Friday, 29 July 2011

Book Review(s): Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Enclave, and The Good Earth

So unfortunately I have been so busy with work and spending time with friends this past week that I have fallen slightly behind in the writing of my book reviews! During that period of time I have started and finished reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Enclave, and The Good Earth. In order to catch myself up, therefore, I am going to cheat a little bit this one time, and combine these three books into one posting. For each book I will briefly state my thoughts and provide a rating, although I won't go into as much detail as I normally do. Hopefully I won't turn this into a habit of mine!

John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil has been heralded as a "lyrical work of nonfiction," and the book's extremely graceful prose depictions of some of Savannah, Georgia's most colorful eccentrics--remarkable characters who could have once prospered in a William Faulkner novel or Eudora Welty short story--were certainly a critical factor in its tremendous success. (One resident into whose orbit Berendt fell, the Lady Chablis, went on to become a minor celebrity in her own right.) But equally important was Berendt's depiction of Savannah socialite Jim Williams as he stands trial for the murder of Danny Hansford, a moody, violence-prone hustler--and sometime companion to Williams--characterized by locals as a "walking streak of sex." So feel free to call it a "true crime classic" without a trace of shame.

John Berendt's book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a work of non-fiction which will suck you in as greatly as any great fiction would do! Berendt's prose was like music to my ears, and seemlessly develops a strong connection between the readers and the slew of characters which he presents (although characters isn't really the best word to use considering they are real people).  Indeed the characters in Berendt's book were probably one of my favourite things about Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. From the stardom of Chablis  (a cross dressing diva), to the scamming genious of Joe Odem, and Minerva the witch doctor, I often found it difficult to believe that any of these personalities were actually real people! Despite my love of Berendt's writing style, I did however find some parts of the book to be slightly slow and on the less exciting side, but nevertheless it is an interesting read, especially for those who are interested in crime or mystery novels!

Rating: 3.5 Stars

In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember. 

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning. 

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth...

I am a huge fan of dystopian novels, so when I first heard about Enclave I was eager to give it a try. While it started out fairly slow, I eventually became engrossed in the plot the further that I read on. Deuce's cluelessness and naivity was annoying at times, but then again the heroines of most YA novels are. Neverthless I will most likely be reading the books to come in this series as the author did such a good job of setting up the background plot, and I am interested to see where the plotline will go next.  Once you get past the first few chapters and Deuce's narration this novel is actually pretty likeable! 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Wang Lung, rising from humble Chinese farmer to wealthy landowner, gloried in the soil he worked. He held it above his family, even above his gods. But soon, between Wang Lung and the kindly soil that sustained him, came flood and drought, pestilence and revolution....

Through this one Chinese peasant and his children, Nobel Prize-winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life, its terrors, its passion, its persistent ambitions and its rewards. Her brilliant novel— beloved by millions of readers throughout the world— is a universal tale of the destiny of men.

I remember watching the film version of The Good Earth back when I was about 14 or 15, and when I came across a copy of the novel at a used bookstore last September, I couldn't help but pick up a copy. After sitting on my bookshelf for almost a year, I finally decided to pick it up and give this Pullitzer prize winner a try! The Good Earth is beautifully written, but super depressing! Nevertheless, the story of this family's rise to riches kept me reading despite its deep sadness and power hungry characters. Although this book ultimately made me angry and frustrated there is no denying its greatness as a story. My overwhelming emotions surrounding Wang Lung's decisions prove how deeply committed I became to the characters. While the ending left me emotionally drained, The Good Earth is a powerful novel which is definitely worth a read! 

Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Frost

After the drama of discovering that she’s a member of the Storks, a mystical order of women endowed with powerful abilities, Katla Leblanc is finally settling into her life in chilly Minnesota. In fact, the ex-California girl even hopes for a white Christmas. But Katla’s wintry wish unexpectedly turns into the snowstorm of the century, drawing the attention of Brigid, a gorgeous environmental researcher with an amazing array of fur coats and an unusual interest in Katla’s boyfriend, Jack. 

