Friday, December 30, 2011

Favourite Book of the Year

Since I haven't actually read all that many books this year, I feel like it would be a bit pointless to do book awards (though I love them and have been reading everyone else's)!  But I did want to write a little special something for my favourite book of the year.  Since everyone seemed to enjoy the personal stories attached to Anna Dressed in Blood, I thought I'd include one more!

My absolute favourite book of the year (and now one of my ALL TIME favourites) is...

The Art of Racing in The Rain
by Garth Stein


I know what you're thinking, because if you haven't read this, you will have one of two responses:
1) Aww, it's about a dog.  How cute.
2) Really... from the perspective of a dog.. mm, no thanks.

I am yet to convince one person to read this.  That doesn't mean I have stopped trying.  This book is more than anything you can grasp from the synopsis.  The only character I have ever loved as much as Enzo (yes, he's the dog) is Anne of Green Gables.  Enzo will forever be racing the track in my heart.  

The story begins with Enzo as an aged dog, slowly losing his canine agility and spunk.  He has had a full life and he knows it -- full of drama, excitement and more love than you can imagine.  As he confesses his wish to be put down by his beloved owner Denny, Enzo decides to take us back over his years with Denny and his family.  We go back to square one when Enzo is a puppy that Denny brings home.  Enzo is there through the heated excitement of a new love when Denny meets his wife.  He becomes the guardian of Denny's daughter and eventually, Denny's sole supporter in a severe court battle.  

Enzo claims to be a philosopher -- an educated dog.  When Denny leaves for work, he leaves the TV on.  Enzo learns that in Mongolia, when a dog dies, his tail and paws are cut off and he is buried in the hills, where his spirit can run.  If he has lived a full life, he may come back as a man.  And Enzo is ready.

I had seen this book plenty of times at the bookstore and even gawked at how adorable the cover was -- but it was by a dog (yes, I said it too).  When the director of my Humber program read it and became the gushing enthusiast I am now, I decided to give it a shot.  I read EVERY spare second I had.  I laughed out loud on the bus to school (I'd quote it, but out of context, it would just sound odd).  Then .. (and here's the good part), I sobbed in class.

5 minutes before the conclusion of lunch, I had 15 pages of the book left.  Everything was coming to a close and I HAD to finish.  When my teacher began talking, I slipped the book under my desk and kept reading.  My friend Liz kept nudging my arm but I couldn't stop.  Then, I started crying.  So yes, I was sitting there, eyes in my lap (not a big class either.. I was clearly noticeable), crying.  At the last sentence, I started sobbing.  I actually had to get up and leave the room, still clutching the book, because I couldn't stop crying.
All that said -- here is my plea.  Please read this book.  It will be one of the most heartwarming reads you will ever have.  Whether you have a dog, love animals or neither -- it makes no difference.  It is phenomenal.  Please get yourself a copy.  Enzo awaits.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: Anna Dressed In Blood

Wow.  Just ... wow!

This review is going to be slightly different than usual -- including a time-line for how my reading progressed because what happens is a testimony to how much I loved this book.  As soon as I read a few reviews, I knew I needed to read Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood.  Creepy, teen horror with an odd love twist?  Yes, please!  I read the first half of the book in about a day and a half.  Then last night, around midnight when I usually call it a night, I hit the action -- and it never stopped!  I ran out to the couch so to not disturb a sleeping Jay, but when a specific part about a section of Cas' house (trying not to reveal spoilers here) came up, I got actual shivers.  My radiator made a weird noise and I scurried back to bed like a scared child.  I turned my bedside lamp back on and continued.  About a half hour later, an exhausted Jay begged me to turn the lights off.  So I grabbed my flashlight. 

I finished Anna Dressed in Blood around 2:30 am by light of my trusty flashlight (I seriously need a book clip light) and couldn't wait to wake up and write about it!  My adrenaline has not pumped like that in ages!

The novel follows Cas, the son of a once legendary ghost killer who was brutally murdered a few years before.  Cas knows his father's killer was not your typical ghost and plans to avenge him once he feels strong enough to compete with this other-wordly being.  When Cas hears Anna's story, he knows that she will be his final test.  Right away, Cas has a feeling -- something is different about Anna.  She is stronger than most and much more brutal.  But why? Cas does not plan on developing feelings for Anna, a girl who lived a tortured life even before her horrendous death.  But there is something special about this haunted girl.  Even though she may be a brutal killer, she understands herself -- and Cas.  Just like Cas, Anna is not at all what she seems.

