Thursday, September 29, 2011

Author Trinity Faegen on the Top Ten Places She Can’t Write (She's Tried)

Top Ten Places I Can’t Write (I know because I tried)

10. Swimming pool: I spend so much time making sure no one can see my hairy legs, or that side car of ice cream I had with my apple pie, which is now making my belly way too jolly, I’m then burning up, so have to lose the cover-up and get in the water, after which the whole process begins again. Words written: Zero.

9. Starbucks: There is only one in my town, and as soon as I get settled, with ear buds in, laptop on, book loaded, someone I know walks in and I’m chatting away, instead of writing. If no one familiar comes in, I strike up a convo with strangers. Also spend $15 on additional products such as lemon pound cake and old coffee grounds I may someday use when I someday plant a garden, which I now need to Google how to grow tomatoes in west Texas. Oh, and look, those kids are playing Scrabble. Words written: Zero. Scrabble score: 211

8. Airplanes: Whomever is behind me is reading every word I write, which has become the worst drivel I’ve ever produced and my humiliation knows no bounds. Alternatively, I’m writing something sexy and my over-the-shoulder reader looks like my Grandma, or my ten-year-old niece. There is also beverage service and possible snacks to consider. Words written: 100, but later deleted, so final count: Zero.

7. Backyard: There are wasps in summer, it’s too cold in winter. I’m also distracted by how badly I need new patio furniture. A trip to Lowes ensues. Word count: Zero.

6. Kitchen table: There is food, which I feel compelled to organize, rearrange, cook, eat, or throw out. Words written: Zero. Calories consumed: 1,900

5. Mother-in-law’s: Yeah. No. Words written: -1,000 after I delete the sexy times because I realize she may read it someday.

4. Writer Conferences: I’m always inspired and enthusiastic at a writer conference. All those panels of editors and agents, talking about what’s selling, and successful authors talking about How To Write. Unfortunately, it’s also when I see my writing friends in real life, so all downtime is spent over coffee, or hanging out in the lobby, or eating delicious expensive food at beautiful restaurants, while talking about kids and books and the meaning of life. Time in my hotel room is limited to showering and sleeping. Word count: Zero Face Time: Priceless

3. Doctor’s office: If I don’t take the netbook, I’ll be waiting over an hour, wishing I had it because I could have gotten some words in. If I do take the netbook, I’ll see the doctor within five minutes of sitting down. Truthfully, doctor visits are typically stressful, so writing anything is a stretch. Word count: Zero Articles read in People: 6

2. Boats: My mom and I went on a river cruise through Germany last December, stopping along the way at wee, quaint villages to go to the Christmas markets. The ship was small, intimate and beautiful. Also filled with fun, interesting people, several who liked to hang out in the ship’s library. I had moderate success working on revisions, but it was a little distracting when we passed towering cliffs with castles perched up there, in the snow, with snow falling, and hot chocolate in the lounge, and a cute steward who liked to chat about Romania. Recently, I took an Alaskan cruise with my husband. As if. Word count: Zero Castles: 15 Bears: 1

1. After surgery: Valium and hydrocodone are not conducive to creative process. Not taking them means pain, which is also not helpful. On the upside, the hazy drug effect means you don’t really care. Words written: Zero

All to say, the only place I actually manage to get significant writing done is at home, in my office, at my desk, headphones on, with all my random, comfortable things and books around.

Thank you for having me here, Zoë!

Trinity Faegen wasn’t always a writer. She had an illustrious career as a Campus Cop in college, led many children astray as a camp counselor, and decorated Christmas trees for sweet, and notsosweet, little old ladies. She loves metal and rock, the Rocky mountains, chocolate cake and college football. She hates sappy stuff and hypocrites. Mostly, though, she loves to write. 

Trinity lives in the outback of Texas with her husband and a mean cat. 

Thanks so much to Trinity for stopping by In The Next Room! To learn more about her debut novel, The Mephisto Covenant, stop by her website. Click here to check out the other stops on this tour

Review Elsewhere: Tunnel Vision by Susan Shaw

"Tunnel Vision had a riveting premise, an exciting beginning and a shocking, although not ultimately rewarding, ending. But over two hundred pages of dull writing left me looking for a light at the end of tunnel… and not in a good way."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Author Joan Leegant on Inspiration

I’m one of those fiction writers who doesn’t plan the story out ahead of time. Instead, I’ll conjure some characters and a setting and follow them to see what they do and where they take me. I might have a dim sense of their struggles and passions, what might be driving them, but I try not to think about that too much before I start writing. Otherwise the story tends to come out as too engineered; there’s no room for surprise, for letting the characters develop the way they need to develop, not the way I might want them to develop.

With Wherever You Go, I knew only two things when I started the book: that I wanted to write a novel set in Israel and that I wanted to write about young Americans in Israel. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life either in Israel – since 2007, I’ve been teaching in Tel Aviv a semester each year—or thinking or reading or worrying about Israel. So it was a natural place for me to explore through fiction. I came up with 3 Americans, all in the country for different reasons. Finding the characters sounds straightforward, but coming up with those particular characters took several years. Though the character Yona is the first one you meet in the book, she was the last one I wrote. For a long time, I had another woman in her place, a holdover from an early draft that had a very different tone and an entirely different storyline. Eventually I realized that the first woman didn’t belong in the book; she wasn’t a fit. I had to send her back to her own story and find someone else. When I found Yona, the novel began to fall into place.

