Monday, January 4, 2016

Book Review: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

Publisher: Crown
Publishing Date: November 3rd, 2015
Genre: Adult, Suspense
Pages: 64 pgs
ISBN: 9780804188975
Source: bought at Chapters

Summary from Goodreads:
A canny young woman is struggling to survive by perpetrating various levels of mostly harmless fraud. On a rainy April morning, she is reading auras at Spiritual Palms when Susan Burke walks in. A keen observer of human behavior, our unnamed narrator immediately diagnoses beautiful, rich Susan as an unhappy woman eager to give her lovely life a drama injection. However, when the "psychic" visits the eerie Victorian home that has been the source of Susan's terror and grief, she realizes she may not have to pretend to believe in ghosts anymore. Miles, Susan's teenage stepson, doesn't help matters with his disturbing manner and grisly imagination. The three are soon locked in a chilling battle to discover where the evil truly lurks and what, if anything, can be done to escape it.

My Review:

I don't typically read short stories and I also don't usually spend this much money on a book that is only 60-some pages but we are talking about Gillian Flynn. I have read everything written by this author and I will continue to do so. She is sick and twisted but only in the best of ways. 
Since this is a short story I don't want to extrapolate too much on plot points but I will say that most of the people in this story are not people you would want to hang out with. They aren't exactly lovable and the narrator is slightly unreliable. It's hard to pinpoint what exactly is going on for most of the story. This is what makes it so good. Even though it's only 60 pages it packs a good punch and it keeps you thinking and questioning. 
This book may not be everyone's cup of tea because it does discuss sex work and pretty creepy. If you like Gillian Flynn though then you will enjoy this book. I can't wait to see what else she will come up with. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

ARC Review: How To Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publishing Date: August 4th, 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 240 pgs
ISBN: 9781250063595
Source: received at blogger meetup in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:

When Jordyn Michaelson’s autistic brother joins her at her elite school, she’s determined not to let anyone know they're related. Even if that means closing herself off to all her closest friends, including charming football stud Alex Colby. But despite her best intentions, she just can't shake the memory of kissing Alex last summer, and the desire to do it again. Can Jordyn find the courage to tell Alex how she really feels—and the truth about her family—before he slips away forever?

My Review:

I had not heard much about this book before receiving it in a goody bag at the Ottawa blogger meet up last year. Swoon Reads is an imprint of MacMillan which takes submissions from people and then the general public can read these novels and pick which ones get published. It is an interactive way to get books into the hands of readers and into bookstores. When I read the premise of this book I knew I had to read it. The book is about Jordyn who is your typical teenage girl trying to muddle her way through high school. What no one really knows though is that she has a brother who is on the autism spectrum. Her brother goes to a special needs school and when his school is closed he must attend the same school as his sister for a short period of time. This is terrifying for Jordyn because she worries about what this means for her and the way people perceive her. 

Any book that has any character with a disability is a book that I will likely read. I spent many years working with children and adults with a variety of different disabilities. I have worked with people who exclusively have a physical disability and I have worked with people who have cognitive disabilities as well. I have spent countless hours working with children and teens who are on the autism spectrum as well. That being said, I was curious to see how they would portray this in this novel. It's not often that disability is portrayed in stories and when it is I often find myself shaking my head and thinking that this is not the reality of those living with disability. I think Cozzo does an amazing job of realistically writing about disability.  Cozzo doesn't try to sugarcoat things and she writes in such a raw and real way. 

Some people had a hard time understanding Jordyn's motives behind ignoring her brother at school and pretending like she didn't know him. She also doesn't allow any of her friends at her house and doesn't tell them that she has a brother. I have seen first hand what it's like for siblings in families where there is a child with special needs. Oftentimes depending on the severity of the disability, the child with a disability takes up so much of the family's energy that siblings can get lost in the shuffle. It seems to me like Jordyn wanted something for herself and didn't want her brother to overshadow her. While I can understand this it doesn't mean that I didn't find myself yelling at her. I wanted her to just tell the truth so that she didn't lose everything. 

This book is so heartwarming. The journey that Jordyn has to take to get to a point where she is comfortable with the idea of love and expressing that love. The love she has for her brother may not ever be the same as other people experience but at the same time it has taught her so much more about love. At the end of the book, I found myself bawling. My husband had to come in and ask me what was wrong with me. I just  kept uttering "That was so beautiful". Non-bookish people just don't get it. :) Overall, I quite enjoyed this book and would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who likes YA and books about family dynamics. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Depression and Reading

Well, I'm sure you have noticed a long hiatus on the blog. It's not the first time it has happened and it probably won't be the last time. I have to admit that while I've spoken about my fertility problems on the blog I haven't much discussed the fact that I have depression. 

