Friday, September 28, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday

This is my first time participating in Feature & Follow Friday hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.  So I would like to say welcome to everyone who is visiting for the first time!  Here you will find an eclectic bunch of book reviews.  I read a bunch of genres and generally whatever catches my eye, while pushing myself to read books that I wouldn't normally pick up.

This weeks question is: What is the BIGGEST word you've seen used in a book lately - that made you stop and look it up?  Might as well leave the definition and book too.

I'm currently reading 1984 for Banned Books Week and just the other night I came across the word palimpsest used in the line "All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary."  I had never heard the word before and defines it as "a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text."  Totally makes sense, kind of gathered that from the rest of the sentence, but I didn't know there was one word for it!

I also just finished reading The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson and it includes Jamaican folklore elements including the rolling calf.  I had never heard of a rolling calf so I asked my husband about it.  He said "it's hard to explain" and then gave me a very basic explanation - something along the lines of "a big scary calf."  So I had to look it up online and the explanation stated that most people under the age of 50 don't know what it is because if you asked an older person, they were so afraid of it, they would tell you to mind your business.  My husband said it's true and that's why he doesn't know how to explain it!

Thanks for stopping by my blog, I hope you see some reviews that interest you.  Feel free to scroll down and follow by GFC, email, RSS or even just bookmark this site!  Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"The Chaos" by Nalo Hopkinson

Sixteen-year-old Sojourner, nicknamed Scotch after the scotch bonnet pepper for her hot dance moves, feels like she doesn't fit in anywhere.  At home, she is the perfect daughter, at school she pushes boundaries.  Her father is White Jamaican and her mother Black American and she feels like she doesn't fit in with either group.  Most people don't believe that she is black and she wishes her skin was darker, just like her brothers.  She's just transferred to a new high school after bullying incidents at her old one.  She's not the most popular girl but she's doing okay at this one.  

But lately, Scotch's skin has been breaking out in patches of a sticky black tar-like substance.  And she's been seeing flying, bodiless horse heads wherever she goes.  She's been doing pretty well at hiding it until the Chaos occurs.  She's out one night with her older brother when a bubble of light appears.  Scotch dares her brother to touch it and when he does, he disappears.  Right then a volcano emerges in Lake Ontario and the world is plunged into turmoil.

As Scotch searches all over Toronto for her brother, she encounters supernatural characters including a witch with a flying house that lays eggs, a sasquatch, and a rolling calf that can take on different shapes.  As her body becomes more and more covered with the sticky substance, Scotch encounters her aunt who helps her understand the mess that is occurring and helps her on her way to finding her brother before she becomes completely unrecognizable.

The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson is a young adult fantasy novel that incorporates Caribbean folklore into a story about self-acceptance and self-discovery in those difficult teenage years.  This is the first young adult novel from Hopkinson who is an established fantasy writer.  She expertly captures teenage angst, especially the issues that face young adults of mixed race in the high school setting. 

The first section of the book that sets up Scotch's story was very well written.  The clash of cultures and values between her home and school life were very identifiable.  And I appreciated the attention Hopkinson gives to Scotch's feelings about her skin colour, especially the difference between hers and her brothers.  I often find that mixed race families are presented as the children looking the same and this is far from the truth and can often cause internal turmoil for many children, which is happening with Scotch.

Then the Chaos happens and this is where it just got strange for me.  Not bad strange, just strange.  I'm pretty new to the whole speculative fiction/fantasy genre.  I'm pretty much just used to apocalyptic novels so this was way out of my element.  And while I found it fascinating and my mind was working hard to create the pictures of what was happening in the book, there were moments where it became just a little too much for me.  It felt like some things were being thrown into it because they could be and for no other reason.  And that made it a little disjointed for me.  I get that we can't expect fantasy books to be neat and tidy.  I know that they're not going to make complete sense by the time they wrap up.  But there were a few moments that I just couldn't connect to the characters and what was happening around them.

That being said, I found it very interesting the way Hopkinson weaved Caribbean folklore into the story.  When I first read the blurb of the book I thought this would be the perfect one for me to read with Scotch's family being half-Caribbean and living in Canada, since my household is half Caribbean and Canadian!  But even knowing some Jamaican folklore already, there were still a few things in the book that I had to ask my husband to explain.  People who are completely unfamiliar with this folklore may not recognize it or understand it all in this book and in that way I wish things were explained a little more.  She also weaves in elements of other cultural folktales which gives this book a global feel but again need some outside reading to fully understand.    

With all that being said, I think this would be an enjoyable novel for teens.  I am more than sure they would recognize the feelings Scotch has, the difficulties of high school and the need to fit in somewhere.  It's a good story about wanting to be someone else and getting that wish.  The beauty of this book is that whatever one is going through, it reminds them that others are struggling with their identity and that when we find the courage to face our troubles head on, we find what we're looking for.  And I am sure that adult fans of the fantasy genre will find this enjoyable, probably surreal and a little out there, but in a good way.

