Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Author Sarah Winman On Publishing Her First Novel

The publication of my novel has surpassed all my hopes and imaginings, and therefore, when faced with the simple question of, How does it feel? All I ever seem to come up with are the words, overwhelming, and humbling.

I had always hoped to be published one day. That, for me, was the ultimate. But down to the vision and hard work of my publishers, and two elusive ingredients, my novel has crossed the bounds of those imaginings and attracted a readership I could never have imagined. I say elusive ingredients, because one must never forget the vital and potent forces of Timing and Luck. Would this novel have had the same response had it been published a year before? When the world was a year younger? Or a year later? I don’t know. I ponder the question to keep me aware of the fickle nature of the art world, and to keep my eye on the work. It must always be about the work, no matter what success has gone before.

To think that my work is out in the world making some people feel a little less lonely, or making some people laugh or think about a time before; to think that it’s out there promoting discussion or disagreements is what any art form is all about. And to have found a space for one’s voice in an already loud and cluttered world has a value beyond words.

It’s been quite an adventure, and When God was a Rabbit has taught me a huge amount about myself and the craft. A new world is starting to call now, and the portal awaits.

Sarah Winman is an actress who attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and has gone on to act in theater, film, and on television. When God was a Rabbit is her debut novel. She lives in London.

Thanks so much to Sarah for taking the time to stop by In The Next Room. You can find my review of the intriguing and beautifully written When God Was A Rabbit, here. To connect with Sarah, visit her Facebook.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series by Ann Brashares (Part 1)

Note: These are my thoughts on the entire series, so the discussion of each subsequent book contains spoilers for those previous but not the novel itself. For example, if you haven't read any of the series then reading my review of book 1 is safe, however the section on book 2 may provide spoilers to book 1. Be warned. 

I first fell in love with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares nearly a decade ago when it was originally released. As a young teen, I saw parts of myself in Bee, Lena, Tibby and Carmen (especially the last two). When the sequel, The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, was released, I dived right back into Brashares believable, yet slightly magical, world. Somewhere along the way, maybe distracted by high school and friends and other things, partially due to hardcover releases too expensive for a teenage budget and long library wait lists, I never finished the series. So when I learned that a fifth and final book in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series was about to be released, set ten years after the fourth book, I knew this was just the excuse to both rediscover, and delve into for the first time, these incredibly touching books.

The first book in the series, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, introduces the reader to four fifteen year old girls, born within a month of each other and friends since birth (their mothers met in a prenatal yoga class) they are about to spend their first summer apart. One of the girls, Carmen, purchases a pair of secondhand jeans without trying them on and when the girls discover that the jeans magically fit all four of them despite their very different body shapes, they know this is just the thing to keep them together during their time away. Thus, the sisterhood is born. Throughout the summer the jeans will be passed from Lena, the shy, artistic, and beautiful girl who is spending the time in Greece with her grandparents, to Tibby, the independent-minded aspiring film-maker who is stuck at home and working at Wallmans, to Carmen, feisty and passionate, who is spending the summer with her father for the first time since her parents divorced at a young age, to Bridget, an athletic and outgoing girl who lost her mother to suicide and is spending the summer at a competitive soccer camp in Mexico. As the jeans travel from sister to sister, Brashares includes letters that they write detailing their lives, and manages to capture the important moments in the lives of four very different teens.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is incredibly perceptive, and reading it again years later I can still remember the feelings that Brashares captures so perfectly, the longing to belong, to be loved, to trust, the angst and the anger and the changes that we go through as we grow up. Each of the characters have their own quirks, and even the secondary characters like Lena's sister Effie are rich and dimensional. Brashares switches smoothly from the life of one girl to another, and for a novel with multiple storylines there isn't one that I would consider boring or that I dreaded her returning to. Instead, I think the whole book in enchanting, and there are just enough twists and turns to keep you turning the page without making you doubt that this could happen in real life. When the sisters finally reunite after their summer apart, you end the book knowing that they have grown up a lot, and more than that, as a reader you feel like you have grown with them.

Next up in the series is The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, when Brashares reunites with the girls a year later and the reader finds many of them in unexpected situations. Most unexpected for me was Bridget, who has dyed her hair black and quit soccer, still reeling from her experiences with Eric the previous summer. When Bee finds letters from her Grandma that her father has been keeping hidden since her mother's death five years ago, she decides to head to Alabama with her new appearance as a disguise and see what she can learn about her mother. But learning more about her mother's life, also means that Bridget will have to remember her death. As for Tibby, she's attending a film-making workshop in Virginia, where she finally has the opportunity to connect with people with like-minded interests, but in order to belong does she have to give up part of who she really is? Carmen and Lena are both at home this summer, and both dealing with romantic dilemmas. In Carmen's case she's most concerned about the fact that her mother is dating again, and worried she will be left behind in the process, something she plans to avoid even if it means sabotaging her mom's relationship. Lena is trying to get over Kostos after breaking up with him, but despite being the one to end the relationship, she can help her jealousy when she learns Kostos may have moved on. It's another eventful summer for the girls, but no matter what happens, they know that their sisters, and the pants, will be there for them.

