Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guest Posting at The Unread Reader

Just a quick note: I've been invited to guest post today for Missie's When I'm Not Reading feature. So head on over to The Unread Reader and check out what I do when I'm not reading.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quick Recap of the Sarah Dessen Signing and Word on The Street

Last week was a busy week in terms of events that were being held in Toronto. On Wednesday, September 21, Sarah Dessen was in town to promote her novel What Happened to Goodbye. Since she’s one of my all-time favourite authors, I’d been hoping (after Jenny from Dreaming of Books told me in the summer that Sarah would be coming to T.O.) that Penguin Canada would schedule her on a day that I’d be able to see her.
Sarah, after I moved up to take a picture. Liz is in the left corner.
Luckily, Penguin Canada did; and so after class, I made my way over to Indigo Eaton Centre where there was already a huge line of people waiting to be seated. The seating space wasn’t large enough to hold everybody and so most of us (including me) ended up being stuck between the stacks and having to see Sarah from there. Still, we did get to meet her; and years from now, I’ll remember that experience much better than the fact that I wasn’t entirely happy with where I was standing.

Pic courtesy of Liz from Midnight Bloom Reads
Sarah arrived slightly after 7:00 PM, having been delayed because of a strike at Air Canada. She quickly read from What Happened to Goodbye and after, got a little bit of time to answer some questions.

Things I Remember Sarah Telling Us:
  • While Sarah doesn’t have a favourite book from the ones she has written because to her it almost feels like picking a favourite child, the novel she enjoyed writing the most was This Lullaby.
  • Someone Like You was inspired by the death of a popular guy from Sarah’s high school after he was killed in a motorcycle accident. It was the first time that she realized someone her age could die and it was shocking to her.
  • The mothers at Sarah’s daughter’s preschool have no idea that she is a writer! They only know that she works from home.
Sarah signing while I waited in lin
Then, it was time to get our books signed. Sarah was super nice, and after noticing that I was also holding a social psychology textbook, she told me that she used to carry a textbook around everywhere too when she was in college.

Anyway, a big thanks to Sarah for making two stops in Toronto and to Penguin Canada for bringing her here. Thanks also to Indigo Eaton Centre for hosting Sarah. 

For a full recap of Sarah Dessen's stop at Indigo Eaton Centre, check out Liz's post here.  


Then on Sunday, September 25, I went to Word on The Street for the first time. On my way over to Queen’s Park, I was actually able to ride the TTC’s new subway trains and liked them so much better. They look new (duh!) and have more space, but I’m wondering how (especially short) people are going to stop themselves from bumping into each other without poles to hang onto.

At noon, I went to see Kenneth Oppel at the Scotiabank Giller Prize Bestseller’s Stage. He read from his latest book, This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, before answering questions from Matt Galloway, the host, and the audience.

Things I Remember Kenneth Telling Us:  
  • Kenneth’s favourite book to write was Half-Brother because it’s unlike any of his other novels.
  • As a child, his favourite book was Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. He now reads it to his children.
Peter Rabbit in front of the Penguin Canada booth
Kelley signing books
After that, I wandered around for a bit and then at 2:15, I went to The Remarkable Reads Tent to see Kelley Armstrong. While waiting for Kelley, I met Ashley from Book Labyrinth and her mom and we chatted for a bit. Soon enough, Kelley arrived and read from The Gathering. Then we had some time to ask her questions and for her to ask us some questions. Those who answered Kelley correctly were able to get prizes like Derek, Tori and Chloe mugs, ARCs of The Calling, etc. that she had brought along with her.

Things I Remember Kelley Telling Us: 
  • Kelley doesn’t usually put pets in her novels because she tends to forget about them. For example, they get locked into garages and then conveniently appear in scenes when they’re needed.
  • She wrote her YA books when her daughter was a teenager so that her daughter had something to read. Now that Kelley’s and Melissa Marr’s sons are both in middle grade, they’re collaborating on an MG series based on Norse mythology. I'm already excited about that series! 
Kelley then signed books, and everyone who came to see her got cupcakes that were decorated based on The Gathering. 
Alyxandra Harvey on a panel with Lesley Anne Cowan, Teresa Toten and Heather J. Wood
The very crowded HarperCollins Canada booth
From there, Ashley, her mom, and I managed to catch a bit of what Alyxandra Harvey said. I heard something about ghosts and friends not wanting to visit her house. 

