Archive | January, 2011

And the winner is……

31 Jan

I’m a bit late posting the winners for the two giveaways I was hosting. Everyone has been contacts and everyone’s emailed me back.

Finished copy of Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

International ARC of The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong (courtesy of Kelley herself!)

Canadian ARC of The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong
Mel (He Followed Me Home)

Congrats everyone!

Review: 13 to Life by Shannon Delany

31 Jan

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Released: June, 2010
Genre: YA paranormal, romance
Gifted from the wonder Bella.

Everything about Jessie Gillmansen’s life changed when her mother died. Now even her hometown of Junction is changing. Mysterious dark things are happening. All Jessie wants is to avoid more change. But showing a hot new guy around Junction High, she’s about to discover a whole new type of change. Pietr Rusakova is more than good looks and a fascinating accent—he’s a guy with a dangerous secret. And his very existence is sure to bring big trouble to Jessie’s small town. It seems change is the one thing Jessie can’t avoid…

From St. Martin’s Press website.

*This review is slightly spoilerish*

While it may seem like I drool over every YA book out there, it’s not true. Honestly. Each year there are actually only a hand-full of YA books that I must read or I’ll die a slow, painful, whinny death. Well, not really but that’s what it feels like. 13 to Life was one of those books that I desperately wanted to read. When Bella from Bella’s Bookshelf sent it to me as part of a book swap I was uber-excited. There may have been some screaming.

Any-hoo I pretty much instantly dug into it and I wasn’t really disappointed. Sure, there were a couple of things that niggled at me a bit, but they weren’t monstrous enough to make me not enjoy the book.

I loved the mystery surrounding the Rusakova family. Who were they? What was their story, really? From the moment we meet Pietr, it’s obvious the boy is hiding some deep, dark secret. And then we meet the rest of the clan, and, well, things get even more secretive.

Jessie was a solid female lead, but, well, she does some things that just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me and seemed a bit mean. And here’s where the spoilery stuff comes in, so if you haven’t read the book you may not want to read the rest of the review.

Jessie likes Pietr. Pietr likes Jessie. But Jessie’s best friend Sarah also likes Pietr. So Jessie says she’s stepping back and tells Pietr to date Sarah even though he wants to date Jessie. He does. But then he spends the rest of the book sneaking kisses with Jessie and spending as much time with her as possible. Not really a nice thing to do to a friend. I mean, if you say you’re going to step back, then step back! I really liked Jessie and Pietr as a couple but I was put off by this weird love-triangle. The reason Jessie does this is explained, but I just didn’t think it was a strong enough explanation.

I also found the pacing a bit off at places. Things happened quickly and emotions and feelings changed in the blink of an eye. And before anyone says anything, I know teens can be moody little beasts, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I found at certain parts of the novel (like the Homecoming dance) that it went from crying to laughing to angry back to crying way too fast for me to feel vested in any of it.

With that being said, I really, really enjoyed 13 to Life. The plot and, like I said, the mystery of the story kept my attention. In fact, I stayed up until 4 am finishing the book in one sitting. It ended in a major cliff hanger and even though I’m on a bit of a book buying ban, I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel, Secrets and Shadows, when it comes out in February.

Oh, and I in case you aren’t quite sure how much I liked this book, I’m also part of the MAX-imum Exposure Tour. On February 1tth, I’ll get the chance to interview Max, Pietr’s older brother. Tres cool.

Music Monday: Weight Ghost

17 Jan

Okay, I LOVE songs that make me think. You know, you listen to the lyrics, think you know what the song is about, but really aren’t sure. There’s enough ambiguity that you maybe end up interpreting the song according to your own life and your own experiences or you pick up on a certain word or phrase the fifteenth time you’ve listened to it and it changes your opinion completely.

Halifax band Wintersleep’s song Weighty Ghost is one of my favorite tunes, despite the fact I’m not really sure what the song is about. The hubs and I can spend HOURS discussing this song. I think maybe it’s about someone who was so ambivalent about life, maybe even a bit depress, that it’s no big deal when they die, because they had been living life like they were dead anyway. The hubs thinks it has something to do with the Mexican Day of the Dead.

Regardless of what the song is about, it’s a beautiful tune and a wonderfully creepy video.

