Thursday, February 27, 2014

ARC Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C Stevens

Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Publishing Date: Februrary 25th, 2014
Genre:  YA Contemporary
Pages: 336 pgs
ISBN: 9780062245380
Source: Received for an honest review from Edelweiss/HarperTeen

Summary from Goodreads:
An edgy, realistic, and utterly captivating novel from an exciting new voice in teen fiction.

Alexi Littrell hasn't told anyone what happened to her over the summer. Ashamed and embarrassed, she hides in her closet and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does.

When Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in "the Kool-Aid Kid," who has secrets of his own. As they lean on each other for support, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her find the courage to finally face the truth.

A searing, poignant book, Faking Normal is the extraordinary debut novel from an exciting new author-Courtney C. Stevens.


My Review: 

This book had quite a bit of hype and I was curious to see if the book would live up to the hype. It is a novel about a young girl Alexi who is hiding a secret. She has been hiding this secret for some time and all the while she is trying to maintain her social standing, her academic standing and her place within her family. This is proving more and more difficult for her and when Bodee Lennox moves in with her family she is finally forced to think about this secret. 

I have to admit that I did like the characters in this book. I feel like it showed an accurate portrayal of sibling relationships especially when there is an age difference. I also think that Alexi's character was endearing. You couldn't help but feel for her and throughout the whole novel I wanted to reach into the book and give her a hug. I also really liked Bodee.  He just seemed so genuine and so nice. He could do no wrong in this novel even if he wasn't the most popular guy. 

I have to admit that while I liked the characters and the story for some reason I didn't find myself loving this book as much as I would have liked to. So many people seemed to really like it and for me it was good but not amazing. I figured out the twist pretty early on and I think I spent most of the novel being angry with some of the characters. I just wanted to yell at people: "Don't you see what's happening here? Open your eyes!"   

Overall, I think this is a good book and that many would enjoy it. If you like contemporaries then you'll probably like this one. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

WoW: The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O'Neill

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it is a weekly feature where bloggers share what they are excited to read next.

Summary from Goodreads: 
Heather O’Neill charmed readers in the hundreds of thousands with her sleeper hit, Lullabies for Little Criminals, which documented with a rare and elusive magic the life of a young dreamer on the streets of Montreal. Now, in The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, she returns to the grubby, enchanted city with a light and profound tale of the vice of fame and the ties of family.
     Nineteen years old, free of prospects, and inescapably famous, the twins Nicholas and Nouschka Tremblay are trying to outrun the notoriety of their father, a French-Canadian Serge Gainsbourg with a genius for the absurd and for winding up in prison. “Back in the day, he could come home from a show with a paper bag filled with women’s underwear. Outside of Québec nobody had even heard of him, naturally. Québec needed stars badly.”
     Since the twins were little, Étienne has made them part of his unashamed seduction of the province, parading them on talk shows and then dumping them with their decrepit grandfather while he disappeared into some festive squalor. Now Étienne is washed up and the twins are making their own almost-grown-up messes, with every misstep landing on the front pages of the tabloid Allo Police. Nouschka not only needs to leave her childhood behind; she also has to leave her brother, whose increasingly erratic decisions might take her down with him.

This book is set to come out June 3rd, 2014. I can' wait to read it because I loved O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals and I've been anxiously waiting to read more from her. 

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top Ten Favourite Novels of All-Time

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week is a rewind edition which means we can go back and pick any TTT we wish to do. Since I am too lazy to peruse through old topics I decided to make mine up this week. Here are my top ten books of all-time. 

 1. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling- I mean this is a no-brainer. If you are a reader and haven't read these books, it's about time you pick them up :)
2. Alias Grace by  Margaret Atwood- This is a true Canadian icon. Margaret Atwood is my fave!

3. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill- This is a true gem that many have not read. She is coming out with a new novel this year and I can't wait.
4. The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman- This is another book that many haven't read but it is great historical fiction. 

 5. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill- This book is a gripping story about slavery. The writing is amazing!
6. Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald- Another Canadian novel. It's heartbreaking but so well-written.

 7. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn- What a rollercoaster of twists and turns. Pick this up before the movie comes out.
8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- This book is classic.

 9. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini- This book is so well written and thought provoking. Set in Afghanistan and follows the lives of two boys into adulthood.
10. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult- This is Picoult's latest novel and it is unlike anything she has written before. It is about a young woman who meets an old man who confesses to her that he was a Nazi. Did I mention that the young woman is of Jewish descent?

Ok, I couldn't just narrow it down to 10 so here are some honourable menions:

 I'm curious to see what everyone picked as their topics this week.

Happy Reading!

Monday, February 24, 2014

ARC Review: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Publisher: Harper
Publishing Date: March 4th, 2014
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pages: 256 pgs
ISBN: 9780062285508
Source: Received for an honest review from Edelweiss/Harper

Summary from Goodreads:
A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King.

"This is an enchanted place. Others don't see it, but I do."

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries magical visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs, with the devastating violence of prison life.

Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest, and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners' pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honor and corruption-ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.

Beautiful and transcendent, The Enchanted reminds us of how our humanity connects us all, and how beauty and love exist even amidst the most nightmarish reality.