After reading and loving Wendy Delsol's first novel, Stork, I am eagerly anticipating its sequel, Frost, which is set to be published on October 11, 2011! I'm looking foward to seeing what is in store for Katla as a member of the Storks, and if any other characters with mythical powers will emerge in their small town! I think the cover is gorgeous and I hope the publisher's decide to keep it as it matches the first book in the series so well! 

Monday, 25 July 2011

I got to meet Tony Kushner!!!

So for those of you who read my In My Mailbox posting for this week, you will already be aware that this past Saturday I had the extreme honour of meeting the fabulous Tony Kushner! Tony Kushner is an award winning playwright best known for his work Angels in America, for which he won the Pullitzer Prize. In fact, Angels in America was adapted into a HBO tv mini-series starring Al Pacino, Emma Thompson and Meryl Streep back in 2003. Not only has Kushner won the Pullitzer, but he was also nominated for an Oscar in 2005 for co-writing the script for the movie Munich.

Luckily for me, my work was holding a theatre conference over the weekend entitled Speed of Ideas, in which Mr. Kushner was the opening speaker. I was so excited to find out that I would get to attend the book signing portion of the event in order to sell copies of his scripts to those attending! Although I had never read any of his scripts leading up to the day, I knew of his awards and works, so I was nonetheless eager for the chance to meet him.

When I first arrived at the theatre where he was speaking I had some pre-concieved notions of what I thought Mr. Kushner would be like. I pictured this Pullitzer prize winning writer to be stiff and arrogent...but boy was I wrong! Tony Kushner is probably one of the most warm-hearted and sincere authors I have ever met! Despite the fact that he was on a strict time constraint (as he had to catch a flight to go meet up with cool is that!?), Tony Kushner made sure that he gave his undivided attention to each and every person who waited in line to meet him!

Rather than sitting formally behind a table, he stood up in the middle of the lobby and greeted each person with a friendly handshake while asking their name. He then proceeded to have a full out conversation for about five minutes with every single person that he met! Rather than talking about himself, he engaged everyone in line, inquiring about where they were from, what they did for a living, and their plans for the future. At one point, he even purchased one of his own plays to give to someone he had met in line who had not brought a book of her own so that he could personalize it for her! I was in complete awe for the entire hour I sat by him!

After he had finally gotten through the line of people waiting to meet him, Mr. Kushner then turned to my friend Greg and I and began to introduce himself! While he signed Greg's copy of Angels in America, and my copy of Homebody/Kabul (which I had resisted in buying all day but couldn't help after seeing how wonderful he was!), he then asked us about what we were studying in school, and what we wanted to do with our degrees once we had finished our Masters. Although I knew he was in a hurry to catch his plane on time, I never once got the sense that he was annoyed with us taking up his time which is something that I will always admire about him!

So pretty much I am now a huge Tony Kushner fan (despite not having read his works), solely because he seems like such a wonderful person! I'm sure like everyone else he has his bad days, but he definitely made my Saturday at work one to remember! The first chance I get I will be cracking open my copy of Homebody/Kabul to see if he is as a great a writer as he is a conversationalist!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

In My Mailbox

So my week started out amazingly and ended with a bang! On Monday I came home from a rough day at work to discover that I had recieved a letter in the mail! The letter was from my old high school friend Chelsey at ChellyBooks, who had sent me some bookmarks from a recent guest lecture at her college (including one from the Iron Queen!). I was super excited considering its not often that I recieve something in the mail... let alone a bookmark!

On Wednesday I picked up a copy of Enclave and Firelight from the library. I've been dying to read both of these books for quite some time, but could never justify spending the money on them (I need to save for rent now!). Luckily for me my amazing local library had a copy of them both when I was doing a quick browse of the shelves. I'm about halfway done Enclave right now and loving it, and I can't wait to start Firelight as I've read so many good reviews of it!

As I mentioned previously, my weekend ended with a bang when I went into work on Saturday to the great suprise that I had been scheduled to sell merchandise at the Tony Kushner lecture being held! While I didn't get to attend the lecture itself, I managed to purchase a copy of his play Homebody/Kabul and get it signed! I'll be providing a more detailed post of that event hopefully sometime tomorrow.... So overall this was a pretty exciting week for me in terms of picking up books! I can't wait to see what my mailbox will bring next week!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Book Review: Stork

Family secrets. Lost memories. And the arrival of an ancient magical ability that will reveal everything.

