Saturday, May 28, 2011

In My Mailbox (May 15th-28th 2011)

I was away last weekend and didn't get a chance to post my mailbox so you get two weeks worth today! Actually though, the last two weeks have been pretty calm which is definitely a good thing as I have a billion books (only a slight exaggeration) to read as it is. Definitely looking forward to all of these ones though.

May 15th-21st
{For Review}
Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari (Scholastic Canada)
Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay (Random House Canada)
The London Train by Tessa Hadley (ARC) (TLC Tours)

Really excited for all of these, Ashes is a YA dystopia that's supposed to be fantastic, while Alone in the Classroom is new Canadian Fiction. The London Train is for an upcoming book tour, and although it is an ARC isn't that cover gorgeous?

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I read the first 100 pages of Divergent online and got SO hooked, combine that with the fact that I've only seen rave reviews and I knew it was time to order my copy. Then I had to wait for it to arrive anxiously. Totally worth the wait though, this is easily one of my new favourite books. I'll be reviewing it soon.

May 22nd-28th
{For Review}
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky (Thomas Allen & Sons)

I am SO excited for Awaken, I just love my YA dystopia and this one- a love story set in a world where everyone communicates via computers instead of in person- definitely has a creepy and believable premise.

The Sack of Bath by Adam Fergusson

To be honest, I didn't really know what The Sack of Bath was about when I pre-ordered it several months ago. I just knew it was by a publisher, Persephone, that I'd been hearing really great things about and it was available for $1 (I think that was a mistake as other ones are around $19) so I hit buy. It actually has a lot of black and white photos instead to accompany the text... still not completely sure what it is about but I will definitely be finding out more in the future.

What was in your mailbox this week? Or in your suitcase, if you went to BEA in which case I am insanely jealous! I'm hoping I can maybe make it in 2013...

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson tells the story of seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, a girl who has spent her whole life in the shadow of her older sister Bailey. However, when Bailey suddenly dies Lennie is forced into the spotlight of her own life, and the bookworm and band geek who has hardly any experience with boys finds herself balancing two. Lennie has a passionate and complicated affair with her sister's boyfriend, Toby, seemingly the only person who can truly understand her grief. At the same time, she finds herself with a romantic connection to Joe, a new boy in town with musical talent and absolutely no way to compare Lennie to the sister he never knew. Toby and Joe represent the conflicting halves of Lennie, part of her wants to move on to life without Bailey while the other part of her is still deeply grieving- but Lennie's balancing act can't last forever and the secrets she is keeping may cause her life to fall apart all over again.

The Sky is Everywhere is definitely one of those books that I took my time picking up. Sometimes, when I hear only positive feedback on a novel, I get worried about going into reading it with my expectations too high. However, when the paperback release arrived I finally picked up Nelson's debut. Reading The Sky is Everywhere it immediately became obvious why everyone has fallen in love with Nelson's writing- this is a tragic, beautiful, and at times even funny story with a message you may not relate to but with emotions you will definitely be able to connect to. I admit that the idea of a girl having a relationship with her dead sister's longtime boyfriend is instantly unappealing, but Nelson somehow manages to make it work so that the reader, even if they don't support what Lennie is doing, can understand where she is coming from and how she finds comfort in throwing herself into the physical as a way to avoid dealing with her emotional pain.

In general, I am not a fan of love triangles, and the fact that Lennie's conflicting feelings for Toby and Joe are at the centre of The Sky is Everywhere made me unsure how I would feel about her as a character. However, I found that the way Nelson told the story made perfect sense and although Lennie was involved with two boys, it is immediately obvious who she has true feelings for and who is a coping mechanism for her. Waiting for her to realize that and try to fix things before it is too late was extremely emotional. Before writing The Sky is Everywhere, Nelson was a published poet, and interspersed with each chapter of the novel is a poem that Lennie has written and hidden somewhere in the world, bits about Bailey and her grief and the choices she is trying to make. These little poems are beautiful, but Nelson's poetry shines through in her entire writing. The writing is simple but lovely, straightforward and moving. For example, at one point Lennie reflects, "I always imagined music trapped inside my clarinet, not trapped inside of me. But what if music is what escapes when a heart breaks?"

In addition to love triangles, Nelson uses another common device in young adult literature in The Sky is Everywhere- Lennie does not really have any parents. Her mother abandoned the girls when they were young, and she never knew who her father was and is instead raised by her grandmother. However, in this case I also didn't mind the device because although Lennie does not have a mother and father in the traditional sense, those roles are filled by her grandmother and uncle and so it is not as if she lives in a world without rules. Lennie's experiences with her parents also isn't something she lightly blows off, it shapes the way she experiences life and how she deals with the death of her sister.

The Sky is Everywhere begins following a tragedy, but the thing about tragedies is sometimes they can bring out sides of a person that you never expected. This is exactly what happens to Lennie when her sister Bailey, always centre stage in their family, dies and leaves Lennie to be the star of her own life. Although Nelson uses some familiar plot devices, she does so in a way that works for the story she is telling. Ultimately, I'm glad I waited to read The Sky is Everywhere until the hype calmed down but I am also very glad that I did not miss out on Nelson's beautifully written and moving debut- I cannot wait to read whatever she writes next.

