Saturday, 31 March 2012

In My Mailbox [Vlog] #5

This week's IMM posting is a bit longer than I expected, so anyone who manages to sit through the entire thing is an Angel! I will be posting the winner of my blog anniversary giveaway around 6:30 pm tonight so check back then to find out if you won! What books did you get this week? Share your link below in the comments and I'll make sure to stop by your blog as well :)

Under My Skin by Charles De Lint
Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani
The Traitor's Wife by Kathleen Kent
13, Rue Therese by Elana Mauli Shapiro
Pure by Julianna Baggott
Wrap Up With  A Good Book Scarf - by Storiarts

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Book Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A. 
Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

As the title of this novel so perfectly states, the plot of Jennifer E. Smith's most recent novel is about the probability of falling in love at first sight. Although the story's major focus on Hadley and Oliver falling in love at the airport was a little too unrealistic for my somewhat skeptical mind to handle, I was surprised to find that The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was brave enough to also delve into more serious topics that I'm sure many young adults could actually relate to. Hadley's rage and confusion regarding her father's decision to remarry, for example, are emotions that I'm sure many teens have had to deal with when faced with the divorce of their parents. While I myself have never been in that position, Hadley's sentiments felt so strong and real that I couldn't help but share her feelings with her! 

Despite how unrealistic the romance of this story was, that also didn't stop me from falling head over heels in love with the character of Oliver. I suppose you could say it was love at first dialogue for me! What can I say... I'm a sucker for witty British boys! And boy is Oliver witty! For those of you who have read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I would say his character is somewhere along the lines of Augustus. Sure he may be a little too good to be true, but isn't that the case for most male protagonists in YA fiction?

Being the English Lit graduate that I am, I also couldn't help but revel in the author's sprinkling of Dickens quotes throughout the book. A genius idea on the part of Jennifer Smith! The quotes that she chose worked perfectly with what was happening in the plot, and really helped to develop Hadley's character! My personal favourite was the quote that can be found on page 67: "Is it better to have had a good thing and lost it, or never to have had it?"

So would I recommend The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight? Definitely yes! At least to people who aren't afraid to set their skepticism about love aside. Although this may be a highly unrealistic and stereotypical romance (complete with a scene where they dance and kiss in the rain), isn't that what readers enjoy the most about love stories? While I may be a skeptic myself about love at first sight, I always enjoy curling up with a good romance to help unwind after a crazy day! If you are looking for something quick and easy to read, which is also enjoyable, then The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight is the book for you! 

Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Iron Wyrm Affair

Emma Bannon, a sorceress in the service of the Empire, has a mission: to protect Archibald Clare, a failed, unregistered mentath. His skills of deduction are legendary, and his own sorcery is not inconsiderable. It doesn’t much help that they dislike each other, or that Emma's Shield, Mikal, might just be a traitor himself. In an alternate London where illogical magic has turned the Industrial Revolution on its head, Emma and Clare now face hostility, treason, cannon fire, black sorcery, and the problem of reliably finding hansom cabs. The game is afoot…

I know this book shouldn't technically be considered a "Waiting on Wednesday" selection since I received an ARC copy of it two weeks ago....but because The Iron Wyrm Affair doesn't come out until August 2012 it still counts right? Besides, I just can't help but gush about this book  because I am so damn excited to read it!! It seems like a perfect combination of sorcery, mystery, steampunk, and perhaps a bit of romance?! It's almost like a steampunk version of Sherlock Holmes! And bear with me for a moment while I let the cover snob part of my personality rear its ugly head...but I think that the cover is absolutely gorgeous! I'm trying to hold off reading it until closer to the publication date, but we'll see if that actually ends up happening. What do you guys think? Sound like something you would want to read? Do you like steampunk stories?

PS. For those of you who don't already know, I am having a Giveaway to celebrate my one year blogversary next week! Just click here to enter! You can win ANY book of your choice! That's right...ANY book! Had your eye on The Fault in Our Stars? Been drooling over Clockwork Prince? No problem! Just click the link below, enter the contest, and if you win I will contact you to find out what book you'd like to receive! Good luck! And in the tradition of The Hunger Games...may the odds be ever in your favour!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

One Year Anniversary and Giveaway!!!