Sixteen-year-old Katla LeBlanc has just moved from Los Angeles to Minnesota. As if it weren’t enough that her trendy fashion sense draws stares, Katla soon finds out that she’s a Stork, a member of a mysterious order of women tasked with a very unique duty. But Katla’s biggest challenge may be finding her flock at a new school. Between being ignored by Wade, the arrogant jock she stupidly fooled around with, and constantly arguing with gorgeous farm boy and editor-in-chief Jack, Katla is relieved when her assignment as the school paper’s fashion columnist brings with it some much-needed friendship. But as Homecoming approaches, Katla uncovers a shocking secret about her past — a secret that binds her fate to Jack’s in a way neither could have ever anticipated. With a nod to Hans Christian Andersen and inspired by Norse lore, Wendy Delsol’s debut novel introduces a hip and witty heroine who finds herself tail-feathers deep in small-town life.

When it comes to YA novels that adapt myths or fairytales I often find myself disappointed by their predictability and lack of originality. Wendy Delsol's novel Stork, however, captured my attention from page one and kept me captivated until the very end! Perhaps it was because I am unfamiliar with a lot of Norse lore, but I found it difficult to forsee what was going to happen next throughout most of the novel. While yes, I think the romance in Stork was easy to predict, I was unable to figure out what the secret was that bound Katla and Jack together until it was actually revealed to me.

Another thing that I enjoyed about Stork was the characters themselves. Hulda, the leader of the Storks, was quirky and lovable, Jack was the perfect brooding gentleman, and Katla failed to annoy me (a triumph compared to many other YA heroines I have read in the past!). Wendy Delsol did a perfect job in making each character unique, and drawing out the reader's sympathies in order to more deeply invest them into the outcome of the plot.

While I enjoyed pretty much everything about Stork there was one thing that ultimately knocked the book down from a 5 star rating to a 4, and that was the climax of the overall story. After so much time spent in the development of Katla's powers and her connection to Jack, I suppose I was hoping for an ending that had a little more bang to it! Instead, the final battle seemed to end as suddenly as it began. Nevertheless, I will definitely be reading the sequel, Frost, which is set to be released in October of 2011!

Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Book Review: Insatiable

Sick of vampires? So is Meena Harper. 

But her boss is making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them. 

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die (not that you’re going to believe her; no one ever does). 

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side . . . a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire-hunters, would prefer to see him dead for. 

The problem is, he already is dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met that she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own. 

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare. 

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future . . . 

Ever since the most recent craze in vampire lore I have avoided vampire novels at all costs. Don't get me wrong...I myself went through a vampire faze when I was in grade 8 and 9 (about five years ago), but I have since become tired of the often repetitive plot lines and love stories surrounding these dark creatures of the night. As a lover of everything Meg Cabot, however, I decided to give her new vampire series a try after hearing many good things about Insatiable. The opening line of the synopsis above gave me some hope that Meg Cabot's take on vampire culture would give a fresh and new spin to this overdone genre. I was wrong.

Insatiable was just like almost every other vampire novel I have ever read. Girl meets mysterious guy....mysterious guy and girl fall in love....mysterious guy turns out to be a vampire....ect. While Meg Cabot does make her main heroine, Meena Harper (ring any bells? Mina = character from Dracula), express her dislike of everything that vampires stand for, she nevertheless gives in to the charms of the vampire prince, Lucien. 

Throughout the entire novel I was longing for Meena to eventually fall in love Aleric, a vampire hunter, instead, but I think that the "strong love connection" described about Meena and Lucien kind of seals the deal on their relationship status for the rest of the series. Nevertheless, I hold out hope that Lucien will be killed with a stake through his heart, and that Aleric will come to sweep the heartbroken Meena off her feet! This desire of mine is probably the one reason that I will continue to read this series ... because you never know when an author just might suprise you! 