Release Date: March 9th, 2010
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher 
Buy the Book

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Council of Dads by Bruce Feiler

The Council of Dads by Bruce Feiler is the heartbreaking and powerful true story of what happens when a father of two young girls is diagnosed with an extremely aggressive and life-threatening cancer. Bruce Feiler was only in his forties when he learned he had bone cancer, and he was instantly concerned about what life would be like for her his twin girls if he was no longer in their life. Within a few days he had come up with the concept of a Council of Dads, a group of men who were not biologically related to him but rather friends that represented different facets of himself and would be able to give his daughters advice and let them in on what their dad would have thought.

Feiler is the author of several acclaimed non-fiction books but with The Council of Dads he lets the reader into his own life and what an extremely difficult year in his life was like. The memoir intertwines with a lesson and short biography of each of the six dads on Feiler's council, as well as letters he sent to family and friends about his illness, and of course some of his own advice for his daughters.

Instantly upon reading the synopsis of The Council of Dads I knew it would be a sad book, but because of Feiler's skilled writing it is so much more than that. It makes you laugh and smile and it warms your heart. It's a powerful testament to the strength that people can find in impossible situations, and the bravery of an ordinary man. The Council of Dads is an emotional and moving story which sticks with the reader, reminding them of the value of each day. Unlike Two Kisses for Maddy by Matthew Logelin which I read recently and is also about a man's relationship with his daughter in tragic circumstances, the reader is able to maintain a sense of optimism throughout The Council of Dads because we know that Feiler comes out okay and that is how he is able to write the memoir in the first place. I think that Feiler's positive attitude throughout his experiences, even though he is realistic about his chances of surviving, means that despite its serious subject matter this is not a bleak book.

An interesting aspect of The Council of Dads that I didn't expect is the insight into the uniqueness of male friendships, and how important good friends are. There is so much talk in the world about deadbeat dads, it is definitely a nice change to read a book written by a man who is clearly a loving and caring father and is more concerned than anything about the impact his absence would have on his daughters. With Father's Day approaching, I could not think of a better book to recommend than The Council of Dads.

Release Date: April 27th, 2010
Pages: 256
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, May 25, 2011

Whole Foods to Thrive by Brendan Brazier (+Giveaway!)

My Thoughts

When I first agreed to feature Whole Foods to Thrive I had no idea how pertinent and useful the book would be to my life. Right before the book arrived in my mailbox I was diagnosed with celiac disease and lactose intolerance. As you can imagine, a diet without gluten (wheat/barley/rye) or dairy is extremely limited and after about 7 years as a vegetarian I started to incorporate a small amount of meat into my diet. Brazier's book is packed full of plant, nutrient-dense, recipes that do no contain the most common allergens- and yup, that includes dairy and gluten- which means not only can I eat them, but they are a healthy way to treat both your body and the environment well.

Whole Foods to Thrive begins with several chapters explaining Brazier's philosophy behind the book, including informative figures and stats about the environmental cost behind some of the foods we love. He explains how to get important nutrients like iron into your diet without relying on processed foods. The majority of the book is helpful and delicious recipes divided by meal and which use little symbols to help the reader if the food is raw or not, as raw food means that the healthy nutrients so many foods contain are not cooked away at high heat. Each recipe is clear and informative, containing not only the time needed to prepare, but a couple sentences explaining what it can be used for like a pecan and dill pate that can be used to replace the rice in sushi rolls. The recipes are from top-tier chefs and come from all over the country, so no matter where you live you can find one filled with local and delicious ingredients. After having to abandon my many gluten-filled recipes, I already know that Whole Foods to Thrive will be a book I am revisiting many times in the future.

From The Book

Sacha Inchi Baked Apple Cinnamon Cereal (pg 137)
Brazier has offered to share a delicious smoothie recipe from Whole Foods to Thrive.

Ginger Pear Smoothie with Sunflower Seed Hemp Milk

The riper the pear, the sweeter the smoothie. If you’d like it even sweeter, add one or two fresh or soaked dried dates. Since ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory, this is an ideal choice for a post-workout snack.

Time: 2 minutes • Makes about 3 cups (2 servings)

1 banana
½ pear, cored
1 cup water
1 cup Sunflower Hemp Seed Milk (see p. 126)
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tbsp hemp protein powder
1 tbsp peeled, grated ginger

• In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.
Chocolate Goodness Smoothie (pg 135)

Giveaway (Canada Only)
One prize pack contains six Vega smoothie mixes (either Shake & Go Smoothie mixes or Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer mixes) in an assortment of flavours like Vanilla Chai, Bodacious Berry, and Choc-a-Lot. Canada only. To enter you must be a follower, and leave a comment with a health tip and your e-mail address. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my e-mail or a new one will be selected. Giveaway ends June 1st at 11:59 pm MST. Good luck!

Waiting on Wednesday: Clean

Amy Reed's debut, Beautiful, has also caught my eye although I haven't read it yet so when I learned of her upcoming release, Clean, on the important topic of teenage addiction I knew I had a second book by her to add to my "to read" pile. Hopefully I'll get a chance to pick both of them up soon.
Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason, and Eva have one thing in common: They’re addicts. Addicts who have hit rock bottom and been stuck together in rehab to face their problems, face sobriety, and face themselves. None of them wants to be there. None of them wants to confront the truths about their pasts. But they’ll all have to deal with themselves and one another if they want to learn how to live. Because when you get that high, there’s nowhere to go but down, down, down.

Clean by Amy Read will be published August 9th 2011 by Simon Pulse.

What are you Waiting on this Wednesday? 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop: The Paper Garden and When God Was A Rabbit

Welcome to Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop at In The Next Room. I've had such a great response in the past I've decided to host TWO giveaways this time around! There will be a separate winner for each.

I'm offering one copy of The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock.