Ahhh! I can't believe it! In less then a week I will be celebrating my one year anniversary since I started blogging! I started Browsing Bookshelves as a way to keep myself writing over the summer and I never expected that I would be able to keep it up for an entire year! Not only has blogging helped me to stay writing, but it has introduced me to a number of amazing bloggers, publishers, and friends! My only regret now is that I didn't start blogging sooner!

Now to the fun stuff! To say thank you to all of my followers and celebrate my one year blogversary I am going to host a giveaway! The winner will receive a copy of ANY book of their choosing, as long as it is available through Amazon. That's right! That book you have been drooling over for months now but couldn't afford? That book could be yours! Unfortunately, due to shipping costs the contest is being limited to residents in Canada and the US. To enter, simply fill out the information below. The winner will be announced on April 1st! Good luck! (Click Read More to see entry form)

Monday, 26 March 2012

Book Review: Under My Skin

For the past six months, something has been happening to young people in Santa Feliz. Week after week, there's news of another teen changing shape, transforming from human to wild animal and back again. The federal government has stepped in, running public service announcements calling for affected youth to turn themselves in for "orientation and training."

Josh Saunders has seen the news reports, but he is still unprepared when it happens to him. One minute he's arguing with his mother's boyfriend and the next, he is looming over the man, blood dripping from his claws—he has transformed into a mountain lion. When he switches back to his human body, he knows his life has changed forever. He has become a Wildling.

When I first heard about the concept of Under My Skin by Charles de Lint I just knew that I had to read it. For some reason the synopsis reminded me of the Animorphs series I  devoured back in my childhood days. I was so excited for this book that as soon as I received a copy for review from Razorbill I put all of my other books aside and tore through this one instead! Unfortunately, while Under My Skin was certainly an enjoyable and well written read, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of disappointment. Don't get me wrong, the storyline and characters were great, but there was just a certain something missing in the book that prevented me from falling head over heels in love with it. 

While there may have been a bit of magic missing from the book, that isn't to say that other readers won't devour and love this novel. It has a lot of great qualities about it, for example, the switching perspectives between Josh and Marina, the action packed escape scenes, and a slew of intriguing supporting characters. One of the best things about Under My Skin, however, is the fact that I think this is a novel that will heavily appeal to teenage boys. Due to the fact that the majority of the young adult fiction currently being published is aimed at girls, I often wonder what many of the male YA lovers are reading out there. Perhaps, Under My Skin is the answer to this question, as the adventure and action driven plot is definitely more well suited to male rather than female readers. 

Overall, Under My Skin is fast paced and enjoyable, but just wasn't the right book for ME. I'll probably pass it along to my boyfriend next, who I think will enjoy it much more than I did. That being said, I think this book would make for an awesome television show! All of the action and shapeshifting that goes on in the book would definitely be exciting to see acted out in real life! 

Rating: 3 Stars

Friday, 23 March 2012

Yet Another Movie Review of The Hunger Games

I did it! I went to the midnight release of The Hunger Games last night...and it was definitely worth turning into a zombie this morning from the lack of sleep! I know that there are probably thousands of other blog reviews of the movie being posted as I write this, but I just couldn't help but share my own thoughts with you....So here goes nothing! 

My biggest concern going into The Hunger Games movie was that it would turn out to be like the Twilight films (which I despise), and that I would ultimately be disappointed. As the credits at the end of the movie rolled across the screen, however, I was anything but disappointed! In fact, I was so into the movie that I wanted them to start playing Catching Fire immediately! I don't know how I'm going to survive a year until the second movie comes out now! 

That isn't to say that the movie was perfect though. I'm sure purists who get ruffled over tiny changes in the plot will be a bit angry at some of the decisions that the director made. I know that some of my friends were frustrated by the changes to the plot line regarding the Mockingjay pin, but I understand that the director just didn't have the time or space in the movie to explain the whole story surrounding the Mayor's daughter. I haven't read the novel since the summertime, but besides the Mockinjay pin, the other changes that I noticed in The Hunger Games were minor and easy to brush off. 