With witty and emotional prose, Blake pulled me into the story from the first page.  I have never read a more gruesome teen novel, but everything was written perfectly.  Anna's story will be enough to make you cringe and pull your blankets tighter around your body, but her character will break your heart.  Normally, I don't have overly emotional reactions to teen reads, but Anna made my chest ache.  Knowing that the life she lead was not uncommon and that so many suffer just as she did made everything so much more difficult to read.

Blake combined so many things into this book: thrills, emotional moments, witty dialogue and fantastic story-telling.  I couldn't recommend it higher.  You must meet Anna.  You must read this book.

Oh and PS -- the book takes place in Thunder Bay!  Yay Ontario =)!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wrapping up the year

This is one of those good news/bad news posts.  Let's start with the bad and get it over with.  I, Chelsey, am ashamed to confess that I was totally off my game this year with reading.  After finishing my degree, graduating, going to Humber, graduating, doing my internship and then frantically getting ready for the holidays, I really didn't have as much time as I hoped to read.  A lot of the books I read were required for school or work and my own choices hung out on the back burner.  I have read a sad total of 28 books this year -- and for someone as obsessed as myself, that is a pitiful excuse for a number.  By the end of this month, I will have at least two more finished (blowing through them as we speak) but still, 30 books?  Really?

So, the good news!  I have a few goals for January!  Here we go!
  1. Read 60+ books in 2012!  I am a bit of a slow reader, so for those who are quick, this might look like a minuscule number -- but for me, it's quite ambitious.  I would normally go with 50, but I have a bunch of children's books that I would love to read (Peter Pan, The Secret Garden, The Search for WondLa, etc..) so those will probably take up the extra 10!
  2. Of those 60, read at least 3 classic novels.  Right now Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, The Scarlet Letter, Rebecca and Gone With The Wind are all on my shelf and I really need to get going on those ones!
  3. Make at least half of the books I read ones I pick off my own shelf!  I have WAY too many books and for every book I read, I probably get at least 5 more.  I don't go to Chapters and go nuts, believe me, I can't afford that, BUT I do take the liberty to attend all booksales I know of and am a bit of a fan of bookfinder.com.  SO -- I will tackle my own shelves this year!
  4. Don't be a genre brat.  This year, I discovered YA again.  When I was a younger teen, YA was really not that great.  By the time I was 14, I was already in the adult section and never really went back.  Then this year, I read Vampire Academy in January and the rest of my year was spent catching up on all the amazing books I missed out on as a teen.  Now, this year, although I will most definitely still be reading YA, I want to get back into other genres that I love: biographies, horror and fiction.  Maybe even branch out and read some non fiction and sci-fi/fantasy?  Romance even?
And that is all for me!  I can't wait to get a better start on this year.  I refuse to finish 2012 with the measly number I had this year.  Do you have any goals for 2012?!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Love Sales!

Last night, as I sat clutching my proudly purchased Anna Dressed in Blood, I was in my glory.  The 30% off hardcovers at Chapters (plus my irewards 10%), followed with a little Christmas money had allowed me to finally get that book I've been yearning for!  Then, as I sat texting my friend Natalie (from Browsing Bookshelves), she reminded me that the warehouse near our homes was having its annual 50% off sale.  Last year, I had picked myself up Vampire Academy in hardcover for $5!  So this morning, I got up, got dressed and bolted to the warehouse with a small list of books I would look for. 

My friends, this was like no other book buying spree I have ever had.  I NEVER buy more than 2 or 3 books at once -- too expensive for me.  But this!  Super discounted, remaindered books PLUS 50% off?!  I walked out with some amazing titles for a grand total of $26.50!  Now, I officially own enough books to fill my entire apartment.  I'm so excited to dive in -- let the reading begin!

After seeing Alice Hoffman speak about her books, I read a bunch of synopsis and decided that I HAD to read The Ice QueenThe Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova is a gothic historical romance that I have been eyeing for some time.  Wicked is ... well, WickedDivergent comes HIGHLY recommended from all the bloggers I follow.  Kelley Armstrong's The Reckoning completes my Darkest Powers series and Anna and the French Kiss has got stunning reviews!  So excited =).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Camera Filters

I have a very hard time containing myself with gifts -- as soon as I buy it for you, I want you to open it!  This led to an early exchange of Christmas gifts between my boyfriend and I.  We wanted to open our gifts alone in our first apartment together with our very first tree!  I was so excited to see that he bought  me a digital camera!  I am a HUGE picture person and my camera is becoming a bit ancient.  I spent the night and all day yesterday taking pictures of my apartment and of every move Jay made.  This camera is the coolest thing ever!  Maybe I'm just used to my oldie, but this one has so many features I didn't know a camera could have.  Here are a few shots =).