I'm also offering one copy of When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman.
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 what you are looking forward to most this summer. Make sure you include your e-mail address so I have a way to contact you. There will be two winners, and the first one selected will win The Paper Garden, the second one will win When God Was a Rabbit. The winners 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 May 31st EST.

Click here to return to the Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop homepage and visit the rest of the awesome stops. 

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

I almost didn't read Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton because of the terrible summary that compares the debut novel to Stephanie Meyer, Carrie Jones, and Becca Fitzpatrick, none of whom are authors I am interested in. What I found when I did pick up Blood Magic was a completely original story with no supernatural beings but rather one scared girl, one lost boy, and what happens when magic flows through you. Silla Kennicott's parents have died, and the belief is that her father killed her mother and than turned the gun on himself. Silla found them, covered in blood, and since then blood has been everywhere for her. When a book of spells using blood as the main ingredient arrives in the mail, written in her father's hand-writing, she becomes entranced with the magic. She also becomes entranced with the new guy at school, Nick, a boy whose own mother abandoned him after various suicide attempts. A mother who tried to dilute the magic in her blood through drugs. When Nick sees Silla doing blood magic it brings up memories he has long tried to forget, but as the two of them try to figure out what really happened to Silla's parents Nick's memories won't stay buried forever.

As enthralling as the story of Blood Magic was I did find there were a few problems with the book. In some of the more intense scenes, especially near the end of the book, it became really unclear to me what was going on. I felt like they were rushed and didn't seem to be as carefully written. There are also some lulls in the book where the pacing is quite slow. I will also admit that although I expected a lot of blood from a book called Blood Magic, I was surprised and a little uncomfortable at how lightly Silla takes cutting herself to remove the blood she needs. Silla's behaviour could certainly provide a sign of how much pain she is in but nobody seems to really take it that way and throughout the novel cutting for magic becomes very reasonable behaviour. Blood Magic certainly has a bit of a macabre feel to it and could even verge on horror at times.

As far as the characters go, I felt they were pretty authentic. I really enjoyed Silla's brother Reese, but I did want to know more about their grandmother who is looking after them following their parents death, especially since she is family by marriage not blood and never knew them before their parents died- why did she decide to help raise them? It is such a big responsibility but she really recedes into the background. I was also hoping to learn more about Nick's mysterious mother and his new stepmom who Nick hates but I could never quite figure out why, except that she is the reason he was forced to leave his friends and move away. Both Nick and Silla had realistic teenage voices, although it was clear that they were mature for their ages due to what had happened to their parents. They do have an instant connection, but it is pretty clear that is on a physical not emotional level, and that only comes later after they get to know each other better. I was surprised at how willing Silla was to talk about her parents deaths to Nick even when she hardly knew him, and I felt Nick keeping secrets about his mom was more authentic in that regard.

I thought the storyline was brilliant and completely original which was refreshing. There was romance but thankfully no love triangle, and I liked the fact that there are some steamy scenes between Nick and Silla, it makes it feel more real considering the characters are seventeen. Even though Nick writes poetry, he is still physically attracted to Silla, and that felt authentic. Blood Magic alternates between Nick and Silla's point of views with mysterious diary entries interspersed and I did feel the format worked well, especially when everything came together at the end. Nick and Silla's voices aren't as different as they could have been but I definitely wasn't confused about who was who. I also found Gratton's writing quite beautiful and it certainly carried the story and encouraged me to keep reading even when I was in one of the slower parts. I also found it really refreshing that Blood Magic was a complete book by itself even though it is part of the Blood Journals series and already has a sequel scheduled, The Blood Keeper which unfortunately doesn't come out until 2012. The ending offers potential for where the story could go next, but it is not one of those first books where the reader is still left with a billion questions which was nice. Ultimately, there were a few scenes that were slightly muddled, but Gratton's strong writing sustained Blood Magic and resulted in an original and striking debut.

Release Date: May 24th, 2011
Pages: 416
: ARC From Publisher

Buy the Book

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Two Kisses for Maddy by Matthew Logelin

Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love by Matthew Logelin is an incredibly tragic, unfortunately true story. Matt and Liz were highschool sweethearts, and after being together for over ten years their lives seem right on track: they've married, bought their dream home, and have a little girl on the way. Then all of that falls apart when Liz delivers premature but healthy baby Madeline and dies twenty four hours later without ever holding her daughter. Matt is not only grief-stricken but now facing parenthood alone, but he manages to find hope for the future in his beautiful baby girl and through his experiences reaches out to others like him.

Two Kisses for Maddy is an unbelievably sad story, and yet the message that the reader comes away with is not one of sadness but one of hope- this is Logelin's greatest accomplishment. Even with all the pain he has gone through, he finds inspiration in his love for his daughter. As a memoir, the writing is very casual and familiar, it almost feels as if Logelin is telling this story to a friend, which makes its contents even more heartbreaking. He doesn't hide things that others would have been hesitant to share, for example the fact that Liz was highly concerned that her child would be ugly and while Matt was visiting her in the NICU needed confirmation that she was in fact beautiful. Although these tidbits of information don't necessarily make the reader like Liz, they certainly make her human and real. The fact that these are real people, not characters in a book, mean that they are human and flawed, but they also love deeply and irrevocably and when Maddy someday reads her father's memoir it will be impossible to doubt the love that Matt and Liz had not only for each other, but for her before she was even born.