Another one of my concerns before going into the movie was that the acting would be terrible. When I found out that Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth would be playing Peeta and Gale I was disappointed by the casting. While I have yet to accept Hemsworth as Gale (probably due to the fact that he gets barely any screen time in this first movie), Hutcherson's charisma and charm as Peeta really won me over! Now I can't imagine anyone else but Hutcherson playing the part of Peeta! Jennifer Lawrence also did an AMAZING job of portraying Katniss. In the one scene where she is talking to Cinna before she goes into the arena, you can just feel her fear coming at you through the screen. By far one of my favourite actors in the movie, however, was Woody Harrelson. An odd choice, I know, but he was exactly as I imagine the character to be in the book! 

My three favourite characters from The Hunger Games series in one shot
My only complaint about the movie is that I think it might be difficult for viewers who haven't read the books to understand everything that is going on. Maybe I'm underestimating the intelligence of most of these viewers, but I feel like the movie was really made for the readers of the books due to the fact that they leave a lot of aspects of Panem and the games unexplained. For example, the Mockingjays and their history aren't explained at all, and they don't go into much detail about how the reaping works. Gale mentions that his name is in the bowl 42 times, but the movie doesn't say that this can happen in exchange for more food for your family. Overall, however, The Hunger Games was an excellent adaptation, and I left the theatre feeling very satisfied and relieved! I can't wait to see how they will adapt Catching Fire next! If only it wasn't so far away! *Sighs* 

Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Book Review: The Lifeboat

Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it? The Lifeboat is a page-turning novel of hard choices and survival, narrated by a woman as unforgettable and complex as the events she describes.

I picked the perfect day to begin reading The Lifeboat. With a thunderstorm rolling in, I tucked myself up in bed and transported myself to the tiny lifeboat where Grace and her companions faced the treacherous ocean for days on end. Whether or not it was the atmosphere of the storm outside or Charlotte Rogan's detailed writing, I couldn't help but feel like I was tipping back and forth in the boat along with the rest of the characters. Needless to say, I was sucked into the story from page one and managed to finish reading the entire novel in two days straight.

The Lifeboat presents a gripping tale of a young woman facing the pressures of life and death in the open sea. One of the things I loved most about this book was the politics and struggle for power between the unique cast of characters stuck in the lifeboat together. In a way, the examination of survival and human endurance reminded me slightly of Life of Pi by Yann Martel, minus the animals of course. The framing narrative of the novel was also extremely interesting, and I couldn't help but revel in the suspense of discovering whether or not the jury would find Grace guilty or innocent of murder. Without giving away any spoilers, all I can say is that the ending was absolutely perfect, and I was able to put down the book with a great feeling of satisfaction when I was done. 

That isn't to say, however, that The Lifeboat wasn't without its faults. I became so engrossed by the story that I couldn't help but want it to expand some of aspects of the narrative. For example, I would have loved to have learned more about Grace and her relationship with her husband Henry. I feel like readers are only given the Sparks notes about Grace's past before the boat sank. Revealing more about Grace's life leading up to the lifeboat would have certainly helped to develop her character a little bit more. Also, readers are left with a lot of unanswered questions regarding some aspects of Hardie's character (a sailor who helps to direct the lifeboat), and whether or not he was actually looking out for his own interests. I suppose the reader is meant to come to their own conclusions about this  unresolved storyline, and base their judgements off of the rumours and gossip of the other characters on the boat. 

Despite these unanswered questions, I really did enjoy my time spent reading The Lifeboat, and would recommend it to readers who enjoy stories about survival and the struggle faced by the human spirit during challenging circumstances. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan will be available April 3rd, 2012. 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

B*tches in Bookshops!

I'm always one for a great bookish parody, and when I first stumbled across "B*tches in Bookshops" I fell immediately in love! Using the music from Jay Z and Kanye West's song "N*ggas in Paris," the lyrics of the song reflect the deep obsession with reading that all of us book lovers have! From mentions of Goodreads to the Strand bookstore, this song is jam packed full of bookish goodness! Some of my favourite lyrics include, "Read so hard librarians tryin'ta fine me" and "You use a Kindle? I carry spines. 
Supporting bookshops like a bra, Calvin Klein." I can definitely see "B*tches in Bookshops" blowing up like the ever popular "Joy of Books" video that went viral two months ago. Haven't seen B*tches in Bookshops" yet? Check out the video below and let me know what you think

Monday, 19 March 2012

The CanLit Hunger Games!?!?

