Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Monday, what are you reading? (14)

Hosted by The Book Journey
I actually loved all of the books I read this week, which was a refreshing change as I seem to be picking up quite a few that aren't quite as delicious as I would have hoped lately. Not sure exactly how much reading I'll manage this week as I have an insane amount to do and I think I might try doing NaNoWriMo, but I'll manage my best.

Last week I finished reading:

Liesel and Po by Lauren Oliver
Loved loved loved this, incredibly whimsical and of course Lauren Oliver's writing is amazing. I know it's intended as a middle grade, but it's appropriate for anybody because it's so wonderful. I definitely need to purchase a hardcopy in the future.

Lark by Tracey Porter
I didn't realize this had the fantastical element it did (ghost girl) but it worked in a spooky and heartbreaking way. This is a little slip of a book but it definitely left an impact, I just wanted a little more from the ending.

Love Alone by Emmanuel Kattan
Just finished this earlier tonight,  so many quotable bits. It was kinda Milan Kundera meets Simon Van Booy and the result is an incredibly beautiful but slightly twisted love child. I may have to test my rusty French and pick up Kattan's other novel in its original language.

What I plan to read this week:

Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill
I didn't get a chance to start this memoir about tree planting yet but perhaps this will be its lucky week?

Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

I was insanely excited when the latest Levithan- with pictures!- showed up in my mailbox so of course I am totally skipping ahead on my reading list to dig into this dark and creepy tale; not quite classic Levithan from Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Boy Meets Boy but I am certainly intrigued.

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead
I was really looking forward to this historical fiction set during WW2, and then two copies showed up in the past week, so now I have double the reason to read it! Plus, it's for an upcoming book tour.

What are you reading this Monday?

P.S. It's officially my 23rd birthday now. EEEK. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In My Mailbox (October 23rd-29th 2011)

Hosted by The Story Siren
Wonderful batch of books this week. I'm insanely excited to read The Tiger's Wife which for some reason I still haven't managed to so I definitely plant to get to that soon. Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking broke my heart when I read it (review here) and Blue Nights deals with the death of her daughter so I imagine it'll be just as tragic and I'll have to make sure I'm not already feeling down when I read it. As somebody doing their masters with plants of course I am excited about a plant book- Untamed Garden. World War II fascinates me and I especially love a story about inspiring women so I was really excited about A Train In Winter, so excited I apparently got it from two sources! The Chronicles of Harris Burdick looks absolutely gorgeous, as does the Fred Herzog photography book and overall I just can't wait to dig into these gems.

{For Review}
Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales by Chris Van Allsburg (Thomas Allen)
Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber (Thomas Allen)
A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead (ARC) (TLC Book Tours)
Chosen by Chandra Hoffman (TLC Book Tours)
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Unsolicited) (Scholastic Canada)
Fred Herzog: Photographs (D&M Publishers)
A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead (Random House Canada)
Untamed Garden by Sonia Day (Random House Canada)
Blue Nights by Joan Didion (Random House Canada)
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht (Random House Canada)

Have you read any of these books? What was in your mailbox this week? 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Always A Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Note: This review contains no spoilers of Always A Witch, but does contain spoilers of the first book in the series, Once A Witch, a review of which can be found here

Always A Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Release Date: August 1st, 2011
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Publisher
Buy It: Book Depository
When she discovers that her enemy, Alistair Knight, went back in time to Victorian-era New York in order to destroy her family, Tamsin is forced to follow him into the past where she soon finds herself disguised as a Knight family maid.
Although I enjoyed Once A Witch I wasn't entirely blown away, but with its follow up MacCullough definitely appears to have found her groove. I was intrigued when I learned that Always A Witch was going to take place mostly a century earlier in time, especially since MacCullough's contemporary world felt so believable but luckily, MacCullough has a knack for setting and I was once again transported. Plus, with the absence of a love interest I didn't particularly enjoy for most of the novel and a whole new cast of creepy evil characters the result was a sequel I actually enjoyed more than the first book in the series.

Everything I enjoyed about Once A Witch was just better in Always A Witch, the plot was more enticing, the characters more creative, even the writing seemed to flow better. It was also nice that although Tamsin's story is a "series" it is in fact only two books, and this one wraps up the telling quite nicely. That said, although I preferred the sequel, I don't think it would work great as a standalone and that you really need to read Once A Witch to fully appreciate it's followup. I also appreciated the confidence Tamsin had gained from the first half of the story, I felt MacCullough did a great job with her growth as a person and it was nice to see a main female character who wasn't always relying on a man.