That said, an aspect of Two Kisses for Maddy that disappointed me was the fact that despite being published three years after Liz's death, it only covers what the first year was like for Logelin. Although I appreciate that the first year was the most difficult, I did think an epilogue of some sort which let the reader know a little bit about the subsequent two years would have been nice. Logelin also implies that he will never date again and although this is romantic, it seems perhaps overly sentimental but maybe if he had elaborated further it would have been more understandable, I can only hypothesize that because this was a book written mainly with his daughter in mind that wanted to keep the focus on what parenting would be like.

As a memoir, Two Kisses for Maddy is both heartbreaking and excruciatingly honest. Logelin begins the books by admitting that he is not a writer, that he never planned to write a book, and without these tragic events in his life he probably never would have. That truthful statement is something I reminded myself of when I didn't find the writing itself particularly memorable. Logelin's particular style of writing isn't what is going to stick with the reader. What does stick with the reader is the incredibly tragic but beautiful story of love and loss that Logelin tells Two Kisses for Maddy, one that nobody ever wants to experience but which he managed to make the best of anyway.

Release Date: April 14th, 2011
Pages: 272
Source: Netgalley
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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen is a love story with a touch of magic, taking place in the Walls of Water, North Carolina, it centres around the stories of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson and her former highschool classmate Paxton Osgood. Both Willa and Paxton are still living the town they grew up in, and neither of them has had much luck in love. From opposite ends of society- Willa's family met with financial ruin generations ago, while Paxton's replaced them as the Southern royalty- the two woman are brought together when Paxton's family restores the Blue Ridge Madam, a home built by Willa's great-grandfather. However, as the restoration nears completion it uncovers a skeleton buried beneath the property's peach tree, and it is only the first sign of things that are about to change for Willa and Paxton, and Walls of Water will never be the same.

Last year I read a Southern romance novel, Salting Roses by Lorelle Marinello, which I didn't really enjoy and I suggested that it would have been better suited for somebody willing to suspend belief and enjoy a little magic. Although this is still true, after reading The Peach Keeper I realize that when it is done right, and Allen does it perfectly, I am definitely able to enjoy a Southern love story with a little magic. Allen reminded me that although readers may have genres they prefer, and I certainly do, when a writer is extremely talented then it doesn't matter if you don't usually read their kind of books. I completely well in love with The Peach Keeper, an easy to read and lovely to devour kind of novel.

Although first of all a love story, The Peach Keeper also deals with other universal themes like friendship and family. Also, despite being centred around romance, the relationships that Allen writes about are not completely conventional and expected, these are slightly older women who have been unlucky in love and find it when they have mostly given up, and it is was comforting and heart-warming to read about. In addition to Paxton and Willa, there is a strong and authentic secondary cast of characters that were enjoyable to read about, including the love interests.

Sarah Addison Allen is clearly a talented and lovely writer, and I was absolutely enamoured with her words in The Peach Keeper. I am excited to know that she has three previous books that have also had positive feedback and I definitely plan to pick up all of those in the future. Overall, The Peach Keeper is a perfect light and lovely read and it was a great reminder that everyone in awhile, we all love a little romance.

Release Date: March 22nd, 2011
Pages: 288
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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.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Giveaway Winners

New York, New York:
There's Lead in Your Lipstick:
The Pun Also Rises:
McClelland & Stewart Poetry Giveaway Winners:
Small Mechanics:
Origami Dove:



Congratulations Everyone! All winners have been contacted and have 48 hours to reply before new ones are selected. I'm excited to post a whole new batch of giveaways coming up soon!

A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete Short Stories by Margaret Drabble

Published together for the first time, A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete Short Stories includes fourteen short stories by Margaret Drabble, the author of seventeen novels. Although I had not read any of Drabble's novels I am always interested in discovering a new author and as a lover of short stories I figured that I'd start with these bite-sized doses of her writing before delving into something longer. Appearing in chronological order based on the date they were published, A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman begins in 1964 with the most recent story being from 2000, covering almost forty decades of Drabble's career.

The collection begins with the story, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" and the first line, "It was the kind of party at which nobody got introduced." which immediately caught my attention. The story itself was one of my favourites in the book, centering around a man interested in catching the attention of a beautiful young woman at a fancy party. He manages this by lighting her hair on fire. Drabble captures the glamour of the moment perfectly.

Next in A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman is "Hassan's Tower" in which a man honeymoons with his wife, a woman he once loved deeply but now feels distant from. Reflecting on her he thinks:
"Others found her beautiful, so beautiful she must be, and it was his fault only if he had ceased to see it."
Drabble's writing is concise and observant, and the women she writes about are strong as well as distinctly English. I describe them this way because although many of the women are pushing against the norm of the time, the stories maintain a proper tone. Drabble writes in a way which is more polished than raw. Although her writing is technically flawless, at times I did crave a little more emotion in stories like "Faithful Lovers" which despite their tumultuous subject matter, in this case two people having an affair together, maintained an air of detachment.

Many of the characters are working women, from a playwright in "A Success Story" to a TV personality in "A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman" to a scientist in "The Caves of God". In such stories, particularly "A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman" and "Homework", Drabble attempts to reconcile the working woman who still loves her children and family and who wants to have both.

One of the most interesting things about a collection like A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman is the ability to see the writer evolve of time. Although the stories were not written in the exact order they were published, the characters still seem to age throughout the stories. She begins with a young man at a party, but later introduces a mother, then a woman who has already been divorced twice. Most of the later stories involve older women who somehow seek to escape to escape their ordinary lives. Although these later stories were still interesting, I found them less exciting and spontaneous, and perhaps it is simply my own age which makes it difficult to connect with such main characters.