I read this book as part of A More Diverse Universe, hosted by Aarti at BookLust.  It's a weeklong celebration of diversity in speculative fiction and you can find the schedule here.  I'm a big fan of diversity in reading but new to the speculative fiction genre so I'm excited to be a part of this wonderful event.  I'm thrilled to have discovered Nalo Hopkinson from this.  I love what she wrote in the FAQ section her website:

I don't implant themes and symbols in my work as right or wrong answers with which to plague long-suffering students.  Sometimes there is deliberate symbology, sometimes it happens by accident and I'm not aware of it, and sometimes the reader derives a symbol from my work based on her or his understanding of the world.  If you see a particular symbol or relationship in a story of mine, then just go ahead and make a good argument for it being there.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Word on the Street Toronto

On Sunday, I attended the Toronto Word on the Street, Canada's National Book and Magazine Festival.  It is an awesome experience (that happens in cities across Canada) where book lovers can meet authors, publishers and other book lovers.  There are author readings, signings, book sales, discussions, and food (mmm...I nibbled on patty and coco bread from The Real Jerk as I wandered around.)

When I arrived a spent a couple of hours wandering all of the tents, checking out who was there and chatting.  The first place I stopped to buy was at the kids section where I picked up some books for my kids.

I bought Up Cat and Up Dog from Annick Press for my son.  His speech delay involves dropping consonants from words and "up" is a difficult word for him to form in his mouth, so these books are perfect for him to practice.  Each page has only two or three words so there's lots of pronunciation practice for him.

For my daughter I got Caillou: Les petites roues (the training wheels) from Rainbow Caterpillar, a great multilingual children's bookshop and Bonne nuit, je t'aime! from Scholastic which is a great little book that walks through the going to bed process.  Perfect to read at the end of the day!

Then I stopped by The Remarkable Reads Tent hosted by Random House where Vincent Lam (Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, The Headmaster's Wager) and Terry Fallis (The Best Laid Plans, Up and Down) were reading to promote their involvement with Read for the Cure.

Afterward, I met them while they were signing autographs.  Vincent Lam is an emergency room doctor AND an author so I asked him about how he finds the time to do it all.  He said it's partly because he's stubborn but because he loves both of them so much he makes the time.  Then Terry and I had a laugh over a twitter incident last week in which I accidentally included someone else named Terry in our conversation and the person wasn't exactly pleased.

That's when I decided to head over to the Scotiabank Giller Prize Bestseller's Stage.  On the way I stopped at the Thomas Allen & Son tent to take a look at a book I had recently discovered through Twitter.  While I was purchasing it I was introduced to the author.  Jael Richardson wrote The Stone Thrower about her father's journey from undefeated college quarterback to a career in the CFL and life in Canada and what she discovered about herself and her heritage along the way.

Jael told me about her experiences writing the book, then we chatted about Twitter a bit and she autographed my book for me.

Then I made it to the Giller Prize stage and listened as Michael Enright (host of CBC Radio One's The Sunday Edition) conducted talks on this years Giller Prize.  First he interviewed Peggy Blair (The Beggar's Opera) on being chosen as this years Giller Prize Reader's Choice.  Then he interviewed Vincent Lam on what it's like to win the Giller (he won in 2006 and was so convinced he wouldn't win he scheduled an emergency room shift the next day!).  And finally he spoke with Erin Balser of CBC Books and book blogger Steph from Bella's Bookshelves and discussed this years long list.

After Peggy Blair left the stage I headed over to the author signing tent to meet with her.  Peggy is a fantastic user of social media and I have connected with her over twitter.  It was so nice to meet her and ask her about her book, which I loved.  I can't believe that she had only spent two weeks in Cuba before setting her detective novel in Havana.  You would think from reading the book that she had spent some time living there!

All in all it was a fantastic day.  A couple of downpours couldn't dampen spirits, we readers are a hearty bunch.  Heck, we're Canadian book lovers, you could have held it in the winter and we'd be there!  I'm already looking forward to next years festival.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Whirl Away" by Russell Wangersky

A five year old boy who repeats the things his father says to his mother.  The caretaker of a prairie amusement park.  A divorce lawyer whose own marriage is at risk.  A travelling sports drink salesman.  A suspended paramedic who answers a call against orders.  These characters and more all have one thing in common - one major quality that has become their biggest weakness.

Whirl Away, by Russell Wangersky, is the 2012 Giller Prize long listed collection of short stories that examines what happens in peoples lives when they are forced to face the realization that their lives have gone astray and the one thing that has been keeping them going is now bringing them down.  It's a fantastic look at what happens to people when their worlds begin to spin off axis.

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories.  Each one is rich in details, with characters who could be anyone you pass daily on the street but who hold inside of them secrets and struggles that define who they are.  Wangersky finds the difficulties and harshness in the details of everyday life and puts them into tales that stay with the reader long after the stories are finished.  They definitely aren't light-hearted and they're not for the easily rattled.  They take you inside the moment of crisis and shine a light on what brings a person to those depths. 

