Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Imagining Canada edited by William Morassutti

Some of the things in life I really love include: reading, Canada, and photography. So obviously I was incredibly excited to pick up Imagining Canada, a beautiful and glossy hardcover book that features a century of photographs preserved by The New York Times. The collection was edited by William Morassutti and is divided into nine sections, each featuring an essay by a different person along with matching photos that represent a different aspect of Canadian history. The authors included are National Chief Shawn Atleo, MP Justin Trudeau, historians Charlotte Gray, Peter C. Newman and Tim Cook, sports columnist Stephen Brunt, authors Ian Brown and Lisa Moore, and journalist John Fraser.

One of my favourite sections was Peter C. Newman's, "An Industrious Nation", that is all about the industry that has made Canada what it is today. Not only is it beautifully written, but I found myself especially enamoured with the photos: Newfoundland fisherman and Nova Scotian coal miners, Albertan tar sands and Quebec paper mills. These are the most precious resources of our country, captured here in a way that may never be possible again because of how we have treated them. The photo of the fisherman was taken in 1968, the peak of cod fishing when fishers caught more than eight hundred thousand tons of cod– an industry that collapsed in the 1990s because of overfishing. But the people in these images don't know that yet, which gives a bitter-sweetness to the photographs. In another photo, the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway is being laid. It's a beautiful image and the only unfortunate part is that it appears on the title page, tinted red and overlaid with text.

Imagining Canada isn't the kind of book that only focuses on the happy parts of Canadian history. In "First Nations", Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, calls out the photos for how poorly they represent Native culture– using it as a gimmick for tourists, and stereotyping. In one photo, a miner lies on top of ancient art with a hammer; it is referred to as "crude rock carvings." Atleo encourages the reader to look beyond the images so that we can "be enriched by the incredibly history and enduring legacy of the indigenous world view." His thoughtful text really puts the photos in perspective.

By far the most disappointing section of the book is "A Tough and Beautiful Game" with text by Stephen Brunt, about hockey in Canada. Except not really. It's actually all about the New York Rangers, with only a small nod to the fact that the game originated in Canada. True, some of the hockey players who appear in the accompanying images are Canadian, but that seems to be more of a fluke than an intent. Obviously Canadian hockey teams have players from around the world, but it would still be more Canadian to read about their successes than an American team.

While the photos themselves are from a New York newspaper, it seems unlikely that a major Canadian NHL success wouldn't be featured at some points in history. It actually made me wonder if Brunt, who selected the images and wrote the text, was American but a quick internet search reveals he's a Canadian sports journalist from Ontario. So why no love for his home country? The writing and images are great, but it's not what I was hoping for when I'm picking up a book called Imagining Canada. Emphasize on the Canada. That said, I did find out some incredibly history about the Sutter family, who were from Viking, Alberta and had six (out of seven) brothers playing simultaneously in the NHL during the 1980s. What an amazing Canadian story.

Imagining Canada is an incredible and important collection of photographs. Not only are these amazing images that capture a huge part of Canadian history, but they also offer a glimpse of this beautiful country as seen through the eyes of outsiders. Justin Trudeau, in "The Body Politic", a section dedicated to political photos, points out that there are none of women. But he also writes that this "says more, perhaps, about the choices of The New York Times and its photographers than anything else."

I think that is such an important message to take away from Imagining Canada. We make our own history and we do not need anyone else, not even The New York Times with their beautiful collection of photographs, to validate it and tell us what is important or true about our country. Ultimately, Imagining Canada is a wonderful keepsake, not only for its images, but for its message as well.

Release Date: October 30th 2012  Pages: 240  Format: Hardcover 
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Random House Canada Buy It: Book Depository

Monday, October 29, 2012

Giveaway: Rebel Heart by Moira Young

I absolutely adored Moira Young's debut dystopian novel, Blood Red Road, when I read it last year (you can read my review here). To quote myself, I said:
"The story of Blood Red Road by Moira Young is as blazing and intense as the desert heat. Its characters are passionate, unique and human, and although the language takes some getting used to, it's an effort you'll be glad you made."
It's a statement I still stand by. So of course I was insanely excited about the upcoming release of the sequel, Rebel Heart. Even though Blood Red Road is one of those awesome trilogies where the first book tells a complete story, there is so much I'm dying to know about Saba's story... and Jack!