My favourite parts about Always A Witch were definitely the villians! La Spider and Liam Knight were both incredibly spooky characters and it was interesting to see how they compared to their distant relative Allistar- who I actually found some sympathy for in this portion of the story. Overall, Always A Witch is definitely the second half of a story not a complete tale on its own, but it was also enchanting and thrilling in a way that surpasses its prequel and that readers looking for a story that is more action and less romance are certain to enjoy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Release Date: June 7th 2011
Pages: 404
Format: E-Book and Audiobook
Publisher: HarperCollins 
Narrator: Emily Eiden
Source: Netgalley and Personal Shelf
Buy It: Book Depository
Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.
I'm on the fence about Hereafter- I guess you could say I'm midway between two worlds (okay bad joke, I know). There were aspects of the novel I enjoyed and others that I felt were lacking. Amelia was pretty passive and timid, and I had a hard time believing that it took her so long to become curious about what had happened to her, what her life was, how she died. I just felt like with nothing to do all day she might have started wondering about these questions sooner.

The other problem I had besides the waif of a main character, was the whole relationship between a ghost and a human component, and the fact that the human seems to have so little issue with it. I mean, isn't it just fundamentally creepy to be making out with a dead girl?

What I did appreciate was that for once the girl was the supernatural being (and she saved the boy! even if she spent the rest of the novel afterwards being the one in need of saving) and there was no love triangle at all, both aspects which made Hereafter refreshing compared to many paranormals. I also enjoyed Hudson's writing, this is a debut but she manages to cultivate the creepy and ominous feeling you want out of a ghost story especially since I listened to it on audiobook. Ultimately,  I'm not entirely sure if I'll read the rest of the trilogy, it depends on if the synopsis for the next book catchers my attention. Even though I wanted more backbone from the main character, I did enjoy the mystery component of Hereafter and I would definitely consider reading another novel by Hudson in the future.

Author Interview with Mary O'Connell

Answer in 140 characters or less.

1. Where did the inspiration for The Sharp Time come from?

The tendencies of people to look away instead of helping someone in need. An alternate title for The Sharp Time: Against Complicity.

2. What is your writing process like?

Fast! Fast! Fast! I have three kids. aged 12, 10, and 3, so I have to write when I can and not let the hours slip away in a daydreamy haze.

3. Your first publication was a collection of short stories and now eight years later you have written a YA novel, what caused the change? Do you see more YA in your future?

I loved hearing from teenagers who found the adolescent voices in my collection authentic. I’m working away on my next YA novel right now.

4. If you could go back in time and tell your teenage self anything, what would it be?

It gets better.

5. What 2011 releases are you really looking forward to or have enjoyed so far?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Marriage Proposal by Jeffrey Eugenides, Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro.

Thank you Zoe! I’m pretty inexperienced at tweeting, but these were great questions!

Mary O'Connell is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and the author of the short story collection, LIVING WITH SAINTS. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in several literary magazines, and she is the recipient of a James Michener Fellowship and a Chicago Tribune Nelson Algren Award. THE SHARP TIME is her first novel.

Thanks so much to Mary for stopping by In The Next Room! To learn more about her debut novel, The Sharp Time, stop by her website.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

Release Date: June 3rd, 2011
Pages: 336
Format: Advance Reader Copy and Audiobook
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Source: Publisher and Personal Shelf
Narrator: Carole Boyd
Buy It: Book Depository
It’s an ordinary afternoon in 1938 for the celebrated American novelist Mr. Fox, hard at work in the study of his suburban home – until his long-absent muse Mary Foxe (beautiful, British and 100% imaginary) wanders in. Mr Fox has a predilection for murdering his heroines. Mary is determined to change his ways. And so she challenges him to join her in stories of their own devising, and the result is an exploration of love like no other.
I had a hard time putting my thoughts together for this book in a way that reminded me greatly of the short story collection Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner because when the truth of the matter is, Mr. Fox was simply not the book for me. Oyeyemi method of storytelling felt too disjointed, there were individual stories that worked on their own but often the endings felt abrupt and I'd be confusedly thrown into a new scenario. I honestly had a hard time following the narrative and the portions of the book I enjoyed most were those that were "real" and took place between Mr. Fox and Mary Foxe as opposed to the stories they tell each other.

When I first began reading it I found Mr. Fox strange but intrigued, Oyeyemi's language is articulate and elegant in a way. Unfortunately, as the book progressed it just befuddled me to the point that by the end I was severely disliking it. I listened to the book on audio which had a lovely narrator but only emphasized the disconnect between sections of the novel.

From the reviews I have seen of Mr. Fox this seems to be a love-it-or-leave-it type of book with most people falling under Oyeyemi's spell but unfortunately for me the most magical moment was when it was over and I could pick up a novel better suited to my own taste.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Slide

There are plenty of exciting YA debuts happening in 2012, but one in particular caught my eye and that is Slide by Jill Hathaway. The premise of Slide just sounds so intense and original, plus standalones are always refreshing in a sea of series. Slide will be published March 27th 2012 by Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins.
Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.
What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard

Everything We Ever Wanted is an adult novel by Sara Shepard, the author of Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game series. I'd only had one experience with Shepard previous to this novel when I read The Lying Game, so I was definitely interested to see if she maintained the same mystery and suspense I loved in The Lying Game, but hopefully with a more satisfying conclusion. 