How exciting is this!?! In anticipation of the release of The Hunger Games movie, CBC is having its own little version of the games, Canadian style. Identifying 24 of the most iconic characters from novels written by Canadians, CBC is hosting a daily vote to see who readers think would win the Canadian Hunger Games! There are 12 male and 12 female characters of various ages and backgrounds, including Xavier Bird (Three Day Road), Mary Boultan (Outlander), Ofglen (Handmaid's Tale), Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables), Dora Rare (The Birth House) and Pi Patel (Life of Pi). According to CBC, while "some of the characters here have lethal skills, like shooting, bomb-making or martial arts...others may lack physical strength but have demonstrated cunning, resourcefulness and a powerful will to live."  At the end of each day, the character with the least amount of votes is kicked off until the remaining survivor is left on March 25th. 

Of course, being the CanLit lover that I am, how could I possibly resist voting!? My heart was torn in three different directions. As much as I LOVE Anne Shirley and Dora Rare, I couldn't deny how resourceful and powerful the character of Xavier is Three Day Road. Not only is Xavier an amazing sniper, he proves himself to be quick thinking in battle and has been trained to survive in the worst of climates. Growing up  on a reserve, he also learned basic skills like hunting and tracking. In fact, if this were the real Hunger Games, Xavier would definitely be considered a Career Tribute. 

While Anne and Dora are both highly intelligent and resourceful, I think their lack of fighting skills would most likely result in their doom. For example, Dora's knowledge of herbs and healing could definitely help her to survive until the end,  but if she was to be discovered by someone like Xavier she would be dead within minutes. Likewise, Anne's intelligence may help her to avoid being killed in the first couple of days, but her imagination might get the better of her and cause her to make a crucial mistake while in the arena. Putting my love of Dora and Anne aside, I couldn't help but vote for Xavier to win the CanLit Hunger Games over all of the other literary characters combined. 

Who do you guys think would win the CanLit Hunger Games? Is there any character that you are particularly fond of? If you haven't already voted, then click here to make your choice

Sunday, 18 March 2012

In My Mailbox: March 18th, 2012

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren! Here are the books that I received this week from Hachette Canada, Hachette UK, Penguin Canada, and Razorbill! Share your IMM in the comments below and I'll make sure to check out your blog posting as well :) Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now. 

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault. 

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

This is probably one of the hardest reviews I've had to write. I just don't know how to put into words how truly amazing and touching this novel was. I can tell you this much however, it definitely wasn't what I was expecting at all. Based on the synopsis, I knew that The Fault in Our Stars would be somewhat sad and depressing, especially considering how many people I've known in my life who have been affected by cancer, but what I wasn't expecting was the humour that was also intertwined throughout the text. John Green somehow manages to tell a deep and meaningful story about the way that cancer affects those who are battling against it, along with their family and friends, while simultaneously weaving a touching love story that makes readers both laugh and cry. 

What I was especially shocked about, however, was how well John Green managed to write from the perspective of a female character. Hazel and her emotions felt so real to me that I couldn't help but imagine her as a real person who was sharing her story with me. In fact, all of the characters in the book had an essence about them that seemed so real and tangible. Even Hazel and Augustus' parents, who sit off to the side for most of the book, really demonstrated how difficult it can be for any parent to watch their child become sick. I think it was the realness of these characters which ultimately made the ending of the novel so difficult for me. I wish I could explain further, but I really don't want to ruin the ending of the book for others. 

Now I know many people may be hesitant to pick up The Fault in Our Stars because of how potentially depressing they think the storyline will be, but I can't stress enough how truly wonderful and amazing this novel is! For every moment you shed a tear you will spend at least twice as much time laughing and smiling. All I can say is that you should definitely pick up a copy and give it a try! I wish I could have provided a better review of this novel, but as I said before, I've found it impossible to find the right kind of words to fully express my thoughts.  I think my friend Chelsey, however, did an amazing job of summing of many of the feelings I had while reading the book, so check out her review of The Fault in our Stars here!  