Reading a new book in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series is like reuniting with old friends after too long apart. Luckily, now that the entire series has been released, I could immediately start on the second novel after finishing the first. Even though both were rereads, I still felt my heart drop when I realized how poorly Bee was dealing with loosing her virginity to Eric, and how Lena continued to deny her relationship with Kostos when it seemed like she had finally admitted her feelings for him. That's the truth in life too though, even when we want only good things to happen, sometimes things don't go according to plan- like Carmen feeling like her mother is starting a new life without her. Brashares takes the reader on the ups and downs in The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, and although like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants the novel tells a complete story, it also builds on the experiences and knowledge that has been gained in the first book. Sometimes it feels like the girls haven't really learned anything in the first book, especially Lena, but then you realize that is exactly how it works, sometimes we need to be hit over the head in order to really learn the necessary lessons and Brashares provides a perfect reminder of how important those lessons are.

In The Second Summer of the Sisterhood Lena, Tibby, Carmen and Bee are a year older, but no less relateable. Even rereading the novel in my early twenties, I recognize so much of myself in these young woman and their struggles. The story is touching and funny and unpredictable, and in some cases maybe even a bit heartbreaking. With the first two books in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series, Brashares created a world which resonated with me when I first read it, and has no less power reading it again all these years later. Simply put, there's magic in the pants but there's also magic in the girls that wear them.

Click here for Part 2 of my reviews.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thoughts Without Cigarettes by Oscar Hijuelos

Thoughts Without Cigarettes is a memoir by Oscar Hijuelos, a man who was the first Hispanic author to win the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Although I have not read any of Hijuelos books yet, this is a memoir which although probably more enlightening (especially towards the end) for readers of Hijuelos, has much to offer even for those unfamiliar with his work.

Hijuelos' writing is lovely, he certainly paints a vivid picture with his words. And the original premise, a young boy growing up in New York City, the son of immigrant parents, feelings of lost culture and lack of belonging because his skin was so light, all of this interested me. However when it came to the actual memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes was a slow read that often had difficulty keeping my attention. The book is extremely full of references to famous people and Hijuelos' interactions with them and it often comes across as name-dropping and not at all crucial to the story he is telling. For example, he writes about how he sat near Allen Ginsberg who congratulated him on a talk only not to recognize him later in the evening. Throughout Thoughts Without Cigarettes, Hijuelos also gives his opinion on various other writers. At times I thought he was overly harsh about calling other writers dull, since this isn't a work of literary criticism and he doesn't particularly back up his statements it came across as a bit petty at times- especially when he does it in reference to an author who won an award Hijuelos was also nominated for, for example.

The most interesting parts of Thoughts Without Cigarettes involved Hijuelos' childhood, what it was like to come back home after a serious illness and a year in the hospital, having 'lost' his Spanish in the meantime, only to be treated as a fragile child, unable to play outside and eat candy like the other boys. Hijuelos also discusses what it was like to be pigeon-holed as an "immigrant" writer, and offers a strong reminder that we still have a long way to go when it comes to achieving equal amounts of publicity regardless of race. I couldn't help but be reminded of earlier this year when Jennifer Egan beat Jonathan Franzen for the National Book Award, only to have a large picture of Franzen featured in the LA Times instead, as well as Franzen's book title mentioned in the headline but Egan's only referred to as her "work". Hijuelos contemplates if perhaps his ability to break out as a Latino writer stems from the fact that he does not look stereotypically Latino. The memoir includes some very thought-provoking and interesting discussions on race and the literary world.

There is quite a bit of Thoughts Without Cigarettes which I think would be more interesting if I had previously read Hijuelos' first two novels, as he discusses what it was like to publish them and how he came to write them. Regardless, he has an enjoyable style of writing that I think I would actually prefer in a novel, because what I disliked about the memoir was the name-dropping and slow pace, things that would easily be solved in the case of a plot and a fictional narration. Overall, Thoughts Without Cigarettes offers insight into the mind and life of a famous author, while also pondering some profound inequalities that continue to exist, although it was a slow book for me to read I am glad for the introduction to Oscar Hijuelos and I look forward to picking up one of his novels in the future.

Release Date: June 2nd, 2011
Pages: 384
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This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

Giveaway Winners

I have a couple of these to announce so here they are...

The Peach Keeper:

Thoughts Without Cigarettes:

More giveaways coming soon. I'm also hoping to get back to 4-5 reviews a week as well. In the meantime, congrats to the winners. Both have been contacted and have 48 hours to respond before a new one is selected.