The two stories of the collection which stuck with me the most were "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" and "A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman". What these stories have in common is Drabble's ability to quietly tell the opposite of what the reader would expect, and although in the end their resolution may not be explicit, she has given you just enough to get to know the characters and become intrigued by the outcome, wondering what will happen next. Ultimately, A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman is a collection of varying but quiet strength which would be interesting not only to those who are already familiar with Drabble, but also anyone looking for an introduction to this reserved but powerful writer.

Release Date: May 18th, 2011
Pages: 256
: ARC From Publisher
Buy the Book

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Skinny by Diana Spechler

Skinny by Diana Spechler tells the story of twenty-seven-year-old Gray, a woman who finds herself compulsively eating after her father dies. As somebody who has always been paranoid about her weight, Gray is determine to stop her eating habits and after she discovers that the daughter of a woman her father left money to is attending a weight-loss camp she signs up. She doesn't realize she has signed herself up for a summer that will change her life forever, including an affair and meeting the girl she believes to be her half-sister. However, just as beauty can be deceiving, Gray is about to learn that nothing in life is quite what it seems.

Skinny is written with a sharp and often searing wit from Spechler, and it was a novel I found surprisingly serious for what I expected to be basically chick-lit. Spechler doesn't sugarcoat things, and oftentimes her comments and observations were mean enough that they made me uncomfortable, even if it was just Gray facing the facts. It is definitely not a novel to pick up if you are struggling with your weight or self-esteem, because many of the scenes are slightly upsetting. That said, Spechler's voice was frank and honest, and Skinny is definitely a novel unlike any I have ever read so I think it will be refreshing in that regard for certain readers.

As a main character, Gray herself is not very likable, but neither are any of the other characters. Some of them seem a bit like stereotypes of themselves, like the girl who is allergic to everything. However, in the end it didn't bother me that I didn't like any of the characters because the way Spechler deals with them is often so hurtful that it is almost counter-intuitive to care about them. The storyline of Skinny is very fast-paced which makes the book is easy to read, even if it is often like staring at a car wreck, although a very articulate and clever one, none of the characters in the book are really in a good place in their lives. My overall feelings about the novel were a bit tainted by the ending, which left me wanting more and feeling pretty depressed. Many of the reasons that Skinny is frustrating is because it forces the reader to look at themselves and the norms that society perpetuates and the way that we view our bodies- and when it comes to those issues, it may not be a book that I enjoyed but it is definitely one that I appreciated.  

Release Date: April 26th, 2011
Pages: 368
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.

Waiting on Wednesday: Every You, Every Me

I've read a couple books by David Levithan and loved all of them, but Every You, Every Me definitely seems like a departure for the normally cheerful writer. I am very curious to read it but unfortunately I still have a few more months to wait.
In this high school-set psychological tale, a tormented teen named Evan starts to discover a series of unnerving photographs—some of which feature him. Someone is stalking him . . . messing with him . . . threatening him. Worse, ever since his best friend Ariel has been gone, he's been unable to sleep, spending night after night torturing himself for his role in her absenc...moreIn this high school-set psychological tale, a tormented teen named Evan starts to discover a series of unnerving photographs—some of which feature him. Someone is stalking him . . . messing with him . . . threatening him. Worse, ever since his best friend Ariel has been gone, he's been unable to sleep, spending night after night torturing himself for his role in her absence. And as crazy as it sounds, Evan's starting to believe it's Ariel that's behind all of this, punishing him. But the more Evan starts to unravel the mystery, the more his paranoia and insomnia amplify, and the more he starts to unravel himself. Creatively told with black-and-white photos interspersed between the text so the reader can see the photos that are so unnerving to Evan, Every You, Every Me is a one-of-a-kind departure from a one-of-a-kind author.

Every You, Every Me by David Levithan will be released September 13th 2011 by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

What are you Waiting on this Wednesday? 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder

The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder begins when April Bowers is about to start her second year of highschool and her best/only friend has moved away. All alone at school, April can't believe her luck when Britney Taylor starts to pay attention to her. Britney is the queen bee of Penford High School, and after just one lunch eaten at Britney's popular table April has already started to emerge from her life of anonymity. Although she may be popular and pretty, one thing Britney isn't is nice, and April has to decide how much of herself she is willing to give up in order to belong.

Even from the synopsis it is clear that The Lipstick Laws is definitely a novelization of the film Mean Girls, and in that way it is definitely not original or surprising. Where the novel shines is in Holder's often hilarious and charming style of writing, which makes the book fun to read, even if the outcome isn't going to shock you. It's an easy and quick book to read, and April's voice as well as her quirks such as an addiction to stuffing her bra with tissues, are both incredibly funny and incredibly teenage. Although the story is predictable, it's also fast-paced and enjoyable to read. At times, April felt hypocritical but it seemed like a natural part of growing up, which she definitely does a lot of throughout The Lipstick Laws. I also admit to being shocked at times by how far the girls took the teasing and pranks, it made me feel awful no matter who the victim was.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel because even though the story isn't not completely original, Holder's writing is incredibly charming and hilarious at times. The Lipstick Laws is a funny but predictable debut that is certainly worthwhile if you are looking for an entertaining and easy to read story.

