Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Ali in Wonderland: And Other Tall Tales" by Ali Wentworth

You probably know Ali Wentworth from her hilarious days on In Living Color, or her hilarious role as Schmoopie on Seinfeld, or her hilarious appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show. And when you take a look at her life, you'll see it's no wonder she is such a funny woman.

In Ali In Wonderland: And Other Tall Tales, Ali Wentworth shares tales of growing up in a family of political journalists, rebelling against her blue-blood upbringing and moving to Hollywood. She goes from a childhood among Washington's elite to New England prep school to doing sketch comedy in Los Angeles and then back to Washington when she marries political and media sensation George Stephanopoulos and has two little girls.

Ali is honest and funny in this memoir as she shares about her WASP upbringing, the wisdom her non-nonsense and elegant mother imparted in her, and the time she swam around the swimming pool while holding onto the shoulders of Henry Kissinger. She is an amazing story-teller and while you wonder if all of them are true (and the title does warn you of this), you don't care too much because they will have you laughing the whole way through. Her description of childbirth had me laughing so hard, my husband was wondering what was wrong with me (then I shared the story with him and he burst out laughing).

If you are a fan of Ali's, reading this book is like having her sit down for coffee with you. It's like she is telling you the stories rather than you reading them. I thought this was a fantastic book because I am such a fan of Ali's. She is an intelligent and funny woman, which is a great combination. I loved the stories of her childhood. How many of us can say we grew up entertaining world leaders at our parents parties?

If you're looking for a typical autobiography, you're not going to get it with this, as this is more about various, hilarious tales from Ali's life. If you're looking for laughs, you've found the right book. I certainly hope she's saved some tales for another book.

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Spa Wars" by Chris Manby

Emily Brown is a beauty therapist who has just made the plunge into owning her own business. With a leap of faith and all of her money she has opened up her own salon called The Beauty Spot. But the business is struggling and Emily needs to find a way to gain new clients quick. Carina Lees has just placed second on a wildly popular reality show is looking for a way to turn her fifteen minutes of fame into a permanent spot in the limelight.

One night, on her way to an awards show, Carina suffers a beauty nightmare and pops into The Beauty Spot for emergency treatment. Emily helps her out and Carina is so grateful, that she mentions Emily and her salon at the awards show that night. Overnight, The Beauty Spot is buzzing with new clients, packed appointments and desperate for new staff. But just as things start going better than Emily could have imagined, the salon quickly takes a bad turn. Emily can't figure out why but strange things are happening in the salon and her business is spiralling out of control. Who is trying to sabotage Emily's salon?

Spa Wars by Chris Manby (who also publishes as Chrissie Manby) is a quick, fun book that will interest any woman who enjoys (or dreams of) a day at the spa. It falls into the chick-lit genre but doesn't feel formulaic as you read it and brings something new to the genre, rather than using what it is already there.

I really liked the narration of the book. The entire time I was reading it, I felt like I was listening to the voice over of a show or documentary. It was an added effect that really worked for me. I also love the way the book poked fun at the reality entertainment celebrity world without being overly mean. There were quite a few moments in the book that had me laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all.

The characters are all well-written. You can't help but cheer for Emily and want the best for her. She is exactly the type of person I would want working at the salon when I show up. I even found Carina a bit endearing (just a bit.) As much as she was that annoying reality celeb, you could tell that there was more to her story, something behind her that was driving her to be that way.

While I did feel that the end of the book wrapped up a little too quick and neat, I really enjoyed reading this book. This is the second book I have read by Ms. Manby and I can now say that I am a big fan of her work, and I will definitely be seeking out more of her books in the future.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Joy of Books

Check out this fantastic video, filmed at a bookstore here in Toronto.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop Winner!

The winner is.......

Lucky #13......Erika!!!!!!

Erika has won a copy of The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields.

Thank you to everyone who entered and I look forward to seeing you all again at the next hop!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"I've Got Your Number" by Sophie Kinsella

Poppy Wyatt has lost the one thing in the world she shouldn't have - the engagement ring that has been in her fiancé Magnum's family for three generations. On the same day his parents are coming to visit. To make things worse, she's also lost her phone and now the hotel where she lost the ring won't be able to contact her when they find the ring.

But then she notices an abandoned phone in a garbage bin. It's perfect, now the hotel has a number they can reach her at. And since the phone was in the garbage, well you know, that whole "finders, keepers" thing. Only the phones owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn't agree. He wants his phone back immediately. When he strikes a deal with Poppy to let her keep the phone for just a bit longer, he doesn't expect to have Poppy inserting herself in both his business and personal life.

As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, Sam's emails and texts, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his family, her life takes an unpredictable turn and she soon learns that things aren't what she thought they were…and that her happiness may lie where she least expects it.

I've Got Your Number is Sophie Kinsella's fantastic new book and it does not disappoint. In typical Kinsella style the characters, plot, and situations are over the top hilarious, full of misunderstandings and instantly loveable. While I feel that Ms. Kinsella's last few offerings weren't as fantastic as her previous books, I've Got Your Number is one of her best.