Everything We Ever Wanted is the story of a family that should have the perfect life. Sylvie is at the centre of the Bates-McAllister clan, but having recently lost her husband she has also discovered that she may not have known him as well as she thought she did. When the novel begins her world is changed when a phone call lets her know that her adopted son Scott may have played a role in the suicide of one of his students. Scott has lead a complex life, having been adopted at a year and a half old and being of mixed race in a community where White rules. Sylvie's biological son is Charles, and he envies Scott, feeling like he will never live up to the expectations his father set for him. Charles has recently married Joanna, a woman who grew up in a world very different from the Bates-McAllisters, and wonders if she will every truly belong.

It's always interesting to read an author's crossover into another genre, and since Shepard is known for her young adult fiction- although she has published one previous adult novel in 2009, The Visibles- I was curious to see if her adult fiction would vary significantly, or if it would be similar but with older characters. In reality, Everything We Ever Wanted is very different than The Lying Game, but both are easy to read, taken place predominately in a wealthy world, and are filled with suspense and secrets of the most delicious kind. The characters in Everything We Ever Wanted are unique although not entirely likable, but I could appreciate the complicated struggles and decisions Sylvie faced with regards to her sons.

Although the ending of Everything We Ever Wanted was rushed, it is definitely a stand-alone novel which I appreciated. The novel is quick-paced and full of suspense, but with a little more dimension to the story than The Lying Game, although the major mystery was less crucial to the plot. I definitely think that it is a novel worth picking up by older fans of Shepard's YA work. Like Shepard's young adult fiction,  Everything We Ever Wanted is a dramatic tale about privileged individuals and the darkness that lurks beneath the shiny exterior, the difference is that not only are the characters older but they are also slightly more complex. However, like The Lying Game, Everything We Ever Wanted kept me interested the whole time I was reading, but disappointed in the ending.

Release Date: October 11th 2011
Pages: 352
Buy the Book
Source: Netgalley

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Once A Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Once A Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Release Date: September 14th, 2009
Pages: 312
Format: Paperback and Audiobook
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Publisher and Personal Shelf
Narrator: Hannah Friedman
Buy It: Book Depository
Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared.
At its core, Once A Witch is a charming, light-hearted story about a girl who just doesn't belong. On one hand she has to deal with the fact that all of her family has Talent except her, but even when she is away at school the truth about her family remains a secret making it difficult for her to connect with others. Although MacCullough uses a paranormal vehicle to tell her story, I think that Tamsin's struggles would be easy for many teenagers to relate to. Most of us have to deal with parental expectations and the plans they may have for us even before we are born, for Tamsin those feelings are only intensified. That's what I enjoyed about Once A Witch, how authentic Tamsin was.

Although the plot of Once A Witch didn't completely blow me away, I did enjoy the MacCullough's storytelling and found her writing easy to read (or listen to, as I listened to this book on audio), smooth and clear. Tamsin's desire to prove herself is tangible, and she was definitely the character that stood out for me in the novel. There were some interesting and quirky secondary characters, Tamsin's room-mate at boarding school and family members in particular, that added dimension to the story. The love interest was okay, but to be honest the whole related aspect- even if it is quite distant- still made me a little uncomfortable! Personally, the entire marrying within the "Family" seemed a bit medieval for a contemporary novel. 

Overall, I enjoyed Once A Witch and although the storyline itself didn't completely shock me, the characterization and relatable twist on the paranormal was certainly refreshing and I am definitely interested in picking up the second book in this series, Always A Witch. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Monday, what are you reading? (13)

Hosted by The Book Journey
Thank you Readathon! Click here to see my updates, but suffice it to say it was incredibly awesome and refreshing to spend so much time reading. It made up for the minimal reading I've been doing the rest of the week as I work on my thesis lit review, trying to have another paper completed by Friday which I should manage no problem though I've got lab work and whatnot going on as well.

Last week I finished reading:

Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes
I've pretty much decided that perhaps novels about real people aren't quite my thing, even if they are written with lovely language. I didn't connect with The Paris Wife earlier this year, and Hemmingway actually makes a couple guest appearances in this one as well (which had a bit too much name-dropping for my liking), and I didn't connect with this either sadly.

Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien
Okay, so wow, that was different than Birthmarked, but I loved it all the same. I wish the two novels had been connected a little better, at times I wasn't quite convinced it was the same Gaia in both of them, but I once again loved O'Brien's world building and I can't wait to read the final book in the trilogy!