Not surprisingly, my characters took me straight into the heart of the West Bank and the contentious matter of the settlement cause. I’m very interested in people who attach themselves to causes, who live for “the movement,” whatever that movement might be—and that’s what I wanted to explore in the book. What draws people to causes, especially ones that involve violence? How much is ideology and how much is psychology? The power of such fierce attachments was something I first became aware of when I was a student during the Vietnam war. There were anti-war protests and feminism and all kinds of radical movements sweeping the US then. People who exhibit that kind of revolutionary fervor fascinate me.

I’m also very interested in religion and how embracing a religious discipline can save a person, but can also destroy a person. This was something I explored in the book through the character of Mark Greenglass, who’s lost his religious passion when the book opens and doesn’t know why. I didn’t know why either, so I had to write the book to find out. That’s one of the pleasures of writing fiction that you don’t plan out ahead of time. You get to find out what happens the same way a reader does: by discovering it as you go.

Joan Leegant is the author of WHEREVER YOU GO, and AN HOUR IN PARADISE. Formerly an attorney, she taught at Harvard University for eight years. Since 2007, she has lived half the year in Tel Aviv where she is the visiting writer at Bar-Ilan University and lectures for the U.S. State Department. When not in Israel she lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

Thanks so much to Joan for taking the time to stop by In The Next Room. You can find my review of her beautiful yet horrifying novel, Wherever You Go, here. To connect with Joan, visit her website,

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Surprisingly, in many ways Unearthly by Cynthia Hand was another Vaclav and Lena, despite the fact that the books have basically nothing in common except both were mailbox surprises that I wouldn't usually read, but made an exception, and ended up really glad I did.  

Unearthly is the first in a trilogy about Clara Gardner, a normal teenage girl, except the part where she's a quarter angel a fact that makes her stronger, more beautiful, and more talented than all the humans that surround her. It also means her life revolves around a purpose, a reason she was born, the only problem is that Clara has to figure out what it is from her visions of forest fires and a handsome boy. The result is that her family moves to a new town, so she can get close to the mysterious stranger from her prophecy, only it turns out he is already plenty close with his serious girlfriend. It doesn't help that Clara keeps getting distracted by Tucker, the handsome yet annoying Southern boy who won't leave her alone. Ultimately, Clara has a choice to make, and its consequences are more complex than she could ever fathom. 

Okay- let's just stop and take count for a moment:
  1. Paranormal Romance ✓
  2. Angels ✓
  3. Love Triangle ✓
These are the three major components that were standing in my way of loving Unearthly, and somehow, Hand's wonderful writing meant I was able to get over all three. And yes, I realize #1 is kinda the combination of #2 and #3, but that's besides the point (I mean, it is possible to have Angels and a Love Triangle but not an Angel in a Love Triangle, so I'm holding onto that distinction). The point is, this is not a book I'd like, and yet I did.

What makes Unearthly such an anomaly is not only the incredibly adorable love interest- Tucker has all the masculine charm and blunder of Quince from Forgive My Fins, plus a Southern accent which really came to life since I listened to the audiobook- but simply good, strong, clear writing so that even though Clara's life was extreme, a lot of the issues she faced were realistic teenage ones. The truth is, regardless of if you are part angel or not, parents keep secrets, friends make plans without you, boys you like ignore you, and sometimes you just want to fit in even if it means dulling down your shine (literally, in Clara's case as she has to dye her sparkly hair).

Without being heavy on the religion, Hand manages a unique and interesting backstory for Clara and the rest of her kind, and I am definitely interested in finding out more as the story develops. Plus, despite being part of a series Unearthly works quite well on its own, with a fun twist at the end I definitely didn't see coming. I also liked how this wasn't a story about a girl magically discovering powers, but rather figuring out how to manage them, which makes it unique from many paranormal stories out there.

Ultimately, Unearthly wasn't the cliche book I thought it would be but instead a unique and engaging spin on a paranormal being dealing with normal teenage life- although I tend to avoid angel storylines, I make have to rethink my opinion when encountered with other books in the future.  The second novel in the Unearthly Trilogy, Hallowed, will be released January 24th 2012 and this time, you can bet I won't be hesitant to pick it up.  

Release Date: January 4th, 2011
Pages: 435
Source: ARC From Publisher / Audiobook
Buy the Book 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guest Review: Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald

Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots is about Jenna, a vegetarian with some extreme eco-ideals. To avoid being stuck in Florida with her mother and grandmother for the summer, as her parents planned, she concocts some plans of her own. These plans involve going to stay with her godmother, Susie, her new husband, and her stepdaughter in Canada. While there, Jenna learns how to deal with nature, unfriendly new acquaintances, and she finds a survival guide, which she applies to surviving the woes of being a teenager, as well as the wilderness.

This may seem like just a light summer read, but it is so much more than that. The characters are real, and pretty awesome...once they start to actually let Jenna first, they were pretty mean to her. All in all though, I thought that Abby McDonald did an amazing job at making all of the characters so realistic. They had real problems, and they actually spoke like real people too. It’s always nice when characters don’t speak like robots...I hate when dialogue doesn’t seem natural, but with Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots, Abby pulls of the dialogue perfectly. I especially liked that she didn’t try and make the kids have weird lingo just because Jenna went up to Canada...we aren’t that different you know. :P

I also loved the evolution of relationships. Fiona, Susie’s stepdaughter, was such a bag to her at first, but as the book went on, she started to open up, and she realized that if she kept treating everyone so poorly...she wouldn’t have any friends left. Jenna was the one to point that out to her, and I loved that, it showed Jenna’s growth, and I loved that she was also sticking up for her godmother, Susie. Fiona actually turned out to be an alright character...which kind of surprised me. Oh, and the boys...well, they were definitely jerks at first...jerks or just plain oblivious, but I liked how Jenna didn’t give up. She’s persistent if nothing else, and she made sure they gave her a chance to show that she wasn’t a snob who looked down upon the small-town hicks as they referred to themselves. I especially liked Ethan and Reeve, for two completely different reasons, but I don’t want you to be spoiled, so I’ll let you read it and see if you like them, too.