For my giveaway, I'm able to offer TWO Dust Lands prize packs including a custom t-shirt and a copy of Rebel Heart. This giveaway is open to the US only.

A small summary of the novel, it contains spoilers if you haven't read Blood Red Road yet (what are you waiting for?!):
"It seemed so simple: Defeat the Tonton, rescue her kidnapped brother, Lugh, and then order would be restored to Saba’s world. Simplicity, however, has proved to be elusive. Now, Saba and her family travel west, headed for a better life and a longed-for reunion with Jack. But the fight for Lugh’s freedom has unleashed a new power in the dust lands, and a formidable new enemy is on the rise.

What is the truth about Jack? And how far will Saba go to get what she wants? In this much-anticipated follow-up to the riveting Blood Red Road, a fierce heroine finds herself at the crossroads of danger and destiny, betrayal and passion."
To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway ends November 9th at midnight!

Click here to visit the Dust Lands website. And don't forget to enter the Rebel Heart giveaway hosted by SimonTEEN for your chance to win the first two books in the DUST LANDS trilogy by Moira Young. The giveaway ends on October 31. Enter here!
Good luck and thanks so much for stopping by In The Next Room!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spooktacular Giveaway: Monstrous Beauty Audiobook (US Only)

One of my favourite books this year is the spooky and exciting mermaid story, Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama. You can read my review of the book here.

For my giveaway, I'm able to offer one copy of the Monstrous Beauty audiobook. I love audiobooks, they're a great way to bring a story to live, and fantastic for multitasking– especially things like cleaning where a distraction is definitely needed! This giveaway is open to the US only. If you're a Canadian looking for a spooky prize, click here for my Canadian spooktacular giveaway.

A small summary of the novel:
"Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse?"
Here's a clip from the audiobook to give you an idea of the fantastic narration the book has.

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway ends October 31st at midnight!

Thanks so much for stopping by In The Next Room! I hope you have an awesome Halloween. Click here to return to the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop homepage and enter to win hundreds of other bookish prizes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Canadian Giveaway: Awards Prize Pack!

The only thing more awesome about being able to give away books, is being able to give away good books– amazing books– and I have a definite batch of those to giveaway today! There will be ONE Canadian winner and they will get THREE amazing award-nominated Canadian titles published by Thomas Allen & Son.

The books up for grabs are:
  • Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky– made the short list for Giller Prize.
  • Siege 13 by Tamas Dobozy– nominated for Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Award and the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. One of the stories in the collection also won the 2011 O. Henry Prize for Fiction.
  • Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan– incredibly, a SIGNED COPY is up for grabs. This book was one of my favourites last year, you can read the review on In The Next Room here. And I wasn't the only one that loved it. It was nominated and won a huge list of prizes, including winning the Giller, and being short-listed for Man Booker. Way to make Canada proud!

This contest ends November 5th at midnight. To enter use the Rafflecopter giveaway form:
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Remember, this is for Canadian residents only. Good luck and thanks for visiting In The Next Room!  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Flock by Wendy Delsol

Note: This review contains no spoilers of Flock, but may contain spoilers of the first book in the series, Stork, a review of which can be found here and the second book, Frost, a review of which can be found here.
Flock (Stork #3) by Wendy Delsol

Release Date: September 11th 2012
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Candlewick
Also by this AuthorStork (Stork #1); Frost (Stork #2)
Buy It: Book Depository


I spend a lot of time complaining about how everything is a series, but sometimes I read a book with such an awesome main character that I find myself desperately grateful that the book is a series. And so it was with Stork by Wendy Delsol, the first book in a trilogy featuring the sarcastic and caring fashionista Katla. Last year the second book, Frost, came out and now it is finally time for the third and final book in the series, Flock. The result is that I went into reading Flock with mixed emotions; I didn't want this story to end, but I definitely wanted to spend more time with Katla and find out how things turned out especially after she left behind an angry ice queen wanting revenge, and a promise to give up her baby sister to the mer queen.