Practical Jean by Trevor Cole
Another book that wasn't quite for me, the satire was well done at least not over the top like I found Super Sad True Love Story to be for example, but my problem was I never quite believed that Jean would kill all these people without thinking twice. I mean, I understood her reasoning but it didn't quite seem as if she was crazy enough to be okay with murder even if she didn't want her friends to have to age.

TruthBeauty by Alison Nordstrom
Absolutely breathtaking photographs complimented by interesting essays on the pictorialism and photography, I learned a lot but considering the book was put out by the Vancouver gallery, by a Canadian publisher, I was a little disappointed there were sections on Australia and Czech but not Canada.

What I plan to read this week:
Love Alone by Emmanuel Kattan
Former lovers reunite and turn homicidal? Count me in.

Liesel and Po by Lauren Oliver
So it's now or never for this one because my e-galley is about to expire! I really really want to read it so, well, I've got to make that happen this week.

Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill
A memoir about tree-planting, and of course the plant-loving environmental nerd in me would be interested no matter what, but I've also heard it's incredibly well written. Can't wait to find out firsthand. 

What are you reading this Monday?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In My Mailbox (October 16th-22nd 2011)

Hosted by The Story Siren
Awesome batch of books this week. I was incredibly excited about the ones in the top row, there are only very limited copies of the Murakami going out and the kind people at Random House let me have one as a birthday present! Plus, I thought I had missed out on Waking Storms but the publicist found another copy she had tucked away. I've actually already read Frost and Practical Jean already- I guess I couldn't wait to get started on these goodies.

{For Review}
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Random House Canada)
Frost by Wendy Delsol (Candlewick)
Waking Storms by Sarah Porter (Thomas Allen)
Without Tess by Marcella Pixley (D&M Publishers)
The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas (D&M Publishers)
Practical Jean by Trevor Cole (TLC Book Tours)

What's in your mailbox?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dewey 24 Hour Readathon October 2011: Master Post

So as I said yesterday I'm going to be updating my progress all from one post. It's 8:25 am here now and I'm awake and ready to start reading! Technically the read-a-thon started two and a half hours ago but well, I wasn't getting up quite that early. I figure this is still a pretty good weekend start.

Even though it's technically the third hour of the readathon I figure I'll go ahead and do my introduction post!

Readathon Update 1:

1)Where are you reading from today?
My couch mostly I suspect! Which is located in my apartment in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada where I live with my wonderful boyfriend while I complete my master's in biology.

2)Three random facts about me…
I'm turning 23 at the end the month, by which I mean I'm a twin born on Halloween.
I have a pet hamster named Rolie. She's cute. Here she is:
I basically stopped reading for four years during my undergrad, and I am so so glad to have found this wonderful online book community and joined back in! 

3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
Based on my post from yesterday, ten. Of course that is overly optimistic but I think picking and choosing what I am in the mood to read will be key, so I have a nice wide variety selected.

4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
Not really, I'll be happy if I finish at least two books since I'm a third through one already. If I read for four to six hours that'll be a huge improvement over a normal weekend, plus I'm going to shut my laptop while I'm reading and hopefully not get distracted. My biggest problem is the internet! So if I'm updating too often it'll mean I'm not reading.  If you don't see me around for many challenges that's why.

5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
This is my first time! Wish me luck! 

Readathon Update 2 (8:42 AM-10:00 AM):
  • I’ve read 80 pages and finished 0 books
  • I’ve read for 1 hour and 18 minutes
I'm just having a little cereal and getting back to reading. I started with Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien and I'm loving it but think I may take a break and start another book. Even my boyfriend has gotten in on the action, I have my own at-home cheerleader. When I went to write my intro post he asked me, aren't you supposed to be reading? Yup, yup I am.

Readathon Update 3 (10:22 AM-11:37 AM):
  • I’ve read 176 pages and finished 0 books
  • I’ve read for 2 hour and 33 minutes
I read another 86 pages of Prized as well as the first 10 pages of Love Alone by Emmanuel Kattan, while sipping lemon ginger tea. Then I needed a shower and now it's noon and I'm planning to get back to Prized, I only have 70 pages left and it's getting intense! Hopefully I'll be able to list my first finished book of the day by the next update. For those of you already on book 3, wow, I'm impressed. Also I believe I have totally abandoned any thesis plans for the day, this is just too much fun! Thanks to the people who have commented to support me :)

Readathon Update 4 (12:22 PM-1:18 PM):
  • I’ve read 246 pages and finished 1 book
  • I’ve read for 3 hour and 29 minutes
Finished Prized! Yay, one book down. I'm just starting two others, Love Alone and also Practical Jean by Trevor Cole. They're both for upcoming book tours and if I can finish at least one today I'd be ecstatic. Anyway back to reading I go!