I really liked Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots. I think it’s a great book to pick up for a summer read, or one to pick up when you’re feeling like you want something a bit different because Jenna isn’t your typical YA heroine, and this isn’t your typical light and fluffy read. It broaches on some serious topics, but it doesn’t really dwell on them, mostly it just reminds you that they’re there. This story also reminds you that you don’t have to always do everything to the extreme. Jenna learns that throughout this story. She sees that her extreme ideals don’t fit everywhere, and that sometimes you have to make adjustments to what you believe because not every situation is black and white. I think that people who enjoy contemporary stories, but prefer character development to romance, would love this one. There is romance, but I think this story is more about Jenna’s growth with a bit of romance thrown in. ;)

Release Date: April 13th, 2010
Pages: 304
Source: ARC From Publisher
Buy the Book 

This book was reviewed by Ambur from Burning Impossibly Bright- you can check out more of her awesome book reviews here. Thanks Ambur, this sounds like a fun and spunky book that I look forward to reading someday!

It's Monday, what are you reading? (9)

This meme is hosted at Book Journey
Last week I finished reading: 
Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
I think I actually preferred this to the first book, Uglies, I just enjoyed the characters more and Tally's transformation was quite interesting. And that ending- yikes!

Specials by Scott Westerfeld
So creepy and a delightful ending to Tally's story, although there was a loss of one my favourite characters and Tally's relationship choice seemed more out of default than love, but that's all I'll say about that!

What I plan to read this week: 
The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen
This is an incredibly powerful novel but I just didn't have time to finish it last week. It seems that Cohen is perfectly able to capture her characters, no matter what age they are.

Extras by Scott Westerfeld
Although I am always hesitant about an author writing an extra (no pun intended) novel after a series' intended completion, after loving this series I'm certainly not hesitant enough not to read it!

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
I agreed to review this, and then it ended up being nominated for both prestigious Canadian and British literary prizes- it's been long-listed for the Giller and already been short-listed for the Booker- so I'm even more intrigued by it now although the premise alone is what initially intrigued me. It's the story of a black, German, musician who is arrested by the Nazis in 1940 and never heard from again. It's told from the perspective of his friend fifty years later. I'm very excited to read it, although I'm not sure I'll actually finish it this week, but if I like it I'll definitely have to check out Edugyan's first novel The Second Life Of Samuel Tyne.

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In My Mailbox (September 18th-24th)

I got a nice batch of books for review. Funnily, a sequel (Crossed) arrived before the first book in the series. I got two adult non-fiction, one about tree planting and another about art theft, both of which sound really interesting. Overall, a good week. I'm happy to not be getting overwhelming numbers of books recently as my own reading has slowed down with a very busy September. That said, a few books I am really looking forward to haven't arrived yet, so fingers crossed a couple (*cough* Waking Storms *cough*) show up this upcoming week.

{For Review}
The Jewel and the Key by Lousie Spiegler (Thomas Allen & Sons)
Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill (Thomas Allen & Sons)
Hot Art by Joshua Knelman (Thomas Allen & Sons)
Crossed by Ally Condie (ARC) (Penguin Canada)
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi (ARC) (Penguin Canada)

What was in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Banned Books Week 2011

Although I have been book blogging for over a year, I was only just getting started last summer and by the time I figured out what Banned Books Week was it was already over. However, it's such an incredibly important issue that I knew I was going to be featuring it this year. We think that the world is getting more understanding and open-minded but every year hundreds of books continue to be challenged.
According to the American Library Association, there were 348 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2010. Of course there are many that go unreported as well.

The most commonly challenged books of 2010 were:
1) And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
2) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
3) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
6) Lush, by Natasha Friend
7) What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
8) Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
9) Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie

The he books I've read off this list are indicated in blue, and I've linked to reviews when present on In The Next Room.

How many of these books have you read? How many have you been told to avoid because somebody didn't approve of them?
Although challenges to literature in the United States tend to get the most publicity, it's not unheard of in Canada either. According to the Canadian Library Association, there were at least 74 challenges  to books, magazines, other resources such as DVDs and even library policies in Canadian libraries in 2010. A full list of the known challenged titles can be found here. Books challenged include the entire Harry Potter series, The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin by Mark Twain and both American Gods and M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman. Canada has its own version of Banned Books Week called Freedom to Read Week and it will be celebrated February 26-March 3, 2012 (and hopefully I'll remember to do something for that as well!)
When you ban a book, you aren't just shutting out a single idea. You're blocking off everything that book could have inspired, every good action that comes from something you disapprove of: the teen who stays away from drugs after reading Crank, or recognizes the importance of a democracy after reading a novel like The Hunger Games or Brave New World. We may not agree with the language or message behind books such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin and Mein Kempf, but preventing people from reading them closes off the discussion of what makes racism and antisemitism wrong- it says that it is not worth talking about. Reading and talking is how we learn and grow. You may not agree with a book, but every book has something unique to offer, and if you ban it, that can never be replaced.
As a reader, I refuse to censor myself. If a book interests me, I read it and feature it on In The Next Room. There are some frequently challenged books that I have read and found incredibly powerful, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson for example, while others like Twilight have been a disappointment. That's my own literary opinion and one I am able to make because I had the opportunity to read these books. There are many other challenged books I hope to read in the future. Although I won't promise to read a book simply because it is banned or challenged, I can promise you that won't deter me either. I read what I want to, and that is a right that everyone should have.
To learn more visit

Review Elsewhere: Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

I'm going to be doing weekly book reviews for my student paper and that means a few less books will end up appearing here. Still, because I love my consistently you will still get a review of every book I read, some of them will just be linked to instead. First up was Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey.
"Cold Kiss is the kind of book I would recommend to paranormal fans looking for a story with a contemporary twist, or contemporary fans looking for a paranormal setting for their story."
You can read my complete thoughts here. Also, feel free to leave comments on my review on The Meliorist website directly so I come across as awesome and exciting. THANKS :D

Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop (International!)

