Archive | November, 2010

One Bird’s Choice by Iain Reid

30 Nov

Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Released: August 23, 2010
Genre: Memoir, non-fiction, humour
For review from author via publisher

Meet Iain Reid: an overeducated, underemployed twenty-something, living in the big city in a bug-filled basement apartment and struggling to make ends meet. When Iain lands a job at a radio station near his childhood home, he decides to take it. But the work is only part time, so he is forced to move back in with his lovable but eccentric parents on their hobby farm. What starts out as a temporary arrangement turns into a year-long extended stay, in which Iain finds himself fighting with the farm fowl, taking fashion advice from the elderly, fattening up on a gluttonous fare of home-cooked food, and ultimately easing (perhaps a little too comfortably) into the semiretired lifestyle.

A hilarious and heartwarming comic memoir about food, family, and finally growing up, One Bird’s Choice marks the arrival of a funny, original, and fresh new voice.

From publisher’s website.

 

As a book blogger I sometimes get emails from authors and publicists asking if I would be interested in reviewing a certain book. This is fine with me. If fact, I’m at the stage where it doesn’t happen a lot, so I usually end up giggling like a twit when it does. The emails are almost always polite and it’s always a bonus when the pitch is one that actually fits my blog.

I probably would never have heard of One Bird’s Choice if not for the fact that the author emailed me and said that he thought it would be a good fit for my blog. No it isn’t YA. And it isn’t paranormal or urban fantasy. But Iain was right: it was the perfect fit for me and my blog. Because it was a book I could relate to. And it was funny. Oh, and it was well written. VERY well written. In short I loved it.

It’s a memoir, a genre I tend to steer clear of. I read a couple of memoirs that were very boo-hoo it’s so hard being me even though I’m a privileged upper classer. There wasn’t a purpose or a story to those memoirs, and it turned me off the genre completely. Well, One Bird’s Choice has done the opposite.  It’s reconfirmed my new belief that I’ll enjoy reading in any genre as long as the book is good.

I loved this book. Really. As someone who did a return stint at home in her early 30s, I could totally identify with Iain and what he was going through. It’s not an easy thing to do, but my generation seems to be the “boomerang kids”. (Yes, Iain is younger than me and not quite my generation, but you know what I mean.)

There’s a lot of humor in this book, particular in the scenes where he deals with his parents. The great thing is, never once did I feel that that he was taking any cheap shots at them. Sure, his interactions with them were often snort out loud funny, but they were never the butt end of the jokes. He portrayed them as loving and caring, if sometimes overbearing and nosy (but in that good way that parents are overbearing and nosy).

This is more than just a funny look at Iain’s life: there is a thread of desperation and despair running underneath. After all, he’s back home, somewhere he never thought he’d end up again. And he’s clearly floundering, unsure really where his life is headed. But he doesn’t get all woe is me angsty about it. In fact, he shows us his state of mind through his actions (or sometimes inactions) rather than coming out and saying exactly how he’s feeling, which is great. I got the distinct feeling that sometimes he wasn’t even aware that he was a bit depressed and feeling “meh” about where his life was. For me, it made the book, and his story, much more enjoyable than if he had been hitting me over the head with the “my-life-sucks-so-I-wrote-about-it” stick.

The only thing I thought was weird about One Bird’s Choice was that it was written in the present tense. Since it’s a memoir, I thought it odd that I was reading about things as if they were currently happening. But in all honestly I was only aware of this for the first chapter or so. After that Iain’s story and writing style drew me in and I forgot about the fact that it was written in present tense. Now that I think about it, it’s really a matter of preference: I generally prefer books written in the past tense than the present tense. But like I said, it wasn’t a biggie and didn’t distract me from enjoying the book.

I also enjoyed all the animals and the interactions Iain had with them. I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s one scene involving a chicken that had me laughing my ass off.

This was a great read and a pretty quick one too. It flowed easily and when I was done I was left with a smile on my face and the desire to know the next chapter in Ian’s life. Both signs of a successful memoir in my books.