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Peculiars

On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar. On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena's father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears.

My Thoughts:
If you follow my blog regularly then you should be able to guess one of the main reasons I'm excited about this book...its Steampunk! I'm so happy that more and more YA authors seem to be adopting aspects of Steampunk into their novels! I also love the fact that one of the characters in the book is a librarian (considering I'm currently in library school and everything). Despite the fact that it seems like this Saltre character will be Lena's main love interest, I can't help but hope she'll fall in love with the librarian! The Peculiars hits store shelves May 1st, so just a month and a half left to wait! 

Monday, 12 March 2012

Book Review: The Lucky One

When U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds a photograph of a smiling young woman half-buried in the dirt during his third tour of duty in Iraq, his first instinct is to toss it aside. Instead, he brings it back to the base for someone to claim, but when no one does, he finds himself always carrying the photo in his pocket. Soon Thibault experiences a sudden streak of luck—winning poker games and even surviving deadly combat that kills two of his closest buddies. Only his best friend, Victor, seems to have an explanation for his good fortune: the photograph—his lucky charm.
Back home in Colorado, Thibault can’t seem to get the photo—and the woman in it—out of his mind. Believing that she somehow holds the key to his destiny, he sets out on a journey across the country to find her, never expecting the strong but vulnerable woman he encounters —Elizabeth, a divorced mother with a young son—to be the girl he’s been waiting his whole life to meet. Caught off guard by the attraction he feels, Thibault keeps the story of the photo, and his luck, a secret. As he and Elizabeth embark upon a passionate and all-consuming love affair, the secret he is keeping will soon threaten to tear them apart—destroying not only their love, but also their lives. 

I'm not going to lie...the main reason I picked up this book and read it was because of the upcoming movie starrring Zac Efron. What?!? Have you seen what Zac Efron looks like lately?! Anyways... This is kind of sad to admit, but The Lucky One was actually the first novel I had ever read by Nicholas Sparks. After hearing mixed reviews about his writing style from others, I began reading with a slight hesitation and wariness. By chapter two, however, I was clinging on to the novel's every word! How did I wait this long to read one of Sparks' books!? Needless to say I am now a Nicholas Sparks groupie.

So what did I love about this book? Let's start with the characters. Thibault was the muscular, sensitive man most women dream about. It probably didn't help that I was picturing his character as Zac Efron while I was reading, even despite the constant references to the character's long hair. Drooling aside, Thibault's character showed more complexity than I've read in most romance novels before, which was a nice change of pace. Sparks' writing also generated a deep and rooted hate for the villain of the story, Clayton. Whenever the novel mentioned his name I felt a deep desire to punch him in the face and run him over with a car. It is very rarely that I get this angry about a character, but this deep hate oddly made the novel more exciting and enjoyable. 

The second major thing I loved about this novel was the actual plot. Having been warned about Nicholas Sparks' tendency to tragically kill off some of his main characters at the end, I was a basket case of nerves as I rushed to find out what would happen. And in typical Sparks fashion, one of the main characters dies...although the person's identity isn't revealed until the very last page. Despite all of my predictions about who the person would be throughout the novel, I was nevertheless shocked when I discovered who it was. It takes a lot to surprise me, and I definitely didn't see that ending coming at all, so hats off to you Mr. Sparks! 

While I can imagine other people reading this book and not finding it nearly as heart wrenching or enjoyable as I did, I would still definitely recommend it. If you have read and enjoyed a Nicholas Sparks book before then you will LOVE The Lucky One. On the hand, if you are one of those people who despise Sparks' books, then stay very far away. Those of you, who are like me and have never picked up a Nicholas Sparks' book, then read this one now! Especially before the movie comes out and spoils the ending for you! Overall, I fell head over heels in love with The Lucky One, and can't wait to read more from this amazing author!

Rating: 5 Stars 

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Movies I'm Looking Forward To...

I've discovered over the months that there is a strong correlation between the amount of homework I have and the amount of movie trailers I end up watching. In other words, the more homework I have... the more trailers I watch! So to help fuel your own procrastination (because you must be procrastinating if you are reading this blog posting) here are a couple of the movies that I'm looking forward to!