Welcome to the In The Next Rooms stop for Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop. My giveaway is international- including all destinations that the Book Depository ships to for free.

The winner gets to pick your choice for 1 of these 2 commonly banned books:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
TTYL by Lauren Myracle

I've read The Hunger Games and loved it (find my review here) and although I haven't read anything by Myracle yet I have heard amazing things about her so I feel confident that no matter what book you pick you'll get an amazing piece of literature in your mailbox.

So how do you enter? Well, I've made it super-simple this time, just fill out the Google form below. My Google form refuses to work and I am tired of redoing it, just leave a comment on the post letting me know which book you are interested in winning, I won't hold you to your choice later, promise! Make sure you comment using the GFC name you follow with, or let me know what that is. As this giveaway is sponsored by me and my student budget, you must be a follower to enter, and the giveaway ends with the hop at 11:59 PM EST on October 1st. 

Click here to go back to the hop homepage and visit the rest of the awesome giveaways!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Swing Low by Miriam Toews

Swing Low is the story of Miriam Toews' father, a man who suffered his whole life from bipolar disorder, keeping his struggles almost entirely to himself as he went against his psychiatrist's predictions that he wouldn't marry, start a family, or hold down a job. Instead, Mel Toews spent a forty years as a respected teacher, married his lifelong sweetheart, and had two happy and successful daughters. Then, after suffering a heart attack which limited the oxygen to his brain causing permanent damage, Mel was forced to retire from teaching, a job that had been as much an escape as a career. Finally, in 1998, he had himself released from the hospital and jumped in front of an incoming train.

With Swing Low Toews has written the story of the brilliant yet troubled man that her father was, how he would be outgoing and vibrant in the classroom only to remain in complete silence and despair at home. Bipolar disorder meant there were two sides to Mel, the manic and the depressive, and as Toews tries to come to terms with both her father's life and death, she attempts to bridge the gap in between the person her father was, and the person he tried so hard to be.

Like Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, Swing Low is more of a True Life Novel than a traditional memoir or biography. Written almost entirely in the first person from Mel's perspective- with the exception of a short introduction and epilogue- Toews truly lets the reader in on not only the experiences, but the emotions they provoked. I read this memoir after finishing Toews' latest novel, Irma Voth, and was shocked by the difference between the two. Although both take place in a Mennonite community, Swing Low is far more emotional and evocative, while Irma Voth tells a clearer and more distinct story. At first, and for many pages, I found myself very confused by the scattered narrative of Swing Low, the story begins with Mel in his hospital bed, slightly insane from dementia and trying to figure out what is going on. To do so, he goes back through his life, connecting the events that brought him to that moment together. As could be expected with a crazy narrator, sometimes he is quite difficult to follow and so it took a long time for me to get involved in the story. Even though Toews is taking on the voice of her father, it definitely felt genuine, and it's clear she didn't paint him in an idealistic light but instead Mel remains human and flawed. He was a man that tried very hard, but that didn't mean he was perfect.

Ultimately, I feel conflicted over this book. On one hand, it is a rich and inventive look into the mind of mental illness, especially in when it occurs in a not entirely understanding time or culture, which is both unique and believable. But at the same time, sometimes the book was too believable, in that I really felt like it was written by an insane person which made it difficult and not entirely enjoyable to read. Overall, Swing Low is a unique and insightful look into living with mental illness and although I found it confusing at times, it is a strong testament to Mel Toews and a reminder that no matter who we are, our parents remain a part of us.

Release Date: May 28th 2000
Pages: 240
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, September 21, 2011

Coming Soon: Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

As a Canadian I often find myself disappointed when I miss out on all the awesome author events that go on in the states. Well for those of you living near Toronto, Simon and Schuster has an incredible opportunity for you. Don't live in Toronto? Well they haven't forgotten about us either!

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick, the third book in the Hush, Hush Series is due to be released October 4th and you can enter to win on Simon and Schuster Canada's website, by filling out this form for the Canadian Silence Sweepstake Contest.
It's a great opportunity and it's for Canadians only!

I haven't read any of the Hush, Hush books myself yet- I admit that the first cover was a bit scandalous for me- but I have heard fantastic things about the book. Still, when I learned that Crescendo ended on a cliffhanger I knew I'd be waiting for the next release. Lately I've gotten into the habit of reading a few books in a series in a row, and I'm loving it. I get to devour one after another and not leave the world I've been immersed in. I just might have to do that when Silence becomes available! Plus, if you're really lucky you could win all three books signed by the author, and a fifty dollar gift card for Garage: free clothes and free book; I could handle that.