In "Echo" a young boy sits outside his house while his parents argue inside.  The young boy innocently parrots the harsh things he hears his father say to his mother on what must be a daily basis.  This heartbreaking story ends with a visit to the house by the authorities and the young boy still oblivious to the turmoil that exists in his home.  Right from the start this story hit me hard and from here I was hooked on Wangersky's writing.

In "Sharp Corner," a man is obsessed with telling the stories of car crashes that occur at the end of his driveway on a regular basis.  The idea of being there at the eye of the storm takes over him and he can't speak of anything else.  As he embellishes the stories and gives himself a greater place in them, he alienates those around him, the ones who don't want to know the details.  As the man relishes in his stories, the reader cringes.  One can only wonder at what is missing in this mans life that he feels the need to witness what makes experienced rescuers ill.

These are two of my favourites of the twelve stories in Whirl Away, excellently crafted stories that don't need much time to draw the reader in, to surprise and to grab hold.  Some stories are definitely stronger than others, but as a collection they work together to examine the roller coaster ride our lives are and how things play out when our they get away from us.

Monday, September 24, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Another Monday is here again.  It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

This past weekend was the Word on the Street Festival here in Toronto.  It is a fabulous experience, a celebration of Canadian writers and everything bookish.  I met some great authors, picked up some interesting books, and I'll be sharing all about it in the next few days!

Last week was a good week reading-wise.  I seem to be falling into a better reading routine, and of course, reading through the Giller long list has definitely helped with that.  Here is what my reading week looks like.

What I Read Last Week:
The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson (I will be posting my review on Thursday as part of the A More Diverse Universe blog tour)
Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky

What I'm Reading Now:
Nominated for the Giller Prize, Dr. Brinkley's Tower by Robert Hough is about an American doctor who builds a radio tower in a small Mexican border town in 1931 and the results of the newfound wealth of the town.  I'm really enjoying this one.

What I Plan to Read Next:
Next week is Banned Books Week, a yearly celebration of our freedom to read.  I plan to post reviews of three challenged books next week so that is what I'm reading this week.

1984 by George Orwell
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

What are you reading this week?  Will you be reading anything for Banned Books Week?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Short Story Sunday: "Absorbed" by Penelope Crowe

Violet has a history of being in abusive relationships and her current boyfriend Mick is no exception.  But Violet believes that the good times are so good, it makes it worth putting up with Mick's behaviour.

Then one day Violet comes home to find a mysterious package on her doorstep.  It is addressed to her but there is no indication who it is from.  She opens it to find a beautiful necklace, one that looks familiar but she can't place where from.  And when she puts it on she discovers that this necklace will change both her life and Mick's forever.

Absorbed is a 16 page short story by Penelope Crowe that draws you in from the moment the package is left on the doorstep right to the end where its true nature is discovered.

It has the makings of a psychological thriller, though I feel that it was a little too short to really develop that sense.  It still made for a good read as the mystery of who sent the necklace and why is enough to keep you reading.    There isn't much character development or back story due to the length.  So if you're looking for a quick read that will give you a bit of a smirk at the end, then you will enjoy this.  I personally wish she would have made it a little longer and developed the story a bit more and then it would have been a fascinating and chilling tale.  The premise definitely has potential for a full length book.

Absorbed is available for download for free on Amazon here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

"Where We Belong" by Emily Giffin

Marian Caldwell is thirty-six years old, living her dream in New York City as the producer of a successful network television show.  She is in a wonderful relationship and enjoying her success, convinced that her life is as perfect as it could be.  But a knock at her door one night turns everything upside down and forces Marian to confront her past and her identity.

Kirby Rose is an eighteen-year-old from St. Louis with loving parents and a high-achieving sister.  Kirby loves music, especially playing the drums, but doesn't quite feel like she fits in anywhere, both at home and at school.  Kirby has always known she is adopted, and while it hasn't completely bothered her, as she is contemplating her future she begins to wonder about her birth parents and how much of a part of her they are.  So she sets off to New York City in search of her birth mother.

Where We Belong by Emily Giffin is the story of these two characters, Marian and Kirby, who embark on a journey to get to know each other and how in the process they discover who they really are and what was missing in their lives.  The sixth novel from Giffin, it is a wonderful story of love, loyalty,  forgiveness and family that will have readers engrossed in every page.

The Chicago Sun-Times declared Giffin a "modern-day Jane Austen" and while I certainly can't declare myself an expert on Austen, I do believe that Emily Giffin is one of the best female writers out there who captures the essence of relationships today.  This book takes difficult subjects and writes them with a beauty and warmth that make the book an easy read but one that will touch readers on a variety of levels.  

I thought the characters were very well written, engaging and easy to relate to, even Marian who lives a life different from most and made a decision that will be difficult for some to sympathize with.  It was also easy to relate to Kirby, which sometimes I find is difficult to do with teenage characters in adult novels.  The storyline alternates between Marian and Kirby to give a well-rounded perspective.  I did find the character of Kirby's birth father Conrad a little difficult to feel emotion for but it didn't take away from the book.  