Canada Day Blog Hop Giveaway: Ashes, Ashes

To celebrate Canada Day Aislynn from Knit, Purl, Stitch...Read and Cook, and Chrystal from Snowdrop Dreams of Books have organized a Canada Day Blog Hop. There are so many amazing Canadian authors that I knew I had to giveaway a copy of one of their books. Here you have the chance to win Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari, a young adult post-apocalyptic fiction novel with a tough as nails heroine and a thrilling plot that will keep you turning the pages. To read my review of the novel, click here.
There is one copy of Ashes, Ashes available and in order to win you must have a Canadian address. Simply leave a comment letting me know what one thing you'd save in the event of an apocalypse. If you're a follower, you gain a second entry but you have to leave a second comment letting me know for it to count. This giveaway will end when the blog hop is over, at 11:59 PM on July 2nd 2011.

Click here to visit the rest of the blog spots, and Happy Canada Day to everyone!

Monday, June 27, 2011

When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman

When God Was A Rabbit the debut novel by Sarah Winman, a coming-of-age story divided into two parts, set on two continents and focusing on two different relationships in the life of Elly. The book begins in 1968, in England, where Elly grows up with her older brother Joe and best friend Jenny Penny. When their family moves away, Joe leaves behind his first love, while Elly leaves behind her only true friend. The second half of the novel is set three decades later in New York City following the attacks of 9/11 during which Joe goes missing. What ties these two parts together is their perceptive examination of love and the quirky yet moving narration from Elly.

The best way for me to describe When God Was A Rabbit is unexpected. Winman's style of storytelling is unconventional but her writing is lyrical and beautiful. In many ways I was reminded of another recent debut, The Adults by Alison Espach, because of the way they both have a wry female narrator with a dark sense of humour, both jump forward in time and to a different country for the second half the book, and they both take on growing up in a unique and insightful way. To be honest, there was also one more connection- although I loved the beginnings of both, I felt disappointed by the second halves of the books. In the case of When God Was A Rabbit, the second half just didn't have the power of the first and I found the details of friendship and young love much more intriguing than the trials experienced by Elly with regards to her brother in part two of the novel. The plot of the second half felt a bit contrived, and I didn't find myself as attached to the characters as I had when they were children and at times they even bored me.

I was so sorry to be let down by the ending of When God Was A Rabbit because I fell in love with Winman's writing in the first half. It is rarely that a book can be both emotionally moving and darkly comic, but Winman manages that. She creates a dimensional cast of secondary characters with their own quirks which add a richness to the story. The book itself deals with universal struggles- getting your heart broken, moving away from friends- but takes them on in a perceptive and unique way. Winman lets the reader not only into Elly's mind, but into her heart. Ultimately, I fell in love with When God Was A Rabbit, but unfortunately by the second half of Winman's novel I had fallen out of it.

Release Date: March 3rd, 2011
Pages: 304
Buy the Book
This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dream Catcher Trilogy by Lisa McMann

Dream Catcher Trilogy by Lisa McMann is a series of books focusing on Janie, a seventeen year old girl who has the inexplicable ability to be sucked into other peoples dreams. Unfortunately, it's an ability she has very limited control over and it may have consequences she couldn't have predicted. As I read the entire series, composed of Wake, Fade and Gone, over a fairly short period of time I decided to compile my thoughts into one larger, spoiler-free (so I will be vague for the later books), review on the entire series.

After being intrigued although not entirely enraptured by Lisa McMann's latest novel, the standalone Cryer's Cross, I decided to try the audiobook version of her popular Dream Catcher Trilogy, beginning with the novel Wake. Immediately upon listening to Wake, I noticed how distinctive McMann's style of writing and voice was. Maybe it is simply more noticeable when you are listening to a book rather than viewing it visually, but McMann not only uses the unique third person present tense but also a rather lot of swearing. Maybe this makes her style authentic to teens, but at times it seemed to take away from the story, which would get intense only to be interrupted by a bunch of profanity.

In Wake the story takes quite awhile to get going, as McMann abruptly takes the reader to various important events in Janie's life, pauses momentarily, and then throws you into a new scene. It definitely took me awhile to adjust, as well as for the major storyline to begin. That said, it is a very short book, only about 200 pages, which means that when the main events do begin they are pretty face-paced and exciting. McMann does a nice job with the relationships in the book, I enjoyed the budding feelings between Cabel and Janie as well as Janie's friendship with her sometimes flaky next door neighbour Carrie, and they definitely felt like genuine teenagers with all the drama that sometimes entails. My biggest problem with the book, besides for not particularly loving the writing style, was the "twist" involving Cabel. It really felt like something out of a bad TV movie. After so much originality with the initial premise, I was a little disappointed to find out what was really going on.