Shot one -- the book cover looks extra creepy with this filter!

This tea pot is one of my favourite parts of my bookshelf.  I don't use it that often but it  makes me happy regardless.

My desk never looked so creepy!  Or artistic!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hardcover Blues

Books are all about the story, but when you fall in love with books as physical objects TOO, it makes things more difficult.  As a teen and in my early twenties, my book buying method consisted of going to Chapters, browsing the backs of books and finding one that suited my mood.  I stayed away from hardcovers because I knew I couldn`t afford them anyways.

Now, because of Goodreads, being in the industry and a part of a tremendous blogging community, my book buying methods have been altered significantly.  Now, I know about a book I want to read before it is even released and suck it up when I have to purchase the hardcover for $20-35.  If I bought one book a month, it wouldn`t matter as much -- but this is not the case.

So now, as Christmas nears and I feel selfish just thinking about buying myself a book, I am feeling the hardcover blues.  Tomorrow, my boyfriend and I leave on a train to Montreal for a few days, will train back, and then drive to my family`s home in Niagara.  All that traveling a moving around will require reading material and although I have tons of books to read already, a spectacular review of Anna Dressed In Blood from the Nocturnal Library has me counting my pennies.  Then I stop when I notice it is in hardcover and Shatter Me is in paperback.  Though Anna Dressed In Blood seems more my thing, the extra $9 and weight of the book actually has me reconsidering.  Shatter Me has been on my to-read list for ages, but when I noticed it was in paperback, I decided -- yes, I would buy it!

Knowing I have to travel and transport gifts as part of my luggage, toting around a few hardcovers seems a pain.  I also miss the malleability of a paperback and the ability to pull the covers wide open and dive right into the text.  I always find myself fumbling with the hardcovers more.  Though this stuff really shouldn`t matter -- it is starting to!  Hardcovers are beautiful on the shelf, but this doesn`t mean much to me at all.  I will proudly display a torn up paperback just as easily as a pristine hardcover.

I know the answer to the problem would be an eReader and though I have tried, it just doesn't do it for me!  I am a paper lover through-and-through.  What about you?  Do you have a preferred reading format?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sorry -- I've been reading!

So last Friday, around 5 pm, my internship with S&S Canada finished and (yes, I'm a cryer), I had to bolt out to avoid being overly emotional about leaving.  In the twelve weeks I have spent with S&S, I had grown to feel like part of the team, made a few friends, gained some serious respect for the people I met, and learned more than you can possibly imagine.  Over the course of the internship, I accumulated some wonderful books from going to events, meeting authors and working on campaigns.  Now, as the search for work begins, I have some great books to keep me company while I look for that perfect publishing position!  Here is a fun picture that was taken during my time with S&S at the IFOA kick off party.  Pardon my frumpy look -- those pants and I don't have the best clothing/wearer relationship.  Regardless, Margaret and I had a wonderful time together.

Yesterday, I promised myself I would spend the day cleaning my apartment, which looks like it has been hit by the Christmas tornado -- and I love it!  After writing over thirty Christmas cards for co-workers, my couch is covered in the glitter from the cards.  But, as I got dressed to start my day, I decided 8:30 am was too early to work and I deserved some time to read.  A few hours later, I was so into my book that I wanted to talk about it and who else to chit chat with than one of my closest friends, Yaseena.  Yaz has been in Ireland for the past 4 months, so Skype has been our saving grace.  After a 5 1/2 hour Skype date (we had a LOT to catch up on!), I finally cleaned the house.  Then got back to my book..

You know when you haven't loved a book in a while and then all of a sudden, you're reminded of why you love to read so much?  Not that I wasn't enjoying my other books, but I was never really able to dive into them because of busy work and personal life schedules.  Now, with some spare time on my hands, I am devouring Alma Katsu's debut novel, The Taker.  Though warned by some that it is quite dark and at times gruesome, I wanted to judge for myself.  I cannot put this book down!  The writing is wonderful, engaging and the story is so twisted and creepy that there is no good place to stop reading!  For all of you who like gothic and eerie reads, this is for you!  Though not for the faint of heart -- there are some graphic scenes.  Click here for the Goodreads synopsis.  Also, check out the trailer here!  There are also videos of Alma talking about the book that are totally worth watching! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ryan Gosling is passionate about publishing

So tomorrow marks the end of my internship with Simon & Schuster Canada and although I am sad to be leaving, the thought of embarking on my career journey with this kind of experience behind me is comforting. 