When Flock begins Katla is starting her senior year of high school, and all she wants is a normal year, no supernatural adventures involved. But when she shows up, two of her Icelandic friends from last year's trip are on exchange, and one of them is a mer messenger sent to make sure she fulfills her end of the deal she made. And that means handing over her infant sister Leira, the last thing Katla intends to let happen.

As I have in the previous two books, I loved Katla's zest and passion and strength as a main character. I also loved her sense of humour. Flock did a great job of tying together loose ends from the first two books, and wrapping things up for each character. I really felt like each character had their own ending, including lots of minor ones like Jaelle and Katla's dad. But I did feel like it took a very confusing and muddled road to get there.

Honestly, there was so much new myth in Flock that I found myself really lost over what was happening at times, there were spirit journeys to foreign realms and sometimes I couldn't even get to the end of a page without having to reread it and try to figure out what was going on. It really made me miss the simplicity of Stork. However, unlike Frost I at least felt like the climax and subsequent events had the chance to unfold fully and weren't rushed.

Like always, Delsol's writing was clever and fun to read, and I thought things ended in a believable way. I loved the contemporary components of Flock, but I wanted more clarity from some of the supernatural events which occasionally became muddled as I was reading. Still, I really enjoyed the Stork trilogy, and I'm certainly going to pick up whatever Delsol writes next and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend these books.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Art of the Epigraph compiled and edited by Rosemary Ahern

The Art of the Epigraph: How Great Books Begin is a collection of those tiny quotes that appear at the beginning of a book, compiled and edited by Rosemary Ahern. In that sense, it is far more like a book of quotations than anything that really delves into the meaning or history of epigraphs, beyond a very short introduction. Based on its title, 'the art', I thought that it would be more than just a collection of epigraphs that the reader could easily discover by flipping open books at the library (or even just through Google). I was actually really excited to pick up Ahern's book, because I am definitely the kind of person that reads every epigraph. I love them. But I didn't love The Art of the Epigraph.

Every few epigraphs does have a paragraph of background information written by Ahern, but what I wanted was more about the books they were featured in, instead of the authors that are being quoted in the first place. Even in the cases when the author who used the epigraph had some information included, the epigraph writer was ignored. What I would have loved would have been to know a little about both so that you could picture the epigraph in context, even if you hadn't read the book. Ahern comes close to this is with The Merchant of Venice quote in Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper in which she explains why Twain didn't include Shakespeare's name (he thought that Francis Bacon did). There are only a few times Ahern actually draws the connection, asides from when the epigraph was made up by the author for various reasons.

The times when Ahern does explain the connection thrilled me. One example is the Francois Villon epigraph at the beginning of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood– as both Villon and the subjects of Capote's novel were murderers awaiting execution. Another is how Upanishads, the core of Indian philosophy, inspired Charles Johnson as well as other authors, leading him to use a quote from Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad as a epigraph to his novel Middle Passage. Finally, Tolstoy's biblical quote for Anna Karenina,  "Vengeance is mine, I will repay.", is especially interesting because it is described in his own words, "it express[es] the idea that evil committed by man results in all bitter things that come from God and not from men, as Anna Karenina also experienced it..."

The need for a connection between the epigraph and the text is especially true of the non-classics, as Ahern uses quite a few epigraphs from books published in 2010-2012, and those are less recognizable than the classics the art of the epigraph contains (unless it is a really famous book– but a decent number of, both the recent and the older ones, were not ones I had heard of).  Some of the most interesting bits were facts, not epigraphs, like I didn't know that Moby Dick contained nearly 80 epigraphs... seems a bit ridiculous, but I guess it's proportional to the length of the novel!

Unfortunately, the movies quoted in The Art of the Epigraph aren't referenced properly, it's just a title, when I'd think the screenplay writer deserves some credit. I found it off-putting that Ahern didn't include them.

That said, where the book succeeded was when it made me think back to those novels I had read, and that first moment of opening it and reading the epigraph. One of the most charming ones I remembered from growing up was the J.R.R. Tolkien quote, "Not all who wander are lost." at the beginning of Anne Brashares' The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. My mom had also written the quote at the beginning of a travel journal once, and it made me smile to see it again. 

The Art of the Epigraph was such an instantly appealing idea to me, so interesting in concept but unfortunately the lack of depth meant that Ahern's book was nearly always disappointing, except as a collection of intriguing quotations.