I was diagnosed in first year of university and I can remember not being motivated to go to class at all for an entire 2 months. I was given some medication without much discussion of alternative options and being naive I took the pills. They were horrible. I became an insomniac and I just didn't feel like myself. They helped me to get out of a funk but as soon as my refills were done I quit them cold turkey. I would not recommend this to anyone. I had side effects and withdrawal symptoms for at least a month. Since then I have tried to manage my depression with exercise, walking, and not staying cooped up in the house for too long. This summer I did a very good job of staving it off. I took the summer to do what I wanted to do or to do the things that I kept saying I would do during the summer while I was off. I hiked, went canoeing along the canal, went camping, did yoga and bootcamp at Parliament Hill and I took up running. Things were going incredibly well and my reading was on point. I was reading everything I could during the summer and I was listening to audiobooks as I walked. 

Then September hit and well my motivation became a little bit less little by little. My class this year is a bit more challenging than previous years and this made it difficult to manage stress. D and I also began our IVF (invitro fertilization) journey. We started a cycle and unfortunately it was cancelled before we even got to the egg retrieval process. Apparently my body is just as stubborn as I am and the drugs were not doing what they were supposed to be doing. I should say that IVF is our last chance at having children. We have been in limbo for far too long so we always said that we would try once and then move on with our life and try to be happy regardless of the outcome. It felt like we got cheated out of our attempt. We have since decided that we will try one more time. With all of this going on, I have been finding myself very unmotivated to do anything. This includes reading and blogging. I have contemplated quitting blogging altogether but every time I do I cringe because that would mean leaving something I ultimately enjoy doing and also leaving the community. I love being a part of the community. I love sharing what I love and talking about books and adding to my never ending TBR. 

I did have to sit down and make some decisions though. My TBR is slightly out of control. Yes, yes I know that we all have insane TBRs but when I say out of control I'd approximate I have no less than 800 books here on my shelves sitting unread. I have made the choice to read what I want to read. I will no longer be accepting ARCs unless it's something that I have wanted for a long time and that I can guarantee that I will read before the release date. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to all publishers who still do not have reviews for the books they sent me. I just haven't been able to find the energy or motivation to read. I have been walking around like a zombie trying to pretend to be my normal self. I do promise that they will get read but they will get read and reviewed as I am able to do so. My focus for the next six months at least is to not bring many books into my home. I will not promise never to go to the bookstore and buy books because we all know this is slightly ridiculous for me but I will promise not to buy multiple books just because they look kind of interesting. I will be reading from my shelves and I want to see how many books I can cull this way. 

I also want to read what I feel like reading at the time. If it's a YA contemporary great. If it's an adult literary fiction novel, great. I will be reviewing what I read as much as possible. 

I am hoping that you my fellow readers will bare with me while I try to keep my depression at bay. It's frustrating for me but I must fight ahead and do what I can. Thank you for your continued support over Twitter and via comments. They mean more to me than you can know. 

Happy Reading! 

ARC Review: Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

Publisher: Lake Union
Publishing Date: October 20th, 2015
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Pages: 370 pgs
ISBN: 9781503945654
Source: Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
From the internationally bestselling author Catherine McKenzie comes an evocative tale of two women navigating the secrets and lies at the heart of a wildfire threatening their town.

After a decade-long career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in for a quieter life with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce, and when a fire started in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed.

For Elizabeth’s ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation.

As the encroaching inferno threatens the town’s residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved. 

My Review:

I have loved every Catherine McKenzie book that I have read. She definitely doesn't follow a formula when it comes to her writing and each book is distinct in premise and cast of characters. When I was contacted to review this book I couldn't resist and I was not disappointed. Smoke takes place in a mountain community after a long dry summer. Unfortunately a huge forest fire takes hold and Elizabeth, a resident of the community, is called in to investigate the origin of the fire. The novel flips back and forth between two different perspectives. One being Elizabeth and the other being Mindy, Elizabeth's ex-best friend, who is dealing with her disconnected teenage son.
This story is part mystery and part family drama. We are trying to figure out who set the fire and how it came about but we are also drawn into Elizabeth's relationship with her husband. The two are trying to navigate through some tough times and essentially they are trying to determine whether they should get divorced or not. Some of this is due to fertility issues. I will admit that this is part of the reason I really liked this book. As someone going through fertility issues I can tell you that it puts a tremendous strain on your personal relationships. It also causes you to question many things about yourself and where you see yourself in the future. It is a case of expectations not matching reality and this can be emotionally exhausting. I think that McKenzie was able to fully convey this through her protagonist's thoughts and actions in this novel. I tip my hat off to the author because it's not a topic that is often tackled. In fact, I recently went through my bookstore trying to find novels that deal with this very topic and I find it extremely difficult to find anything. I went as far as searching on Goodreads for lists of novels about fertility issues. This did not bring back many options. It is treated like a dirty little secret and I applaud McKenzie for bringing light to this.
I enjoyed the characters in the book but at times I found myself less interested in what Mindy was doing. I wish that I had seen a little more of her relationship with her son. I wanted to get into his head more than I wanted to get into Mindy's head. Elizabeth was my favorite because I could relate to her and I understood her motives. I understood her trying to push her husband away by asking for a divorce (not a spoiler- this literally happens in the first few pages). I could understand trying to find a balance between her passion for fire fighting and her love of her family.
Overall, I thought this was a well written novel that was hard for me to read at times. It's definitely worth a read.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Madly Blog Tour- Amy Alward's Dream Cast