Ryan Gosling and his publishing banter have been circulating our office today and one of my friends sent me the picture below.  I just had to share!

How did he know?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: The Virgin Cure

For some reason, I am always drawn to stories about brothels in the 1800s.  There is just something so interesting about the way women lived and the double life men engaged in just to be near them.  In Richard B. Wright's Mr. Shakespeare's Bastard, prostitutes were tough women, boyish, rugged and vulgar.  Amy McKay's "near-whores" were much different.

I knew I had to read The Virgin Cure as soon as I read the synopsis.  "The Virgin Cure" was the belief that men with sexual diseases could cleanse themselves by deflowering a virgin.  Scarily enough, this is still believed in some cultures.  Girls as young as twelve years old were taken off the streets and made into the most elegant of ladies to be sold off to the highest bidding gentlemen for sex or raped by vicious and selfish men in dark alleys as they went to and from their theatre shows.  Ami McKay's narrator, Moth, becomes one such girl.

After being sold off to a wicked wench of an aristocratic woman, Moth is tortured daily simply for being an attractive young girl.  When she finally runs away, her fate is sealed by allowing herself to be taken to Miss. Everett's home, where girls are raised to be "near-whores" -- high-end and respectable girls who are lavished by their male suitors.  Miss Everett promises luxury and safety to her girls in exchange for their virginity and continued services to men who pay a pretty penny.

One woman stands in the way of Moth's lost innocence: a beautiful and kind-hearted doctor who has devoted her time to caring for the street kids, prostitutes and "freaks" who work for Mr. Dink's, a museum of fascinating talent.  Dr. Sadie is modeled after McKay's own great-great grandmother who did exactly that. 

I fell in love with Dr. Sadie.  I smiled through every scene she entered and found her to be my favourite part of the entire book.  Her heart of gold glistened on each page and I could just picture the trunk at the end of her bed, holding all of her memories, dresses and dreams.  Dr. Sadie refuses to let Moth give herself to the highest bidder and will do anything she can to stop her from being the next ruined woman.

McKay's writing is beautiful, and I found myself marking pages to come back and re-read.  (I thought of adding in a few here, but you'll just have to go see them for yourself!)  This book was an absolute gem: hard to read at some points, raw, delicate and beautiful all at once.  You have never seen the dark streets of New York quite like this.  Ami McKay is a wondrous writer!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Realm of Magic Not JUST For Kids!

(Please note that this post is also featured on the YA Simon blog for Simon & Schuster Canada.)

You don’t have to be a kid to fall into magic realms.  I was reminded of this the other day when The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe played on CTV on Monday night.  I spent the whole movie wondering why I had never read the Narnia books, or any other “other worldly” kids books.  I somehow skipped The Golden Compass and was too old for The Spiderwick Chronicles.  Or was I?

Last night, I crawled into bed with The Fantastical Serial Edition of the Spiderwick Chronicles; a gorgeous 600-paged book consisting of the first five books in the series and tons of bonus content (including some stunning sketches showing the birth of the characters from Tony DiTerlizzi himself).  I adore Holly Black’s writing and have heard so much about Tony, so I just had to give it a shot.  I felt immediately transported back to the excitement I had as a kid, diving into another place, time and world.  Tony’s drawings are intricate and absolutely beautiful.

When you are a reader, your imagination is like a sixth sense.  It comes naturally to let it wander into unknown areas, but to be guided through them by a storybook mastermind is such a pleasure!  I’m already looking forward to heading back to Spiderwick tonight!  My next big trip is to WondLa and you’re more than welcome to join!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review: Fury

Fury is a perfect example of why I both love and hate Goodreads.  Goodreads is undoubtedly the site I visit most during the day.  I love to see what everyone else is reading, what they think of it, and get recommendations for myself along the way.  Since interning with S&S, I have also taken up checking on our books to see what the general consensus seems to be.  BUT Goodreads does give away a few things before the actual read.