Oops! Apparently you folks in the States can see the video. Here’s a live version of the song.

Q & A with Catherine McKenzie and a giveaway!

13 Jan

If you’ve read my review of Arranged by Catherine McKenzie, then you know how much I loved the book and how much I adore the author. Catherine is one of my favorite Canadian authors for sure. And I’m so happy that I get the chance to do a Q & A with her! Oh, and I also have one finished copy of Arranged to give away to a lucky Canadian reader. And tonight is the official launch party for Arranged. Congrats Catherine!

Thank you so much for stopping by today Catherine! I loved Arranged and I’m so glad to get the chance to pick your brain. :0)

LL: As you were writing Arranged, were you at all worried that some cultures that still have arranged marriages might not embrace the book?

CM: Sure, I always worry about that a little since both of my novels, though comedic, deal with issues that are serious (addiction in Spin, arranged marriages in Arranged). But I also try to keep in mind that you also can’t please everyone, and I try, as much as possible within the confines of the story, to be respectful.

LL: Anne’s mom is pretty much obsessed with Anne of Green Gables (which I loved, being from PEI). I take it that you yourself are a fan of the red-headed heroine?

CM: I am a huge fan of Anne of Green Gables and have read the Anne series of books more times that I can count. Having red hair and green eyes myself (and a tendency to gab a bit too much), Anne is someone I’ve always related to. If you haven’t read these books, please do so!

LLArranged has a scene that is a tad bit, well, steamy, at least compared to your first novel, Spin. Is it awkward or weird for you to write lovey-dovey (aka sex) scenes?

CM: It’s both! Honestly, when I wrote the first sex scene, I was worried about trying to get the balance right. But I thought it was important to the story that those scenes be realistic and more than a simple kiss-and-cut-to-the-next-morning moment. It was certainly awkward having friends and family read it for the first time though!

LLArranged had a very rom-com movie feel to it. If it was ever turned into a movie, who would your dream cast be?

CM: I generally don’t think about what movie actors might be good to play the characters in my books, and so, no one immediately comes to mind for Anne. I did always sort of imagine Jack as a James Tupper (Men in Trees) type, though.

LL: I’m always curious about what music writers listen to when working on certain projects. Were there any songs or artists that helped make Arranged what it is?

CM: Wow, that’s a tough one because I actually wrote the first drafts of Arranged in 2006/2007. I do often write to music, and at that time I was likely listening to a lot of Ryan Adams, David Gray, Matt Nathanson, John Mayer and the Counting Crows. During revisions I was listening to a lot of Mozella. I also tend to get really into a song and play it on repeat with my headphones on as a way to get energy from a song and tune it out at the same time.  True story: I have sometimes thought of keeping notes of what I was listening to when when writing a particular book to be able to answer questions just like this. But I never did it. Guess I didn’t really believe I’d ever get published 🙂

Thanks again Catherine! Thank you, Colleen! And so glad you enjoyed the book.

The giveaway!!!

As I said, I have one finished copy of Arranged to give away to a lucky Canadian reader. Hmm, what question should I ask you guys to answer? I know! Have you ever met somebody in an unusual way that you ended up dating/marrying? If you haven’t don’t worry:  you’ll still be entered. Since I met the hubs through a personal ad and my folks met when the girl that was supposed to go out with my Dad chickened out and bribed my Mom to go I like hearing about how couples met. 🙂

The contest will be opened until January 25th.

My best giveaway EVER

11 Jan


Okay, OMG Kelley and her assistant, Alison, ROCK.  After I retweeted the change to the contest, Kelley tweeted me that she could fix my international problem.  I just got an email from Alison and I once again have an international ARC of The Gathering to giveaway. So, that’s two Canadian ARCs and one International ARC. Awesome, right? I love authors who go that extra distance. 😛

So in my excitement about this giveaway I forgot that it was supposed to ONLY be for Canadians. I know, I know, I suck. International peeps feel free to throw virtual eggs and rotten tomatoes at me.  Unfortunately both ARCs will have to go to Canadians.

But, I want to do something for you international folks so here goes: whoever wins internationally, wherever you are, I’ll buy you a copy of The Gathering when it’s published in your area. I know it’s not the same as receiving an ARC, but it’s the best I can do. AND it is still a free book. If I’m feeling generous (or even more guilty) I may throw another book the winner’s way.