I am thrilled to be participating in Amy Alward's Madly blog tour with Simon & Schuster.  Madly is a YA novel about a young princess who is under a very dangerous love potion spell. A cast of potion makers and magically inclined people are put together to try to find a cure for the princess. The first one to cure her will not only win recognition from the royal family but also magic and fortune. It is fun and fast paced. It incorporates modern conveniences with older ideas like alchemy to make the novel accessible to lovers of both fantasy and contemporary stories. I quite enjoyed this story and loved the suspense of the hunt. The characters are well rounded and I can not wait to read more from this series.                                                                                                                 I have also had the pleasure of meeting Amy Alward on more than one occasion including as recently as last week at her book launch here in Ottawa for Madly. I am so happy to share her picks for the dream cast of this novel. 
Without further ado, here are Amy's picks for actors she'd like to star in a movie adaptation of this book. This is what she has to say:

There you have it! Who did you have in mind while reading Madly? Let me know @amy_alward!

A big thank you to Amy and Simon and Schuster for having me host this blog tour. It has been a pleasure and if you haven't picked up Madly yet, make sure you do! It is definitely worth the read. 

If you are interested in other blog tour dates please go check out the other blogs participating in this event. 

Happy Reading! 

Monday, August 31, 2015

ARC Review: Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Publisher: Poppy
Publishing Date: September 1st, 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 256 pgs
ISBN: 978031633426
Source: Received at blogger meetup from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they'll retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night will lead them to friends and family, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

This new must-read novel from Jennifer E. Smith, author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, explores the difficult choices that must be made when life and love lead in different directions.

My Review:

This is a book about two high school seniors about to take off for their first year of university. They also happen to be high school sweethearts and their universities are thousands of miles away. The book takes place over the course of an evening and the two visit places that were special to their relationship in hopes that reliving these moments will help them decide if they should stay together or break up.
I do like a good contemporary romance and I have really enjoyed Jennifer E. Smith's other books. This book was good and had some very sweet parts to it. While the book begins at what could be the end of their relationship you get to see little snapshots of their progression together. I liked both Clare and Aidan and you could definitely see why there was some hesitation and uncertainty of what to do. They want to follow their own dreams and make their own lives but they aren't ready to say goodbye. They'd like to be able to share their lives but know it can't be for the time being which makes the story bittersweet.
I liked the cast of secondary characters here too. Aidan's family is loving and generous but you can see that there is a lot of pressure from his father. Their best friends are also multifaceted in the sense that while they are trying to be there for their friends, they have their own hangups to deal with. They are worried that they will move Clare and Aidan and they are dealing with insecurities as well.
Overall, I would say this is novel with a cute story of first love and first heartbreak. I enjoyed it but I wouldn't say that it is a book that will stick with me for a long time. It doesn't get under the skin like some other books. This is perfect for someone at a transition stage in their life or if you are heading to the beach. A solid 3 stars.

Friday, July 24, 2015

ARC Review: Dime by E. R. Frank

Publisher: Atheneum for Young Readers
Publishing Date: May 26th, 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 336 pgs
ISBN: 9781481431606
Source: Received from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
The realities of teen prostitution are revealed in this eye-opening, heartbreaking story from the author of America, which Booklist called "a piercing, unforgettable novel" and Kirkus Reviews deemed "a work of sublime humanity."
As a teen girl in Newark, New Jersey, lost in the foster care system, Dime just wants someone to care about her, to love her. A family. And that is exactly what she gets-a daddy and two "wifeys." So what if she has to go out and earn some coins to keep her place? It seems a fair enough exchange for love.
Dime never meant to become a prostitute. It happened so gradually, she pretty much didn't realize it was happening until it was too late.

But when a new "wifey" joins the family and Dime finds out that Daddy doesn't love her the way she thought he did, will Dime have the strength to leave? And will Daddy let her?

My Review:

I think this YA book may just be the definition of disturbing. It is a book about a young girl who gets sucked into prostitution. She is a teen girl, growing up in the foster family, and just looking for someone to show her love. This need for love in her life makes her an ideal target for a pimp. He is able to prey on her and pretends to love her. When she starts feeling comfortable then he asks her for a favour. No big deal- please go make me some money by selling your body.
This book is gritty and raw and will shake you up. This book will bother you but it is an important story to tell. These things happen everyday in every city. What makes the book so hard to read is the way it is narrated. This is the only life this teen girl has known and so it is written in a way that is normal. She has normalized the events in her life and it isn't until she sees the same thing happening to someone else that she realizes how horrid her life condition is.
While it's hard to read, this book is really good. I couldn't put it down and it stuck with me for quite some time. It got me thinking about foster care and poverty and how it lends itself to a cycle of abuse, drug use, gangs and prostitution. That's not to say everyone in this situation will fall into one of these categories but it makes it easier.
If you are looking for something thought provoking then this is the book for you. It is well worth the time and you should go out and pick it up.