Nevertheless, I will give Meg Cabot some credit in attempting to make a vampire novel that is different from all the other ones out there. While she might have failed in my opinion, I'm sure the thousands of people out there who are still reading and enjoying vampire stories will really enjoy Insatiable. While I was slightly disappointed by this book myself, I will admit that Meg Cabot's charms as a writer kept me from putting the book down and walking away altogether. There were moments in Insatiable that made me laugh out loud due to her sarcastic and witty prose, which is the reason that I usually love Meg Cabot's books so much. 

Overall, if you are a fan of vampire fiction then you will most defininetly love Insatiable. If you are like me, however, and are sick of hearing anything to do with these creatures of the night then I suggest you only give it a try if you are a fan of Meg Cabot's other works.

Rating: 3 Stars

Monday, 18 July 2011

Just A Little Luck...

Soo I'm a sucker when it comes to happy stories....especially happy stories involving two people falling in love! My cousin showed me this video today and it made me so giddy that I just had to share it with you! It's so touching...I got a little teary eyed at moments (yes I'm a big sap!), but its just too cute! The video is of a marriage proposal and it is probably one of the most creative ones I've seen yet! I've placed the Youtube version below but a better quality version is available here at Vimeo. Enjoy and have a happy Monday! :)

Where to Begin? : Opening Lines

Ever since I first learned how to hold a pencil I have loved writing stories. Over the years I have written everything from poetry to short stories, journal entries to essays, and have even won a few local writing contests! As I was thumbing through some of the twenty or so novels that I had started as a teen (and never finished) last night, I was struck with the realization that since starting university I haven't given myself time to do any real creative writing. While I always have ideas for stories floating around in my head, I've sadly been to overwhelmed with school and work to find the quiet time that I need to jot down my thoughts.

As a result I've made a new goal for myself to do some creative writing at least once a day for the rest of the summer! Whether its for 5 minutes or 2 hours, anything is better than nothing! The one thing that has always plagued me as a writer, however, is where to begin! I often find the opening line to a poem, story, or essay to be the most difficult part of the entire writing experience. I'll often spend hours agonizing over one sentence in an attempt to get it just right (I'm a bit of a perfectionist...), as the opening line can be crucial in setting the tone of everything which follows in its wake.

This got me to thinking about the opening lines to some of my favourite poems and books. I wonder, for instance, how long it took Jane Austen to pen the infamous opening to her novel Pride and Prejudice? And what about J.K. Rowling's bestseller Harry Potter? In appreciation and admiration of these great authors, I've included a list below (in no particular order) of some of my favourite opening lines, and those from other popular books. In  my search I stumbled upon a blog which actually dedicates itself to opening lines of novels, so if you are interested check out Novel Openings!

What do you guys think? Do you find the opening line the most difficult in your own writing? What are some of your favourite opening lines?

1. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

2. Call me Ishmael. Herman Melville, Moby Dick 

3. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca

4. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

5. Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies' eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde's Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde's door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.  L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

6. Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
7. I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

8. Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the riverbank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book', thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversation?' Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

9. Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

10. No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine. Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Austenland to be a Movie!?!?

So I am jumping up and down right now like giddy kid because moments ago I just found out that Shannon Hale's humourous novel, Austenland, is in the middle of being filmed for a movie right now! As in right this very second in England they are filming scenes from the book!! I can't believe that I didn't know about this sooner! The news was revealed to me through Shannon Hale's blog, which I guess I really need to start paying more attention to considering I didn't find out about this until today!

According to Ms. Hale, she has been working a movie script for a film version of Austenland with Jerusha Hess. The movie is going to be an indie film, but has nevertheless managed to snag such great actors as Keri Russel from Felicity to play Jane and J.J. Field  to play the dashing Mr. Nobley. As well, Jennifer Coolridge from A Cinderella Story and Legally Blonde will be playing the character of Miss Charming, which I thought was an absolutely perfect choice! I actually remember picturing her in that part when I was reading the book!