I loved the first interactions between Marian and Kirby, the way Marian doesn't know how to handle things, how she does what she thinks is best but it doesn't help the situation.  It felt so realistic, things weren't nice and neat like they could be in the fictional world but these were real people trying to do their best like in the real world.

This is a book that is difficult to put down.  It is so easy to read, so easy to get invested in the characters and the story.  You just want to keep reading, you want to stay invested in the characters, you want to see how things turn out.  The ending is fairly open though readers will still be satisfied with it, hopefully this means there will be a sequel.  Readers of women's fiction will not be disappointed with this novel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Up and Down" by Terry Fallis

David Turner has left his job in Ottawa on Parliament Hill for the fast paced world of international public relations.  But as soon as he realizes it's a world he's not quite prepared for, he's thrown in head first with no life preserver in sight.

David's first major project is to come up with a way to revitalize public interest in NASA's space program - it turns out most people would rather go out for lunch with their friends than watch a shuttle launch. Thinking they wouldn't expect much from him on his first day he throws out the most out of this world idea he can think of - a Citizen Astronaut lottery that would send one Canadian and one American into space on the next launch.

Baffled by the fact that they actually go for the idea, David finds himself thrown into the sea of politics behind the scenes at a PR agency as well as Canadian-American relations.  And when he's sent into a remote area of British Columbia to find Canada's citizen astronaut he finds himself torn between keeping his job and doing the right thing.

Up and Down by Terry Fallis is a hilarious, intelligent, and hard to put down novel that screams Canada.  If I had to choose one book to share that captures our humour, character and all around quirkiness, it would be this one.

This book has two of my favourite characters to come along in a novel in a long time.  David's dry sense of humour and witty observations of everything and everyone around him had me in stitches.  He is someone you would love to have around you to lighten up any situation.  Landon, the Canadian lottery winner, to me is everything Canada is - feisty, funny, inventive, dedicated and just a little off the wall.  The scenes in which David visits Landon in her remote BC home to me are quintessentially Canadian (even though I've never actually been to that part of the country.)  And of course the portrayal of a few of the Americans provide quite a good laugh - unless of course, you're American (insert wink emoticon here, it's all in good fun.)

Anyone who has ever had an interest in space will thoroughly enjoy this novel.  It takes you inside NASA, inside the space shuttle and out of this world.  Any book that gets the quote "a rollicking good ride" on the front cover from Marc Garneau (the first Canadian in space) is bound to satisfy the space lover in everyone.

This isn't a fast-paced read but it's steadily fantastic.  How hard was it for me to put down? I read it while walking to pick my daughter up from the school bus.  While walking.  I only looked up to cross the road, and if I didn't live in a neighbourhood with terrible drivers, I probably wouldn't have even done that.  Up and Down is easily one of my favourite books of the year.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are purely my own.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"It's Monday, What Are You Reading?"

I'm still struggling a little bit with reading during the week, trying to balance the early mornings and long days while staying awake through it all!  However, thanks to a sickie this past weekend, I managed to hit my reading goals and get a few good books finished.

What I Read Last Week:
Up and Down by Terry Fallis
Where We Belong - Emily Giffin
Flaw Less - Shana Burton

What I'm Reading Now:
The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson
Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in -at home she's the perfect daughter, at school she's provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn't feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can't be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother-and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him. Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation ASAP before the Chaos consumes everything she's ever known-and she knows that the black shadowy entity that's begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help.

What I Plan To Read Next:

Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky
The Selector of Souls by Shauna Singh Baldwin

I'm reading The Chaos for the A More Diverse Universe Blog Hop which highlights people of colour in the Speculative Fiction genre.  You can learn more about it by clicking on the button on my sidebar.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Short Story Sunday: "Clockwork Fagin" by Cory Doctorow

When Monty Goldfarb walked into St. Agatha's Home For The Rehabilitation of Crippled Children, he set in a motion a plan that would change the lives of the children forever.  Without warning, he takes the life of the sadistic Zophar Grindsworth, the man who is supposed to care for the children injured in factory accidents but instead beats and starves them.

Seeing their opportunity to live a life of leisure, the children don't let on to the Sisters of St. Agatha's that the Grinder is dead.  Instead, they use their talents to transform the dead Grinder into an automaton, fooling everyone who comes into contact with him.  Life is good for the children, until a new boy runs away from the home and is found murdered, turning attention on the orphanage.  Now the children must decide what to do with Grinder before someone finds out what they have done.

Clockwork Fagin by Cory Doctorow is a story from Steampunk!, an anthology of short stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant.

This is my first time reading anything Steampunk so I don't feel fully qualified to give a proper review.  However, I will say that I really enjoyed the story, it was a great introduction to the genre and I will definitely read more based on this.  For the first few pages I did feel like I was thrown into the deep end in terms of getting used to the genre and establishing the world it was set in, but once the children got to work on their automaton I was intrigued.  If you're new to the genre, I recommend checking this out as a starting point.

