Tag Archives: HarperCollins Canada

Hemlock – Kathleen Peacock

3 Apr

Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered.

Since then, Mac’s life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac’s hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy’s killer:

A white werewolf.

Lupine syndrome—also known as the werewolf virus—is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control.

Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy’s murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy’s boy-friend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.

It’s, you see, I just, this book… gah!!!!!!! I have so much flipping LOVE for this book that I’m a bit of a blabbering mess trying to write this review. Even more so than normal. If I could, I’d give each of you a copy of Hemlock, a day where you don’t have to do anything, some great tea, chocolate and a cozy blanket and tell you TO READ IT. And you would. In one fell swoop. Because when I sat down to read Hemlock, I did nothing else until I was finished. But this is a review blog and I’m not a millionaire, so let me try to explain why I have so much love for this book. But first I have to thank the folks at HarperCollins Canada for the review copy. And for not serving me with a peace bond. I kinda pestered them for the last six months about getting my grubbies on an ARC of Hemlock. :D

Lately I’ve been very meh about paranormal YA books. I think I had just read so many of them that I kind of burnt out on the genre. They were all blurring together and I was having a hard time differentiating one from another. Then Hemlock landed on my door and it pretty much kicked me in the ass. It made me excited about the genre again.

Kathleen’s writing style is just beautiful. It’s detailed without going overboard, flowery where it needs to be, straightforward in other parts. From the first page her writing flows and just keeps flowing until the last word. Which, in my opinion, came way too fast.

The story was tight and had just enough twists and turns to keep me happy without making it seem like they were just put in willy-nilly to make things more dramatic. There were a couple “HOLY HELL!” moments and they were absolutely delicious. I mean I was all like, “WHA?? OMG!!!!”.

Mac is just a great, well rounded character. Actually, they all are. And the Trackers? EVIL. But fascinating. Yups. There’s just something about a burly group of psychotics with access to weaponry that adds a super WTF element to a book. Would it make me sadistic if I said I think they may have been my favorite part of Hemlock?

There’s also some romance, but it’s not all mushy-gooshy. I actually really liked it. It was real and it added to the story, rather than being a separate element. It didn’t feel like it was just shoved in because the book needed some romance, you know?

So yeah, in case you couldn’t guess, I absolutely LOVED Hemlock. It’s one of my favorite reads so far this year (if not THE favorite read) and I know it will be one of my go-to books for when I want to read something awesome. And I cannot wait until the second book comes out. Wonder if Kathleen needs a beta reader……..

Domestic Violets – Matthew Norman

19 Mar

Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he’d have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day.

The reality, though, is far different. He’s got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he’s written a novel, but the manuscript he’s slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh . . . and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety.

Tom’s life is crushing his soul, but he’s decided to do something about it. (Really.)Domestic Violets is the brilliant and beguiling story of a man finally taking control of his own happiness—even if it means making a complete idiot of himself along the way.

So, Domestic Violets had possibly one of the most wonderful opening scenes I have ever read. It was honest and awkward and funny and awkward. Did I mention awkward? Yeah, I won’t tell you what it’s about because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it was pretty amazing. In an awkward way.

The rest of the book was also filled with wonderfully awkward moment that were just REAL, you know? Cuz my life? Yeah, full of the awkward. Just ask my husband. Or my mom. Or anyone that knows me.  Awkward could be my middle name. So I could identify, maybe not with the exact awkwardness Tom Violet was going through, but the fact that things in his life were somewhat messy.

Tom was such a great character, flaws and all. I loved his voice and the fact that most of the time he came off as funny without being pretentious. Sometimes that’s hard to do, and it’s a nod to Norman’s talent.

Tom’s relationship with all of the secondary characters were essential to the main story and very well fleshed out, but I think it’s his interactions with his arch-nemesis Gregory that I loved the most. I mean, most of us have, at some point, had a Gregory in our lives. And Tom’s reaction to Gregory, what he says and does, well, it’s AWESOME. Most of us only dream of dishing out the miserableness. But Tom? He’s a dick to Gregory and he knows it. Loved it.