I am most excited, however, about the fact that the lovely Ms. Jane Seymour is playing the character of Mrs. Wattlesbrook, especially considering that (if I remember correctly) Shannon Hale made reference to the actress in the book itself! I grew up watching Jane Seymour on Dr. Quinn and miss her now that the show is long done (I need some more Jane Seymour in my life!!), so I am looking forward to seeing her on the silver screen again!

So basically, I cannot wait for 2012 to come now so that I can go check out Austenland on film! I really hope that they do this book justice since I enjoyed it so much, and focus on emphasizing the humour in this quirky love story. I'm picturing a Bridget Jones like adaptation, but we will see what actually happens!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Little Shadows

The Little Shadows revolves around three sisters in the world of vaudeville before and during the First World War. We follow the lives of all three in turn: Aurora, the eldest and most beautiful, who is sixteen when the book opens; thoughtful Clover, a year younger; and the youngest sister, joyous headstrong sprite Bella, who is thirteen. The girls, overseen by their fond but barely coping Mama, are forced to make their living as a singing act after the untimely death of their father. They begin with little besides youth and hope, but Marina Endicott’s genius is to show how the three girls slowly and steadily evolve into true artists even as they navigate their way to adulthood among a cast of extraordinary characters – some of them charming charlatans, some of them unpredictable eccentrics, and some of them just ordinary-seeming humans with magical gifts.

There are several reasons why I'm excited about the release of Marina Endicott's new novel The Little Shadows on September 27th, so I've decided to list them all for you one by one!
- I have a fascination with everything dealing with the world of vaudeville
- It is set during one of my favourite time periods...around World War 1
- Marina Endicott is a Canadian writer, and I have a deep appreciation for Canadian literature
- the plot just sounds fantastic!
But to tell you the truth the first thing that really caught my attention about this book was the cover. I love the old feel it is given through the colours and appearence as if it is made from old paper. I look forward to picking up a copy of this book, and really hope that its as good as I think it will be!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

With his first foray into teen literature, acclaimed author Sherman Alexie packs a punch in this absorbing novel about a Native American boy searching for a brighter future. At once humorous and stirring, Alexie's novel follows Junior, a resident of the Spokane reservation who transfers out of the reservation's school -- and into a nearby rich, all-white farm school -- in order to nurture his desire to become a cartoonist. Junior encounters resistance there, a backlash at home, and numerous family problems -- all the while relaying his thoughts and feelings via amusing descriptions and drawings. Having already garnered a National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, this moving look at race and growing up is definitely one to pick up.

Pure Awesomeness. I wish I could find better words to describe Sherman Alexie's award winning novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, but there is no way that I could possibly do this book justice. In chronicling the story of Native American teen Arnold (Junior) Spirit, Alexie not only addresses the struggles faced living on a reservation, but also those of any young adult searching to achieve their dreams and goals in life. In my opinion, the fact that this novel was based partly on his own life and experiences growing up made the story all the more interesting.

While I think many authors could have attempted to write a similar story to that which  Alexie has presented here, none of them could have succeeded in pulling it off with as much wit and insight as is apparent in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. My favourite thing about this novel was Sherman Alexie's style of writing, which flowed off the pages with charm and flair. While one moment his sarcastic and humourous quips could have you laughing out loud,  the next you would be forced into solemn deliberation of life and death. Rather than seeming out of place, Alexie is able to masterfully balance these changing moods to further reveal his themes of community and independence.

Another thing that I absolutely adored about this novel was Alexie's decision to include pictures within the pages of the book itself. Everyone who flipped through this book while I was at work and home couldn't help but raise their eyebrows at the fact that I was reading a novel with pictures in it. In fact, one of my friends and fellow English grads couldn't help but scoff at my book selection: "Shouldn't you be reading something a little more literary before you go back to school in September?"  While I'll admit that I too have often belittled books that contained pictures, the images in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian are used not only to be humorous, but also as a means of providing character development. 

Overall, while it may seem childish at first, this novel is jammed packed with  adult subject matter through its depictions of the harsh realities fazed by those living on the reserves. If you are looking for a fun and thought-provoking read this summer, then you cannot go wrong with Alexie's masterpiece. Having read and also enjoyed some of Sherman Alexie's short stories in the past, I can't help but look forward to whatever may come next from this brilliant author!