 

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Intrinsical by Lani Woodland

29 Nov

Publisher: Pendrell Publishing
Released: August 20, 2010
Genre: YA paranormal, romance
Ebook purchased on Smashwords

Sixteen-year-old Yara Silva has always known that ghosts walk alongside the living. Her grandma, like the other females in her family, is a Waker, someone who can see and communicate with ghosts. Yara grew up watching her grandmother taunted and scorned for this unusual ability and doesn’t want that to be her future. She has been dreading the day when she too would see ghosts, and is relieved that the usually dominant Waker gene seems to have skipped her, letting her live a normal teenage life. However, all that changes for Yara on her first day at her elite boarding school when she discovers the gene was only lying dormant. She witnesses a dark mist attack Brent, a handsome fellow student, and rushes to his rescue. Her act of heroism draws the mist’s attention, and the dark spirit begins stalking her. Yara finds herself entrenched in a sixty-year-old curse that haunts the school, threatening not only her life, but the lives of her closest friends as well. Yara soon realizes that the past she was trying to put behind her isn’t going to go quietly.

From author’s website.

I discovered this book the way I discover most of my books these days: via Twitter. The author and I somehow ended up talking and as I always do when I chat with authors, I looked up her book. It sounded interesting and I loved the cover. It ended up being one of the first books I bought for Coco the Kobo.

I think this was one of the darkest and scariest YA paranormal I’ve read in a while, despite the fact that a lot of folks would categorize this as romance. Yeah, there’s plenty of romance in it, but there were times that I could feel my heart rate increase and more than one chill ran down my spin. There were also situations that Yara got herself into, seriously sticky situations, that made me go “WTF??” Honestly I had no idea how she was going to get out of them. But Lani didn’t disappoint and a weird, twisty, never-saw-it-coming solution appeared.  And this is a good thing, trust me. Intrinsical kept me on my toes and my brain engaged the whole time I was reading it.

I was a little iffy about the start of the book and the reason why Yara ended up at the boarding school. I don’t see this as a major flaw or anything, just something that I questioned. But it’s such a small part of the book that it really didn’t take a lot away from it. My only other complaint about Intrinsical is that there seemed to be an awful lot of crying going on. Not that I’m against crying, but I think that when it happens a lot in a novel, I start to become immune to it.

So I’m finding that my whole “I don’t like romance” stance I’ve had for years seriously needs to me modified. I like some romance. There, I said it. And I really like the romantic aspect of Intrinsical. It was sweet and had that whole does-he-like-me-or-not thing going on. Very cool.

So yeah, there were things that I liked and things that I didn’t like about Intrinsical. But I’d definitely recommend it if you are looking for a dark, almost gothic paranormal romance.

 

 

Music Monday: It Snowed

29 Nov

So for the next four Music Monday’s I’m going to feature my favorite Christmas songs.  First up Meaghan Smith!

I just found out that Meaghan has a new Christmas EP out (squee!!!) that features her original song, It Snowed. But this wonderful little ditty has been one of my faves for a few years now, when it was on a Christmas album Meaghan did with Rose Cousins and Jill Barber. Every time it snows, this song flows through my brain.

There isn’t an official video out for this one, but here’s Meaghan and her band singing it live (check out the Snoopy T). There is no way humanly possible to listen to this and not smile.

Shiver from a dude’s perspective

26 Nov

So, every once in a while I come across a book review that just makes me happy. You know, it’s well-written, funny and – of course – gushes about a book I love.

It’s no secret that I’m a bit obsessed with The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. And most people that I know who read Shiver and Linger fall in love with both books.  The trilogy is beautifully written with a swoon worthy male lead and an unbelievably romantic love story at the center.  Definitely a chick book.

Which is why I was thrilled beyond to read October Daniels’ review of Shiver. Because October? Yeah, he’s a dude. A masculine dude. And he loved the book. And I loved his review.

So, I’m doing something I’ve never done before: I’m linking (with permission of course) to someone else’s review. Please go read it. It’s funny and touching and oh, his first review. Seriously. So go show him some love. But not too much gushing and girly-ness: he is a dude, after all.

October Daniels’ awesome review of Shiver.

Negative reviews: the flip side

25 Nov

This post may be a bit rambling and even a tad ranty, but it’s stuff that’s been on my mind a lot lately and it’s put me into a serious funk. I’m probably going to lose followers and friends with this post and I anticipate some backlash in the comment section, but so be it. Everyone is entitled to their say, which is kind of what this post is about.

I’m pretty active on Twitter. I like chatting with friends, updating people on humorous things in my life and keeping up on the book community. But the last little while I’ve been backing away from Twittter, and the book blogging community in general. I guess you could say that I’m growing disillusioned with both.