I also loved Tom’s dad. He’s such a douche and a drunk and a sleaze but I loved him.

Ah, I loved the whole book. I mean, LOVED it. I was surprised by how much I was drawn into Tom’s life. The story was big and brash and crude and -here comes that word again – awkward. But the writing was gorgeous and the telling was true.

Thank so much to Catherine McKenize for suggesting I give Domestic Violets a go and HarperCollins Canada for the review copy.

In My Mailbox

19 Sep

This weekly meme is a great way to let other readers know what books they should be looking out for. In My Mailbox is hosted by the  The Story Siren.  You can find out more deets about it  here.

I was too sick last Sunday to do an IMM post, so this is for the last two weeks. Bear with me: there’s a lot of books.

BOUGHT

So this week I kinda failed big-time on the whole book buying ban. I ended up buying a bunch of books using an in store credit I had.  Since part of my goal was to save money, I sorta didn’t fail. But I did bring more books into the house.

I could stress out and feel bad, but I’m not gonna. It happened. No biggie.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
The Birth House by Ami McKay
The Gravesavers by Sheree Fitch

BOOKMOOOCHED
The House of Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Trapped in Ice by Eric Walters
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Mongomery

GIFTED
The Candidates by Inara Scott – Sent to me by the lovely Monica at Bibliophilic Book Blog.

REVIEW
Jake by Audrey Couloumbis (Random House Canada)
Torment by Lauren Kate (Random House Canada)
Dust City by Robert Weston (Penguin Canada)
Virals by Kathy Reichs (Penguin Canada)
The Eternal Ones bu Kirten Miller (Penguin Canada)
The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines by Jo Ann Yhard (Nimbus Publishing)
The Fall by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro (HarperCollins Canada)

Amazing book care package from Tundra Press:
Gunner: Hurricane Horse by Judy Andrekson
Avalanche Dance by Ellen Schwartz
Winter Shadows by Margaret Buffie
Dear George Clooney Please Marry my Mom by Susin Nielsen
Ghost Trackers by Chris Gudgeon
The Nightwood by Robin Muller
Here Comes the Bride by Beatrice Mann and Anna Laura Cantone

And, I bought some ebooks this week. Why, you ask? Because I got a Kobo eReader!!!!!!! Thanks bunches to my awesomely wickedly amazing folks who got it for me as an early Christmas gift.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Radiance by Alyson Noel
Intrinsical by Lani Woodland

Review: Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story by Adam Rex

27 Jul

HarperCollins Canada, 2010

Doug Lee is undead quite by accident—attacked by a desperate vampire, he finds himself cursed with being fat and fifteen forever. When he has no luck finding some goth chick with a vampire fetish, he resorts to sucking the blood of cows under cover of the night. But it’s just not the same.

Then he meets the new Indian exchange student and falls for her—hard. Yeah, he wants to bite her, but he also wants to prove himself to her. But like the laws of life, love, and high school, the laws of vampire existence are complicated—it’s not as easy as studying Dracula. Especially when the star of Vampire Hunters is hot on your trail in an attempt to boost ratings. . . .

From HarperCollins Canada website.

So, it’s no secret that most YA vampire books are geared towards masses of swooning teenage girls. The vampires are male, drop-dead gorgeous and very broody.  Yeah, well, this is definitely not one of those books. And for that reason alone I think it should be read. Doug is in no way a mysterious, annoyingly sparkly vamp: he’s over-weight, social awkward and, well, a bit of a dick.

It’s a true testament to Rex’ writing that I really enjoyed this book but didn’t like the main character a whole lot. Doug is socially awkward, a true geek who isn’t quite sure how to talk to people, especially girls. Big whoop. Hell, I married one of those. But he is also rude, obnoxious, self-absorbed and kinda douchey. From what I remember he’s a typical fifteen year old boy. Once I drew from my vast memory bank and realized just what most teenage boys are like, I found I didn’t dislike Doug as much. And then I thanked the gods I wasn’t a teenage girl.