Clockwork Fagin is available as a free Kindle download here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Little Readers Saturday

I want to share the books I am reading with my kids.  As I've mentioned before, I have a five year old daughter in grade one who goes to French school.  So at home we read in both French and English with her.  She is just starting to read on her own in both languages.  I also have a three year old son who loves books.  He has a speech delay so reading is extra important in our home to help him with that.  So here you will find books for young kids in both English and French!

My daughter loves princess stories and these books from Renaud-Bray are perfect for her.  They're the same stories, but new to us as they're in French.  They're a little advanced for kids who don't speak French as a first language, so I read them to her with the goal of her picking out all the words she recognizes.

Art by Patrick McDonnell is an English book about a young boy named Art who loves to do art!  As you can see from the cover, the illustrations are beautiful and colourful.  The words are simple and repetitive which makes it a good book for beginner readers.  This one my daughter is reading to me.

My son loves counting so the books he's been picking this week all had to do with numbers.  Here are two of his favourites.  Count With Dora is a big favourite because he loves Dora.  It's a very simple books, which is great for us because we're able to slow down and work on the pronunciation of each word.  And because he can count pretty high, he loves Chicka Chicka 123.  This one I read to him rather than him repeating.  If you're enjoy reading children's books in a highly animated one, this one is fantastic.

I'm linking this post up to The Children's Bookshelf.  It's a place to connect with parents and children's book lovers and find great new books and old favourites for your kids.

What are your kids reading this week?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Day 5: Goodbye!

This was my first year participating in the Book Blogger Appreciation Week.  When I first began blogging almost three years ago, I didn't even realize there was a book blogging community!  I just wanted to share my thoughts on books with friends and I figured there were other blogs out there like mine but I didn't realize the community was so big and so wonderful!

As we say goodbye to this wonderful week, it's time to reflect on it all and discuss what we got out of the week.

I loved the interview portion of the week.  I got to meet the fabulous Nat from Reading Romances and we had a great chat.  I loved the many ways the interviews were done, getting to know other bloggers a bit more personally and the many quirky, funny answers.  We're a very eclectic bunch!

I got to discover a whole bunch of new to me blogs.  I'm very excited as I discovered a bunch of blogs that cover the classics and I'm thinking I'm going to have to join up with the Classics Club at some point in time. When I first started blogging I didn't really know my reading tastes or where my blog fit in.  I think I'm starting to figure it out now, three years later!  And it's been great to find blogs that have similar tastes to me.

I think that's the biggest thing I got out of this week is that I do have a place in this big community.  Sometimes I wonder what it is, sometimes I wonder how much I influence others reading habits.  But what I've learned this week is no matter what you read there is a blog (and many more out there.)  This is a diverse community that everyone fits into and the more subject matter we cover, the more genres we share, the more books we read the better this community is and the more readers we can grow.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Day 4: Book Recognition

Day 4 of Book Blogger Appreciation Week is all about showing love to and getting the word out about books we think deserve more recognition.  

In case you don't know, I'm a fiercely proud Canadian.  But up until a few years ago, I didn't read much Canadian literature (I was rebelling against high school English classes all those years.)  When I finally did start reading it, I discovered a wealth of amazing authors and stories.  And I decided then that I wanted my blog to do its part getting the word out about the awesome Canadian talent we have.

So to showcase our wonderful talent I've picked two amazing books that I think everyone the world over should read.  Below you'll find a link to the book and excerpts from my reviews.

The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair
The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair is a fantastic, fast-paced mystery set in the beautiful landscape of Castro's Cuba.  It is engaging, educational and well-researched, full of danger, intrigue and surprise.  This is a novel that will have you immediately wrapped up, wanting to rush to turn the page to find out what happens next yet wanting to slow down to savour every drop of its beauty and richness.  I personally cannot find fault with this book, it is everything I want my mysteries to be.

Touch by Alexi Zentner
Alexi Zentner's Touch is a beautiful story of a pioneering family, the three generations that carved their place in the wilderness and the ways in which the wilderness remains forever imprinted on their lives.  Monsters, witches and golden caribou roam the woods as the townspeople face love and death amidst the crippling cold of the logging town.  Evocative, stunning, haunting, page-turner - the perfect words to describe Zentner's debut novel.  His writing does what we ask of books, to transport us to new places and make those places a part of us.

And now to something a little different......

I've always been a little hesitant when it comes to reading self-published books, especially e-books.  I know it's silly, because there are a lot of great unsigned writers out there.  Recently, I read two brand spanking new self-published chick lit novels which I think were fantastic so I definitely want to give them shout-outs in this post.


Yours Truly by Kirsty Greenwood
Yours Truly by Kirsty Greenwood is an irresistible debut novel.  I immediately took to the character of Natalie.  I love the concept of a girl who has trouble speaking up being hypnotized into never telling a lie.  There is tons going on in this book - crazy family members, family secrets, wannabe pop stars, pubs in danger of closing down, snowstorms, controlling boyfriends, gangsters, tacky weddings - but it all fits together wonderfully to create one funny story.  There were many laugh out loud moments.