Readathon Update 5 (1:41 PM-2:34 PM):
  • I’ve read 304 pages and finished 1 book
  • I’ve read for 4 hour and 22 minutes
So I totally had a nap. Maybe it was sitting on the couch all day but I was exhausted. But I figured I'd do an update before I got back to reading. I've mostly been focused on Practical Jean and made a decent dent in that. Anyway it's 3:45 now and I'm happy to have passed the 300 mark, maybe I'll make it to 500 today? I don't really have a specific goal in mind though it would be nice to finish a second book. I need to participate in these more often, so much fun! Thanks to everyone who has stopped by my blog to cheer :)

Readathon Update 6 (3:50 PM-5:10 PM):
  • I’ve read 392 pages and finished 1 book
  • I’ve read for 5 hour and 42 minutes
I read about twenty more pages of Practical Jean before taking a break with something a bit light, the photography book TruthBeauty edited by Alison Nordstrom, there are essays in it but there are also large photographs and it's a gorgeous book to look at (even if I found a typo that is driving me mad!) and enjoyed the first chapter (up to page 64) of that. At least I know if all else fails I should be able to finish that book this evening! At the moment I'm waiting for chicken to defrost so I can cook dinner, so I'll probably do a little more reading then take a break while we eat. I've been snacking all day while reading and I definitely need a proper meal for supper!

Readathon Update 7 (7:17 PM):
  • I’ve read 402 pages and finished 1 book
  • I’ve read for 5 hour and 52 minutes
So I'm done supper (balsamic glazed chicken, corn, mashed potatoes and green beans) and it's back to reading I go! Okay, I also watched Project Runway, during which I read ten more pages (I counted it as ten minutes since I wasn't really reading most of the sixty). However I had to update because a) it's a couple hours later, and b) I passed the 400 mark! It honestly feels like I haven't done that much reading today, maybe because I've only finished one book, but I guess 400 pages is still quite a lot. Since I've decided to take today off from thesis-related things I still have at least 4 hours left which gives me the potential to bring that number up significantly if I don't get distracted. Happy reading everyone!

Readathon Update 8 (7:30 PM-9:00 PM):
  • I’ve read 494 pages and finished 1 book
  • I’ve read for 7 hours and 22 minutes
Just popping in to say I'm back on reading track although getting sleepy. Still switching back and forth between TruthBeauty and Practical Jean- maybe I can finish both today? That's over 200 more pages but I can fantasize....

Final Readathon Update (9:10 PM-11:59 PM):
  • I’ve read 670 pages and finished 2 books
  • I’ve read for 9 hours and 11 minutes
Well I think this readathon is ending at midnight in my time zone since I still have to do lots of thesis writing. I managed to finish two books, Prized and Practical Jean and read over 600 pages. I've also nearly finished TruthBeauty and began Love Alone though I didn't get very far. Overall it was a great day and I'll definitely be participating again! Thank you to everyone who stopped by, and if you were participating in the readathon I hope it went wonderfully for you as well :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dewey 24 Hour Readathon October 2011

Having made the decision (approximately an hour ago) to participate in the readathon, of course I got all excited and had to pick out a stack of books for tomorrow. I aimed for an eclectic mix so I don't get bored of any one type and although I am definitely not reading them all, hopefully I'll get a chance to finish at least one or two! 
The stack of wonderfulness contains:
  1. Love Alone by Emmanuel Kattan (More of a literary novel for an upcoming book tour) 
  2. Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien (About a third into this one and loving it, so it'll be first to be picked up tomorrow!)  
  3. Waking Storms by Sarah Porter (Not released till next year but I loved the first book so I'm excited for this. Plus, mermaids!)  
  4. Practical Jean by Trevor Cole (This one is a bit of a satire, it's also for an upcoming tour, I figure if I need some dark humour I'll start it)  
  5. The Apothecary by Maile Meloy (I'd been planning on the audio but I didn't like the narrator but I love Meloy's short stories so of course I have to try this.)  
  6. Invisible Strings by Jim Moore (Poetry for when I feel the need to feel like I've actually finished a book) 
  7. Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill (My non-fiction choice for the day, about tree-planting) 
  8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (I'll be listening to the audio)
  9. TruthBeauty by Alison Nordstrom (Art book for when I need some pictures)
  10. Not Pictured: Liesel and Po by Lauren Oliver (MG on my e-reader!) 
So ten books... yeah so not happening, but it was fun picking out what I would read under the most optimistic of circumstances if I had one of those Harry Potter watches that let me rewind time so I could spend hours and hours reading. Also, the incredibly ugly couch in the background is where I'll be doing most of my reading cause it sure is comfy.