This book is FUNNY. There were times I was reading it when I’m sure the hubs thought I was having a nervous break-down. At the beginning of the book, there is talk of a vampire movie that is on every Saturday. To rid the town of vampires the heroes had to kill the antique shop owner who was the leader. The two actors were named Cody. (Anyone around in the 80s should know where I’m going with this). Once I clued into the joke, I laughed my ass off. There were other funny pop-culture references throughout the book, including a show based on hunting vampires and a trip to Comic-Con. (Yeah, reading about Comic-con right now totally upped my envy-meter).

I did find at times that the tone was a bit uneven. This may have been because the book is told from three different view points PLUS there are scenes describing the Vampire Hunter show (I found these annoying and distracting).  But even with the unevenness in tone, something that can be a deal-breaker for me when it comes to books, I enjoyed Fat Vampire.

If you are getting tired of all the cliche YA vampire books out there, I  think you should really give Fat Vampire a read.  It was wonderfully weird and so, so awkward at times, making it a fun read.

Browse inside Fat Vampire.

Thanks to HarperCollins Canada for the review copy.

Review: Alex Van Helsing by Jason Henderson

15 Jul

HarperCollins Canada, 2010

Fourteen-year-old Alex has no idea that he’s descended from the world’s most famous vampire hunter, but that changes fast when he arrives at Glenarvon Academy and confronts two vampires in his first three days. Turns out Glenarvon isn’t the only school near Lake Geneva. Hidden deep underground lies an ancient university for vampires called the Scholomance. And the deadly vampire clan lord known as Icemaker? You might say he’s a visiting professor.

When two of Alex’s friends are kidnapped by Icemaker, it’s up to Alex to infiltrate the Scholomance and get them back—alive. Assisted by the Polidorium, a top-secret vampire-hunting organization with buried ties to the Van Helsings, Alex dodges zombies, bullets, and lots—and lots—of fangs on his way to thwarting Icemaker’s plans and fulfilling his family destiny.

From HarperCollins website.

It’s no big secret that most of the YA vampire novels being published are geared towards girls. There’s usually a brooding young male vamp, oodles of romance and a touch of mystery and intrigue. Not the case with Alex Van Helsing. With it’s high action, constant fight scenes and main character, this is definitely a boy’s vampire book. But that’s not to say that female readers won’t enjoy it, either; I certainly did.

This is a fun book. See, there’s no melodrama, no “I know he’s a vamp, but he’s a good vamp” story-line. Alex finds out he’s a descendant of the original vampire hunter and he hunts vampires. Simple as that. While the vamps aren’t mindless blood-suckers, they are evil and that’s always very, very clear. No ambiguous is he or isn’t he.

We don’t get a whole heck of a lot of deep character development in Alex Van Helsing, but you know what? That’s just fine with me. Remember, folks, it’s an action book. The fight scenes and action sequences were great, and for this type of book, that’s what’s important.

The only thing about Alex Van Helsing that niggled at my brain is Alex’s age. For some reason he felt more like a 16 year old than a 14 year old to me. I know he’s a Van Helsing and I know he has special vamp fighting powers, but every once in a while he’d do something and my brain would go, “Bawha? Kid’s only 14!” It’s a small thing, and it may just be a me thing, but it was a thing none the less.

Still this was an enjoyable book and a very quick read. Sort of like Young Indie for the vampire crowd. If you like vampire YA lit and are looking for something a bit different, check it out.

Browse inside Alex Van Helsing.

Mucho thanks to the folks at HarperCollins for the review copy.

Guest blog post: Tish Cohen on reading

13 Jul

If you read my review of Tish Cohen’s latest book, The Truth about Delilah Blue, then you know that I definitely consider it a good read. I was tickled pink to get  the chance to ask Trish to talk a bit about her own bookish ways, including what makes a good read for her.

What makes a good read for me is, first and foremost, characters I want to spend time with—especially the protagonist. That doesn’t mean the lead character must be in any way like me, or like anyone I might choose as a friend. It just means I want to be fascinated enough by his or her life that I want to move in and watch things unfold. Does the plot need to be quick? Not if I am hooked by the character. Once I am hooked, I am happy to watch that person make oatmeal.