Like for example, a review told me that the second half of the book is action packed, while the first half leaves you wondering where the story is going to go.  Since I was still IN the first half when I read this, it both gave me a kick to get to the action but also kind of ruined it for me.  Grr.

I had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth Miles when she came to Toronto for a GTA event with Becca Fitzpatrick (author of Silence).  During our lunch, I sat one person away from her and asked her questions and made comments whenever I could.  She was absolutely lovely!  And clearly excited about her debut!  This got ME excited.  I devoured the first half of Fury during two evenings in bed.  Then, life happened and I had to put it down for a while so I could finish up a few important things.  Earlier this week, I got back to it – finally!  And whoever wrote that review was absolutely right.  The second part of Fury was a roller-coaster that I just wanted to keep going!

Em and Chase have both made mistakes.  Big mistakes.  Em’s secret relationship with her best friends boyfriend is both the most pleasurable and painful experience she has ever had.  She doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but is drawn to Zach by forces she just can’t explain.  Chase lives with regret, but for what, Miles makes you wait until the second half of the book to find out.  When three beautiful girls start showing up in the most questionable places, Chase and Em know they are being followed.

Honestly, the beginning of the book was very realistic.  I loved Chase, and enjoyed reading about Em, mostly because they were faulted characters and therefore more relatable.  Then the plot took a serious turn into the terrifying – and I LOVED it.  I could not put Fury down.  One particular event gave me an extreme shock and I almost couldn’t believe it had actually happened.  It NEVER seems to happen in YA!  Descriptions of the furies twisted smiles and breathy voices sent shivers down my spine.  This book was extremely imaginative and although little parts picked at me a bit, the novel as a whole was extremely enjoyable.  I cannot wait for the next book to come out!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Cozy Oasis

When my boyfriend and I moved into our apartment, life was already crazy.  We had lived in Toronto for almost two weeks with his brother while we looked for our own place, he was already working 9-5 and I was already in the Humber program 9-5.  When we found our adorable little apartment, we had no time to make any decorative decisions -- in went the couch, the bookshelf, the bed, the table and on life went.

Now, six months later, we finally had the time to stop and take a look at our apartment.  What had the potential to be a cozy oasis was stock full of unneeded things and space that was not being maximized at all.  While I pride myself on being a pretty creative person, I have never fooled myself into thinking I now how to properly decorate.  One night, on the phone with my mom, I mentioned how I felt and she immediately jumped at the idea of helping me re-do our apartment.  My mom not only adores re-decorating, she is oh so good at it!

So, earlier today, my mom, dad and our family dog, Shiloh (or as I call him, Shiloh Bumbino) arrived with bags of little trinkets, throw pillows and dinner!  After two drips to IKEA for little do-hickeys and one more bookshelf, some elbow grease from my dad and Jay and a touch of comfort from my mom, we have that cozy oasis that we have so badly wanted! 

I am writing this very blog post in our living room, which has been completely transformed.  I love it!  Here are a few pictures!  My favourite parts are the new centerpiece on our table, the lovely throw pillows and the re-organized bookshelves.  It's so nice walking in the door and seeing it, knowing it was put together during such a nice day with me, Jay and my family!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Review: Wishful Drinking

(Note: This review originally appeared on Simon Reads!)

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away .. a book by Princess Leia floated into the atmosphere..

Okay, well it wasn’t that long ago and not that far away, but on Wednesday, my current book was feeling a bit too heavy and I needed a one night break.  Walking past a shelf by the office kitchen, I stopped to browse the back of Carrie Fisher’s autobiography Wishful Drinking – a mere 162-paged hilarious book full of pictures and (as per the flap copy suggested) “the crazy truth that is her life”.  Not only am I not a huge Star Wars person, but I hardly knew anything about Carrie Fisher and who she was.  Now, however, I am quite the expert.

This book was insane, sad and hilarious, all tied up in two little buns!  I was caught laughing out loud  multiple times on the subway and definitely got a few of those looks (yeah, you know exactly what I’m talking about).  Regardless, I’m pretty sure I can make you want to read this in a few small points:

1. Carrie is the product of Hollywood’s Sweethearts gone wrong.  Actress Debbie Reynolds (from Singing in the Rain) and crooner Eddie Fisher were married just long enough to have two kids before a tragic accident lead to Eddie leaving Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor (who also happened to be a close friend)!  Trust me, this story is a twisted one.

2. Carrie addresses what it was like (and the awkward situations arising from) being the most fantasized-about woman for nerds worldwide.