And the reason I won't be participating the whole time is actually another stack of reading I have to do:
Yay Thesis Reading/Writing
Are you participating in tomorrow's read-a-thon? If so, what books do you plan to pick up?

Also I promise this is my last read-a-thon related post that isn't my read-a-thon post. That'll be up tomorrow when I finally start reading so it's not cluttered with all my idealism and I don't have to get depressed by the lack of reading I've done every time I open it to edit and see the picture of my stack of books!

To Readathon or Not to Readathon?

So I have tentatively decided to sign myself up! I will not be reading the full 24 hours as I need to maintain a decent sleep schedule, but I am making the plan to read lots and lots tomorrow before I go back to massive amounts of thesis-writing. Again, I may bow out if I get too stressed about school but I'm going to start the day (uhem, not six am like my start time, but when I wake up) with the full intention to participate. If I do I'm going to keep my posting down to one post that I'll regularly update throughout the day since I find it unmanageable and a bit annoying when bloggers post every ten minutes. Anyway, wish me luck, this is something I have seen happen many times and never joined in before I am excited and hopefully some day in the future I can do the full on participation that I admire.

Click here to join, are you participating? Let me know any helpful hints if you have them!

Frost by Wendy Delsol

Note: This review contains no spoilers of Frost, but does contain spoilers of the first book in the series, Stork, a review of which can be found here.

Frost by Wendy Delsol

Release Date: October 11th, 2011
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Source: Publisher
Buy It: Book Depository
Katla Leblanc is delighted when all signs point to a busy and peaceful Christmas. But Katla’s wintry wish unexpectedly turns into the snowstorm of the century, drawing the attention of Brigid, a gorgeous environmental researcher with an unusual interest in Katla’s boyfriend, Jack.
Personally, I went into reading Frost having loved its predecessor, Stork, so much I figured it was basically impossible to top. In reality, I found that to be the case, but that doesn't mean Frost wasn't also an enjoyable, hilarious, and exciting book- it just wasn't quite another Stork for me. That said, my high expectations didn't stop from thoroughly enjoying Frost and I once again loved Delsol's writing which is hilarious and engaging.

My major problem with Frost is that it had too many subplots. One storyline would get introduced, and then placed on the back burner for most of the book, for example what happened to Hulda. I love that Delsol had so many great ideas but I think the novel would have felt a little less overwhelmed if a couple of them had been pared back. I also found the climax to be quite rushed, as I was reading I couldn't believe how few pages were left when it began to happen and the events themselves unfolded very quickly.

That said, there was still plenty I loved about Frost. Brigid was pretty much the perfect villain; her evil was palpable. I also loved how Delsol drew inspiration from an obscure (at least to me) fairytale and I felt the connection worked terrifically for the story. There also seemed to be less references to brand name clothing which I appreciated. There were also plenty of hilarious moments and the novel is full of Katla's wonderful witticisms like "Coworkers, I decided, were like bullets, best when blank."

Ultimately, as much as I enjoyed Frost it wasn't quite the novel I hoped for, as it focuses far more on the Bridget/Jack/Katla dynamic than on the Stork Society that was at the center of the first novel. Still, by the end of the book all the events have fallen into place in a way that is quite intense and leaves the reader eager for the final book in the trilogy. Even though I didn't love Frost as much as Stork I am incredibly excited for what comes next and hopeful the series will end on a high note; I know that whatever the next book contains Delsol is certain to provide rich characters, humour, and an exciting story and that is certainly something I am looking forward to.

Review Elsewhere: The Accident by Linwood Barclay

"Barclay tells a smart thriller, one full of excitement but also contains a cast of believable characters with unexpected depth. The Accident is a riveting and well-written mystery, both timely and shocking in the issues it explores and with plenty of twists that will have the reader’s heart pounding to the last page."

Review Elsewhere: The Diviner's Tale by Bradford Morrow

"The Diviner’s Tale has all the potential to be a quietly disturbing mystery, but unfortunately the most mysterious part about it is how it manages to be over 300 pages without really saying much at all — at least it does so with nice language."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Giveaway Winner: Banned Books Hop

Sorry about the delay in getting this posted, I had some technical issues but here it is.

The winner of the Banned Books Giveaway Hop is:

Kandee Kane (kennedycrazidraw)

Kandee selected The Hunger Games. They have been contacted and have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by for their support and look forward to new giveaways soon!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Pandemonium

I loved Delirium when I read it earlier this year (see my review here) so of course I am very excited for the sequel, Pandemonium. Although 2012 is definitely going to be a year of many sequels, this is one I particularly looking forward to! Unfortunately I'll have to wait til March 6th 2012. The ending of Delirium was just so intense! Also Alex better be okay or Lauren Oliver is going to have some explaining to do!