I went to HarperCollins Canada’s booth after getting Alyxandra to sign my copy of Haunting Violet and though it was still pretty crowded, I managed to find and buy Arthur Slade’s Empire of Ruins.  
Catherine Austen talking about reading and writing dystopians
Lesley and Robert signing their books
I got back to the This Is Not The Shakespeare Stage in time to hear a bit from Catherine Austen about her novel All Good Children before Robert Sawyer and Lesley Livingston went on stage for their chat about fantasy and sci-fi. After Robert read from his newest book, Wonder, and Lesley read from Once Every Never, they told us that the main difference between fantasy and sci-fi is that fantasy attempts to make the implausible sound possible whereas sci-fi tries to make what might be possible work according to the laws of physics. Robert also told us that rather than subscribing to the two theories about time-travel, he chooses to believe that changing time creates a parallel reality (I think!) whereas Lesley hasn’t fully decided which theory she supports. Clare, her character who can travel through time by touching certain artifacts, doesn’t care much about how her actions will change time, but it seems that at the end of Once Every Never, something might have been altered.

After getting Lesley to sign my copy of Once Every Never, I went home, tired but happy about getting to see so many Canadian authors in one day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The winner of my Blogoversary Giveaway #1 is Zoe from The Rain House. She has already responded and chosen to get copies of Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber and Bloodlines by Richelle Mead. Congratulations, Zoe!
The winner of my Blogoversary Giveaway #2 is Emilie from Emilie's Book World. She actually guessed all of the book covers correctly and has already responded that she'd like to get a copy of The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. Congratulations, Emilie! 
Also, for those who were curious,  here are the answers to the book covers:
1) Die For Me by Amy Plum
2) Possess by Gretchen McNeil
3) Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
4) Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
5) Frost by Marianna Baer
6) Kiss Crush Collide by Christina Meredith
7) Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs
8) Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver
9) Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay
10) The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
11) Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik
12) The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

From Goodreads: When her boyfriend, Danny, is killed in a car accident, Wren can’t imagine living without him. Wild with grief, she uses the untamed powers she’s inherited to bring him back. But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy she once loved. Wren has spent four months keeping Danny hidden, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school and somehow, inexplicably, he can sense her secret. Wren finds herself drawn to Gabriel, who is so much more alive than the ghost of the boy she loved. But Wren can’t turn her back on Danny or the choice she made for him - and she realizes she must find a way to make things right, even if it means breaking her own heart. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey is a standalone book that I thought was on the lighter side of paranormal. If it wasn’t for the fact that Garvey made Wren a witch who uses her powers to bring her boyfriend back from the dead, Cold Kiss might have been a contemporary novel about a girl dealing with issues like love and grief. 

Wren, the protagonist, is a character whose actions are easy to understand. When Danny dies, she chooses to resurrect him, only thinking of how much she misses him and how good it would be to have him back. I liked that when Wren slowly realizes that the Danny she brings back isn’t the same, she is willing to accept her mistake and figure out how to let Danny go once and for all.

While I liked the (living) Danny that I read about from Wren’s flashbacks, I thought Danny the zombie was relatively boring. He was really clingy in the first part of the book, and in the second part, whenever he appeared to have trouble controlling his temper, Wren would make him fall asleep.

Of course there’s a love triangle because our living narrator needs a guy who is alive to be interested in her too. That role goes to Gabriel, someone I would have liked better had he no abilities of his own. To me, it felt like he was only present in Cold Kiss so that Wren had somebody to lean on since she refused to tell her mother what she did or ask for her help. Speaking of Wren’s mother, she barely pried into Wren’s business even though Wren was sneaking out at night and looked like she was falling apart. 

Cold Kiss was released by HarperTeen on September 20, 2011. 

Comments About the Cover: With the focus on the lips and the use of colours that remind me of winter and its chill, I think the picture on the cover represents the title pretty well. 

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via NetGalley. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Dearly, Departed

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 

Title: Dearly, Departed
Author: Lia Habel
Publisher: Del Ray Books
Date of Release: October 18, 2011 

Goodreads Description: The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria - a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune, and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible - until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses. But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead - and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble ... and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

Why am I waiting? When I hear about novels involving zombies, my usual reaction is meh. But I've pretty much been waiting a year for Dearly, Departed to come out and the wait is almost over! Dearly, Departed seems like it'll be full of adventure, and it has elements of steampunk - a genre I'm hoping more YA authors will venture into. I'm also curious to see whether Habel can make me forget that Bram is dead and root for the romance between him and Nora.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

From Goodreads: Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king - a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he’s not the only one who needs her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: One of the first YA series I ever read and promptly fell in love with was Tamora Pierce’s The Song of the Lioness. Along with Harry Potter, it instilled in me a lifelong love for fantasy; and so even though I don’t read as much of the genre these days as I should, I still try to squeeze in a fantasy now and then. Therefore, when I saw a blurb from Pierce at the top of the cover of Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns, it was pretty much a sure bet that I’d be reading it with huge expectations. Fortunately, Carson doesn’t disappoint.