There’s been some chatter lately about negative reviews and how they should be written. And there has been serious backlash against bloggers who have posted “mean” and “nasty” reviews. Other bloggers have taken it upon themselves to write posts about how negative reviews should be done. Authors are weighing in on the topic of nasty reviews, going as far as saying that aspiring authors who book blog should watch their words, because it could come back to bite them in the ass when trying to get published.

I’ve stayed out of the Twitter debates and talks about this for the most part, but it all leaves a really bad taste in my mouth and an icky feeling in my stomach. To the point that I am pretty sure once I start querying SUPERNORMAL I’m going to stop reviewing books on this blog.

And you know what? That makes me sad. And pisses  me off. My review style for the most part is off the cuff and informal. And the few negative reviews I’ve done? They haven’t been nice. No, I don’t personally attack the author, but yeah, I don’t sugar coat the fact that I didn’t like the book. And I’m snarky about it. After all, it’s my opinion, right? And this is my blog, right? So I should get to express my feelings and opinions over the books I read the way I want to. But it seems that maybe, just maybe, this isn’t the case.

Now, none of the comments about mean reviews have been directed at me (at least not that I know of), but I just don’t like the idea of others thinking that they can dictate how someone should run and write their blog. I don’t like the idea of being policed or censored. It makes my skin itch. And I don’t like the idea that my writing career could be in jeopardy because I didn’t like an author’s book and I expressed my dislike in a way that was seen as being mean.

When I get published (oh, and I will) if someone reviews SUPERNORMAL and says that they got halfway through and then wiped their ass with the rest of it, am I going to be upset? Probably. But you know what? It’s their right to express themselves how they want. I know, I know, it’s easy for me to sit here and say that, right? But it’s how it’s going to be. And if I need to vent and rant? That’s what the hubs, my friends and my writing group are for.

I almost didn’t write this post, because I figure that I’m probably shooting myself in the foot and if any authors read it, my name may go in the little black book of “aspiring authors that write mean reviews”. But this all makes me so sad that I couldn’t stay quiet anymore.

Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

24 Nov

Publisher: Random House Canada
Released: October, 2010
Genre: YA dystopia
One sentence summary: Just when you think you’ve solved the puzzle ….
Review copy from publisher.

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

In the Maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety . . . until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated—and with it, order—and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim . . . and meal.

The Gladers are far from finished with running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder—does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?

From RandomHouse Canada website.

 

It’s not often that I think a sequel does a better job than the original, but that is definitely the case here. While I thought The Maze Runner was an okay book, The Scorch Trials friggin’ blew me away.

This is one of those books that’s kinda hard to review, because I don’t want to give anything away. It’s filled with a lot of oooh and aaah moments that I think readers need to discover for themselves. So bear with me if this review seems a bit vague.

When I read The Maze Runner, I wasn’t really impressed with it. At all. Except for the last chapter. I knew that I was going to enjoy The Scorch Trials much, much more. There’s just a lot more interesting things going on in this book.  There’s more action. Personally I found the maze thing in the first book sorta, well, boring. But here, in The Scorch Trials, Thomas and the gang are actually working their way from point A to point B, not just getting up each morning and surviving. There was a different energy to this book as a result.

While I enjoyed the group dynamic aspect of The Maze Runner, Dashner severely ups the ante and the tension this book. Everyone has a serious case of mistrust and who’s with who is constantly changing. Not knowing who had Thomas’s back kept me off-balanced, but in a very good way. It was stressful not knowing what everyone’s agenda was and I liked it.

I also have a slight (okay, serious) obsession with all things plague so the fact that one of the obstacles for Thomas et al. were the Cranks (people who had been infected with the Flare disease) was awesome. This aspect of the story really drew me in and sealed the deal: this was a book I was going to love, and I did.

 

Music Monday: INXS

22 Nov

13 years ago today the world of music lost one of the sexiest and talented men EVER. The hair, the lips, the hips, the voice. I think Michael Hutchence was my very first musical crush.

I was devastated when he died. INXS was and still is one of my favorite bands. Their music is a huge part of the sound track of my junior high years.

I was going to try to pick my favorite INXS songs, but dammit I can’t  choose. So here’s two of my favorite videos. Watch. Sing along. Sigh every time Michael flips his hair. And remember one of music’s greats.