Blame my excitement for all the exclamation points, I just can't wait for this book.
Lauren Oliver captivated readers with Delirium, the first book in a thrilling dystopian trilogy in which Lena Haloway dared to fall in love with Alex and escape the cure, the government-mandated procedure that renders a person immune to the disease of love. Lena and Alex staked their lives on leaving their oppressive society, but only Lena broke free.

Pandemonium continues Lena’s gripping story. After escaping from Portland, Maine, Lena makes it to the Wilds and becomes part of an Invalid community, where she transforms herself into a warrior for the resistance. A future without Alex is unimaginable, but Lena pushes forward and fights, both for him and for a world in which love is no longer considered a disease. Swept up in a volatile mix of revolutionaries and counterinsurgents, Lena struggles to survive—and wonders if she may be falling in love again.

Full of danger, forbidden romance, and exquisite writing, Lauren Oliver’s sequel to Delirium races forward at a breathtaking pace and is sure to appeal to fans who crave the high-stakes action of The Hunger Games and the bittersweet love story of Romeo & Juliet
What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Stork by Wendy Delsol

Stork by Wendy Delsol

Release Date: October 12th, 2010
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback and Audiobook
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Source: Publisher and Personal Shelf
Buy It: Book Depository
16-year-old Katla moves from L.A. to Minnesota after her parents divorce and is inducted into the Stork Society, where women pair up unborn babies with would-be mothers. Complicating things further is Jack, the gorgeous, brooding farm boy who seems fascinated with Katla—when he's not being rude and distant.
To be honest, I was skeptical of the premise of this book. I mean, Stork- like the birds that deliver babies? Really, Delsol, really? Yes, really, and in the most intriguing and well-written way you can imagine, a fantastic twist on an old myth that is totally original. In fact, not only is Stork one of the best books I've read in 2011 but it was also incredibly hilarious to the point that I was often laughing out loud while reading, as well as being a touching story about a teenage girl in extraordinary circumstances. What I absolutely loved about this book was Katla, Wendy Delsol has a great sense of humour the way she writes Katla is snarky yet approachable and her sarcastic wit makes her one of those characters I truly wish were a real person. And she does feel real, the way she interacts with the people around her makes her easy to imagine and despite the fantastical element of the story I really felt like Katla could walk right off the page.

Of course, I have to share a few of Katla's quips, like how when she sees two people engaging in slightly too much PDA she says "Honestly, a start-of-game Jenga tower didn’t touch at that many points." or when describing the colour of a room she's just entered she say it "was painted eggplant, a bold statement, and just as difficult to decorate with as it was to make palatable. I was impressed". The only times Katla lost me was when there was excessive name-dropping, as she is a true fashionista and is often mentioning the brands of various articles of clothing in a way a fashion-ignorant person like myself could not really appreciate, and although it mostly fit within the story it did occasionally detract from the magical world Delsol had created.

Stork is one of those books that truly sparkles and one I know I'll go back and reread when I need a pick-me-up. I really have only positive things to say about this novel and I really hope you'll consider picking it up. The audiobook version is also great, it is read by Julia Whelan who I loved for Lost Voices and impresses equally here. Ultimately, Stork is a wonderful story which is accessible for young teens, old teens, or teens at heart and I will be certainly be picking up anything and everything Delsol publishes in the future but I am especially excited for the sequel, Frost.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ripple by Mandy Hubbard

Ripple by Mandy Hubbard

Release Date: July 21st, 2011
Pages: 260
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Penguin
Source: Publisher
Buy It: Book Depository
Lexi has a dark secret: she's a siren, a deadly mermaid destined to lure men to their watery deaths. Each night she must swim, or the pain is unbearable. Trying to keep others safe, Lexi has no friends and no boyfriend because the last time she fell in love, he ended up dead. But now there's a new boy at school...
After loving Lost Voices by Sarah Porter I decided to dive* headfirst into the mermaid craze and picked up Ripple, another novel with a dark twist on sirens in which the main character is a teenage girl who was involved in the death of her first love. From the first page it is obvious how heavy Lexi's guilt is, and although we all aren't capable of killing men with our voices, the burden she feels over something she had no way of knowing is incredibly relateable. Everyone makes mistakes, but Lexi is still a young girl and the pain and emotion Hubbard captures in her is absolutely heart-breaking at times.

My major problem with Ripple is although it appears to contain a love triangle- not my favourite to begin with- one of the boys catching Lexi's eye was completely unlikable and not even slightly desirable. I realize he had something Lexi craved deeply and could change her life forever, but it is hard to imagine she could even consider picking him. I loved the shocking ending but I wish that up til that point there had been a little more to catch the reader's interest so that I felt more than simply 'good riddance' when the book was over.