Release Date: April 4th, 2011
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher 
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As a side note:
Although not crucial to the story, an aspect of The Lipstick Laws I didn't really appreciate was using a cross-dressing teenager as the punch line to more than one joke. I'm not really sure it was appropriate and while it is a novel suited to young teens, the humour of those jokes still felt immature. I did appreciate that the girls were willing, to a certain extent, to befriend the individual, but having him show up at the public library in full drag didn't exactly feel like something a young teen would feel comfortable doing. I didn't find it funny that this boy put himself out there looking for a group to belong to, only to have the girls giggle about it as soon as he left. None of the reviews I have read so far have mentioned this minor character, so perhaps I am being overly sensitive to the representation of LGBT but because this is a novel which is to a large extent about bullying and aimed a young audience I thought it was worth mentioning. If you have read the novel, I am definitely curious about your thoughts on this. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock

The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock tells the story of Mary Granville Pendarves Delany, an English woman who lived from 1700-1788. Married to a sixty-one year-old man at sixteen, she was a widow by twenty-five and waited twenty years to finally remarry. After her second husband, who she loved, died she moved in with a close friend of hers and at the age of 72, picked up a pair of scissors and created a new art form. Creating almost one thousand botanically correct, cup-paper flowers, Mary Delany was the founder of collage. Intertwined with Peacock's biography of Mary is pieces of her own story and the connection she has found to the remarkable artist.

At first look, The Paper Garden was exactly my kind of book. I love memoirs, my mother is an artist, and I have spent most of my post-graduate education learning about plants. However when I picked up the book, something just didn't click with me as a reader. One problem was that some of the "scientific" statements bothered me, for example she says that "All flowers have both ovaries and semen-(a.k.a pollen-) forming organs.", which is completely incorrect, there are many flowers which are imperfect, meaning that that they contain only female or male reproductive organs, not both. This sort of statement is not something whose inaccuracy I wouldn't have recognized if I didn't have at least a rudimentary understanding of botany, but considering Peacock has written a non-fiction book where botany plays an important role I was disappointed to find incorrect science within it. I was reading an advanced copy of the book so perhaps it was changed in the final version, but finding even one false statement made me doubt the accuracy of the entire work in a way that I didn't enjoy.

At times I found the story-telling style simply too dramatic for me, for example at one point Peacock writes of Delany riding a horse on the beach that "the cantering four-legged beauty between her legs a vigorous inversion of the ineffective beast of a man at home." a line which feels more appropriate for a romance novel than a biography. In fact, The Paper Garden isn't a biography in the traditional sense of the word, and while at times this makes it wonderful and unique, there were also many times when as a scientifically-minded individual I was overwhelmed by Peacock's interpretations and wanted to shout, tell me the facts. Sometimes, the flowery language was simply too much (no pun intended).

It took me a lot longer than I expected to read The Paper Garden, and a lot of that had to do with the difficulty I had getting immersed in the story. The premise itself is really fascinating, and I was definitely intrigued to learn more about this fantastic woman who was a pioneer is so many ways, but Peacock's language and personally interpretations often lost me. Although there are many positive reviews of the book out there, ultimately the pace of the book was simply too slow for me. Overall, there was a lot that excited and enticed me into picking up The Paper Garden, but unfortunately there wasn't a lot that kept me reading.

Release Date: October 12th, 2010
Pages: 416
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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.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Adults: A Novel by Alison Espach

"I knew our lives were just beginning and that their lives were ending, and how strange it seems to me now that this was a form of leverage."
The Adults: A Novel by Alison Espach begins with a party. Emily Vidal is an intelligent, perceptive and snarky teenage girl at her father's fiftieth birthday party, a party her mother organized even though she and her husband are getting divorced and which is attended by a diverse cast of neighbours. The Adults follows Emily over a decade, as she goes through high school drama, has an affair with a teacher, and later moves to Prague to pursue graduate school where her father is currently living. That said, it certainly isn't a novel about plot, but rather about the wry observations that Espach makes about the affluent world that surrounds Emily as well as what it is like growing up.

The Adults is a very difficult novel to review, because I loved Espach's writing, and I loved the first third of the novel, but in the end it unfortunately lost my love. As a character, Emily was completely memorable. She is constantly observing the world around her as well as sharing her thoughts on the experiences she is having. Every once in awhile she throws an outlandish statement out there, almost as if to see if the reader is paying attention, for example, "As a child, I thought my breasts were tumors." The way that the characters interact with each other felt realistic, and I really enjoyed the strange insight into Emily's highschool life. However, the pacing of The Adults was extremely slow and so the novel took me almost a month to read and certainly wasn't a book I rushed back to.

Unfortunately, when the novel moves to Prague it mostly lost my interest. A lot of that portion focuses on Emily's relationship with her half-sister who never really caught my interest. I enjoyed Emily's cold sense of humour when it worked, but there were certainly moments where it didn't and just felt odd instead. Throughout the novel, Espach's writing is impeccable and beautiful, raw and observant, and if it was not for this fact I am unsure if I would have finished the slow book. Although it was the beginning I loved, one paragraph near the end of the book stuck with me in particular and summed up the novel really well:
"I thought of all the empty bottles and cigarette ends I had created and all the men I had created them with. There were so many things I had loved as my own, and these things never ended up being mine. All of the glass lights strung on other people's porches, houseplants that were someone else's, rugs and paintings and lighting fixtures and curtains and different men who looked different in every room, and I closed my eyes, overwhelmed by the infinite ways to live just one life. I wanted to run out of my apartment until the street signs and passing cars ripped me of my belongings, until the wind had worn me down to sand so fine, I could slip through the cracks in the floor."
Ultimately, although the latter half of The Adults didn't capture my heart in the same way as the beginning did,  Espach has created a dark and perceptive novel with a protagonist and style of writing I will not soon forget.