“Oh my God!  I thought about you every day from when I was twelve to when I was twenty-two.”
And instead of asking what happened at twenty-two, I said, “Every day?”
He shrugged and said, “Well, four times a day.”
Welcome to the land of too much information.

3. Her father accidentally eats his own (wildly expensive) hearing aids!  Now this story was the one that had me howling on the subway.  A detailed account of how this came to be is the perfect way to bring you back to life after the crowded, mind-numbing half hour subway ride to and from work.

4. Her mother bought her and her grandmother a very specific erotic toy for Christmas!  The rational of why it is the perfect stocking stuffer is definitely worth a read.  Christmas IS coming!  Just joking..

5. Even through all her crazy stories, Carrie is a warm person.  Her pride in her daughter, one of the only things she thinks she did truly well, is extremely touching.  She is honest about all the insane events that occurred in her life and open about the fact that, although she knows it is different from the lives of most people, it was all she ever knew.

If you loved this, you will love the book, and thankfully her second memoir, Shockaholic (detailing her experiences with electro-shock therapy) is in stores now!  I will most definitely be grabbing one of those for myself!

Carrie’s book is also a one woman show that aired on HBO!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chalet in the Forest

Some people are cottage folk, like myself.  I don't necessarily dwell in a small cottage in the woods, but every summer for the majority of my life, my family has been going up to Muskoka for a week.  My uncle owns a beautiful cottage out there with a log cabin feel.  Since I can remember, this has been one of my favourite places to read.  My mom, best friend and I would being stacks of books and plow through one a day sitting on the dock or stretched out on the couch by the fireplace.  I absolutely adore it.

So this weekend, for one of my boyfriend's longtime friend's birthdays, twelve of us headed up to his parents cottage home in Saint Sauveur (about an hour outside of Montreal).  The first thing you think of when you see this place is: cottage?!  Two stories and perhaps bigger than my parents home two times over, this "cottage" is perhaps the most massive structure I have ever spent the night in.  Now I realize that it has been wrongly named and is indeed a "chalet".  Although I have been there twice before, I am always shocked by the beauty of its architecture.  The living room on the main floor displays exposed beams which you can see standing from the balcony of the second floor.  Next to that, the entire wall is windows, right up to the angled peak of the house.  One of the guys girlfriends and I, who have become friends over the past few years, ran up to the second floor to take pictures.  My previous visits were normally in the day time and seeing all the lights on inside with laughter and muffled voices sweeping through the rooms, it felt so much more alive.

And I couldn't help thinking .. what a great place to curl up and read!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review: CREEP

As promised, I finished CREEP last night, twisted up in my covers and devouring it as quickly as I could.  Though thrillers are really not my forte, I fell into CREEP and just could not get out.  If you read the previous post, you will know that Jennifer Hillier herself was my main reason for reading the book.  Working at S&S has allowed me to meet some wonderful authors, but she was by far one of the sweetest people ever.  Now, onward with the review!

CREEP centers around a woman named Sheila Tao, a professor at a prestigious university and a not-so-recovering sex addict.  After being proposed to by a man she knows could keep her happy for the rest of her life, Sheila calls off a steamy three month affair with one of her TAs, Ethan Wolfe.  Ethan, though edgy, handsome and smart, is one twisted man.  Unable to accept that Sheila was the one to end their relationship, he is determined to make her realize just what a terrible mistake she has made.  CREEP follows Sheila, as well as her fiance, Morris (a burly recovering alcoholic with the heart of a teddy bear) who struggles with the unanswered questions that keep surfacing around Sheila.  Private Investigator, Jerry Isaac, is another character thrown into the mix and definitely one I grew attached to.  In fact, while I loved reading about Sheila and Ethan's dangerous encounters, I developed a soft spot for Morris and Jerry and the friendship (and hilarious banter) that blossoms between them.

CREEP came with me everywhere: on the subway (bumping the edges of the hardcover into fellow passengers but not being able to put it away), on my desk at work (thankfully, I work for her publisher and don't get asked many questions when I have one of our books attached to my person all day) and definitely into the bath a few times.  I literally could not stop reading.  Debut novelists have it rough -- with everyone always questioning the outcome of the book, it is easy to see why they feel severe nerves upon its release.  But fear not, Jennifer Hillier!  CREEP was engaging, fast-paced, thrilling and extremely sexy at times.  The combination of steam, fear and adventure made the book a sure success for me!  The characters came alive off the pages and I watched, covers up to my chin as they made mistakes, acted courageously and fought for those they loved. 