Still, McMann and Janie's crazy ability had caught my attention enough that I decided to listen to the second book in the series, Fade. Although definitely young adult novels, there are a lot of mature themes as well as the regular swearing in the Dream Catcher books and this is particularly evident in Fade, where the main storyline focuses around finding a sexual predator. Despite the language and content, the writing style is actually fairly simplistic so that the books are easy, and quick, reading for the age level.

Unfortunately, I found the plot for Fade to be even less believable than the main story in Wake. I realize this is a series about a girl with a supernatural ability, but McMann has a talent for crafting realistic teenagers only to put them in totally unrealistic situations, ones that have nothing to do with the paranormal and everything to do with an unbelievable amount of responsibility being placed on them by adults. It didn't help that by this point the audio versions, despite an enjoyable reader, were really getting on my nerves because listening to present tense third person writing for several hours in a row is just not that enjoyable. I picked up this series having heard so many incredible things about the books, but by the halfway mark of the trilogy I was seriously doubting whether it was one I would end up finishing.

What made me decide to pick up the final book in the Dream Catcher Trilogy- in print, not audio, thank you very much- was that in contrast to the first two books, Gone isn't about Janie using her powers to solve crime but rather her family life and the choices her ability forces her to make. I also hoped that picking up a hard copy of the final book might change my feelings about the writing style.

Although I found all the background knowledge you gain about what life is like for a Dream Catcher really interesting, I did think that the story moved pretty slowly in comparison to the other books, probably because there wasn't really that thriller or mystery component in Gone. Also, this is a small and personal annoyance, but in the book Janie makes the assumption that somebody is Jewish just because of their last name (and confirms this because the person has bookmarked a website about Jewish holidays). It seemed slightly stereotypical to come to that conclusion so easily.

As a whole, I definitely enjoyed the insight into the Dream Catcher ability that McMann gave the reader in Gone, and I felt that the story fleshed out the characters back stories nicely so that the reader could better understand their actions, especially when it came to Janie's parents. I also found myself less distracted by the writing now that I wasn't listening to it being read out loud. Although it is the final book in the trilogy, I would definitely be interested to see how life progresses for Janie and how she manages to cope with the years to come. Ultimately the series ended on a high note, just not a very exciting one.

If you are interested in picking up Wake, Fade and Gone my first suggestion would be to skip the audiobooks on this one, I definitely think McMann's style of writing is better suited to the written word. Overall, Dream Catcher Trilogy wasn't my favourite series but the books were quick and mainly exciting reads based around a unique ability and authentic teenage characters.

Release Date: March 4th, 2008               Pages: 210
Source: Audiobook                                 Buy the Book
Release Date: February 10th, 2009         Pages: 248
Source: Audiobook                                 Buy the Book
Release Date: February 9th, 2010           Pages: 214
Source: Ebook                                        Buy the Book

Friday, June 24, 2011

Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston

I've been meaning to read a book by Canadian young adult author Lesley Livingston for awhile having heard many good things about her Wonderous Strange Trilogy, so when I had the opportunity to read her latest book, Once Every Never, I immediately took it. It is the story of Clarinet Reid- yes, that is really her name, her parents were musicians- who at first glance appears to be a normal teenager. After throwing a big party her parents have sent her to spend the summer with her aunt, a museum curator in London. Luckily, her best friend Alice is there with her, and she just so happens to have a cute genius cousin named Milo. However, what starts off as a dull summer at a museum gets a lot more interesting when it turns out Clare is able to time travel by touching specific artifacts centuries back in time. As Clare tries to figure out how to control her ability and what it means for history, she can't help but be distracted by a few things such as an upcoming war, a stolen artifact, and the two handsome men that have recently entered her life.

Livingston recently announced that Once Every Never will be a trilogy, and although I am intrigued enough to pick up the next books which are tentatively titled Every Never After and Now and For Never, I was very happy to read a novel which can easily stand on its own as a full story and without an insane cliffhanger ending. Instead, Livingston saves the insanity for the unexpected and exciting story centered around real history so incredible the reader's first instinct is to think it is fiction. What I loved about Once Every Never was the history, I learned so much Druids and the Iron Age and Celtic heritage, and I did all of it without any of it being dull. Livingston captured the adventure, and by sending her main character back in time, the reader is able to gain insight into the period from the perspective of a contemporary, typical, teen.

The main issue I had with the novel was the difficulty following the story at times. Occasionally, Livingston seemed to get distracted by details resulting in writing that confused me and which I had to read multiple times in order to understand what was happening. I also honestly didn't feel any strong attachment to most of the characters in the book. Clare, despite her terrible name, was a fairly normal teenager although the absence of her parents and their clear wealth set her apart slightly. Alice and Milo were both described as big nerds, with the appropriate Star Wars and computer jokes thrown in to give them credibility. However none of the characters really elicited an emotional reaction from me, even when their lives were at risk. Perhaps I am just unfeeling, but I was craving a little more character depth and development to fully connect me to the story.