The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp by Poppy Dolan
The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp is the debut novel from Poppy Dolan and is a funny, enjoyable story.  The fact that I was laughing out loud from the very first page (and my husband laughed when I read it to him) was a very good sign.  It has a great combination of laughs and romance, a main character who is loveable, and all-around charm.  It is an incredible first novel, one that fans of chick-lit will enjoy and find unique, and I look forward to what else Ms. Dolan has to offer.

I hope that at least one of these books stands out to you and you'll give it a chance, they are all very worthwhile reads.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Day 3: What Blogging Means To Me

I'm trying to think of one deep, meaningful sentence that can sum up what blogging means to me but I can't think of anything to say that is profound or earth-shattering.  It's not because blogging doesn't mean anything to me, just that it's something that permeates so many different parts of my life that one sentence doesn't sum it up.  So here's a few reasons why I love blogging:

I'm part of a like-minded community 
My life revolves around two little people who can't read yet.  And while I love reading to them, there isn't much conversation that follows "Count With Dora."  Blogging opens up a world to me where I can discuss books with other readers who love books as much as I do.  That's just not something that exists in my daily life.

I get to write 
My undergrad degree was all about writing - 30 page research paper?  No problem.  Four 30 page research papers?  Bring it on.  My graduate degree was much more writing intensive.  Though the papers were much shorter, the writing was much more creative and that's where I fell in love with writing.  I may not have followed a career path where I can write, but blogging allows me these moments of creativity. 

I'm part of something bigger
Books comprise this massive world of writers, editors, publishers, readers, lovers, haters….and me!  I wouldn't trade my job as a stay at home mom for the world but if I had a dream job, it would be in the publishing industry.  And now I'm a part of it.  I get to help get the word out about books and authors, I get to assist the reading habits of others.  I get to interact with authors and tell them how much their books mean to me.  If you told the little girl who used to go into the bathroom after lights out time, lock the door, and sit on the side of the tub just so she could keep reading that she'd be doing this one day, she'd tell you you're crazy.

What does blogging mean to you?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Day 2 - The Interview

One of the highlights of Book Blogger Appreciation Week is the interview swap and that is today!  Two book bloggers meet up, interview each other and share the details!

I am paired up with Nat of Reading Romances and we had a fabulous chat, the first half of which I am sharing here. (That would be me in the blue italics!)

Hi Shan, nice to meet you! I'm Nat =)

Hi Nat, it's great to meet you as well!

What books do you like to read? What would you say is your favorite genre?'

I'm a pretty eclectic reader.  It's hard for me to pick just one favourite genre.  I love all sorts of fiction especially Canadian and British fiction.  I'm starting to branch out into new genres like mystery and speculative fiction.  Basically I just pick up what sounds interesting!

Cool! Eclectic is nice, I have an online book club called Eclectic Passions, focused on romantic fiction!

I saw your book club and it has piqued my interest.  Can you tell me more about Eclectic Passions?

Sure, it's a book club that I started with Christine ( last month. Our goal is to be eclectic and read several romance sub genres! So we choose a sub genre each month and come up with a small list with books we'd both like to read and add some that were suggested to us.The nicest thing about this book club is that participants get to vote for the books they'd like to read and help pick up the time for the meeting to happen.

I haven't read much romance, so Eclectic Passions may be a good start for me!  What books would you recommend for someone who is new to the genre?

Oh, that's such a big responsibility! I'd say go for a sub genre you already enjoy and add some romance to it. For example, you said you started to read mystery, so I would recommend a romantic suspense. If you enjoy chick lit you might like to start with a funny and light book, for historical fiction lovers, a historical romance and so it goes. Look for a blurb that interests you!

I guess I do read a bit of romance then, I just never really thought of it that way!

You're not the first or the last one! People have a misconception when it comes to romances, about boddice rippers and maidens in need of saving (amongst several others). I wanted to find other people like me when I started blogging, I didn't have any friends to share my reading experience with.
When did you start blogging?

2.5 years ago.  I had a lot of people ask me what I was reading and for book recommendations, but none of them could keep up with my reading pace.  I decided to start blogging so I could connect with other readers and so my friends wouldn't be overwhelmed with all the books I was reading.

That is interesting, book bloggers read really fast and a lot. Would it be by necessity or love, I wonder?! LOL! Maybe the more you read the better you get or something in those lines...

We're definitely a special kind of people!  I think it just starts with love and takes off from there! 
When you first started blogging, were there any early challenges for you?

Yes, writing reviews wasn't really easy when I started. Once I set the goal that I would have my own blog I practiced writing reviews for others sites first and see how that would go. I gess I needed to practice more and also be more confident about it.

Well, it definitely worked, reading your blog now one wouldn't think you had problems writing reviews.

Well, now I don't anymore!! Thank god!

