too close to your character and you’re writing a very revealing autobiography. Veer too far and you are out of touch with the emotional heart of your story. 
They key is to keep a firm grasp on reality, while letting your rich characters play free in your imagination.  If you love them, you cannot make them into yourself. It’s a disservice to them, and to your story. 
And if you can’t do it alone, find someone to remind you. And then name a character after them.

About the Author
Colleen Oakes is a passionate Colorado native who really enjoys living in other places. She attended college in Bronxville, NY where she received her degree in Creative Writing. After college, she opened up a successful wedding florist before the writing urge came knocking. Now she is a night owl who does most of her writing in pajamas. When not drowsily hitting the keys, Colleen enjoys swimming, reading, and immersing herself in nerdy pop culture. Elly in Bloom debuted in September, 2012 via Amazon Publishing. She now lives with her husband in North Denver, where they are awaiting their first child through adoption. Colleen blogs about life (good, bad, and awkward) pretty frequently over at The Ranunculus Adventures. (http://ranunculusadventure.blogspot.com/) She is currently at work on the sequel to Elly in Bloom.

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