Release Date: October 30th 2012  Pages: 256  Format: E-galley 
Source: NetGalley/Publisher  Publisher: Simon and Schuster Buy It: Book Depository

Monday, October 15, 2012

Meghan Review: Love, in Theory by E.J. Levy

Love, in Theory by E.J. Levy is a gorgeous collection of short stories examining the nature of love, need, desire, and connection in human experience. Levy’s prose is compelling and poetic, succeeding in embodying each character with complexity and uniqueness. This is an especially impressive accomplishment because Levy dives deeply into all types of love—affairs, new romances, decades of marriage, gay and lesbian relationships, family feuds—with the same meticulous attention to detail and voice. It’s this kind of fluidity that makes it easy to understand why this collection is a winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.

My favorite story within the collection was the final one, “Theory of Dramatic Action.” This piece tells the story of a graduate film student redefining love and boundaries after a life spent fearing commitment and pain. All of the film details within the text (things like rising character arcs and film angles) added to the mood, and certainly taught me a lot I’d never even considered about movie-making. Another element of this story that stood out to me was the use of second person point-of-view. It made the story very immediate and visceral, and allowed it to be read almost like a script itself, correlating with the sections labeled “Act 1” and “Act 2” within it, and sticking with the larger thread of film.

In addition to its film details, “Theory of Dramatic Action” problematized faithfulness and sexual orientation in a way I’d never imagined before, touching on elements like sadomasochism and affairs with authority figures. This entanglement of love and lust and fear is all described best in the text itself: “You wonder, idly, if the appeal of the love triangle can be traced back to the Trinity or if it is more archaic, more biological than that, if it has been there from the start, from the moment we entered the world: a mother, a father, a child.” Throughout the collection, Levy raises questions such as this—where did love come from? When did this need begin? And is what we theorize as love really love at all?

Recommended to: lovers, fighters, and people coming out of bad break-ups or diving into new romances, teenagers who doodle hearts in the margins.

Release Date: September 15th 2012  Pages: 224  Format: E-book
Source: TLC Book Tours  Publisher: University of Georgia Press  Buy It: Book Depository

This is a review by Meghan. You can find her here on Goodreads or on Twitter @meghanc303

Introducing: Meghan, Associate Book Reviewer

Two weeks ago, I put out a request for an associate book reviewer on In The Next Room. I wasn't sure if I'd find anyone, because I really wanted the right match for the site and for me. Luckily, I heard from Meghan! Her background, personality, and quality of writing all let me know she was perfect for In The Next Room. You can expect to see her reviews about once a week, and they'll be clearly identified. I'm so excited to welcome Meghan to In The Next Room. Here's a little introduction directly from her :)

My name is Meghan and I’m a 20 year old college student studying Creative Writing, Theatre, and Art History. My dream is to be a book reviewer—and for me, dreams really do come true here In the Next Room! I am so excited to become a reviewer for the site!

I read mainly fiction, though I do appreciate a good memoir or essay collection. I love poetry, short stories, YA fiction of all flavors, plays, mysteries, historical fiction, GLBTQ, fantasy, sci-fi, true crime, and independently published works. (Particularly those from authors in Ohio or Colorado—my two homes!)

I devour books like most people eat chocolate chip cookies: frequently, quickly, and with great joy.

The best books I’ve read so far in 2012:

1. Enchantments by: Kathryn Harrison

2. Rules of Civility by: Amor Towles

3. John Dies at the End by: David Wong

4. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by: Kate Bernheimer

5. The Catch Trap by: Marion Zimmer Bradley

You can find me here on Goodreads or here at my Twitter account, @meghanc303

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Canadian Giveaway: Spooktacular Titles

I love Halloween! Now I'm potentially a bit biased, because it also happens to be my birthday, but I think there is no better holiday. And fortunately, Thomas Allen & Son agrees, because they've partnered up with me to give away three awesome dark and creepy books for the upcoming holiday.

This giveaway is only open to individuals with a Canadian mailing address. It ends on October 30th at midnight– just in time for Halloween. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter.

Now, for the prizes. Three different books, three different winners. They are:
The continuation in the supernatural and horror series from award-winning editor John Skipp, Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, is a fantastic anthology with stories from Neil Gaiman, Brett Easton Ellis, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Bloch, and much more!
Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey: Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancĂ©.
Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler: Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

To enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have an awesome Halloween everyone! Good luck and thanks for entering.  