Again, here's the link to enter! Good luck everyone.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Feel As Though Everyone Has Read But Me

Hosted at The Broke and the Bookish

I'm procrastinating and I decided to use it as an excuse to do my first Top Ten Tuesday. I've only included books that I actually want to read- there are plenty that it feels like everyone else has read (*cough* vampires *cough*) that don't interest me. But these do, and I've heard great things about them, so why are they still on my TBR list? Who knows...
  1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Millennium Trilogy)
    I've purchased all of them... but haven't even read a single page yet. I keep meaning to on one of these vacations I don't have where I have hours to devour page after page of thriller. Sigh. Someday, hopefully before the Fincher films are released since I love him so much and will end up watching them and spoiling the books.
  2. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
    I'm about halfway done this one and have been for over a year. I'm not sure what my excuse is, I've read Krauss' other two books and wasn't blown away but this is supposed to be her best, and I loved what I did read. I just need to pick it up again from page one and give it my full attention.
  3. Anything by Jonathan Safran Foer (especially Everything Is Illuminated)
    Since Krauss is on this list I figured her husband should be as well, considering I haven't read anything at all by him! He's been recommended to me more times than I can count, and I even borrowed Everything Is Illuminated for about a year from my stepmom, and yet other than ten or fifteen pages I haven't read anything by Foer.
  4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
    This is one of those books I have no idea really what it's about (and please don't tell me!) but I really want to read and even my non-reading friends have told me how great it is. Not sure what my excuse is on this one either.
  5. Anything by Jonathan Franzen (especially The Corrections and Freedom)
    Maybe this is so last year since Freedom has been out quite awhile now but with all the hype and rave reviews it feels like everyone else in the world is more familiar with Franzen than I am... someday....

    and the YA:
  6. Matched by Ally Condie
    It seemed as if every book blogger and their mother was raving about Matched last winter, but I only gave it a short try before getting distracted elsewhere (maybe I should call this list "books I want to read but have been distracted from" instead?) Monday an ARC of it's sequel Crossed arrived in my mailbox, so I really have no excuse not to pick this dystopia back up soon.
  7. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
    The fact that this one shows up on so many banned books list might be why I feel like everyone else must have read it, but I finally purchased my own copy (and shipped it to be stored for the next eight months... but progress still!) and I am definitely intrigued to try it eventually.
  8. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
    Who doesn't love this book? Nobody, that's who I thought. Recently, Ambur raved to me about it and that triggered me actually purchasing the book (and again shipping it far away for the next eight months) so that I am one step closer to actually reading it.
  9. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
    Another universally loved contemporary novel, I'm at least as intrigued by the premise of the book as I am by the author's awesome blue hair. But seriously, I want to read this, I really do. And I should have a copy coming my way soon... so hopefully I'll get a chance before 2011 is over. That way I can find out if it really is that adorable.
  10. Anything by Holly Black
    An author with plenty to choose from, all of her books sounds interesting, as do the anthologies she's edited (I recently bought Geektastic but Zombies Vs. Unicorns sounds great as well) but somehow I haven't read any of them. I plan to start with Tithe as I prefer completed series, and I even took it out from the library (at least once...) but so far she's still an author I'm completely unacquainted with.
What books does it feel like everyone else has read but you? Are there any of these you feel I should move to a particularly high place in my TBR pile? Also, how do you feel about Top Ten Tuesday? Too many memes, or something you'd like to see more of?

Monday, September 19, 2011

It’s Monday, what are you reading? (8)

This meme is hosted at Book Journey
Not an overly productive reading week but considering the amount of things I have on my plate: a paper due, two major scholarship applications for PhD funding, the semester just started and I'm the primary instructor for a lab, I volunteered to write book reviews for the student paper (I do it anyway, and this way I can put it on my CV), not to mention I haven't been feeling a hundred percent health-wise, well, I think I did pretty good (although I don't have high hopes for this week either!). On the bright side, fewer books for my post means I can make the cover images bigger- I hate the tiny ones but sometimes the alternative is a lot of scrolling. 

Last week I finished reading:

Blue Noon by Scott Westerfeld
The final book in the Midnighters series which was my first experience with Westerfeld. Can I say BLAH about this conclusion though? I'm not sure if he wanted to shock the reader, but I was more annoyed than surprised by the way things wrapped up (or didn't). I usually avoid spoilers in my reviews but I may have to do one with spoilers to properly discuss how I feel about this book.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Still, my disappointment with Blue Noon didn't stop me from picking up the audio for another one of Westerfeld's series and one of the books that inspired the entire dystopia craze (which I love). Although I sometimes find myself disconnected from his characters I love the worlds he builds and his crazy intelligence and creativity. The reader of this audiobook annoyed me sometimes though, she read the dialogue from some characters in a way that sounded a bit tired/stoned. I was unsure if I was going to stick to print for the rest of the books, but I knew it'd be awhile before I had the chance to read them that way so audio it is.

Swing Low by Miriam Toews
At first it was hard to believe this was the same writer as Irma Voth, it was so different, but gradually I found the similarities in Toews' style. It's the story of her father's life, written in the first person, and told from his hospital bed when he's slightly crazy, a fact which makes it difficult to read at times. It took me a really long time to get involved at all in the novel because of its scattered nature, and I only just finished it before I wrote this post (Sunday night) despite the fact that I picked it up over a week ago and it's under 250 pages. I'll have my full thoughts up later today... once I finally form them cohesively.

What I plan to read this week: 
Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
I'm about two thirds through the second book in the Uglies series and loving it so far. There are a lot of questions from the first book still that I hope I find out the answers to soon, but it's scary how believable Westerfeld makes the changes in Tally. I also way prefer Zane to David... sorry but it's true.

