Tag Archives: review

A Line in the Dark — Malinda Lo

11 Jan

 

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Released: October 17th, 2017
Genre: YA, psychological thriller
Source: ARC from publisher

 

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

“It doesn’t even matter that she probably doesn’t understand how much she means to me. It’s purer this way. She can take whatever she wants from me, whenever she wants it, because I’m her best friend.”

From Goodreads

Okay, so I’ve been struggling for MONTHS with how to review this book. Not because I’m not sure how I feel about it (I really enjoyed it) but because I really don’t want to give anything away. So this will be a short review.

I LOVE Lo’s writing. She really gets to the heart of her characters and their motivation without dumping a lot of info on the reader. And she weaves such wonderful stories that her books are really hard to put down. I mean, as I write this review I’ve added A Line in the Dark to the top of my to reread pile.

YA contemp is one of my favourite genres, and I love when it leans towards psychological thriller. The plot was tight and really kept me wanting to turn the page. And the ending wasn’t cliche or typical.

I think anyone who likes books with a bit of edge and twists should give this a try. And fans of YA contemp are going to love it.

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Cauchemar — Alexandra Grigorescu — Blog Tour

7 Mar

cauchemar blog tourPublisher: ECW Press
Released: March 17th, 2015
Genre: Southern gothic mystery
Source: paperback review copy from publisher

Gripping, fast-paced, gorgeously written, and with unforgettable characters, Cauchemar tells the story of 20-year-old Hannah, who finds herself living alone on the edge of a Louisianan swamp after her adopted mother and protector dies. Hannah falls in love with Callum, an easy-going boat captain and part-time musician, but after her mysterious birth mother, outcast as a witch and rumoured to commune with the dead, comes back into Hannah’s life, she must confront what she’s been hiding from — the deadly spirits that haunt the swamp, the dark secrets of her past, and the nascent gift she possesses.

Like the nightmares that plague Hannah, Cauchemar lingers and haunts.

From Goodreads

 

While there were elements of Cauchemar that I really, really loved, there were other things that just didn’t do it for me. But here’s the thing: the things I had issues with actually added to the layering of the story and the unbalanced feeling from what was going on, so it didn’t take away from the story and my enjoyment, but actually added to it. Weird huh?

Here, let me try to explain. The two things that I had issues with were the pacing and progression of Hannah and Callum’s relationship. They met and things moved quite quickly. A lot of their earlier interaction left me feeling confused, like I was trying to catch up to what was happening. But this wasn’t a bad thing, nope. This is such an eery and creepy and scary story that my discomfort with how their relationship developed added a layer to my “What the hell is going on?” mentality that I maintained for a large part of the book. Which is also good, since the mystery of what is happening to Hannah is one of the core plot points.

Grigorescu’s descriptions of the swamp where Hannah lives made me feel like I was there. Not that I would want to be. Because there’s some pretty weird crap happening. And I loved that it wasn’t always clear if the mystical things were good or bad. For example, Hannah’s mom. You get the feeling she’s an evil witch (literally) but then at other times the author makes you wonder if maybe she’s actually good and trying to help Hannah.

This was definitely a different read than my normal fare, but I enjoyed it. The tone was perfect for a gothic novel and I think I’ll be delving into the genre some more.

The Art of Asking — Amanda Palmer

13 Jan

Art of askingPublisher: Grand Central Publishing
Released: November 11th, 2014
Genre:Non-fiction, self-help, memoir
Source: Audio book purchased

 

 

 

Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world’s most successful music Kickstarter.

Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for-as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn’t alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of THE ART OF ASKING.

Part manifesto, part revelation, this is the story of an artist struggling with the new rules of exchange in the twenty-first century, both on and off the Internet. THE ART OF ASKING will inspire readers to rethink their own ideas about asking, giving, art, and love.

From Goodreads

 

Gah, I’m not even sure how to review this book. My love for it, and for Amanda Palmer, is so strong and so big that it’s really super hard to put into words. I know this book and its message will stick with me through life and help guide me. Yes, it sounds a bit cheesy and over the top, but that’s how much The Art of Asking resonated with me. And for this point in my life it was the exact book I needed.

I listed this as self-help, memoir, but those categories don’t 100% fit the book. It was more like sitting in a pub with Amanda and just having a chat with her about everything: her life, life in general, art, crowdfunding, love. These are all things that she weaves into the general topic of being open and asking for help when you need it. And she talks about art, and how as artists, as creative people, we have to accept that what we do has value, something that I know a lot of creative people struggle with. That whole “How the hell can I ask for money for my picture/jewellery/book/play/song etc.?” thing.

The telling isn’t really linear. She bounces back and force to different points in her life. But instead of feeling disconnected and confusing it works and it was really easy to follow the different threads.

This book was beyond uplifting and enlightening for me. It really felt like being enveloped in a big hug and being told “It’s okay, you matter, your art and your work matter, your LIFE matters.” I had several moments where I was so overcome with emotion that I had to stop listening for a bit.

Since this is an audiobook I have to talk a bit about the narrator. Amanda narrates the book herself, which is PERFECT. Her voice is soothing and her narration really added to the feeling of intimacy. She also interspersed the book with various songs, most by her and The Dresden Dolls. I didn’t really know Amanda’s music that much but in the last few days I have been listening to pretty much nothing else.

I love that she included music in the audiobook, songs that fit in with what she was talking about. I was listening to it in my car when one of the songs came on. “In My Mind” felt like a hit to my core. I actually had to pull the car over once I realized I was crying my eyes out. I’m an emotional person anyway and feel strong connections to certain songs, but holy shit this one. It was like Amanda looked into my head and my heart and wrote the song that I needed to hear right now, at this moment in my life.