What's incredibly refreshing about Ripple is that it is a standalone novel. Yup, you heard me right. It seems like every book these days, especially those with a touch of paranormal in them, is part of a series and I am so glad Hubbard limited herself to one book to tell this story. The result is that although short, Ripple is completely satisfying story-wise and full of twists and turns you won't see coming with an ending that is quite rewarding. I really enjoyed Hubbard's writing and was disappointed when I checked out the synopses for her first two novels- You Wish and Prada and Prejudice- neither of which really caught my eye. Luckily, it turns out she also publishes YA on serious issues under the name Amanda Grace including But I Love Him and  the upcoming release In Too Deep, both of which I will definitely be checking out.

Hubbard's writing is smooth, flows nicely and is easy to read and I loved her unique spin on the mythology involved in the story. This is a great book to just devour in a lazy afternoon. In the midst of a sea* of paranormal, Ripple is a book that still manages to stand out because of the strong connection the reader forms with Lexi, a flawed and believable protagonist that Hubbard takes on an emotional journey.

*These puns were completely and totally on purpose. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

Release Date: June 16th, 2011
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Thomas Allen 
Source: Publisher
Buy It: Book Depository
Paris, 1940. A brilliant jazz musician, Hiero, is arrested by the Nazis and never heard from again. He is twenty years old. He is a German citizen. And he is black.

Fifty years later, his friend and fellow musician, Sid, must relive that unforgettable time, revealing the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that sealed Hiero’s fate.
In some ways, completely unrelated to the content of the novel, Half Blood Blues reminds me slightly of Blood Red Road by Moira young- and not just because of the gore in the title. The two books are both written in dialect, a fact which is in some ways responsible for their slow starts, but once the reader becomes fully immersed it is impossible not to fall in love with the story.

Part of what surprised me about Half Blood Blues was the fact that for a historical book, one with a story told mainly in the past, it isn't just about the history: at its core Edugyan's novel is truly human. This humanity comes mainly from the character of Sid, his voice as the narrator felt so genuine I find it difficult to imagine what Edugyan's other novels are like, how can she tell any other stories when this one felt so real? The musicians that make up the group Sid is a part of are each unique and believable and in Half Blood Blues each of them tells their own story: the solider's son who believes in music, the Jew with the aryan appearance, the young prodigy. Mingled into the story are real people and events so that the novel reminded me slightly of The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, a book where it is hard to know where the truth ends and the imagination begins precisely.

Although Half Blood Blues has been nominated for many awards such as the Booker, the Giller and the Governor General's, it is not so overly literary as to be inaccessible. Once the reader becomes accustomed to Sid's voice, the story itself is approachable and easy to read. Still, it is not a novel to be taken lightly and it deals heavily with issues of race, such as the hierarchy of blacks in Nazi Germany, that most are unfamiliar with but which I found fascinating. In the end, Half Blood Blues provides a powerful message about jealously, betrayal and friendship in incredibly difficult times; and it is certainly not the last book by Edugyan that I will be reading.

It's Monday, what are you reading? (12)

Hosted by The Book Journey
It was an okay reading week, spent most of my time designing my blog instead of reading books for it but I'm happy with the end result of that. Plus, I had a review book for a tour that I was not at all enjoying and it's a relief to get it out of the way. Hopefully I'll spend more time reading this upcoming week and I have quite a few 'rewards' in store for when I finish my book tour books for the moment.

Last week I finished reading:
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
I really enjoyed this and can see why it was nominated for so many prizes, it's an incredibly unique and well-written story and let me in on a piece of history that is often-neglected. Edugyan's makes Sid's voice so believable I'm pretty curious to read another book by her and see how it compares.

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi  
So at first I thought this book was strange but okay, but as it progressed it just confused and lost me and I'm afraid by the end I really disliked it. It was just too complicated for me. 

What I plan to read this week:
Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes
I'm about a quarter into this one and the writing is lovely although sometimes overly literary by which I mean verging on pretentious. It's a short book of only about 200 pages so hopefully I'll finish it in the next day or two.

Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien
Eeek! Once I finish Robert Capa this is totally going to be my reward. I'm so excited to be hosting the author on my blog and I loved Birthmarked, the first book in the series, incredibly. Can't wait to devour this!

Liesel and Po by Lauren Oliver
Only two weeks left on my e-galley and since Delirium was one of my favourite books this year I definitely have to read this one. Oliver is an incredibly multi-talented lady and I've heard fantastic things about this magical tale.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I was actually planning to listen to another audiobook, The Apothecary by Maile Meloy, which I'd really been looking forward to. As soon as I started it I knew that I was going to stick to print as I did not enjoy the narrator at all. Which gives me a chance to start on this already-incredibly-popular recent release. I own the print edition as well and it is absolutely gorgeous. I've only just started it but I'm already in love. Plus, a British narrator!

What are you reading this Monday?