Sometimes while I am writing, I will feel too distracted to read but that never ends up being a good thing. What happens is I start to feel uninspired and ho-hum about my work. The fix? Pick up a book that blows me away, read the greatest passages out loud and use that awe to kick start my own writing. It always, always works. My favorites include Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Olive Kittredge by Elizabeth Strout.

In terms of matching author or genre to mood, I don’t think that’s how I choose books. More often, I pick up a book because the premise or the author interests me. And, yes, I have been known to buy a book for its cover. Best one was Emma and Me by Elizabeth Flock. I loved the little girl’s face on the jacket and, happily, wound up loving the book.

Thank you so much, Tish, for stopping by and chatting about books.

Browse inside The Truth about Delilah Blue.

Okay, peeps, don’t forget to checkout the rest of Tish’s blog tour dates!

Review: The Truth about Delilah Blue by Tish Cohen

12 Jul

HarperCollins Canada, 2010

Delilah Blue Lovett has always been a bit of an outsider, ever since her father moved her from Toronto to L.A. when she was eight, claiming Delilah’s mother no longer wanted to be part of their family. Twenty now and broke, but determined to be an artist like her errant mom, Delilah attends art class for free — by modeling nude at the front of the room, a decision that lifts the veil from her once insular world.

While Delilah struggles to find her talent, her father, her only real companion, is beginning to exhibit telltale signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s. And her mother, who Delilah always assumed had selfishly abandoned them, is about to reappear with a young daughter in tow . . . and a secret that will change everything. Delilah no longer knows which parent to trust — the only one she can really rely on is the most broken person of all: herself.

From HarperCollins Canada Website.

I don’t often watch book trailers. The odd time I’ll check one out, but on a whole I tend to shy away from them. It’s not that they’re horrible or anything,  I just don’t watch them. But for some reason when the trailer for The Truth about Delilah Blue came out I figured I’d give it a look.  I loved it. And based solely on the trailer I decided to read the book.

I had never read anything by Cohen before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard her novels described as chick lit, but really, The Truth about Delilah Blue was so much more than that. It’s about love, and family and all the craziness that comes with it.

And when I say craziness, I mean craziness. And that’s what I loved about this book; all the characters were believably flawed and just a teeny bit crazy. This not only made for an enjoyable story, but it added a depth that made Delilah’s tale more believable.  There is nothing worse than a book where everyone is perfect. Or, where every character is painted in black or white, good or bad.

The characters in this novel were a great combination of good and bad; basically they were human. They did what they did because they honestly believed they were doing good, whether this was the case or not. Because of this “grayness” so to speak, I found myself constantly wondering what I would do in each character’s place. It’s not often that a book really makes me think this way and it really helped me to connect with the story.

There were some really, really funny parts and parts where I was cringing with embarrassment for Delilah. She was just such a great character that once the book was finished, I was sad that I wouldn’t get to see her journey continue.

Cohen’s writing style is both accessible and expansive at the same time. Her prose flows and is beautifully descriptive, but never once did I feel that I was getting lost in the floweriness of it, if that makes any sense.

If you are look for a great, smart chick lit book, this is definitely one to pick up. And if you are looking for a book with complex characters, a killer plot and writing that will appeal to your senses, this is the book for you.

Check back tomorrow where Tish Cohen herself lets us in on what she thinks makes a good read.

Browse inside The Truth about Delilah Blue.

Thanks to HarperCollins Canada for sending this little piece of delightful craziness my way.

A writing breakthrough

1 Jul

Certain words alway elicite fear in me: dentist, spiders and editing. Yes, as a writer you wouldn’t think that the word “editing” would basically make me want to vomit, but it does. Anytime I think of sitting down and editing my hands get clammy, my breath shallow, my head spinny.

It’s not the idea of cutting words or scenes that provokes the panic. It’s the fact that I have no idea where to start editing. Sure, page one, line one, word one is always a good place to start, but how do I actually edit a book? Every time I sit down to start I get overwhelmed. Most times I don’t even get the nerve to open up the document.

Just how serious is my fear of editing? The first draft of my book has been finished for almost 4 years.