Although at times I wanted more from the characters, what this book really comes down to is a strong and exciting storyline, one that is jam-packed with adventure, romance, history, basically anything you could ever want from a thrilling novel. The best part about Once Every Never is how seamlessly Livingston integrates fact and fiction together, tying history and the present together with a unique and exciting spin.

Release Date: July 1st 2011
Pages: 336
: ARC from Publisher

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Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott

Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott begins following a terrible accident which leaves Abby's flawless older sister Tess in a coma. Abby has always been the Other Sister, the one who isn't as pretty or as smart or as popular but as hard as it is never feeling good enough, it is worse not having Tess. So Abby hatches a plan to wake Tess up, and the key is the gorgeous Eli, but it turns out that meeting him opens doors Abby never would have expected and the truth about Tess is that she wasn't exactly who she seemed after all.

Between Here and Forever was my second young adult novel in a short period time about a younger sister who has lived her whole life in the shadow of a beautiful and outgoing older sister, only to have herself thrust suddenly into the spotlight when something tragic happens to the older sister. The book I read first with this storyline was The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, and I absolutely loved it, so it was going to be hard for anything else to compare. I also read The Properties of Water by Hannah Roberts McKinnon which has a similar storyline and lovely writing, although it is aimed at a younger audience since it doesn't contain sexual content like The Sky is Everywhere and Between Here and Forever do. So with all these books about younger sisters living life in the shadows, Between Here and Forever was definitely going to need something special to really capture my heart. And it almost succeeded.

The thing about Between Here and Forever is that I am sure a lot of readers will find Abby excessively whiny and insecure. And she is. Sure, she has a beautiful and popular older sister, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't be able to find some friends of her own or that she should always be putting herself down. But when it comes to real life, especially as a teenager, it is so easy to fall into that pit of self-hate and self-deprecation that I completely understood what Abby was going through, and what it is like to never think you are anything special. I feel like that is something that many people, teenage girls especially, deal with no matter if they have a seemingly perfect older sibling or not. So I appreciated how Scott took this issue on, and how through her sister's injury Abby was forced to confront some of the insecurities she has lived with her whole life, as well as some of the negative behaviours, like pursuing a relationship with a boy interested in her sister, they have lead to.

That said, Between Here and Forever wasn't always exciting to read, and at times perhaps Abby's whininess was responsible for slowing the story down. I did find it authentic inside Abby's mind, but there times when I wished for a little more external action and a little less internal conflict, if only to keep me turning the page. This is especially true because although Scott's writing felt true to the voice of a teenager, that doesn't always mean it was particularly unique or beautiful to read and perhaps that was because it was a little too true to the character and sometimes a little poetry in the language is nice even if people don't really think or talk that way- for an example of this, see The Sky Is Everywhere.

This was my first Elizabeth Scott and there already several others on my To Read list, especially when it comes to her more thrilleresque titles like Living Dead Girl, which Nina posted a rave review of that moved it even higher up my list, Grace and the upcoming As I Wake. Although it was slow moving at times, Scott got my attention with Between Here and Forever, now it will be time to see if she can keep it.

Release Date: May 24th, 2011
Pages: 256
: Simon and Schuster Galley Grab

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Simon Van Booy Short Stories, Only $1.99 Each

Simon Van Booy is the author of Love Begins in Winter, The Secret Lives of People in Love, Why We Fight, Why We Need Love, Why Our Decisions Don’t Matter, and the soon-to-be-released Everything Beautiful Began After. To celebrate the release of Everything Beautiful Began After, Harper is offering ALL Simon’s individual e-book short stories for just $1.99. A great one to start with is Love Begins in Winter, a perfect introduction to his writing.

Personally, I already own both his short story collections, but for those of you a little undecided about short stories, this is a great place to start with just one story at a great price. Here's where you can find the e-books.

Love Begins in Winter short story for $1.99

Barnes & Noble


Have you ever read or heard of Simon Van Booy? Are you looking forward to picking up his first novel, Everything Beautiful Began After?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop: Thoughts Without Cigarettes

 Welcome to Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop at In The Next Room.

I'm offering one copy of Thoughts Without Cigarettes by Oscar Hijuelos.
You must be a follower to enter this giveaway. If your GFC name is different than the one that shows up when you comment, let me know. To enter leave a comment letting me your favourite memoir. The winner will be randomly selected using random and will have 48 hours to reply to my e-mail. It is open the US and Canada only, no PO Boxes. This giveaway will close when the giveaway hop ends at 11:59 PM on June 24th EST.

Click here to return to the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop homepage and visit the rest of the awesome stops. 

Guest Post With Author Jo Treggiari

What are some things that scare you about the future? What are some things that excite you about the future? And most importantly… do you plan on teaching your kids how to skin a rabbit?