When FREAK, the follow-up to CREEP releases next year, you bet I will have a copy in my hands as soon as possible! 

Jennifer has a phenomenal blog you should visit at jenniferhillier.ca.  She is extremely connected to her readers and I'm sure she would love to hear from you!  (She is even following this blog!  Eeee =) Thanks Jennifer!)  Also, see her loveliness for yourself and watch the interview posted below!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meeting Jennifer Hillier

So my latest great read has come from an unexpected source.  For anyone who has already got a sense of my taste, you’ll know mystery/thrillers are a rare occurrence.  However, last Monday, I went to see debut novelist, Jennifer Hillier, do an event at Indigo.  While the trip began solely as support for one of our new authors, it soon became an introduction to a new novelist I was to love.

At work a few weeks before, a colleague offered the book to me and it sat on my desk for a while, not because it didn’t sound good, but because the subject matter just wasn’t my thing.  After Jennifer’s presentation, I couldn’t wait to get it back in my hands!  Talk about the sweetest person!  Jennifer was clearly nervous presenting in front of friends, family, fans and her publisher’s employees, however her passion showed through in every word she spoke and her appreciation for all those in attendance touched my heart. Pictures were snapped as she talked and I’m sure I’m in the background of a few with a smile plastered on my face.  After talking about how CREEP came to be, Jennifer read a selection from FREAK, the follow-up novel out next year.  I was hooked.  I borrowed a copy from a colleague at the event just so I could go home and get started.  After the presentation, I stood in the long line to meet her and left with my book in hand, dedicated to me with a big happy face beside “Thank you for your support!”  What a sweetheart! 

As soon as I got home, I plunked myself in bed to get started and if work wasn’t necessary the next day, I would have still been there.  Jennifer, next to being one of the most lovely authors I have met, is one heck of a story teller.  Stay tuned for the review, which will be posted tomorrow!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Gillers!

Today is a busy day for me, so this will be short and sweet, but I just wanted to post a quick little something.  The Gillers were last Tuesday and what a fantastic night it was!  I was lucky enough to go to the Giller Light Bash with my work friends and watch the Gillers broadcast on a large screen.  A heartfelt congratulations to Esi Edugyan for her stunning win for Half Blood Blues!  I know what I will be hoping for for Christmas this year. Happy Gillers everyone!

The Little Things

It's the little things.
Really, it is.

It's about one o'clock in the afternoon and I am on my lunch break at work; sitting at my desk with a big smile on my face.  

Last week, I went out with one of our sales reps from work.  She took me to a bunch of stores she has helped sell into and we got to look at where money for positioning goes and how important the display of books are to the publisher and the bookstore owners.  Every store we went to, I couldn't help but gawk at the beauty of Ami McKay's new novel, The Virgin Cure.  Set against the backdrop of Manhattan in 1871, the story of Moth, a young girl who faces the wild life of underground entertainment, is completely up my alley. (For some reason, brothels in the 19th century are fascinating to me.)

Then, this morning, as I typed away on my computer, setting up for a meeting I have next week, someone approached my desk.  I looked up, only to be presented with a smiling face holding a copy of The Virgin Cure.  This has made my day.  Thanks to two lovely ladies from work, I get to go home and curl up with Ami McKay tonight -- and I couldn't be more thankful and excited! 

Falling into Beauty

It's been six months since I moved to Toronto.  Six months in Jay and my little cozy triplex where we have free reign of the second floor.  Six months that I have lived near a park and never actually gone for a walk in it and I can't believe it!

Fall is by far the most beautiful time to go for a walk in the park, and just recently, Jay and I finally got off our butts to stroll around the famous High Park.  I was in awe at the absolute beauty that radiates from this park!  We got lost, but happily wandered around in it for three hours!  There is a huge pond, a zoo, hiking trails where dogs can wander around without a leash, and monuments.

There was one of those refreshing chills in the wind that make each breath feel more fresh and clean.  The leaves were falling, the colours were vibrant and the people were all calm and happy.  What a gorgeous walk!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Whipped is a word we hear used all the time in our daily lives -- mainly concerning the status of a man or woman in a relationship.  Used to describe someone who can no longer function outside of another entity and who becomes completely vulnerable to it, whipped is never positively implied. 

Confession: I, ladies and gentlemen, am whipped by Cecelia Ahern.  Let me explain.