To read the rest of our conversation, head on over to Nat at Reading Romances.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Day One - Appreciation!

Today is all about showing love to the blogs we enjoy reading daily.  Thanks to Blogger and Twitter there are a ton of blogs I read reviews on but there are a quite a few that stand out as daily go-tos, for a variety of reasons.  Since my reading is eclectic, so are the blogs I read.

I Am Canadian - over the past few years I've been exposed to the fantastic literature that my fabulous country puts out.  One blog that does an amazing job of promoting Canadian literature is The Book Mine Set.  John is the host of the Canadian Book Challenge, which invites readers from all over the world to discover what Canada has to offer.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - when it comes to finding fabulous, fun chick lit I look no further than Novelicious.  It's a great place to find established writers, up and comers and self-published writers.  It also provides great insight into the writing process.

For Those Who Dream of Owning A Book Shop - Ellie from Musings of a Bookshop Girl runs a second hand bookshop in a tourist town in England.  Who doesn't have that dream?  Her blog not only shares book reviews but fascinating stories of life behind the scenes at a bookshop.

The Award Winners - Jackie at Farm Lane Books Blog has the place to go if you're into prize winning fiction, especially the Booker, Pulitzer and Orange Prizes.  She provides great insight the awards world and literary fiction.

Christian Girls Get Edgy - Joy and Serena are the lovely ladies behind Edgy Inspirational Romance where they review Christian romance books in which you'll find temptation, lust, and gritty topics, with a huge dose of faith.

Putting Authors of Colour in the Spotlight - Reads4Pleasure is a great place to go when looking for books by Authors of Colour.   Unfortunately, diversity in reading isn't what it should be and a lot of blogs are working hard to fix this, especially this one.

Those are just a few of the blogs I enjoy in this fantastic book blogosphere.  I hope you'll check them out, if you haven't already.

"It's Monday, What Are You Reading?"

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  It's a great place to find book bloggers, find out what they're reading and make great book connections.

Last week was the first week of school which also meant the first week of 6:30am wake ups to catch a 7:45am bus.  My first grader and even my three year old had no problems doing this.  Me on the other hand...well at least we made it on time every morning.  So my reading last week wasn't fantastic.  Something about being tired and trying to read just wasn't working.  I'm hoping that this week the early mornings won't be as much of a shock to the system.

What I Read Last Week:
Love, Sex and Happily Ever After by Craig Groeschel
Everything The Bible Says About Money by Baker Publishing Group

What I Am Currently Reading:

I'm still working on Goodbye For Now by Laurie Frankel.  I'm enjoying it, but just not getting through it as fast as I had hoped.  So I'm going to set it down for a few days then start again.  So now I'm reading Up and Down by Terry Fallis (click on book titles for more information.)

What I Plan to Read Next:

Since I didn't read much last week, I'm not planning on a big week again.  When I finish the other two I will pick up Where We Belong by Emily Giffin.

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Short Story Sunday: "Inspector Zhang Gets His Wish" by Stephen Leather

Inspector Zhang is a member of the Singapore Police Force and a fan of mystery books.  His biggest wish is to one day encounter a locked room mystery, a true mystery that is seemingly impossible to solve.  But for Inspector Zhang, this may never happen, as Singapore has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and barely one murder a year.  

Until one day Inspector Zhang is called to a five star hotel to investigate the murder of a wealthy American businessman.  After reviewing the hotel security tapes, Zhang realizes that he is in the midst of an actual locked room mystery.  Using the principles set out by famed mystery writer John Dickson Carr, Zhang relishes the fact that he has finally got his wish.  But will all of his reading help him solve the case or will he get more than he wished for?

Inspector Zhang Gets His Wish is a short story by Stephen Leather, one of the UK's most successful thriller writers.  It is one of four Inspector Zhang stories, all locked room mysteries.  I loved it!  It is reminiscent of mystery stories of old - Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, etc.  The way that Leather explains the seven explanations of a locked room mystery really put the reader in the middle of the story, attempting to figure it out themselves right along with the Inspector.  Even though it's short, about 30 pages, it has sparked something in me to go read more like this and I'm definitely going to go get my hands on not just the others in this series, but John Dickson Carr's The Hollow Man.

This story is available for free on Amazon.  To get this story, click here.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

"On The Island" by Tracy Garvis Graves

Thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is in a long-term relationship is looking to get away from life for a while when she is offered a job as a summer tutor on a tropical island in the Maldives.  Her student, T.J. Callahan is seventeen and recovering from a difficult battle with cancer and the last thing he wants to spend his summer doing is studying.

Anna and T.J. set out for the Maldives together, planning to meet the rest of his family there, when the pilot of their private plane suffers a heart attack over the Indian Ocean.  The plane crashes in the shark-infested water and Anna and T.J. take refuge on the shore of an uninhabited island.  They spend their first few days waiting for rescue but after a while have to face the fact that they may never be found.  As their days turn to weeks, then to months and years, the castaways encounter violent storms, illness and the harshness of struggling to meet their basic needs.  And soon they encounter another obstacle, the growing realization that T.J. is becoming a man and with that their relationship becomes more than complicated.