OMG you guys, so I literally just opened the package and wanted to get this giveaway under way ASAP, because I know there are a lot of you out there (like me) who are chomping at the bit to read this one.  And I am beyond excited that I have two -yes TWO – copies to give away.

So, who would like to get their grubby little mitts on an Advanced Reading Copy of Kelley Armstrong’s The Gathering? If you have no idea what book I’m talking about, please move on. Just kidding.  Here’s the summary from Random House Canada’s website:

Maya lives in a small medical-research town on Vancouver Island. How small? You can’t find it on the map. It has less than two-hundred people, and her school has only sixty-eight students — for every grade from kindergarten to twelve. Now, strange things are happening in this claustrophobic town, and Maya’s determined to get to the bottom of them. First, the captain of the swim team drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. A year later, mountain lions start appearing around Maya’s home, and they won’t go away. Her best friend, Daniel, starts getting negative vibes from certain people and things. It doesn’t help that the new bad boy in town, Rafe, has a dangerous secret — and he’s interested in one special part of Maya’s anatomy: Her paw-print birthmark.

Juicy, juicy, JUICY! This is gonna be sooo frigging GOOD!  I worship the ground Kelley writes on and can’t believe that I get to read this 4 months before it comes out! So COOL. (Forgive me the overuse of caps and exclamation marks. If this was a vlog I’d be yelling in my excitement.)

So, the contest. As I said Random House Canada was generous enough to send me TWO ARCs of The Gathering to give away.One will be for Canadians only and the other will be opened internationally. I suck, see above note. To enter all you have to do is comment below, let me know if you are Canadian or international and tell me of one upcoming book that has you using all caps and exclamation points galore anytime you blog, Facebook or Tweet about it. No need to be a follower, tweet the contest or me up or post the contest on your blog – but feel free to do so if you want.

The contest will run until the 25th of January.

SO excited about this! YAAAAY!!!!!!!! 😛

Getting back on track

10 Jan

So, sometimes life kinda kicks you in the ass when you least expect it. I got back into the blogging groove last week and then went and crashed my car. Neither the hubs nor I were seriously injured, but I did hurt my wrists and hands. Flipping a car twice while having a death grip on the steering wheel will do that. So I ended up taking most of last week off to let myself heal. Well, I’m back. Kinda.

I’m going to do a few posts this week, depending on how my wrists and hands feel. But I wanted to let you all know that I’m still here and I have some AMAZING giveaways coming up, including a much sought after ARC of an upcoming YA novel and some signed swag.  I’ll also be weighing in on the Canada Reads debate and choosing which book I think should win.

So stay tuned. There’ll be lots of fun stuff coming up. Oh, and I’ll review some books, too. 🙂

Review: Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

3 Jan

Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Released: January 3th, 2011
Genre: Chick-lit, general fiction
Review copy from publisher

Anne Blythe is lucky. She’s got a brand new book contract, a great newspaper job and a steadfast best friend, and she can land just about any man she sets her sights on — and the ones that appeal are typically tall, dark and handsome.

Problem is, the men she chooses never last. Shortly after yet another relationship goes down in flames, Anne comes across a card for what she believes is a dating service, and pockets it just in case. If she’s so unlucky in love, maybe she could use a little assistance. Then her best friend announces she’s engaged, and envy gets the better of Anne. Now’s the time, she decides, to give the service a try — and she is shocked to discover that what the company specializes in are exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriages. After learning of the company’s success rate, however, she overcomes her reluctance and signs on. After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world, and she’s not done so well selecting a mate on her own. So why not use a professional service that claims it can produce the perfect match?

Some time later, Anne is travelling to a Mexican resort, where in one short weekend she will meet and marry Jack, the man they have chosen for her. And against all odds, it seems to be working out, until Anne learns that Jack and the company who arranged their marriage are not what they seem at all.

From HarperCollins Canada website.


So yesterday Catherine McKenzie’s first book, Spin, made it on my list of favorite reads for 2010. I know we’re only three days into 2011 but I can tell you that Arranged will make it on my best of 2011 list. I loved it that much. I stayed up until 3 am to finished it and immediately wanted to reread it again. Arranged may seem on the surface like a light “chick lit” read, but underneath it’s about more serious issues like loneliness, stability and trust. And it’s a book that I know will stick with me for a long time.