Specials by Scott Westerfeld
Since I'm so far into Pretties I expect I'll get a chance to pick up the third book in the series (and the official finale of the Uglies Trilogy- which became a series when a fourth book was written). I expect only good things from Westerfeld and I have pretty much learned to block out the annoying part of the reader for the audiobook's voice so that I don't have to wait to pick these up. I've heard fantastic things about the audio for his Leviathan books so I'll probably get those next.

The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen
Like I said, I don't expect to have much time for reading this week, but when I do I'll be picking up my copy of this book, which has been on my To Read list for many weeks now and I bet you're getting as sick of seeing it there as I am of putting it! But now the review deadline is quickly approaching and hopefully that's the motivation I need. I'll definitely have to follow it up with a bright and cheerful read though.

What are you reading this Monday?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Subject Seven by James A. Moore

Subject Seven by James A. Moore tells the story of five teens, seemingly normal but brought together by Subject Seven, a deadly sleeper assassins hiding in the body of a teenager. After Subject Seven escapes from the lab where he is kept prisoner, he decides to seek out others like him and take revenge of those who have harmed him. But as two individuals battle for the same body, will they be able to destroy the organization who made them who they are- without destroying themselves in the process?

I was actually really excited by the premise of Subject Seven, I think the idea of genetic modification in a creepy and thrilling way has the potential to be even more horrifying than many dystopias because of how close society has come at times. That said, while I still think it's an idea that has a potential to be a great book, Subject Seven is not. I feel as if this book was written for hormone-driven boys who prefer the graphic to the intellectual. There's lots of fighting and violence, hot girls getting their clothing torn off and an evil villain. The plot also feels similar to a comic book. Still, even recognizing that I may not have been the intended audience, I expected more out of the novel.

Forget the Massive Cliffhanger Ending that annoys me so much, Subject Seven doesn't really have an ending at all. It feels like the first couple chapters of the book Moore was intending to write, incomplete and without any resolution. Despite all the action, not much actually happens or changes, and the only thing that might be potentially considered a twist is incredibly obvious from the beginning. There's a sequel, Run: A Subject Seven Novel, set for release in 2012 but I don't expect it to offer any firm conclusions either. It feels like the kind of story that will be drawn out as long as possible, and although this book was short, it definitely didn't intrigue me enough to picked up the second one in the series. Maybe the obvious audience of teenage boys would have enjoyed Subject Seven more than I did, but in the meantime I'll continue to keep my eye out for that great novel featuring genetic modification that I know is out there somewhere.

Release Date: January 20th, 2011
Pages: 327
Source: ARC From Publisher
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

In My Mailbox (September 11th-17th 2011)

In addition to a few exciting review copies that arrived this week, my Big Box of YA showed up at home in Montreal. My mom isn't particularly happy about storing it for the next 8 months til I graduate, but with the amazing deals going on I couldn't help it. I spent only $42.96 on all those books! It's a mix of new authors and ones I've enjoyed and want to try more of (Forman, Scott, Freitas, Levithan, Bray and MacCullough- the rest are new to me although I have heard rave things about many of their books.)

{For Review}
Touch: Poems by Henri Cole (D&M Publishers)
My Beating Teenage Heart by C. K. Kelly Martin (Random House Canada)
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Thomas Allen & Sons) 
The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Thomas Allen & Sons)

The Otherworldlies by Jennifer Anne Kogler
Sisters In Sanity by Gayle Forman
Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott
Freeze Frame by Heidi Ayarbe
Up All Night by Peter Abrahams, Libba Bray, David Levithan, Patricia McCormick, Sarah Weeks and Gene Luen Yang
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Buried by Robin Merrow MacCready
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas
Claiming Georgia Tate by Gigi Amateau
Dirty Work by Julia Bell
The Rules Of Survival by Nancy Werlin
Locked Inside by Nancy Werlin
The Killer's Cousin by Nancy Werlin
A Room On Lorelei Street by Mary Pearson
My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman
Breathe My Name by R. A. Nelson
Possessions by Nancy Holder
Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough
Choices by Deborah Lynn Jacobs

What was in your mailbox this week?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner

Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner is set in New York City in the world of the Russian immigrant, it tells the story of two children and what happens when they are forced to grow up. Vaclav has fallen in love with magic, and his dream seems about to become a reality with the beautiful Lena as his assistant. Lena doesn't have family beyond a neglectful aunt and is taken in by the warmth of Vaclav's mother. Then a horrible discovery sends Lena away leaving an empty place in Vaclav's heart. Years later, as teenagers, they meet again- but will they have the opportunity to right what went wrong, or will history be destined to repeat itself again?

Vaclav and Lena is one of those books I was sent unsolicited that I honestly never would have picked up otherwise. I mean a magic show and a love story- really?- but WOW, I am so glad I read it (Thank you Random House Canada!) A synopsis doesn't do this touching and beautiful tale justice, what Tanner has written is a novel without a genre, something truly universal. Vaclav and Lena is part historical novel, part contemporary love story, part young adult literature and yet easily mature enough, even when the characters are children, for an adult audience. It takes the reader into a foreign world, almost fantastical, and yet real and located right in the middle of one of the biggest cities there is. The writing is vibrant and written with a hint of a Russian accent, helping to bring the setting to life without compromising on the details of the story. There is also a surprising bit of humour in the language and the way that Tanner phrases things, such as when she writes "Lena knows it is not right to steal unless you need something really badly, and the person is not home, and won’t even realize the thing is missing."