Thankfully, though, I had a breakthrough yesterday.

I found out through a Tweet that The Globe and Mail and HarperCollins Canada were hosting a 1,000 word short story contest as part of the unveiling of the new Collins Canadian Dictionary. The deadline was last night at 23:59.  On a whim I decided to enter the contest. I had the rough draft of a short story that I had written a couple of weeks ago and thought that it was decent enough to enter. But of course I had to edit it first.

Throughout the day I edited my little short story and was amazed at not only how comfortable it felt, but that I actually enjoyed it. Picking though each line, reading it and seeing how it rolled off of my tongue. Finding a better way to describe something. Finding holes in my logic, plot and plugging them. It was a great creative release. It also helped me realize that if I take my book a page at a time, chapter at a time, the task of editing won’t be so daunting.

As I was reading through my short story for the umpteenth time I stopped really caring if I won or not. The fact that I was no longer scared of editing and was actually looking forward to it was prize enough for me.

Review: The Worst Thing She Ever Did by Alice Kuipers

24 Jun

HarperCollins Canada, 2010

All Sophie wants is to forget what happened last summer. But that’s not easy when people keep asking if she’s okay, and her mother locks herself behind closed doors for hours at a time. And now her best friend, Abigail, cares more about parties and boys than hanging out with Sophie.

Lost in memories of the life she once had — before that terrible day — Sophie retreats into herself. But it’s only so long before she must confront the tragedy of her past so she can face the future.

From HarperCollins Canada website.

This was a beautifully written book that was, by times, tough to read. I don’t mean that it was confusing or bad. What I mean is the pain that Sophie goes through and the vivid description of her panic attacks and anxiety was hard to work through, but well worth it. For me, it was the depth and the detailed telling of Sophie’s emotional state that made The Worst Thing She Ever Did such a gripping read.

As readers, we don’t know what happened last summer until nearly the end of the book. It was this unknowing that added mystery to the novel and also intensified what Sophie was going through. Throughout the book I was constantly imagining what could have happened to make her as anxious and out of touch as she was.

The closer I got to the moment of revelation, the closer I got to figuring out what had happened. This is because Kuipers shows us, through bits and pieces, memories and Sophie’s wanting to forget, exactly what happened rather than simply telling us. And while I won’t give anything away, it was heart wrenching.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that towards the end, once we find out what happened to Sophie last summer, there is a bit of a generalized life lesson that is thrown in. While it by no means ruined the book for me, I think that it took me out of the main story for a bit.

This was a beautiful read and I highly recommend it.

Lots of thanks go out to HarperCollins Canada for this unexpected but much loved review copy.

Browse inside The Worst Thing She Ever Did.

Review and Giveaway: Emily The Strange

22 Jun

HarperCollins Canada, 2009

13 Elements you will find in the first Emily the Strange novel:

1. Mystery

2. A beautiful golem

3. Souped-up slingshots

4. Four black cats

5. Amnesia

6. Calamity Poker

7. Angry ponies

8. A shady truant officer

9. Top-13 lists

10. A sandstorm generator

11. Doppelgängers

12. A secret mission

13. Earwigs

From HarperCollins website.

Emily The Strange: The Lost Days was, well, a very strange book. So strange, in fact, that at first I wasn’t sure what to think of the book or Emily. But once I got into the story I fell in love with the quirky Emily and her story of amnesia, mystery and a robot.

Emily tells of her quest to find out who she is through a diary that includes pictures, drawings and lists. Lots of lists.

This was a fun book to read and at first you might be tempted to write it off as fluff, but it’s also a very intelligent book. There were lots of twists and turns and plenty of creepy, evil characters to keep even the most reluctant reader interested.

I’m lucky enough to have an extra copy of Emily The Strange: The Lost Days to give away to one  reader.  Just leave a comment below on something totally strange that has happened to you. For example, I had a baby grackle throw-up in my hair last night. Kinda strange, right? The contest is open worldwide and will go until the 30th of June.

Thanks to HarperCollins for strangely sending me 2 copies of Emily The Strange.

Browse inside Emily the Strange: The Lost Days.

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