Readathon Updates October 2012

I officially need to pay more attention to when these Readathons happen. Cause I love them, I had a great time participating last April, and last October. Now, a year later, it's time for my third readathon. The lucky bit is that having moved across the country, I was actually awake in time to find out there was a readathon exactly 2 minutes after it started (9:02 AM) so I turned on an audiobook and got started! I'm hopefully going to the movies tonight (Taken 2) with my boyfriend, and I definitely won't be staying up the full 24 hours, but with the start of my PhD I've already been reading these days, so Readathon's timing feels like fate– and how can I say no to that?

Update #1 (9:06 AM-9:38 AM): 

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

The beautiful Atlantic coast in Nova Scotia, Canada. 

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Honestly, I have not planned what I'm reading at all! So it's hard to say... I have a lot of bulky reads at the moment, which can be sorta defeating during a readathon, so I plan to transfer between books a bunch and also listen to audio. 

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Again, I haven't planned this out. And I'm getting my treat tonight at the movies (probably a Snickers bar, I've wanted one for awhile). I will probably make kale chips though. Yum. 

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm a nearly 24-year-old and I participated in my first Readathon exactly a year ago. You can read about it here (and also see a photo of my hamster who sadly passed away). I'm starting my PhD studying molecular evolution in plants. I'm kinda, definitely, a nerd.  

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I would have said that I'd plan this one better, and actually know about it in advance, but it's clearly too late for that!
  • I’ve read 33 pages and finished 0 books
  • I’ve read for 32 minutes
Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton (Audio book: 0-32 minutes, 33 pages)

Also, maybe my method of switching books a bunch won't be the best, it'll be sad to see that 'finished' number still at zero at the end of the day. Makes me really wish I'd visited the library or something first! I guess I'll have to see what I have lying around. Having the majority of my books in storage sucks :(

Update #2 (9:55 AM-11:12 AM): 
  • I’ve read 76 pages and finished 0 books
  • I’ve read for 1 hour 49 minutes
Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton (Audio book: 32 minutes - 1 hour 44 minutes, 43 pages)

Realized I was getting dizzy because I had gotten so distracted by Readathon I hadn't eaten breakfast yet. So I'm going to do that now. I might pick up a print book afterwards, but I'm really enjoying this audio. The only thing is my page count is going to be absurdly low if I keep reading this way– Afterwards is about 12 hours and 40 minutes long! I also stopped by a few blogs to do a little "cheering" on intro posts, which was fun. I'll definitely stop by more later.

Update #3 (11:21 AM-12:38 AM):
  • I’ve read 121 pages and finished 0 books
  • I’ve read for 3 hours 6 minutes
The Art of the Epigraph: How Great Books Begin by Rosemary Ahern (P. 66-111)

So I had breakfast and puttered around a little. I also transferred over to a print (well, e-galley) book so I could get my page count up a bit, though puttering sorta counter-balanced that. Ahern's book is also great because the pages aren't 100% full of text. But again, I need to stop getting distracted, even if it's just by a bit of visiting other people's updates and commenting, and actually focus on my own if I want to get a decent amount of reading done. On the bright side, I should be able to finish Ahern's book today, so even that would be something.

Also, I totally won a prize on the Hour 4 post! Which makes me extra-motivated to continue, since I've been awarded for my pathetic progress so far.

Update #4 (1:00 PM- 1:40 PM):
  • I’ve read 168 pages and finished 0 books
  • I’ve read for 3 hours 46 minutes
The Art of the Epigraph: How Great Books Begin by Rosemary Ahern (P. 111-158)

Read for a bit, but also checked out some blogs and now I'm off to get a shower. I'll probably not update until I manage to Ahern's book finished at least, which is a hundred more pages.

Update #5 (2:12 PM-3:19 PM):
  • I’ve read 211 pages and finished 0 books
  • I’ve read for 4 hours 53 minutes
The Art of the Epigraph: How Great Books Begin by Rosemary Ahern (P. 158-201)

Guess I lied about the update! After reading this for a bit I got distracted when my boyfriend wanted to watch a movie, though we only ended up watching the first 30 minutes of Snow White and the Huntsman. And I made kale chips, which weren't the great this time... should have made them yesterday when the kale was fresher.