The world building in The Girl of Fire and Thorns is fantastic, and presented carefully in a rich and detailed manner throughout the story so as to not overwhelm the reader. What’s even better about Carson’s fantasy world is that the society appears diverse and isn’t composed primarily of White characters. Also, I applaud Carson for the way she made religion play such an integral part of the storyline and the culture without it becoming uncomfortable or bothersome.

As well, it was refreshing that the focus in The Girl of Fire and Thorns wasn’t on romance. I appreciate a good romance, but sometimes it’s nice to have a story where I’m not forced to be a Team Something or read about an instant love relationship. While there is some romance, the focus is rather on Elisa and her transformation from a pampered (but not spoiled) princess who has reservations about herself and gorges on food – oh, the food! – in order to make herself feel better to that of a girl who is confident in herself and capable of becoming a worthy leader.

With the spotlight on Elisa though, I felt like I only got to know most of the other characters superficially and so couldn’t really miss those who died. Since The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the first book in a planned trilogy however, there’s still time for Carson to make me fall in love with the characters I’m starting to like.

A book deserving of Pierce’s blurb, The Girl of Fire and Thorns will be released by Greenwillow Books on September 20, 2011. 

Comments About the Cover: The original ARC cover is pretty, but the model in no way resembles Elisa who isn’t thin and describes herself as “brown.” 

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via NetGalley. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: The Shattering by Karen Healey

From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Keri likes to plan for every possibility. She knows what to do if you break an arm, or get caught in an earthquake or fire. But she wasn't prepared for her brother's suicide, and his death has left her shattered with grief. When her childhood friend Janna tells her it was murder, not suicide, Keri wants to believe her. After all, Janna's brother died under similar circumstances years ago, and Janna insists a visiting tourist, Sione, who also lost a brother to apparent suicide that year, has helped her find some answers. As the three dig deeper, disturbing facts begin to pile up: one boy killed every year; all older brothers; all had spent New Year's Eve in the idyllic town of Summerton. But when their search for the serial killer takes an unexpected turn, suspicion is cast on those they trust the most. As secrets shatter around them, can they save the next victim? Or will they become victims themselves?

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Shattering by Karen Healey is an interesting blend of mystery and paranormal, which I wasn’t expecting. I requested it thinking that there would be a murder mystery to solve, but halfway through the book, the story entered into the realm of paranormal. Unfortunately, that’s when the plot became less compelling; and in the end, my initial hunch about Jake’s death proved to be correct.

There were some positives about The Shattering though. It is the first book I’ve ever read that is set in New Zealand and Healey manages to successfully convey the country’s beauty. As well, the group of characters in The Shattering is diverse and they’re created well enough so that they won’t become reduced to stereotypic labels like “the rich kid.” The alternating perspectives from Keri, Janna and Sione also allow the reader to understand each character better and know what is going on when they aren’t together.

The Shattering was released by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on September 5, 2011.

Comments About the Cover: I didn’t realize initially that the purple in the background made a face, but once I did, the cover just became oddly creepy to me. 

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) for free via NetGalley.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Guest Posting at A Tapestry of Words

Just a quick note: I've been invited to guest post today for Danya's month long Psychtember event. So head on over to A Tapestry of Words and check out my thoughts on OCD and how I think it is portrayed in Terry Spencer Hesser's Kissing Doorknobs.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Review: Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst

From Goodreads: Pearl is a sixteen-year-old vampire ...  fond of blood, allergic to sunlight, and mostly evil ... until the night a sparkly unicorn stabs her through the heart with his horn. Oops. Her family thinks she was attacked by a vampire hunter (because, obviously, unicorns don't exist), and they're shocked she survived. They're even more shocked when Pearl discovers she can now withstand the sun. But they quickly find a way to make use of her new talent. The Vampire King of New England has chosen Pearl's family to host his feast. If Pearl enrolls in high school, she can make lots of human friends and lure them to the King's feast - as the entrees. The only problem? Pearl's starting to feel the twinges of a conscience. How can she serve up her new friends - especially the cute guy who makes her fangs ache - to be slaughtered? Then again, she's definitely dead if she lets down her family. What's a sunlight-loving vamp to do?

My Rating: 4 hearts  

Thoughts on the Novel: What happens when a heartless teenage vampire girl gets stabbed by a unicorn and ends up developing a conscience? Well, you get Sarah Beth Durst’s Drink, Slay, Love: a book with a fun plot and one that manages to be original despite revolving around the theme of vampires.

The main character, Pearl, is snarky and perfectly capable of kicking anyone’s butt, human or vampire. Looking at things through her perspective was really interesting and entertaining. For example, on her first day of school, Pearl tells her teacher that she’s not afraid to speak up in class because she’s superior to him. Her change from viewing her classmates as potential prey to friends was gradual and believable.