The thing that scares me about the future is the human race.

The thing that excites me about the future is the human race.

I think that it is in our nature to balance between total self-annihilation and pursuits of incredible beauty, selflessness, and genius, and the desire to treat each other well.

I thought a lot about the human race, not only while I was writing this book but also ever since I’ve had children. I know how lucky I am that my children were born in the Western hemisphere. There are so many things we take for granted. Safety, shelter, food. I wondered what it would be like if all that was stripped away. Along with all the accoutrements of relative wealth – the technology, the electronic devices – all those things which are really a luxury but are so commonplace that they have almost become a right, and a necessity.

But of course, they aren’t really. Our basic needs for survival are the same as every other human on the planet. In my book, I took everything away from my characters and then I figured out how they would live. Survivors are always interesting because they have lived through something unimaginable; the ultimate in worst case scenarios. And in a way, an apocalypse brings out the best and the worst in people, which is what I kept in the back of my mind while I was writing the book.

Skinning a rabbit is remarkably similar to skinning a turtle, only without the pesky shell, so when they are a bit older my kids can read my book and find out how to do it.

I think I’ll teach my kids whatever I can to help them survive, whether that’s looking for cars when they cross the street, or outrunning a tsunami. Isn’t that what parents do?

Jo Treggiari's first book, a middle-grade fantasy THE CURIOUS MISADVENTURES OF FELTUS OVALTON, came out in 2006. Her post-apocalyptic adventure ASHES, ASHES was published June 1, 2011 by Scholastic Press. She's just finished a punk rock YA- FIERCE and is working on an urban fantasy, BRINY DEEP.

Thanks so much to Jo for taking the time to stop by In The Next Room. Ashes, Ashes is an intense novel,  you can find my review here, that I highly suggest everyone pick up. To learn more about Jo's book visit her website

Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari

Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari takes place in the near future when mother nature has gotten her revenge on the planet. Everything from tsunamis to drought to earthquakes to plague destroys the majority of the population. Left behind are the survivors, mostly kept safe from recent vaccinations either in childhood or old age, the mutated smallpox plague has wiped out most of the adults leaving behind the children and elderly. Sixteen-year-old Lucy is one of the lucky one percent left behind, and for the past year she has survived alone in the wilds of Central Park in the wreckage of New York City. However, a chance encounter with another teenager, Aidan, who saves her from a pack of hunting dogs, makes Lucy realize she can't always do everything on her own. Lucy joins Aidan and a band of other survivors, but the dangers, including Sweepers who rid the streets of plague victims and the ever present threat of mutation leading to another plague wave, are only beginning.

After reading so many dystopia novels in the last year, I really thought Ashes, Ashes would be quite similar. However, Treggiari has definitely delved into a different and unique niche with her post-apocalyptic fiction- in this book it is not the government that people have to worry about, but the world itself. The novel is jam-packed full of disasters of every kind imaginable, which makes for an intense and thrilling page-turner. Lucy makes a good main character and heroine because she is brave but not flawless, she has beaten incredible odds but she still sometimes trips or cuts herself by accident. In many ways, Lucy reminded me of Katniss from The Hunger Games for her strength and perseverance, refusing to give up even in tough situations. Treggiari also manages to include lots of little bits of interesting survival information that adds colour to the novel, everything from how to kill a turtle to using a hammer as a weapon.

I really enjoyed the pacing of Ashes, Ashes and I think it is definitely one of those good books for reluctant readers because of the amount of action and excitement in the book. However, because there is so much going on there were a few times when I wished for a little more description. I was also a bit let down by the resolution of the book, there were was just so much foreshadowing that even if it wasn't the sort of "twist" that I had guessed from almost the first chapter, I think it would have been hard not to get way before you reached the ending of the book. That said, the intended audience is definitely a little younger than me, and they have probably also seen a few less post-apocalyptic movies, so maybe it will satisfy them better. What I did find refreshing about how Ashes, Ashes ended was that it worked perfectly as a stand-alone novel, at a time when every book I pick up seems to be a part of a series, it was nice to get a complete story from Treggiari. There is potential for a sequel to follow Ashes, Ashes, and while I'd certainly enjoy another exciting novel with the stubborn but courageous Lucy, Treggiari has me hooked on her intense storytelling and I will definitely pick up whatever she publishes next.

Release Date: June 1st, 2011
Pages: 343
Source: Publisher 
Buy the Book

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Apothecary

While I am completely not justified in adding another Maile Meloy book to my TBR list, considering I own three of her four books, and the only one I've read is the fourth (which I borrowed from the library and loved and then promptly bought all the others), this one sounds so different from her previous books it is almost like adding a separate author to my stack of books to read. Right? Anyway, here's my review of her most recent book, the short story collection, Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It. That said, I was very intrigued and excited when I learned she had a middle grade novel coming out and hopefully I'll have finished a couple more of her adult books in time to read her children's debut, The Apothecary.
It's 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows--a fascinating boy who's not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin's father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary's sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies--Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.