In fact, it is the sometimes childlike narration of Vaclav and Lena that often makes it so beautiful and perceptive. At one point Tanner writes:
"Next the princess and the boy did what everyone does when they fall in love: They sat in some crummy place, on some buckets turned over in a cold alley by the market, something like that, and they didn’t care that they were hungry and that they were thirsty and that they were tired, and that their mothers were wondering where they were, and they told each other everything that they had ever known and everything they liked and everything they didn’t like, and all of their favorite colors and books, and what kind of rain was their favorite, sprinkles or downpours."
Vaclav and Lena is a novel full of painful magic, sharp and sparkling, it is impossible not to fall in love with Vaclav and feel his longing and pain. Tanner shows clearly how even in normal life, even without all the glamour of paranormal beings and fantastical curses, sometimes love isn't quite enough. It is a touching and emotional book. Not just Vaclav and Lena, but each of the characters, even those, like Lena's aunt, who appear infrequently, are rich and complex. Vaclav and Lena is a book with many hats: it is a book about assimilation and belonging, it is a book about childhood dreams, it is a book about growing up and longing and loss. Mostly, Vaclav and Lena is a book about love in its many forms, and it is a powerful story Tanner tells with absolute magic.

Release Date: May 17th, 2011
Pages: 292
Source: ARC From Publisher
Buy the Book 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Forgotten by Cat Patrick

Sometimes I wait to give into the hype (for example The Hunger Games) and end up regretting those extra months I could have spent with an incredible book in my life, and sometimes I get swept away in a book, anxiously waiting on it way before it is even published only to find the reality lacklustre in comparison to the vision I had kept in my mind for so long. Unfortunately, Forgotten by Cat Patrick fell into the latter category.

It's not that I hated, or even disliked, this story of sixteen-year-old London Lane, a girl with a memory of the future instead of the past, but I just wanted more from it. Each morning, all London has left is a note she's written, a note telling her about the day she can't remember. Besides her mom and her best friend, nobody knows about London's condition and she'd prefer to keep it that way because what London does remember is what is going to happen next. Then Luke shows up in London's life, a guy she can't remember from her future, so what is he doing here now? But as the relationship between Luke and London progresses, she begins to realize that there maybe something hiding in her past, something she needs to figure out if she hopes to have any future at all...

Although different, the play on memory with a mystery thrown in reminded me a little of an adult title I'd recently read, Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson, which I'd loved incredibly, a fact that only helped to raise my expectations of Forgotten. In the end, as much as I loved the premise, the delivery tended to fall flat for me. The chapters in the novel are quite short and while sometimes that works with the story- The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen comes to mind- in this case, especially because it is so hard to have character develop fully when they keep forgetting their previous actions, it felt rushed and brief. I sometimes felt that if Patrick had given the reader a little more time with London each day before sending her into oblivion, maybe her story would have been just that much more memorable. Patrick's writing itself is effortless and clean but with such an ambitious concept I felt longer chapters- or at least more of them- might have helped the authenticity. 

I almost wonder if Forgotten tries too hard to be too many things: love story, mystery, psychological thriller: and never quite satisfied any of those cravings in such a short book. The parts I loved about Forgotten were in fact the most ordinary, London's day to day high school experiences, the girl who wants her to set her up on a date (and what to do when she knows the guy will break her heart?), or the best friend flirting precariously with a teacher (and how can she save her when she won't listen?). How London dealt with these familiar situations with her unique condition was intriguing and thought-provoking to read. However, then Forgotten seems to go off on a crazy tangent that develops way too fast and feels completely unbelievable,  with twist after twist appearing seemingly out of nowhere. I feel like the plot of Forgotten ended up like one of those stews where you throw everything in and hope it tastes good, the kind that reminds me of the famous Coco Channel quote "before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off", except in this case the novel could have done with at least a couple less accessories/subplots.

Will I pick up Patrick's second novel? Forgotten is afterall only her debut. The answer is yes, if the premise once again intrigues me. Her writing is smooth and her teenage characters felt realistic and diverse. However this time it will be with my mind hesitant and unsure, hoping that the book either grows to fit the story, or the reverse. Forgotten is a quick and easy read based around a cool concept, the kind of book that is probably ideal for reluctant readers because of the page-turning nature and short chapters it provides but despite my high hopes, for me, it was simply forgettable.

P.S. When I featured this novel on Waiting on Wednesday I used the wrong cover, the one I had was actually the Australian edition, but I still prefer it. You can click here to see which one I'm talking about. This book has about a hundred covers and unfortunately the North American one is my least favourite.

Release Date: June 7th 2011
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant

Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant weaves together three individuals whose lives become entangled in the volatile climate of Israeli society. Yona travels to Israel to try to mend things with her sister, estranged for over ten years, a woman whose life has become the polar opposite of her own. Meanwhile Mark travels back to New York City, the place where he was saved from drugs by his faith, from Jerusalem, to give lectures on the Talmud, trying to ignore the sensation that what he is speaking about isn't what he believes anymore. Finally, Aaron is a college dropout who has a famous writer for a father but can't seem to find a place he belongs so he quits school during his year-abroad and joins an extreme Israeli fringe group. Yona, Mark and Aaron are tied together by the impact faith and Judaism will have on their lives, changing them forever in a moment that can never be undone.

Wherever You Go is the debut novel from Leegant, but it is filled with a wisdom and maturity that is far from amateur. It's an intelligent book, and despite it's slender size- under 300 pages- it is certainly not a light read. The reader is instantly sucked into a rich and vibrant world, beautiful yet violent, three lives teetering on the edge of breaking. Wherever You Go is incredibly powerful, beautiful, well written, and absolutely horrifying at the same time. Two weeks after finishing it I'm still unable to get it out of my mind. The stories it tells are both unique- I've never read anything like it before- and extremely relevant. Leegant has her finger on the pulse of Israeli society and takes the reader into this foreign yet fascinating environment with skill of an insider, unsurprising considering she spends part of her time living in Israel while teaching there.