And that’s kind of what the whole book felt like. Like it was exactly what I needed right now. But I have a feeling that if I were to go back and listen to it again in a year, five years, ten years, I may get something different from it, but it will still be exactly what I need.

My husband also listened to and loved The Art of Asking. He’s started drawing again and we’re starting up a business to sell the amazing chainmaille jewellery that he makes. All because of Amanda and her words.

If I could buy every single creative person this book, I would.

 

Re-review & Giveaway – Arranged -Catherine McKenzie

15 May


Publisher:
William Morrow Paperbacks (HarperCollins)
Released: May 15th, 2012 (U.S. release)
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 website.

First of all, I need to say a big HAPPY U.S. BOOK BIRTHDAY!!!!! to Catherine and Arranged. I was part of the Canadian launch and I am all giggly and smiley that I get to be a part of her U.S. launch, too. If you’ve been to my blog before, then you know how much I ADORE Catherine’s books and Catherine herself. And you know how much I like to stalk, er, promote my fave authors.

As you can tell from the post title, this is a re-review. And I’m happy to say I was as taken with Arranged as I was the first time I read it.  Reading it for the second time, one thing became very clear to me: Catherine is a master of quick, snappy dialogue. And not overly clever, sappy dialogue either. No, the dialogue in Arranged, to me, rang very true. It had that quick back and forth banter that I love. And she’s not afraid to drop the F bomb. At all. And as someone who could make a sailor blush, I appreciated that.

I like how Catherine really digs into the issue of looks and attraction, and how it isn’t always the best thing in the world when it comes to relationships. Since about grade 4 I kinda had a type, a weakness for redheads. In fact, my type was so particular that in university, when I brought home a boy I was dating, my parents sat me down afterwards and held an intervention because he looked so much like my ex, they thought at first we had gotten back together. When I met my husband, we corresponded on line first for about a week before we exchanged pictures. At that point we had hit it off so much, that when I found out he was pretty much bald, I didn’t give a hoot. If we had met in a bar or supermarket first would I have taken notice of him? Hard to say. I think that a lot of us are so attached to our type that we miss a lot of great opportunities with other, just like Anne.

I once again sat down to read Arranged and didn’t stop until I was finished. And I was a bit of a sobby mess at the ending, once again. Actually I found myself tearing up a few times. This says a lot about the book, the writing and the emotional attachment that I still felt on second read.

Oh, and a bit of a spoiler, but not a huge one: there’s a Gilmore Girls reference in Arranged. You have no idea how happy this made my heart. My other obsession, besides books, is The Gilmore Girls. And the episode Catherine mentions (season 4 finale) is one of my FAVES. 🙂

So, yeah, I still stand behind my original judgement that this is one kick-ass chit-lit book. If you’ve read either of Catherine’s other books, or are a fan of the genre, I can’t see how you wouldn’t love Arranged. And if you are curious about chick-lit, this book is a great place to start.

GIVEAWAY!

So, I have a copy of Arranged to give away to one lucky US winner, courtesy of HarperCollins in the U.S.. AND, since I’m a Canuck and I love all my Canadian readers, I’m going to be giving one lucky Canadian reader a copy (ordered from book depository). I like to keep things simple, so to enter all you have to do is comment below and tell me either your favorite Gilmore Girls episode or moment, your favorite rom-com moment or if you have a “type” when it comes to dating. Also mention in your comment of you are from the U.S. or Canada. The contest will close May 22nd, 11:59EST.

Alison Dare’s Double Dare Blog Tour

15 Jun

I was so happy when I got the chance to not only read the wickedly amazing Alison Dare graphic novels by the equally wickedly amazing  J. Torres and J. Bones, but also to have a bit of fun creating my own Alison Dare mini adventure as part of the Alison Dare Double Dare blog tour.

My thoughts:

Okay, first of all, how cool is Alison Dare? The daughter of an archeologist mom and librarian/crime fighting superhero dad, Alison always has lots of adventures. And, of course, plenty of chance for misadventure. Both of these graphic novels, Alison Dare, Little Miss Adventures and Alison Dare, The Heart of the Maiden were so much fun! Seriously. The art work was super, the story lines outstanding and quite often I found myself laughing out loud at Alison’s antics and some of the supporting cast of characters.  The novels had an old school 1940s-1950s radio serial feel to them. Kinda like Batman meets Indiana Jones meets the Mummy. Just super cool.

The adventure: The Case of the Pharaoh’s Cat

Never one to shy away from trouble or adventure, Alison Dare recently went on a brave rescue mission. On location with her mom, Alison stumbled upon a nefarious plan by Vlad the evil mastermind to steal the Pharaoh’s precious kitty cat. With her father tied up elsewhere and her mother busy with the dig, it was left up to Alison to save the day!

"You'll never be able to fight your way to the Pharaoh's kitty cat, Alison! Not if I can help it!"

Harvey, the giant gargoyle was scary, but using her wit and some luck, Alison was able to defeat him with a quick game of "Hey, what's that behind you?".

The next hurdle was the giant grackle gang. This may very well be the toughest opponent Alison has ever come up against! Well, besides brussels sprouts and her math homework.

The head grackle was tough, but no match for Alison. After feeding him some cat food and strawberries, he went right to sleep, leaving the way to the Pharaoh's kitty cat wide open.

The Pharoah's kitty cat was rescued and returned to its proper place. And once again Alison Dare saves the day!

The contest:

The folks over at Tundra books are hosting a super fun contest to win some Alison Dare swag. Just pop on over, print out one or both of the Alison Dare photos and have some fun. I know I did.

Thanks so much to the folks over at Tundra books for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and for the review copies.