This book has everything you want in chick lit - a loveable heroine, crazy antics, laughs, and a wonderful leading man. It's a quick read that you will find yourself absorbed in right from the start. I have to admit, the main character of Poppy did have me wondering at times. How could someone so smart also be so silly? Thankfully the character of Sam came along and pointed out the things that were annoying me.

Sophie Kinsella writes chick lit at its best. It is smart, funny and enjoyable. It is fluffy without insulting the reader's intelligence. And though it does follow a typical pattern, it isn't boring or expected. Kinsella smartly weaves story lines together and keeps the laughs and surprises coming to create a fantastic book. A must-read for chick lit fans. And if you're not a fan of the genre but interested in giving it a try, I highly recommend starting with a Sophie Kinsella book like this one.

I would like to thank Random House of Canada for providing me with a copy of this book. The opinions expressed above are purely my own and I have received no compensation.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Running the Rift" by Naomi Benaron

Jean Patrick Nkuba is a young Tutsi who dreams of becoming Rwanda's first Olympic medal contender in track. With the guidance of his coach and the support of his countrymen he trains for the 800 metres and prepares for his entrance to the world stage. But the year is 1994 and Rwanda is thrown into a turmoil that no one is prepared for. As the killing begins, Jean Patrick is forced to flee the country, leaving behind his family and the woman he loves. Jean Patrick finds himself in the most important race of his life.

Running the Rift by Namoi Benaron is an incredible novel set in the midst of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 that left more than 800,000 people dead in just 100 days. The novel won the Bellwether Prize for socially engaged fiction in 2010.

This is an incredible, haunting and powerful novel. It recreates the atmosphere of Rwanda in the years leading up to the genocide and gives the reader insight into that which is difficult to understand - how so many people, neighbours and friends, can become gripped by hatred.

This is the first book in a while that has made me cry. The Rwandan genocide is something that I have read a lot on over the years but all of that work has been non-fiction. This is the first piece of fiction concerning the genocide I have read and it is a remarkable work. Benaron is not Rwandan herself but was drawn to writing this book through her love of running and the heartbreaking stories she heard while working with Rwandan refugees in the United States. It is obvious that Benaron has done her research put her heart and soul into this book as the genocide does not merely serve as a backdrop to the story.

The characters are well-written and represent a variety of views and backgrounds in Rwanda. Jean Patrick is a Tutsi who was raised to not make a distinction between the two groups of people. His brother Roger leaves the family home to join the RPF, the Tutsi insurgents. Bea, Jean Patrick's girlfriend is a moderate Hutu whose family writes and fights for a united Rwanda and is against the killing. Along the way many other characters come into play including Hutu extremists and white American outsiders in the country. One of the most striking characters to me was a young woman who constituted only a few sentences in the entire book, a girl who before the genocide began rallied for a united Rwanda but once the killing began took up the Hutu cause and was spewing the hatred that so many became wrapped up in.

I highly recommend this book. If you're familiar with the events you will applaud and appreciate this book. If you're not very familiar with the events, which unfortunately many of us are, this is a great book to start with to help you understand what went on in Rwanda and what needs to be done so something like this will never happen in our world again. This book should be required reading for everyone.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop!

It's time for the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop, hosted by Judith at Leeswammes' Blog. There are almost 60 participants giving away tons of great literary prizes. So hop around, enter the giveaways and find some great new book blogs to follow!

Once again, I am giving away some fantastic Canadian literature! CanLit had a fantastic year in 2011 and I'd like to do my part to share some of our wonderful books. The winner will be able to pick which one of the following books they would like:

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

To enter, leave a comment below telling me which book you would like to win along with your email address. This giveaway is international and is open until Wednesday February 22 at 11:59pm ET.

And when you are done entering don't forget to check out the other participants in the hop!

  1. Leeswammes

  2. Curiosity Killed The Bookworm

  3. Lit Endeavors (US)

  4. The Book Whisperer

  5. Rikki's Teleidoscope

  6. 2606 Books and Counting

  7. The Parrish Lantern

  8. Sam Still Reading

  9. Bookworm with a view

  10. Breieninpeking (Dutch readers)

  11. Seaside Book Nook

  12. Elle Lit (US)

  13. Nishita's Rants and Raves

  14. Tell Me A Story

  15. Living, Learning, and Loving Life (US)

  16. Book'd Out

  17. Uniflame Creates

  18. Tiny Library (UK)

  19. An Armchair by the Sea (UK)

  20. bibliosue

  21. Lena Sledge's Blog (US)

  22. Roof Beam Reader

  23. Misprinted Pages

  24. Mevrouw Kinderboek (Dutch readers)

  25. Under My Apple Tree (US)

  26. Indie Reader Houston

  27. Book Clutter

  28. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (US)

  29. Lizzy's Literary Life

  30. Sweeping Me

  1. Caribousmom (US)

  2. Minding Spot (US)

  3. Curled Up With a Good Book and a Cup of Tea

  4. The Book Diva's Reads

  5. The Blue Bookcase

  6. Thinking About Loud!

  7. write meg! (US)