Release Date: February 1st, 2011
Pages: 307
: E-Galley
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

In My Mailbox (May 8th-14th 2011)

{For Review}
Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton (Random House Canada)
The Better Mother by Jen Sookfong Lee (Random House Canada)
One Day by David Nicholls (Random House Canada)
The Rules of the Tunnel by Ned Zeman (ARC) (TLC Tours)
Letters to my Daughters by Fawzia Koofi (D&M Publishers Inc.)
Close Your Eyes by Amanda Eyre Ward (ARC) (TLC Tours)
Whole Foods to Thrive by Brendan Brazier (Penguin Canada)

I've already read (and loved) Blood Magic, and the finished cover of this dark and creepy YA is absolutely gorgeous, I'll be publishing my review closer to the release date but it is definitely one of my favourites so far this year, incredible debut! The Better Mother is by Canadian author Sookfong Lee, a story about two misfits, and not only do I love supporting my country's literature but it sounds absolutely incredible. The movie for One Day is coming out this summer, so there's a pretty new edition of the book with Anna Hathaway and Jim Sturgess on the cover, I'm excited to have a chance to read it before the film comes out!

I love memoirs and The Rules of the Tunnel sounds really interesting, my tour date for the book isn't til August but I am excited to read it and share my thoughts then. Letters to my Daughters is also a memoir by an Afghan politician that sounds like it will be very powerful. Close Your Eyes is a thrilling mystery I've been looking forward, and the last book, Whole Foods to Thrive, is a not only a cookbook but has chapters on things like food sustainability and the environment.

Boy Heaven by Laura Kasischke
You Be Me: Friendship in the Lives of Teen Girls edited by Susan Musgrave

I bought these two taking advantage of the Book Depository 10% and ordered works by two authors I had previously read and loved. Boy Heaven is a YA by Kasischke, whose The Raising I read earlier this year (I also bought A Perfect World by her, so you can tell how much I loved her prose). You Be Me is a collection of essays edited by Canadian poet Susan Musgrave, whose most recent work is Origami Dove. I am definitely looking forward to reading both. Click here to learn about the 10% off on the Book Depository currently going on, I'll definitely be ordering a couple more books!

What was in your mailbox this week? Leave a link so I can stop by and check it out.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar

Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar centres around a young boy named Nuri whose mother dies, leaving behind a loneliness he thinks will never vanish. Then he meets Mona on a summer vacation and is swept away. Mona falls in love with and marries Nuri's father, beginning a complex story about love and lust, as Nuri's wish to have Mona all to himself is satisfied when his father disappears. As Nuri and Mona attempt to piece together what happened, they both begin to learn how very little they knew about the person they loved.

Anatomy of a Disappearance is a mysterious and thought-provoking story, Matar lures you along, enchanting you with writing that is subtle but intelligent. In a way the novel reminded me of the title story in Deborah Willis' collection, Vanishing and Other Stories, for the questions and emptiness the father leaves behind when he disappears. Usually, I try to separate the author from the novel, but in this case it is impossible. Matar's own childhood began in a rich, beautiful house filled with servants but after the bloody Libyan revolution his father, a political dissident, vanished- a story which is very familiar to Nuri's life. Matar perfectly captures Nuri's conflicted feelings, his overwhelming longing to know what happened to his father, and it is probably because he was able to draw from his own tragic experiences.

Anatomy of a Disappearance is a quiet book, a calmly told story of what happens when a boy's world gets turned upside down, as not one but two parents leave him. Never overwhelming, this is a short but thoughtful novel. Matar's simple yet eloquent prose submerges the reader into a moving story about the complexities of growing up and the shape that an absence leaves behind.

Release Date: March 3rd, 2011
Pages: 256
Source: ARC From Publisher 
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10% Off The Book Depository Til May 31st!

The Book Depository is my favourite site for buying books online so I had to share this information. They have the cheapest prices I can find and ship using normal mail which is a lot more convenient for me than courier. They don't add tax on top of their prices and it's free shipping almost everywhere in the world!

For the next couple weeks you can save 10% off your orders, as many times as you want. What that means is you can only save 10% per order, but you can make as many orders as you want and get the savings each time! Which is awesome if you are as indecisive as I am.

The promotion ends May 31st 2011.

In order to have the option to enter a coupon you have to visit the site via this link.

That's right, click here!

The page it brings you to will give you all the information you need, but the promotion code you enter at checkout is May11

I'm already excitedly filling my (virtual) basket. What do you plan to buy?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Small Memories by José Saramago

Small Memories is a memoir of Nobel Prize Winner José Saramago's childhood in Portuguese villages. It shifts back and forth from when he was a young boy to a teenager, recounting his family and what it was like to grow up in an illiterate family where he began to teach himself. It is the story of how a man unexpectedly became a famous and incredible writer. However, admittedly, this is a strange choice for a first book to read by Saramego but that is the way it worked out. I had read half of his novel, Death With Interruptions, last year before it was due back to the library. Since Small Memories didn't have a due date I was actually able to have a complete introduction to Saramego.

That said, I don't think that Small Memories was the best introduction to Saramego. It is very anecdotal in nature, and readers familiar with his work will be interested to know that he elaborates on the inspiration behind many of them, for example the scary blind man that likely inspired him to write the book Blindness, but most of these references were lost on me. I also found many of the stories long-winded and that there were a lot of names mentioned so I sometimes became confused. Perhaps the memoir could have been more strongly edited as there is irrelevant and even boring information included that distracts from the storytelling, for example when Saramego says he took a test on the groundfloor of the building, then elaborating that in fact it was only the ground floor if you entered from the playground, but actually the first floor if you entered from the street. I feel like I have wasted your time even telling you this example as it is so pointless to the story and fairly random and out of place in the memoir as a whole.