My Review: 

I first heard of this novel from Kaiti at Harper Collins Canada. She raved about how good the writing in this book is and at that point I knew that I had to read it. It is a novel set in a prison and more specifically deals with the characters that are on death row. The story is narrated by a man on death row and is first person omniscient. This narrator seems to know things that he couldn't possibly know about certain characters in this novel. 
The book explores some of the horrors of prison life and at times it was difficult to read what was happening to some of the inmates. This book doesn't sugarcoat anything and I liked the raw grit of the story. I found that I was interested in what was happening with each of the characters in this novel. I would say that the author didn't focus on one particular character but on a whole cast of characters with equal value to the story. 
One of my favourite characters was the investigator. She is hired to investigate the life of York, a death-row inmate close to his final days. During the course of her investigation you can see some similarities in York's life and in the investigator's life. The juxtaposition of their lives really brings to light that life is a series of choices. For some, you may decide to overcome your adversity while for others it may just be too difficult. At the same time, your past plays such an integral part of how your character is formed. Denfeld poses the question: Did York really stand a chance? The book made me question some of the judgements I have formed previously. Does a killer deserve my sympathy? Is that killer still not just a human being that may have been handed a crappy hand?
I think the real main character of this story isn't one single person but the jail itself. It seems to possess some sort of magical element to it and it records the stories of it's guests. It tells the story of the corrupt guard, the warden, the small time petty thieves, the kingpins, the murderers and the priest. Denfeld is master storyteller and I simply couldn't read this book fast enough. If you don't mind the gruesome at times mixed in with a great narrative then this is the book for you. I think this is a must-read of 2014. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

WoW: The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it is a weekly feature where bloggers share what they are excited to read next.

Summary from Goodreads

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her 'our little genius'. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

This books sounds interesting and it is something that I have never read before. I look forward to reading this one that comes out March 27th.

Happy Reading! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

WoW: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it is a weekly feature where bloggers share what they are excited to read next.

Summary from Goodreads:
What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

This book sounds pretty good and I`m lucky enough to have an ARC of it. I look forward to reading and review this story.  It comes out March 18th, 2014.

Happy Reading! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

ARC Review: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
Publishing Date: February 11th, 2013
Genre: Adult, Science Fiction
Pages: 200 pgs
ISBN: 9781443428392
Source: Received for honest review from publishers

Summary from Goodreads:
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

My Review: 

In November, I was in Toronto for a blogger meet-up and before the Ottawa Blogettes headed over to the event we were lucky enough to enjoy a coffee with the gals from Harper Collins.  Kaiti and Suman are down to earth and very easy to talk to.  Many of the Ottawa gals read predominantly YA so it was nice to get a chance to chat about upcoming adult books with Kaiti. There were a few books that were coming out in 2014 that she recommended and among them was Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer. I was quite excited when it showed up in my mailbox a few short months later. 
This novel has already been optioned for a movie and I can certainly see why.  It focuses on an expedition to Area X.  Little is known about Area X and all previous expeditions have not garnered much information.  The book focuses on the 12 expedition which is comprised of four women. There is an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist and a biologist. The narrator of this story is the biologist and she describes a world that is intricate and interesting. 
The best part of this fairly short story is the incredible world building that Vandermeer does. We get to explore Area X as the narrator is exploring it and thus we are always kept in suspense about things.  If the narrator is unaware of what creature lurks behind the creepy noises being made during the middle of the night, then we too are kept in the dark. Area X seems to be very organic and seems to have grown all on it's own. While the author does an amazing job at describing the creatures and seemingly intelligent plants in this novel, I think this would be an awesome thing to see in video format. 
The book is full of description but there is also quite a bit going on within a short period of time. It keeps the reader engaged and wanting to know more. This book is part of a trilogy and all books will be released in 2014.  I must say that I am glad that I won't have to wait too long to figure out what's going on in this world.  I would hate to have to wait for a year for the next installment of this story. 
My only dislike of the book was that it was difficult to connect with the narrator.  You learn snippets about her life before Area X and you get to know her personality a bit while reading but it was difficult to really feel for her. Things tended to be very surface with this character. That being said, the narrator does have difficult making connections with those around her so this more than likely done intentionally. Regardless of that, I think I would have liked this novel even more if I could have felt empathy for this character.
Overall, I  quite enjoyed this book and I will definitely be reading the rest of this series. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

WoW: Panic by Lauren Oliver

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it is a weekly feature where bloggers share what they are excited to read next.
Summary from Goodreads

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

I have really enjoyed all of Oliver`s books thus far and I am looking forward to reading this one. It comes out March 4th, 2014.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesdays: Tearjerkers

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

This week's edition is books that will leave you in tears. 

Here are my picks: 

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson- This book left me ruined for the rest of the day. 
The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks- I am not usually a huge fan of Sparks' writing but this one had me pulled in and invested in the characters.

 Firefly Lane by Kristen Hannah- This is a beautiful book about friendship and I was left crying for hours. 
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein- If you are a dog lover then this book will bring a tear or two to your eyes. 

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares- If you like the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series then this book is definitely the most heart breaking. 
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult- This was my first Picoult and I didn't know what to expect. If you've seen the movie this is definitely different.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay- This story is so good but so sad. 
Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes- This may be classified as women's lit but I bet you can't get through it without getting emotional.

 The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart- This book, in one word, is beautiful. 

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin- This is one of my favourite books of 2013 and yes it did make me cry. 

I'm looking forward to seeing your lists. 

Happy Reading!