The other characters in Drink, Slay, Love were also enjoyable. Evan’s hero complex was sweet and even though I guessed his mysterious secret early on, it was still fun waiting for Pearl to try and figure it out. Matt and Zeke were amusing every time they showed up, and the popular girls in Drink, Slay, Love turned out to be as human as everyone else, which I really liked. As for Pearl’s family, in spite of how violent they were – hey, they are vampires! – there were incidents when they made me laugh too. Cousin Antoinette, for instance, teaches Pearl about school using Molly Ringwald movies as examples.

The thing that I found really great about Drink, Slay, Love was the way Durst set up all the different relationships. Pearl’s eventual romance with one of her classmates took time to develop and began only once the two got to know each other sufficiently well. Likewise, there were people Pearl hung out with at school that she doesn’t consider friends until much later. In real life, you can click with some people right away but establishing an actual friendship takes time and effort.

There is also a nice contrast between Pearl’s biological family and Evan’s adopted family. Just because you’re born into a family doesn’t mean that being around those people is healthy, and sometimes you need to move away or create a new family in order to get the freedom to be able to make your own choices.

A novel that’s guaranteed to make you giggle, but one that still has some serious undertones, Drink, Slay, Love will be released on September 13, 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry Books.  

Comments About the Cover: I love the cover! It clearly shows off that it’s about vampires but does so in a fantastically creative and cute way. The cover is a little misleading however because the vampires in Drink, Slay, Love don’t like drinking blood out of bottles or bags. 

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster) for free via Galley Grab.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Faerie Ring

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 

Title: The Faerie Ring
Author: Kiki Hamilton
Publisher: Tor Teen
Date of Release: September 27, 2011 

Goodreads Description: The year is 1871, and Tiki has been making a home for herself and her family of orphans in a deserted hideaway adjoining Charing Cross Station in central London. Their only means of survival is by picking pockets. One December night, Tiki steals a ring, and sets off a chain of events that could lead to all-out war with the Fey. For the ring belongs to Queen Victoria, and it binds the rulers of England and the realm of Faerie to peace. With the ring missing, a rebel group of faeries hopes to break the treaty with dark magic and blood - Tiki’s blood. Unbeknownst to Tiki, she is being watched - and protected - by Rieker, a fellow thief who suspects she is involved in the disappearance of the ring. Rieker has secrets of his own, and Tiki is not all that she appears to be. Her very existence haunts Prince Leopold, the Queen’s son, who is driven to know more about the mysterious mark that encircles her wrist. Prince, pauper, and thief - all must work together to secure the treaty ...

Why am I waiting? I love the Victorian era, and because I still haven't read many books about faeries, I'm really glad that this one offers both. Plus, when you have thieves involved, you know there's bound to be danger and adventure.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Review: Witch Song by Amber Argyle

From Goodreads: The world is changing. Once, Witch Song controlled everything from the winds to the shifting of the seasons - but not anymore. All the Witches are gone, taken captive by a traitor. All but Brusenna. As the echo of their songs fade, the traitor grows stronger. Now she is coming for Brusenna. Her guardian has sworn to protect her, but even he can't stop the Dark Witch. Somehow, Brusenna has to succeed where every other Witch has failed. Find the traitor. Fight her. Defeat her. Because if Brusenna doesn't, there won't be anything left to save. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Amber Argyle’s debut novel, Witch Song, is a story that I found myself easily becoming engrossed with in the midst of a reading slump. The plot was pretty solid and I thought the concept of witches using their voice through songs to control nature rather than something like wands to be quite unique. As well, with her descriptive writing, Argyle made the setting and characters really easy to visualize.

In the beginning of Witch Song, Brusenna (aka Senna) hardly knows much about her heritage because her mother is intent on keeping Senna safe and hidden from the Dark Witch. After her mother leaves to fight the Dark Witch though, Senna decides that she is done with being scared. Over time, she learns to trust others, discovers what it means to be a Witch and develops leadership qualities. While I liked Senna for the most part, I found her actions to be puzzling at times. For example, I could understand her unwillingness to let anybody close since everyone she loves tends to (involuntarily) leave her, but that is a risk I would take were I in her place if it meant help on my quest.

My favourite character in Witch Song was Joshen, Senna’s Guardian. He was brave, protective and extremely loyal, choosing to stay close to Haven even after Senna forced him to leave. It was nice to see that their romance developed slowly and wasn’t based on instant love.

My only real criticism against Witch Song was that the big duel between Senna and the Dark Witch was sort of anti-climatic. Also, the true villain in the story appeared a little too late for my liking and seemed crazy instead of scary.

A lighter fantasy, Witch Song was released on September 1, 2011 by Rhemalda Publishing.

Comments About the Cover: The cover is very pretty and to me, it kind of gives off this medieval vibe which I really like. 

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Rhemalda Publishing) for free.