Update #6 (3:56 PM- 4:57 PM):
  • I’ve read 282 pages and finished 1 book
  • I’ve read for 5 hours 54 minutes
The Art of the Epigraph: How Great Books Begin by Rosemary Ahern (P. 201-256)
Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton (Audio book: 1 hour 44 minutes - 2 hours 11 minutes, 16 pages)

I FINALLY FINISHED A BOOK! Now delving back into the audio for a bit I think, though I have some more household chores to do also. It does feel nice to have at least one done, I'd be really surprised if I finished anything else, but at least this readathon was not a total flop.

Update #7 (9:52 PM- 12:15 AM):
  • I’ve read 445 pages and finished 1 book
  • I’ve read for 8 hours 17 minutes
The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald (P.1-124)
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke (P.78-92)
Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton (Audio book: 2 hours 11 minutes - 2 hours 52 minutes, 25 pages)

So my boyfriend and I went to see Taken 2, which was great, if you loved Taken (we did), though not as good as the original in my opinion. If you didn't love Taken, then it's definitely not worth your time. And now it's pretty late but I tried to get some more reading in after we got home...

Also, I finally had my Snickers bar at the movie, and it was king-sized! And delicious. The Anti-Prom is awesome and I wish I'd started it earlier in the day cause I'm going to have to go to sleep now I think. If I get up early enough tomorrow I can have another hour of readathon though, so hopefully I'll manage that. If not, well, this has been a disappointing performance but I still had a lot of fun. Good luck to everyone that's continuing on the rest of the way!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Giveaway: The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli

I absolutely had to take advantage of the opportunity to give away a copy of The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli, as it is an incredibly beautiful and complex novel. You can read my full review of it here.

This giveaway is open to Canadian and American mailing addresses only. Giveaway ends October 15th at midnight. Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter! Good luck everyone and I highly recommend picking up this amazing novel!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli

While I enjoyed The Forgetting Tree from page one, it is the second half of the book that I fell in love with. It is the kind of novel with a quiet start and a powerful finish.

Soli's second novel, the followup to one of my favourite books of last year The Lotus Eaters was a shock to me because I did not expect a writer who clearly puts so much thought into both research and writing to be able to publish another book so quickly. But somehow, Soli managed. The Forgetting Tree is the story of Claire, a woman diagnosed with cancer and clinging to the citrus ranch where she raised her family, and Minna, the young caregiver with a mysterious back story who may be either the worst, or the best, thing that could possibly happen to Claire.

Minna is really the controversial part of The Forgetting Tree, as much as I hated her at times, I couldn't help sympathizing with her, and recognizing that despite all the awful she was doing she still might be able to save Claire. It was an emotionally conflicting dilemma, and one that left me ultimately unsure about the definitions I wanted to give the characters. Nobody in this novel is all good or all bad. Claire might love her children, but that doesn't mean she's been a good mother. These sorts of complicated feelings are what Soli captures so well. The only unfortunate part is that it took a decent chunk of the novel for them to really come alive.

The beginning of The Forgetting Tree is beautifully written, but ultimately it is back story, not its heart. That doesn't happen until Minna arrives.

Just like Soli brought Vietnam in 1975 to life in The Lotus Eaters, California ranch life comes alive in The Forgetting Tree. Her books are clearly impeccably researched, and she has the amazing of giving enough details to truly make the reader feel like they are there, without boring them in the minutiae. I have to admit that I still prefer Soli's first novel, but the fact that her second was less consistent in its genius does not at all deter me from picking up whatever she publishes next.

Ultimately, this is a beautifully written book that is both moving, and a touch spooky. Although The Forgetting Tree had a slow start, Soli has told a complicated and powerful story that challenges the reader, and I continue to be a huge fan of her writing. I can only hope she continues to be so prolific and that another book will arrive in 2014.

Release Date: September 4th 2012  Pages: 416  Format: ARC
: TLC Book Tours  Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Also By This Author
: The Lotus Eaters  Buy It: Book Depository

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Author Interview with Sarah Jio

Publishing three amazing books in 2 years, raising three young sons... I think what I really want to know is, are you secretly Superwoman? How do you manage it all?