Together with Ian Schoenherr's breathtaking illustrations, this is a truly stunning package from cover to cover.

What are you Waiting on this Wednesday?

Friday, June 10, 2011

In My Mailbox (June 5th-11th 2011)

So it was a good week for my mailbox though a bad week for reading. School has been very intense lately and now that I'm into the second half of my masters it's taken up the majority of my time. I'm trying to get everything organized since I am taking two weeks off in July. Hopefully I can fit a little more reading into my schedule though, I'm behind even on books for book tours (which never happens!).
My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody (Unsolicated) (D&M Publishers Inc.)
You Must Go and Win by Alina Simone (D&M Publishers Inc.)
The Optimism Bias by Tall Sharot (Random House Canada)
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Random House Canada)
Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Random House Canada)
The Thirteen by Susie Moloney (Random House Canada)
Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares (Random House Canada)

I am looking forward to all of these books, especially Blood Red Road because I love my YA dystopia, The Thirteen and Miss Peregrine's both sound awesomely creepy, and Sisterhood Everlasting is the fifth book in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and takes place ten years later. I loved the series when I was a kid but I don't know if I ever read the fourth book, either way I plan to reread them all before picking this up. They are definitely perfect summer reads.

What was in your mailbox this week?
And as an sidenote, how do you balance school and reading/blogging? I haven't had trouble before but life has gotten so hectic lately!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Prized

I lovedlovedloved O'Brien's debut, Birthmarked (click here for review), so of course I'm counting down the days til the release of her sequel to the novel and second book in the Birthmarked Trilogy, Prized. The novel sounds quite different but still awesome.
In the thrilling follow up to Birthmarked, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone has fled from the Enclave and now must fight for her baby sister’s survival in the matriarchal society of Sylum.

Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, 16-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?

Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien will be released on November 8th 2011 by Roaring Brook Press.

What are you Waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Giveaway: The Peach Keeper

In combination with my review of The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen, I have the opportunity to give away a copy of this charming magical realism novel. Click here to read my review.

The summary of the book from Goodreads is:
It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.
You can win a copy of The Peach Keeper by leaving a comment letting me know your favourite book so far of 2011. You must be a follower to enter. Make sure to include your e-mail so you can be contacted if you win. Winners will have 48 hours to respond or a new one will be picked. This is open to the US and Canada only. No PO Boxes please. It ends June 17th at 11:59 PM MST.

Monday, June 06, 2011

With or Without You by Brian Farrey

With or Without You by Brian Farrey is a young adult novel told from the perspective of eighteen year-old Evan, a boy who along with his best friend Davis have spent highschool being bullied for being gay. Luckily Evan is able to take comfort in his kind, wonderful, boyfriend Erik, somebody he has kept secret from everyone- even Davis- for nearly a year. Then Evan and Davis get an invitation to join the Chasers, a gay society that offers protection and belonging of the kind neither of them has ever had. While Davis is immediately swept up into the world of the Chasers, Evan finds himself torn between the two important men in his life. How many lies is Evan willing to tell to keep Erik a secret, and how long before his two worlds come crashing together?

With or Without You is a very intense debut by Farrey, it is definitely the kind of book which immediately hooks you in and takes you for a whirlwind and unforgettable ride. It is important to have all types of GLBT characters and literature, but if I had to describe With or Without You in one word it would be gritty. Evan and Davis stand in stark contrast to some of the cheerful gay males present in young adult books, for example David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy, but the story they have to tell is both realistic and heartbreaking.

This is not a book to read lightly, this is a book to devour. As a main character, Evan is both believable and frustrating. His deeply rooted insecurity makes him do things that are not logical, but ultimately he leaves the reader with a worthwhile lesson about being true to yourself. I found Evan's friendship with Davis charming, at least until things spiraled out of control, and I loved some of the little flashbacks Farrey included to give extra insight into how Evan met both Davis and Erik. I also thought the setting, With or Without You takes place in Madison, Wisconsin, was unique and interesting. Setting the novel in a small town allowed Farrey to address some issues that are hopefully less common in cities, although even Evan and Davis are lucky enough to have a youth centre for GLBT individuals to go to.

Farrey has a thrilling story to tell in With or Without You but what really makes the book memorable is Evan. Evan grabs a place right next to your heart and winds himself around it, refusing to let go even after you put down the book. The only complaint I have about the novel is that I really wished for more resolution. Of course, in real life things don't end up neat and tidy, but that's why I enjoy fiction, the author has the ability to let the reader know how things turn out and in a way I felt a bit disappointed by that aspect of the book. Throughout the novel, Farrey's debut With or Without You is charming, shocking and even heartbreaking, but a strong main character and a smooth writing style means that one thing thing that is consistent is the fact that from page one onwards, you will not be able to put this exciting and realistic book down.