"I grabbed my book and opened it up.
I wanted to smell it.
Heck, I wanted to kiss it.
Yes, Kiss it.
That's right, I am a book kisser." 
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (p.30)

Rating: 5 Stars!!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

In My Mailbox

I first heard about Sherman Alexie in my first year of English at university. We read fragments from his collection of short stories entitled The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Having enjoyed what I've read from Alexie in the past I was quite eager to pick up a copy of this award winning book from a book sale this past week at Book Depot! I raced through it in about three days and loved it! My review will be posted sometime this week :)

While I was also at the Book Depot I picked up a copy of Heist Society for $4.00 bucks (yay book sales!). I've heard a lot of good things about this book so I'm excited to have a chance to read it myself. In some ways the description reminds me of White Cat...minus the supernatural curse worker part!

From the library this week I picked up John Berendt's true crime novel/memoir entitled Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I've been looking forward to reading this book for a long time as I love non-fiction books, especially ones which involve stories as exciting as the one told here! Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was also turned into a movie in 1997, so I'll have to check that out once I've finished reading...

At the library I also picked up a copy of Stork by Wendy Desol. I think I first heard about this book from someone's Waiting on Wednesday post regarding the second novel in this series, so I thought I would check it out and see if it is any good!

Finally my amazing book week was made complete with my request for a copy of Insatiable by Meg Cabot being recieved from the library! While I've been kind of tired of the whole vampire thing for a while now, this novel intrigued me from the opening line of the synopsis "Sick of vampires? So is Meena Harper." From the sounds of it Insatiable is taking a slightly fresher approach to the typical vampire tale. I have a secret obsession with Meg Cabot...I've read pretty much every book she's ever written, so of course I need to sink my teeth into this one!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Book Review: The Iron Queen

My name is Meghan Chase.
I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.
This time, there will be no turning back.

After being blown away by The Iron King and disappointed by The Iron Daughter, I approached reading The Iron Queen with a cautious frame of mind. Thankfully, The Iron Queen ended up suprising me, and I think that I ended up loving it even more then the first novel in the series!

There were several reasons that I re-fell in love with this series after its fall from grace in The Iron Daughter, the main one being that there were several improvements to the overall plot and characters. The ending of The Iron Daughter had me on the edge of my seat! I was left with my mouth hanging open after how close the plot skirted on the edge of becoming tragic. * Major Spoiler Alert* I honestly thought that for a slight moment Meghan truly did die, and I was suprised to discover how much that actually upset me. Sure she was a bit of a whiney character at times, but that didn't mean that I wanted her to have a sad ending! Luckily, just when I thought that the novel was done I discovered that there was indeed another chapter left to read, which brought back some hope to my love of a happily ever after *End of Spoiler*

It was also interesting to note in The Iron Queen how much the characters have changed and evolved since they first appeared in The Iron King. Meghan has certainly matured, becoming more selfless and less narrow-minded. Puck's character, however, continues to be my favourite, as his mischeavous nature is revealed to truly be a mask for his strong feelings towards Meghan. Despite these improvements in character development, I still found the relationship between Meghan and Ash to be difficult to accept. They seemed to spend more time being emotionally distant from one another then in actually showing each other any signs of affection. It was only near the end of the novel that I really felt their love towards each other to be genuine.

Overall I enjoyed The Iron Queen a lot more then I expected I would! The conclusion has restored my faith in the Iron Fey series, and I am eagerly anticipating the release of The Iron Knight on October 25th. I am curious to find out if the novel will be from Ash's point of view this time, and what adventure he could possibly be faced with. If you haven't read the Iron Fey series yet I suggest you get started now!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Pledge

Words are the most dangerous weapon of all. 
In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she’s spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed. 

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can’t be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country’s only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.