Aww, thank you Zoe. Truly, though, it has nothing to do with any superhuman abilities (though, I wish!). I am simply fortunate to do what I love. When you enjoy what you do, it all sort of falls into place. Oh, and I have an amazing husband who is particularly great with the kids, so that helps a bunch!

Setting is so important in your novels, for example Bainbridge Island in Violets of March and Bora Bora in The Bungalow. Is Seattle just as important in Blackberry Winter? Do you intentionally try to set your stories in different locations? What comes first– the setting or the plot?

Blackberry Winter is set in Seattle. I live here, and absolutely am a Seattle-ite through and through. So far, all of my novels (except my fourth!) have been set partially or fully in the Northwest. I tend to gravitate to this area because I know it so well and love it. But, I think the plot comes first in most cases—then the setting. Though in Violets, Bainbridge Island was sort of a character in its own right, so it came to me along with the idea for the novel.

Your novels are so great at transporting the reader to a new place they've never been– if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Also, I think you should definitely make the trip (research expense!)

I've been to Paris before, but I want to go back! The last time I was there, I traveled alone to a cooking class. This time, I want to rent an apartment in Paris for 2 weeks and bring the whole family. I have dreams of surviving on bread and pastries and showing the boys all the sights!

Now that your third novel is about to be published, has anything about writing and publishing gotten any easier? Is anything harder?

I wouldn't say that it's gotten any easier, but it's nice knowing what to expect in the process. There is so much that the author cannot control, so much that is just out of your hands, that I've learned to simply enjoy writing good books and then let the experts take it from there. My goal is to try to just focus on the writing and interacting with readers: both of my favorite things!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Yes, write daily. And, do not begin writing a story unless the characters absolutely haunt you by day and keep you up at night. You must love, love, love your story for readers to also love it. (And for editors and agents, too!)

What are the five books you are most excited about at the moment? They can be ones you've read recently, or ones you're anxious to pick up, whatever you want!

So many! I want to read "Gone Girl" because of all the press about it, and Anne Lamott's new one. Also, Maeve Binchy was working on a new book, A Week in Winter, which she turned in to her editor shortly before she passed away last month. I want to read this one the second it is published.

Where do you do most of your writing? What are your reading and writing habits like?

I write in a little office next to the playroom in my house (I have three boys under the age of 6, so this is key). It's small, and there are usually kid toys at my feet. But it works. And I feel fortunate to have a dedicated room for my writing pursuits. My desk is covered with books and notebooks and other random things (I'm staring at a Lego creation that my 5 year old made me and a withered dandelion flower that my 3 year old gave me yesterday). I like to write fiction at night, after the kids are in bed and the house is quiet. Better yet if it's raining outside and the window is propped open.

Not only do flowers appear on the covers of your novels, but they also play a unique and important role in the stories. What is it that draws you to their symbolism? Do you expect that future novels will also feature them? 

Yes! I adore flowers, plants and nature, so I suspect that these types of themes and symbolic elements will be a permanent feature in my novels in the future. I love how certain flowers and trees are meaningful to people. For instance, crocuses always remind me of my parents because they planted them every spring in the garden of my childhood home. Come to think of it, I think I should use the crocus as a symbolic element in a story. It would sure make a beautiful cover!  
How would you sum up Blackberry Winter in ten words or less?

Seattle, a life-changing snowstorm, love and loss—and hope.

Usually, I'd ask what's next but you're so ahead of the game you already have a release date for book four, The Last Camellia, May 28th 2013! So is there anything else you can reveal about The Last Camellia? Or even book five, six, or seven– which I've read are already in progress?

I can't share a bunch about The Last Camellia yet, but I can't wait to—soon! For now, I'll share that it is set in the English countryside (in two time periods: present and 1940s), and delves into mystery, history, romance—and a bit of suspense! I also think fans of Downton Abbey should really like it!

Sarah Jio is the author of The Violets of March, The Bungalow, Blackberry Winter and The Last Camellia (out on 5/28/13)-all from Penguin/Plume! Sarah's books have/will be translated into 17 languages.