  8. Devouring Texts

  9. Thirty Creative Studio (US)

  10. The Book Stop

  11. Dolce Bellezza (US)

  12. Simple Clockwork

  13. Chocolate and Croissants

  14. The Scarlet Letter (US)

  15. Reflections from the Hinterland (N. America)

  16. De Boekblogger (Europe, Dutch readers)

  17. Readerbuzz (US)

  18. Must Read Faster (N. America)

  19. Burgandy Ice @ Colorimetry

  20. carolinareti

  21. MaeGal

  22. Ephemeral Digest

  23. Scattered Figments (UK)

  24. Bibliophile By the Sea

  25. The Blog of Litwits (US)

  26. Kate Austin

  27. Alice Anderson (US)

  28. Always Cooking up Something

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Mornings With Jesus 2012 " Giveaway

I am giving away a copy of Mornings with Jesus 2012: Daily Encouragement for your Soul. It is a collection of 366 devotions written by Judy Baer, Gwen Ford Faulkenberry, Tricia Goyer, Sharon Hinck, Keri Wyatt Kent, Erin Keeley Marshall and Camy Tang.

This giveaway is happening over at my blog Faith Filled Reading. To enter the giveaway, click here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"The Secret Year" by Jennifer R. Hubbard

Colt and Julia dated each other secretly for a year and no one knew, not their friends, their family and certainly not Julia's boyfriend. They were from two different worlds and they knew no one would understand. But to them it didn't matter, they just wanted to be together.

But then Julia dies in an accident and Colt's world changes dramatically. Unable to mourn openly, he's haunted by the fact that he may have a had a part in her death. When a journal of Julia's is discovered by Colt, he relives the year he spent with her while trying to move on. But how can he get over her all on his own?

The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard is a country club girl meets boy from wrong side of the tracks love story for teens but with a very serious twist. Julia and Colt feel an undeniable attraction to each other that goes beyond where they come from and what people expect of them. But the only way they can be together is secretly, or so they choose it to be that way. They ignore each other at school and meet secretly on the weekends when Julia can get away from her boyfriend. But Colt's life falls into a turmoil that no one can understand or help with when Julia passes away and he mourns while unable to tell anyone about their relationship.

This was an interesting book. The concept of the book drew me in right away and the character of Colt had a quality to him that I really appreciated in a young adult novel. Unfortunately for me, the other characters fell flat. It did feel like it breezed through the story and much more detail could have been provided. However, I do feel the plot and the character of Colt were enough to make up for that. I know it's rare to have a male teenager as the main character of a book so that is a big selling point for this book.

One thing I've noticed in my recent foray into the young adult genre is that there is a lot more sexual content than I was expecting! I don't know if it wasn't this way when I was a teenager or if I just wasn't reading those books, but it seems a bit different to me (and I'm not that old!) Either way, there is some sexual content in this book, which to me personally wasn't really needed. It's not graphic but is dealt with casually. Fans of young adult books can let me know if this is common to the genre.

If you're into young adult books then this would be a good one to pick up. But if you're like me and just starting to explore the genre, I wouldn't recommend this book as a must-read right away. It has its bright spots but is lacking overall.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Awesome Reading Nooks (from Pinterest)

Seriously, Pinterest is addicting! Here are some reading nooks I spotted while scrolling through the site.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"The Invisible Ones" by Stef Penney

Private investigator Ray Lovell has been hired by the family of Rose Wood to discover why the Gyspy woman went missing six years earlier. The last whereabouts of Rose were right before she supposedly ran away with a non-Gyspy from her Gypsy husband and her ill newborn child. Her husband's family, the Jankos, are an eclectic, mysterious bunch who are reluctant to let any outsider into their lives. That is why Ray, half-Romany himself, is the only one who can do the job. But the Jankos aren't exactly forthcoming and Ray finds himself deep within a mystery that may have consequences for himself.

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney is a mystery set in the fascinating world of Gypsies in 1980's England. It is an in-depth and very interesting look at Gypsy culture, something that most people only know from a negative perspective. In this book we see the culture through so many different eyes - the half-Romany who grew up outside of the culture, those who remain deeply a part of the culture and those who grew up in it but left for the outside world.

The narration of the book goes between Ray, as he searches for Rose, and JJ, a young Gypsy boy who is part of the Janko family and is trying to understand what it means to by Gypsy in the larger culture. It was the story that occurred early on in the book of JJ bringing home a girl from school to the Gyspy site and into his trailer and world that really endeared the boy to me. The back and forth between the two did an excellent job in developing the mystery, and the inclusion of future events in which Ray is in the hospital without his memory is an excellent addition.

I did find this book a little slow to get into. It wasn't a book for which I wanted to put aside other things to keep reading. However, as I continued to read that did begin to change and I found myself wrapped up in the world and mystery of the novel. I don't read many mystery novels but this is one that I definitely enjoyed.

For more reviews and thoughts on the book, check out the Penguin Canada blog tour:

Jan 23
Jan 24
Jan 25
Jan 26
Jan 27
Jan 30
Jan 31
Feb 1
Feb 2

I received this book courtesy of Penguin Canada. The opinions expressed above are purely my own and I received no compensation. Thank you to Bronwyn of Penguin Canada for organizing this blog tour.