Still, in addition to the interesting background information on Saramego, there is definitely a sense of humour in Small Memories. Saramego explains how his father was forced to name himself after his son, when a clerk gave Saramego the family nickname for his last name on his birth certificate, and so Saramego is not actually a family name at all. It is also very interesting to learn about what it was like growing up for Saramego, as his experiences will certainly be unfamiliar to the lives of many of his readers. Ultimately, Small Memories is a unique memoir but one that often lost my attention despite its brevity so I would recommend it mainly to those already familiar with Saramego and looking to learn a bit more about him. As for me, the memoir was not a great fit but I'll definitely be digging into one of his novels in the future.

Translated By: Margaret Jull Costa
Release Date: May 11th, 2011
Pages: 176
Source: ARC From Publisher 
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Author Guest Post: Brian Farrey


MR. PEABODY: You don’t look at all happy, Sherman. What seems to be the problem?

SHERMAN:  It’s this book report, Mr. Peabody. I don’t know what to write about. I could use some help.

MR. PEABODY: Then help you shall have. Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for (mumble, mumble) years ago.    We’re going to visit that world renown book recommender, Brian Farrey.

SHERMAN:  Book recommender? Is that a real thing?

MR. PEABODY: Shut up, kid.        


MR. PEABODY: (VOICEOVER) We set the Wayback controls for central Wisconsin in the 70s and just like that, we were outside Brian’s childhood home.


MR. PEABODY: You must be Brian Farrey.

BRIAN (age 6): Who are you?

MR. PEABODY: I am Mr. Peabody and this is my boy, Sherman.

SHERMAN:  Hello!

BRIAN (age 6): Dogs don’t talk.

MR. PEABODY: This dog does. And we’re here to ask if you can recommend any books for Sherman here to write a report on.

SHERMAN:  It would mean a lot.

BRIAN (age 6): Well, right now I’m reading The Monster at the End of this Book. It’s pretty good.

MR. PEABODY:  But is it good enough to write a report on?

BRIAN (age 6):  I shouldn’t talk to strangers. And I probably shouldn’t talk to talking dogs.

MR. PEABODY:  You really need to get over that.

BRIAN (age 6): I’m going to take my book and go now.


SHERMAN:  So should I do a report on The Monster at the End of this Book.

MR. PEABODY: Brian wasn’t very helpful, was he?  Maybe we should try him at a later age and see what he has to say.

SHERMAN:  Good idea. But he has a point. I mean, dogs don’t talk—

MR. PEABODY: Seriously, I will bite you. Shut up and let’s go.


MR. PEABODY: Hello, again.

BRIAN (age 12):  I remember you guys. (TO SHERMAN) Can I talk to you? Talking to a dog freaks me out.

MR. PEABODY:  We’ll leave you alone if you can recommend a book for Sherman to report on.

BRIAN (age 12): (HE PULLS A PAPERBACK FROM HIS BOOKSHELF) This is my favorite right now. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.  I’ve read it six times already.  It’s got a great mystery and Turtle makes me laugh.

MR. PEABODY: (UNDER HIS BREATH) So talking turtles don’t bug you but talking dogs….

BRIAN (age 12): What was that?

MR. PEABODY: Nothing.  There you are, Sherman. There’s your book.

SHERMAN: Maybe. I don’t really like mysteries.

MR. PEABODY:  Look, you wanted a book to report on and—

BRIAN (age 12): Why don’t you check back with me in about four years? My tastes diversify then.

SHERMAN: How do you even know that?

MR. PEABODY: Who cares? Let’s go.


BRIAN (age 16):  (HE BRANDISHES A BOOK) Check it out! I was ready for you this time.

SHERMAN: But how did you?

BRIAN (age 16): I’m a sci fi geek. You’re time travelers. Didn’t take much to figure out.

MR. PEABODY: (READING THE COVER OF THE BOOK)  The Stand  by Stephen King.  Is it good?

BRIAN (age 16): It….is….awesome!  Post-apocalyptic world, blood and guts, and…swearing.

MR. PEABODY: (HANDS BOOK BACK TO BRIAN) Sorry, Sherman, we can’t expose you to things like that.

SHERMAN:  But it sounds good—

MR. PEABODY: I mean it. I will bite you and you will cry. Is that what you want?

SHERMAN: (TO BRIAN) Thanks, anyway.

BRIAN:  This is censorship--

MR. PEABODY:  You’ve got one more chance, Farrey.  We’ll see you again in four years.  You’re a world renowned book recommender.  Do your job.

BRIAN:  Is a recommender even a real thing?


MR. PEABODY: (TO SHERMAN) You’re next, pal.


MR. PEABODY: You work at a dog pound?

BRIAN (age 20): Nope.


BRIAN (age 20): (TO SHERMAN)  Here, kid. Enjoy.


SHERMAN: (READING COVER) One Hundred Years of Solitude?

BRIAN (age 20):  It’s pretty good. You won’t forget it anytime soon.


SHERMAN:  Is Mr. Peabody going to be okay?

BRIAN (age 20): Do you care?



Brian Farrey’s debut YA novel, WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, will be published May 24 by Simon Pulse. He tweets @BrianFarrey and he blogs at