Thanks so much to Sarah for stopping by In The Next Room! To learn more about her awesome third novel, Blackberry Winter, or her first two books The Violets of March (click here to read my review) and The Bungalow (click here to read my review), stop by her website

Monday, October 01, 2012

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Release Date: September 4th 2012
Pages: 304
Format: E-book/Hardcover
Source: Netgalley/Publisher
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Buy It: Book Depository
Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.
Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse?
This was such a weird book, because I managed to absolutely adore it without connecting with the characters at all (except maybe the tiniest bit at the end). I honestly have no idea how that happened, except to say that Fama's enjoyable writing and thrilling plot more than compensated for characters that often felt more like they existed for the story rather than existing, and as a reader I was let in on their story. Somehow, though, that becomes a minor complaint in the scope of what is an incredibly exciting and well-written book.

I really loved how Fama dropped hints throughout Monstrous Beauty, so that as my friend Ambur and I read it together we were constantly speculating about what might happen, or what did happen, or how things would be explained. If you're the kind of reader who pays very close attention to the details, you'll probably see some of the twists coming, but I love that about it– it's not as if events come out of nowhere, Fama lays the groundwork. Even if you are that kind of ultra-observant reader, I'm sure there are still going to be things you don't see coming, because the plot is just incredible.

When it comes down to it, I think that Fama is an incredibly strong story-teller, and the result is that Monstrous Beauty is easy and thrilling to read. By the end I had a little connection to some of the characters, especially Syrenka, but that wasn't what kept me reading: it was the story. It's also a refreshing standalone novel where all the loose ends are tied up; if anything I could have done with a little less tying, especially in the epilogue which felt unnecessary. But I loved the book, so I'm not going to complain.

I loved the underwater world Fama imagined, her monstrous but beautiful mermaids, the way they ate the hearts of men, and the disturbing and violent sea queen. The novel transitions back and forth between two time periods, but they are written in such a distinct way that it wasn't confusing and actually added to the depth and complexity of the story. Despite my disconnect with the characters, I can't help raving about Monstrous Beauty because it's so exciting and fun to read, making it not only an awesome addition to the mermaid genre, but also a great book for anyone looking for riveting mystery with a paranormal twist.

Monstrous Beauty is also available on audiobook from Macmillian Audio. Click here to listen to a clip.


Hi Everyone,

It is probably pretty obvious that In The Next Room has been slightly neglected these days. Moving across the country, and then again by an hour and a half, took its toll. It took awhile to get internet set up at my new apartment, and then in September I started my PhD. I probably shouldn't be surprised, but it turns out it's a lot of work. So is keeping this blog updated the way I like too; so after a lot of thought I've decided to open up a position for second reviewer to join In The Next Room and turn the "I' into "Team".

The person I am looking for is...
  • A reader (should be obvious, but figured it was worth mentioning!)
  • Somebody who doesn't already have a book blog
  • Willing to contribute at least one review every two weeks (we can work out a schedule, and I promise to be accommodating, I'm just looking for some level of commitment)
  • Preferably Canadian, as those are where my publishing industry contacts are
I'm pretty open to the types of books being featured on In The Next Room, but erotica or anything really heavy in that regard is not going to be the best fit. I also don't usually feature self-published books. Still, this is something that can be discussed if you're interested in the position.

What I can offer...
  • A great audience for your reviews, as In The Next Room currently has approximately 1,400 subscribers. It's a fantastic way to get your name out there! You will be fully credited by name on your reviews. I can also link to your social networking site of choice.
  • Once we have developed a relationship, you will probably be able to get books (or e-books) for review. I won't guarantee this, but I do have contacts that are going mainly unused as I have been very selective in accepting books for review these days, while I continue to receive daily requests.
  • There is also the possibility of interviewing or working with authors on blog tours.
  • As somebody who has been running a book blog for over two years, I have a lot of experience that I can offer. I can also answer any questions you may have about blogging. It would be a great learning experience and introduction to the book blogging world.
You will not be compensated for your reviews.

I am willing to take on more than one associate reviewer if those interested are a good fit! I may be flexible on some of these guidelines, so don't hesitate to contact me :) You can reach me at

For everyone else–– I'm sorry about the lack of posting but I'll continue to update as much as I can, and hopefully soon I'll have some help!