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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

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.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Quite the Collection


Before Simon & Schuster, I had never had a signed book.  I never really cared all that much.  The story lived in the pages, so why did I need someone to scribble in black marker to make it more special?  Now, I see things slightly differently.

Simon & Schuster has given me the opportunity to meet a surprising amount of authors in the past few weeks.  As I watched them talk about their work, I realized just how special that scribble actually is -- this is their pride and joy.  The story you lost yourself in, held close to you when you finished, was all a creation in this person's mind.  Their words, their hands, reached down and touched the most tender parts of your soul.  Their signature is from the same hands that crafted a world you fell in love with and THIS is what is so special.  I was shocked by the humility of some of these writers.  When I told Alice Hoffman that I had just started reading The Dovekeepers and thought she was a beautiful writer, I could almost see her cheeks turn a slight pink.  Her thank-yous were from that somewhere deep inside her; perhaps the same place her stories come from.  This woman was pure magic.

Here are a few of the wonderful writers I have had the privilege to meet in the past few weeks!



 
 
 

(Lucie is my mom and Jason is my boyfriend -- just to clarify!)