Anne Blythe isn’t always the most likable character in the world. She has a certain “type” of guy she’s into and she’s, well, kinda shallow when it comes to looks. For the first part of the book I spent a lot of time wanting to smack her upside the head. I mean, quit complaining that you can’t find a decent guy when you only go for men who have movie star looks. Honestly. But as the book went on, and McKenzie let me slowly see deeper into Anne’s psyche I felt a connection to the character that I rarely feel when reading. I think a lot of women are going to see aspects of themselves in Anne. I know I did.

Okay, here’s a bit of background on moi. You need to know it so that you can understand how fully and completely connected I felt with Anne by the time I got about half way through the book, and why I became so entrenched in her story and her happiness. The hubs and I met in a bit of an unconventional way: I answered his personal online ad . I was sick and tired of the dating game and wanted to meet someone I knew I’d be compatible with. I also wanted to avoid that awkward does-he-like-me-like-me stage when you first meet someone of the opposite sex. Since I was answering a personal ad, all I had to do was meet the guy, see if we clicked, and if we didn’t, so be it. Sure it’s not as serious of a commitment as an arranged marriage, but I could still identify with everything Anne was feeling pre and post wedding. For me the connection was at times painful, and some of the things Anne goes through broke my heart so bad that I had to set the book down for a bit and gather myself.

As an Island girl, I got a kick out of all the Anne of Green Gables reference. I mean, there’s no one on PEI who doesn’t have some kind of a connection to Anne. Most of us have the seen the musical. And, if like me, you’ve ever worked as an usher at The Confederation Center of the Arts, then you’ve seen the musical enough times to know it off by heart 15 years later.

The author’s writing was once again great. McKenzie has a straight-forward writing style that lends itself perfectly to the story. She has the amazing ability to handle some tough issues in a light way without being condescending, rude or awkward about it. In her books it seems effortless but I know that it must be hard to maintain that balance.

Arranged was way more romancy than Spin and -gasp- there may even be a bit of a sex scene it in, something that would normally turn the extremely prudish me off from finishing the book. But I felt such a strong connection to Anne and was so tied up in the plot and the writing was so great that I didn’t give a hoot. I loved the book despite the fact that it had elements in it that I normally don’t love. And that, my friends, is the sign of excellent writing, an amazing plot and stand out characters. All of which Arranged has.

Still not convinced this is a must read book? Browse inside Arranged and see for yourself.

Oh, and pop back to the blog because in the next week or so I’ll be hosting a Q & A with Catherine and giving away a copy of Arranged, thanks to HarperCollins Canada and The Savvy Reader.


My fave reads of 2010

2 Jan

So last year I did a post about my top three reads of the year. Well, it looks like this year it’s going to be a bit of a longer list. When I sat down and thought about the books I’ve read in 2010, I realized that this was an amazing reading year for me. I went through a few slumps (November was THE WORST), but over all I’m pretty damn happy with the books I read. So, in no particular order, here are my top reads of 2010:

Spin by Catherine McKenzie – I read this one in January and new immediately it would end up on this list. Call it chick-lit, general fiction, Hell call it a space ship, I don’t care. Because what I call it is funny, touching and brilliant.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – Technically I think I read this one last December, but it was out in January.  I walked around in a daze for about a week after I finsihed this YA novel. It made me think about things and that’s always a good thing.

Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater – If you come to the blog or follow me on Twitter, then you know that I’m pretty much obsessed with these YA werewolf books. Lyrical writing, amazing characters and cliff-hanger endings that left me gasping for breath, I love these books.

Plain Kate by Erin Bow – This MG/YA book made me laugh, cry, laugh then cry again. I know so many people that, like me, were an emotional mess when they finished this book. The story was beautiful and I think Taggle the cat was one of my favorite characters of the year.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White – So freaking different from other YA paranormal books. It was laugh out loud funny, didn’t have a love triangle and the romance wasn’t all consumming. Man, this book blew my socks off.

The Truth about Delilah Blue by Tish Cohen – I love smart chick-lit. Really, I do. And this book was smart, quirky and believable even when I coulnd’t believe what the characters were going through.