I am really anxious for this novel to be published for several reasons! Reason number one should be the most obvious by now if you are a frequent visitor to my blog....I am a huge dystopian fan, so of course The Pledge is right up my alley! What really intrigues me about this book the most, however, is its focus on language. It's kind of funny because if I was granted any wish in the world (besides world peace and all that stuff) I would choose to be able to speak and understand every language in the world. This is kind of a funny wish for me considering I'm a slightly shy person by nature, but I've always had a deep love and appreciation for languages. I took french up to grade 12 in high school (yay Canada!), and then Spanish during my first year of university, but my inability to practice them on a daily basis has kind of made me lose my grasp on them. Anyways! I am really interested to see how the plotline of The Pledge goes and I hope it ends up being a good quality dystopian! The Pledge is set to be published on November 15th. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Book Review: Princess Academy

Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.

Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.

While I am a huge Shannon Hale fan, I was slightly disappointed by the overall story of Princess Academy, especially considering that it won the Newberry Honour Award. Although the plot was cute and the characters were lovable, I felt that this novel should have been classified as Juvenile rather than Young Adult fiction. I think that Princess Academy is definetely a book that I would have enjoyed reading a lot more in about grade five. Despite the juvenile focus, Shannon Hale's writing was at its usual best, with beautiful prose that kept me reading rather than simply moving on to another novel. I think the ending of this story was pretty obvious, but nonetheless it was nice to see everything wrap up into a happy conclusion at the end! If you enjoy juvenile fiction or stories about princesses then certainly give Princess Academy a try, perhaps you will enjoy it more than I did!

Rating: 3 Stars

Saturday, 2 July 2011

My Favourite Canadian Books

I wish I could say that my Canada Day was super exciting this year, but unfortunately I was stuck at work for most of the day in the super busy tourist town that I work. There were some good moments though, like the mini parade that passed by the theatre where I was selling tickets, and a guitarist who sat on the sidewalk singing to the people walking by. Although I was stuck inside a boiling hot ticket booth for most of the day it was impossible to be miserable because of the enthusiasm of everyone who was in the area.

As I sat at work yesterday I started thinking about all of my favourite books by Canadian authors and thought I would share a couple with you! I'm sure most of you are familiar with some of the more famous Canadian novels out there like Water for Elephants and The Handmaid's Tale, so I decided to pick a couple that you might not have heard of before! I linked the title of each book to Goodreads so that those of your who are more curious can check out the synopsis!
                                              The Girls By Lori Lansens
The Girls follows the story of conjoined twins Ruby and Rose as they reflect upon their lives growing up in rural Canada. This is one of my all time favourite novels because of how unique the story was. The narration in the story was beautiful, and I couldn't help but laugh and cry as Rose and Ruby shared stories about people thinking they are freaks, and their attempt to gain love and acceptence from society. I suddenly have a craving to re-read this book now... maybe I will this summer!

Like The Girls, I really enjoyed The Birth House because of its unique story. Ami McKay went to great lengths to add historical details about midwifes and childbirth during World War 1, which really added to the overall appeal of the novel to me. I remember flying through the pages and wishing that there was more to read when I came to the end. I loved this book so much that I did a happy dance in the used bookstore when I found a copy for sale (I had originally borrowed it from the library), and placed it with great pride on my bookshelf beside many of my other favourite books.        

I had to read this novel for my first year of English in University. At first I was kind of skeptical, as I'm usually not one to enjoy stories about wars, but Three Day Road was absolutely gripping! Full of rich symbolism and historical detail, Three Day Road follows the lives of two Cree friends who become snipers in a Canadian troop of soldiers during World War 1. Inspired by part of a true story, this novel had me reading late into the night! I very rarely read books more than once, but I have already read Three Day Road for a second time! I would love to see it made into a movie one day!

This is the first novel in the Guests of War Trilogy which is a young adult series written by the fabulous Kit Pearson. I read these books when I was about twelve years old and could not get enough of them! The novels follow the lives of siblings Norah and Gavin as they travel from Britain to Canada during World War II in order to escape the constant bombing of their city. In the synopsis of the novel, The Sky is Falling is compared to Anne of Green Gables, and I would have to agree that while the time periods and circumstances are different, this novel has the same spirit and warmth as L.M. Montgomery's classic.