On The Island by Tracy Garvis Graves has it all - shipwreck, danger, love and struggle.  There is no denying that this is the breakout book of the summer with over 1000 five star reviews on Amazon.  Everywhere you look, people are reading and loving this book.

So here's the deal.  I thought it was alright.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't fantastic for me.  I think the plot is incredible.  To spice up the shipwreck story, Anna is 30 and T.J. is 17.  But T. J. comes of age on the island and really, if you try to put yourself in the situation, you can see why they ended up together.  So I give kudos to Tracy Garvis Graves for the interesting plot.  

However, it was the writing style that didn't do it for me.  It came across as very basic, everything was easy and predictable.  It felt formulaic.  It didn't set the scene.  Conflicts were resolved quickly, when they were in need of something it seemed to just wash up on shore.  Months flew by in a page and before you knew it they'd been there for years and it felt like not very much had happened.  When something very big did happen just after halfway through, I finally became interested and thankfully that held me to the end.

This book has already been optioned for a movie and I think that's a good thing.  Like I said, I liked the plot but I just couldn't put myself in the story.  I think if it was given more depth and more time, like it probably will be in the movie form, it can be a good story.  I did read this book in a day so if you're looking for something to make a quick escape into, this will do.  

I received this book courtesy of Penguin Canada.  The opinions expressed above are purely my own.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Blogger Hop

It's time for the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books.  Today is the end of the first week back to school.  And the end of my first week waking up at 6:30am to get my daughter off to the bus on time!  So it's safe to say I've been tired all week long!  But I think now I'm starting to hit my stride and it will get easier from here.

This weeks question for the Hop is: What book series do you never want to see end?

I've never really been much a book series person.  I'll read them, but nothing I've become attached to the way people have with say, Harry Potter or Twilight.  But there are a few that enjoy that I hope continue to put out books for years to come.  These include The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, the Annika Bengtzon mystery series by Liza Marklund, and of course the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella.

What series do you hope will never end?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"A Nation Worth Ranting About" by Rick Mercer

Canadian politics may not get as much attention as American politics but we sure have our fair share of drama.  In fact in the last eight years, we had four federal elections, something that is supposed to occur every four years.  You can imagine that things haven't exactly been business as usual when it comes to our government.  And the citizens haven't exactly been thrilled with this either.

If you want to find out exactly what's going on in Canadian politics and how everyone feels about it, you have to look no further than Rick Mercer.  The easiest way to explain his television show, The Rick Mercer Report, is to say he's Canada's Jon Stewart.  A fine comparison, but Rick's show isn't just about the humorous side of politics, it's about discovering what is great about Canada and showcasing our best and brightest…while taking a glimpse at the humorous side of politics.

And a unique part of the show is Mercer's rant - a short, on the move monologue, just Rick conversing with the camera about whatever it is that has Canadians up in arms that week.  You can't watch a rant without wanting to jump up off your couch and scream "YES", even if he is poking fun at the guy you just voted for in the last election.  Mercer calls it like he sees it and he calls out the hypocrisy, idiocy, and the fallacies that are frustrating Canadians at that moment.  

And so it would only make sense that Rick would release a collection of his rants in a book for everyone to take a look at what has happened in the past four years in Canada.  His book, A Nation Worth Ranting About, showcases the uniqueness and fabulousness of our great country while inspiring readers to pay more attention to the political landscape.

I'm a fan of Rick so I knew I had to pick up this book, even though I've actually seen all of the rants on his television show.  It's one thing to listen to him rant about our society once a week, but to read four years worth in one sitting (because I read this book in one afternoon) is quite another thing.  

Rick includes in the book essays published in Maclean's magazine as well as three new essays.  He discusses the time he met Rick Hansen and took him bungee jumping (Hansen is a Paralympian, paralyzed from the waist down and an activist), the bullying death of Jamie Hubley (an openly gay high school student) and how one of his rants unknowingly inspired a youth "vote mob" and put politicians on edge.  There are also pictures and quotes from episodes of The Rick Mercer Report that have taken him across the country.

I think no matter what your political stance, no matter who you vote for, or whether you care about politics at all, you will enjoy this book.  It's not all politics either. Rick has huge issues with people who take up room on escalators and people who enter elevators before letting others off (don't we all.)  You don't even have to be Canadian to enjoy this book!  In fact, I say if you want to learn something about what's going on in this country, you should start with this book.  You may realize we're not as nice and timid as you thought we were.

My favourite quote from one of Rick's rants is, "Yes we are apathetic.  But the minute anyone tries to use our apathy against us, suddenly we start to care big time."  To me, that's us in a nutshell.  I highly recommend this book for fans of Rick Mercer's, for those who are curious about Canadian politics, and for anyone who likes to look at life and politics from the humorous side. 

I received a copy of this book from Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are purely my own.