One summer night while I was in high school, my longtime childhood friend and I headed to Chapters, as was our once a week ritual.  She picked up a Cecelia Ahern book and I grabbed some other chicklit novel.  I had heard of Cecelia Ahern and loved the P.S. I Love You movie, but had no real interest in reading her.  In a matter of days, my friend called back gushing about how magical and adorable the book was.  Though we don't share the same taste, I was in a bit of a reading rut and couldn't find anything I liked, so I took her advice and got myself a copy.

I devoured If You Could See Me Now in a matter of days and right before going up north with my family for a week, bought myself the rest of her books.  During that week, I fell in love with Cecelia and since then, we have had a very passionate but difficult relationship.  With the exception of P.S. I Love You (her first novel), I have read every novel Cecelia has written.  As soon as her newest book comes out, I am in the bookstore.  I check her website every few months for updates on her books.  But here's the problem: I don't always enjoy them the way I used to.  There is no way to tell if I have grown out of the new age fairytale stories she writes, or if her style has just evolved into something I no longer melt over, but my reaction to her books has been altered over the past few years.  But, I still buy them.  I am still seduced by her adorable persona, the magical covers, the promise of enchantment within the pages. It has been concluded: Cecelia Ahern has me whipped.

She's just so adorable!
 So, of course, at Book City on Friday when I saw her newest novel smiling at me from the shelves, my heart skipped a beat.  Will I love it? I can't say for sure.  Will I buy it?  You bet. 

Oh Cecelia, why must you do this to me?  (Ps -- I love you.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Review: The Name of the Star

One of my absolute favourite ways to buy a book is on complete and total impulse -- walk into a bookstore, read the back, fall in love and leave clutching it, knowing your plans for the night just changed.  This was how The Name of the Star came to rest on my nightstand.  Overall, it was an extremely imaginative book, however slightly different from what I was expecting. 

The protagonist, Rory, is an American girl who chose to be enrolled in an old English Academy in London while her parents work in Bristol.  I was so pleased with the descriptions of London, contrasted to the Victorian image that so many of us have read about before.  Being on a Victorian, Gothic rampage lately made all the descriptions pop out even more than usual.  Maureen Johnson knows how to illustrate her surroundings!

The descriptions of the Academy were captivating -- I wanted to be there!  I loved Rory's life there; her adorable roommate Jazza and her competition with head girl Charlotte, curly-haired prefect and Rory's new crush, Jerome, and Call-me-Claudia, a hockey-obsessed, boisterous woman who always introduces herself in the same way.

However, about halfway through the book, an entirely new cast enters and almost seems to steal the story.  A group of unique police officers are the answer to why Rory can see an unusual man creeping around the school grounds the night of one of the Ripper murders.  Though I found Johnson's creative plotline exciting, the book did veer away from the Academy life it had built up so well, and took a drastic turn into unravelling old secrets from a disturbed man's past.

The backdrop of Jack the Ripper was both thrilling and a bit daunting.  I wanted a bit more historical information.  I found myself Googling things to see if there were clues I wasn't picking up.  The gruesome murders that frame the narrative helped to throw an entirely new level of suspense into the mix, but the crescendo of it all was not as eerie as I had previously hoped.  The Ripper-esque events are a means to an end, but not what the true story is about.  That was probably what disappointed me the most.

Although I did enjoy the book (tearing through the first half in a matter of hours), it was not exactly what I had expected. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

'Tis the Season for Winter Reads

'Tis the season!  Tonight is daylight savings and we are plunged into early evenings, chilly weather and trading in bathing suits for fleece, hoodies and the good ol' Roots sweatpants.  As Christmas music drifts out of stores, frost appears on your windshields and plans for getting home for Christmas start appearing on your schedule, you can almost feel the warmth of the season heating up the chill outdoors.  For booklovers like ourselves, reading is always a pleasure, but reading while snow cascades past your window, curled up with coffee and a blanket is a comfort that only the winter can provide.

This year, I am trying to curve my book buying addiction and returning to my shelf to pick out a few winter reads.  I have accumulated a ton of wonderful books in the past few months that I have either postponed for this exact season or just not had the time to indulge in yet.  So, here are a few ideas (and also my picks) for cozy-up-and-read winter books!  Feel free to add some of your own!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Simon Recommends

We have a new feature on the Simon Reads blog -- running until Christmas -- where one of our staff members recommends a book for us.  This week, it was my turn!  Check it out!  Also, don't forget to read my review underneath.