The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines by JoAnn Yhard – This middle grade mystery was so, so good! It took me back to the days of reading Eric Wilson. And the mystery? Yeah, I couldn’t figure it out.

Wake, Fade, Gone by Lisa McMann – I loved the sparse writing style of McMann’s trilogy so much that I devoured these books in a couple of days. For some reason I don’t think I ever posted a review for Gone. Probably because I was so upset the series was over. 😛

Waking the Witch by Kelley Armstrong – I love all of Kelley’s books, but this is by far my favorite in her Women of Otherworld Series. Savannah is a kick-ass lead and the plot was fast-paced and amazing, as usual.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan – OMZombies! I think my heart was racing the whole time I was reading this book. I know there were several times that my eyes were basically bugging out of my head. I felt like I needed a nap or a Valium when I was done.

I know that there are probably a few books that I’m forgetting, so there may well be a follow up post. But these are definitely the books that kept be giddy and happy about reading in 2010.

Some changes are a’ comin’

1 Jan

You may have noticed that I’ve been a bit MIA in the last little bit. I decided to take a break from blogging because, to be completely honest, I had no desire to do it anymore. I even entertained the idea of quitting and just going back to being a regular, old reader. I guess you could say I was burnt out and disillusioned with the whole book blogging thing.

Instead of just giving it up, I decided that I would make a few changes here on the blog and in real life to help me get my reading and reviewing mojo back.

Review Books
I got desperately behind on my review books, which in turned stressed me out and made me read less, which in turn put me further behind. I got caught in that vicious circle and went from reading 3 to 4 books a week to 3 to 4 books a month. I wasn’t getting pressure from publishers or authors who sent review copies that I requested, but I was still overflowing with guilt that they spent the money to send me the review copies and I hadn’t read them yet. So, this year I’m not going to be requesting or taking on any more review books unless they are REALLY books I want to read. And even then I may just wait until the release date and buy the book myself. This isn’t an easy decision, because I LOVE shiny new books, but it’s one that needed to be made. Once I get caught up on my review books I may change this, but for now, no review books for me.

Reading schedule vs mood
Part of the reason I go so behind on my review books is that reading on a schedule is kinda a new thing to me. And I found that when I had to read a certain book by a certain date it took some of the fun out of reading. It didn’t matter if I was scheduled to read an amazing book by one of my favorite authors, reading started to feel a bit like a chore to me. So this year I’m going to go back to how I used to read before I started blogging: based on my mood. Besides the delinquent review books I have a huge amount of bought books unread and I love the idea of perusing my TBR stacks and grabbing a book that appeals to me. Now, as for the 40 or so reviews I have here waiting to be read (yes, I said 40), I promise all you publishers and authors that I will get around to reviewing them. But I think this way of reading will not only help me read more, but it will help me be able to more fairly review the books that I have. If I force myself to read a book, no matter how great, I’m probably not going to like it.

Book buying freeze
My own unread bought books also stress me out sometimes. I’d say, including ebooks, I have about 500 of my own unread books in the house. I am not proud of this fact. Actually I’m embarrassed. It seems a bit wasteful and borderline hoarding. So my plan for this year is to not buy anymore books unless it’s part of a series I am in love with (Like Women of the Otherworld or Wolves of Mercy Falls) or by one of my favorite authors. No more buying books to buy books. Or because I’m bored. Or stressed.

Ignoring the hype
While Twitter is a great way to discover new books, it has its downfalls, too. Namely allowing me to get sucked in to the latest hype surrounding the newest must-have book. I tend to easily fall into the everyone-is- talking-about-it-so-I must-have-it mentality when it comes to books. And, unfortunately because of this, I’ve read a lot of mediocre books this past year. So my plan is to ignore the hyped-up books. I’ll still be on Twitter, of course, but I’m going to try to train my brain to filter out all the excitement about new releases.

I know some of the above kinda goes against the grain of what a book blogger is supposed to do, but I’ve never been one to fit a mold. Basically I’ll keep reading and reviewing books, but I’m going to go back to doing it my way. I think with these changes in place I’m going to find that I read and review a lot more and my posting is more consistent.

I’m kinda excited about this, guys.