Release Date: May 24th, 2011
Pages: 368
Buy the Book
Source: Teen Book Scene 

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Giveaway Winners

I had a few giveaway finish recently so here are the winners:

Foods to Thrive Giveaway:

The Paper Garden:
When God Was a Rabbit:
Congrats everyone! Winners have been contacted and have 48 hours to respond or a new one will be selected. I have more giveaways posting soon so make sure to check back!

In My Mailbox (May 29th-June 4th 2011)

I know I haven't been blogging much lately, I guess I have just gotten a little worn out and have also been very busy with school. I am still reading, albeit at a slower rate, and I do hope you'll stick with me until I get back into my grove. I promise there will still be at least one review a week, I do have book tour obligations, but on top of that I'm not sure exactly how much I'll be posting. I do have many lovely books waiting for me when I'm ready.

{For Review}
With or Without You by Brian Farrey (Teen Book Scene Tour)
Pretend You Love Me by Julie Anne Peters (Little Brown, Books for Younger Readers)
The DUFF by Kody Keplinger (Little Brown, Books for Younger Readers)
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma (ARC) (Penguin Canada)
She Loves You, She Loves You Not by Julie Anne Peters (Little Brown, Books for Younger Readers)
Forgotten by Cat Patrick (Little Brown, Books for Younger Readers)
Trader of Secrets by Steve Martini (Unsolicated) (Harper Collins)
Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston (ARC) (Penguin Canada)

and as a closer peek, Brian Farrey was kind enough to sign his book as well as include an exclusive bookmark which was printed before the title of his novel was changed:
I just finished With or Without You yesterday and it was incredible, there will be a review up tomorrow. 

The very talented Jennifer Brown who wrote Hate List as well as the recent release, The Bitter End, had the opportunity to get a signed bookmark on her blog so of course I had to e-mail! She also included a name plate (personally addressed!) and a bracelet with the words "make a difference" on it. As somebody who lives in a place where there are no book signings this was such an amazing joy to receive. I'm so excited to start reading The Bitter End soon.

Although I don't own the book (yet) I was lucky enough to win an autographed bookmark and bag for Chasing Alliecat by Rebecca Fjelland Davis, thanks to Lauren at 365 Day of Reading.

What was in your mailbox this week?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser

The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser is a non-fiction book about a massive change that happened, and we didn't even realize it. In December 2009, Google began to customize its search results for each user. That means the results you get are based on what Google thinks you are most likely to click on, from what it knows about who you are. Google isn't alone either, from targeted advertising to what shows up on your Facebook, there is a deeply disturbing trend threatening us and because these websites aren't obligated to tell you what they know about us, it is happening largely without us knowing.

The Filter Bubble was both creepy and a little scary at times. As a blogger, I know that I put quite a bit of myself online intentionally, but it's incredible to learn how much else I put out there without even realizing it. How what I click on can be used to profit against me, or determine what I see when I use Google, skewing my view of the world. The whole point of the internet is the accessibility of information- but when you are inside the bubble, you're not getting a lot of that information and instead what you see is based on who you already are, and what you have done in the past. As Pariser puts it, the serendipity is gone. And randomness is where moments of brilliance happen.

Although The Filter Bubble is written from a distinctly American perspective, Pariser also manages to let the reader in on some of the policies in place in other countries. I live in Canada, but I am sure most of the book is still relevant although perhaps the legislation is slightly different. The biggest problem of course, is that in many cases there is no legislation, and this online personalization and the selling of information is something that we cannot ignore any longer. In The Filter Bubble, Pariser paints a scary picture, but it's one still possible to change if we educate ourselves and demand something better and picking up this book is a great place to start.

Release Date: May 12th, 2011
Pages: 304
Buy the Book
This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Survival Kit

This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas (click for review) was a wonderful book I read earlier this year so when I heard about her upcoming release, The Survival Kit, I knew I'd have to pick that one up as well. The premise reminds me of a few other books but hopefully the execution is what makes The Survival Kit stand out.
A romantic and heartfelt celebration of both memories and new beginnings.

When Rose’s mom dies, she leaves behind a brown paper bag labeled Rose’s Survival Kit. Inside the bag, Rose finds an iPod, with a to-be-determined playlist; a picture of peonies, for growing; a crystal heart, for loving; a paper star, for making a wish; and a paper kite, for letting go.

As Rose ponders the meaning of each item, she finds herself returning again and again to an unexpected source of comfort. Will is her family’s gardener, the school hockey star, and the only person who really understands what she’s going through. Can loss lead to love?

The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas will be released October 11th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).

What are you Waiting on this Wednesday?