All the reasons that Wherever You Go is upsetting are the same reasons it is such an important book. Normally when I read a book which follows the narrative of multiple characters I find myself more enchanted by one storyline and impatient for my "favourite" character to return to centre stage. In this case, all three stories are not only absolutely riveting, but definitely distinct from each other as well, three separate voices that at no point become muffled together. I only wished that a little more time had been spent with the characters near the ending; possibly it is my own desire for closure but the conclusion felt slightly rushed. Perhaps being Jewish myself biased me when deciding to pick up Wherever You Go, but regardless of the reader's faith- if any-  the novel offers complex characters as well as a thought-provoking narrative and compelling setting.

My biggest complaint? That Leegant's work isn't more widely available, I had to special order her first book An Hour in Paradise, which is a collection of short stories, from the States. Fortunately, I know it'll be worth the wait. I'll also be certain to pre-order whatever Leegant publishes next and if there's a smile on my face when it arrives it's not because I expect the story to be completely bright and cheerful but because I know that whatever she writes it'll be incredibly beautiful and powerful, just like Wherever You Go is.

Release Date: July 10th, 2010
Pages: 272
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.

It’s Monday, what are you reading? (7)

This meme is hosted at Book Journey.
This was a pretty good reading week for me, especially when it came to YA (+1 adult mystery). Half the books I read were parts of series, both of which contained a slightly disappointing second book unfortunately. This week I'm looking forward to reading those book tour books I never got to. Other than that, I have a few bonus YAs lined up for when I get the craving.

Last week I finished reading:

The Accident by Linwood Barclay
Apparently mystery is not a good genre for audiobook, I really enjoyed the narrator but around halfway in I was just too hooked and curious to keep listening and picked up my paperback instead since I knew it would take me less than the 6 hours I had left to finish the book. Wow, all I can say is that this is an intense read. Although outside my normal genre, I'm starting to think I may have to reconsider that opinion when it comes to suspense thrillers as I really enjoyed this.

Exposed by Kimberly Marcus
An emotional yet powerful novel in verse, I had high expectations for this one and it both surprised and amazed me. Like Ellen Hopkins' books this deals with big issues from the perspective of a teenage girl facing trials far beyond her age, and there was a lyrical poetic nature to the writing as well as enough details to really break the heart of the reader in more than one way.

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey
I was conflicted before reading this book but it interested me enough that I decided to delve in before my Netgalley expired. It was interesting but definitely had some debut flaws, especially when it came time to wrap up all the loose ends. More of a borrow than buy book I'd say, but you'll have to check you my complete review for the full details.

The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld
I needed another audiobook and this science fiction trilogy was calling to me. It was my first time reading Westerfeld and I don't know why I waited so long- his mind is absolutely twisted and brilliant!

Frost by Wendy Delsol
I LOVEDLOVEDLOVED Stork, so it would have been impossible for me to have higher expectations of this sequel than I did. Although there was still a lot I loved, it didn't quite live up to the first novel, mainly because of a few too many subplots and a rushed climax. Still, I'll be first in line for a copy of the third and final book whenever it is released because Delsol's writing remains hilarious and heart-warming.

Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld
The second Midnighters book wasn't quite as awe-inspiring as the first for me, I still enjoyed it but having gotten familiar with the world and characters in the first book, this one felt a lot less meaty in comparison. I did like the storyline, but there was more romance in this book than The Secret Hour and I didn't connect with it as well as I hoped. I think it is actually the characters I have issues with, I don't like any of them, except maybe Jessica a bit, and while that didn't bother me in the first book they seemed to get increasingly whiny in this one. That said, where Westerfeld really excels if with the history and myth behind the Midnighters, of which there is plenty. 

What I plan to read this week: 

Blue Noon by Scott Westerfeld
Time for the final book in the Midnighters series. I just started this audio and am looking forward to finding out how things wrap up for the gang of teens.

Swing Low by Miriam Toews
I've already started this one and I'm enjoying it although it is so different from the Toews novel I just read, Irma Voth, that I'm a little bit shocked. It reminds me a bit of Half-Broke Horses in that it's a true story, but Toews, like Walls did, takes on the first person of a family member that has passed on and tells it from their perspective. You really get a look inside Mel's mind, but that's also a very cluttered and sometimes confusing place. Knowing from the beginning things end with him killing himself definitely makes it bittersweet.

The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen
Another emotional book tour novel I didn't get a chance to read last week (again) and am hoping to read soon. This is at least the third time I'm featuring it, which doesn't say anything about the novel's quality but rather a lot about my ability to procrastinate.

Waiting For Robert Capa by Susana Fortes
An upcoming book tour novel that recently arrived and is a historical fiction inspired by the life of Robert Capa (obviously). It contains several elements I find really interesting including WW2, Judaism and photography. It's also already scheduled to be made into a film by director Michael Mann. Hopefully it lives up to its potential!

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
I don't like this cover at all but I love my dystopia! However this is a nearly 500 page ebook and I tend to avoid ebooks that long, even though I do have an ereader. I guess it depends how well it hooks me, I've been let down recently (I'm looking at you, Possession) and am hoping to have my fate reinstated. Hopefully Ashes sweeps me away!

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
Depending on how things go with Ashes and how much depressing reading I can handle, I also have this soon to expire Netgalley that I was interested by and hope to read in time. The orphan plot has been done many times but the twist- falling in love with the boy who's father was responsible- is definitely unique. And of course, even though it's an ebook, the cover totally hooked me as well.

What are you reading this Monday?