1. Brave

Many of you Disney fans out there have probably seen the original Brave trailer that came out last November, but a new one was released a couple of weeks ago that I absolutely adore! It really shows just how rebellious and stubborn this new Scottish princess is going to be! I love the fact that for once Disney is going to be producing a movie where the main female character doesn't have to fall in love by the end of the movie (although I'm not going to lie...I usually do enjoy movies with a romance plot).

2. The Five Year Engagement

Who doesn't love Jason Segel?!? I have yet to be disappointed by any of his movies...and I hope that tradition continues with The Five Year Engagement. It seems like it has the perfect balance of humour/drama to keep me entertained! Now I have a craving to watch Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I Love You Man. 

3. Chimpanzee

For the past two years it has been a tradition of me and my boyfriend to go to the movies on Earth Day to see DisneyNature's newest documentary. I've always loved them, but when I first heard that this year's doc would be focusing on chimpanzees I was a little reluctant. Ever since I saw a particularly disturbing portrayal of chimps in an episode of Planet Earth I have been extremely creeped out by them! After watching the trailer for Chimpanzee, however, it looks too adorable to resist. Watching the baby chimp bond with his adopted father was super cute! 

So what do you guys think of these movies? Do you have any favourite trailers? What movies are coming out that you can't wait to watch?

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Book Review: The Gilly Salt Sisters

In the isolated Cape Cod village of Prospect, the Gilly sisters are as different as can be. Jo, a fierce and quiet loner, is devoted to the mysteries of her family's salt farm, while Claire is popular, pretty, and yearns to flee the salt at any cost. But the Gilly land hides a dark legacy that proves impossible to escape. Although the community half-suspects the Gilly sisters might be witches, it doesn't stop Whit Turner, the town's wealthiest bachelor, from forcing his way into their lives. It's Jo who first steals Whit's heart, but it is Claire--heartbroken over her high school sweetheart--who marries him. 

Years later, estranged from her family, Claire finds herself thrust back onto the farm with the last person she would have chosen: her husband's pregnant mistress. Suddenly, alliances change, old loves return, and new battle lines are drawn. What the Gilly sisters learn about each other, the land around them, and the power of the salt, will not only change each of their lives forever, it will also alter Gilly history for good.

Who doesn't love a good secret? I think it's a part of our human nature to sometimes be curious about the lives and pasts of those we encounter in our daily lives. We just can't help it! So let me share a little secret with you now... The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker is an amazing read that anyone with a love of secrets and dark family pasts will absolutely love! From page one I was drawn into the lives of Jo and Claire Gilly, two sisters who have been estranged from one another for over twelve years. By alternating the narrative between the viewpoints of Jo and Claire, the reader is slowly given pieces of their past to put together, as hidden family secrets become revealed chapter by chapter. 

One of the things I loved most about The Gilly Salt Sisters was the fact that Tiffany Baker really focused on the development of her characters. As Claire and Jo reflect on their childhoods and their current lives, the reader is given an intimate look into the personalities of these two very different sisters, and the events that have shaped them into the women they are today. Not only do the readers learn about Claire and Jo from their own narrations, but also from that of Dee, a young girl who has recently moved to the town and is obsessed with picking up pieces of gossip about the Gilly sisters that she hears around town. Through these various viewpoints the reader is ultimately able to form a cohesive image of what makes the Gilly Sisters tick. 

Another factor of the story that really drew me in was the hint of magic which is associated with the salt that the Gilly family has farmed for generations. Does the salt really have magical properties? Or is its power simply given to it through the belief of the townspeople? The salt is really one of the driving forces behind the plot, as the Turner family becomes obsessed with obtaining the salt marshes for themselves and Claire does everything in her power to escape its legacy. I'm not going to lie though...all the talk about salt in this book really made me crave extra salty french fries and pretzels while I was reading!

In general, readers who are fans of writers like Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen will absolutely devour this novel! The magic, mystery, and secrets will hook you in and keep you reading! I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what Tiffany Baker will come up with next, and I think I might just go and pick up a copy of her first novel, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, from my local library! The Gilly Salt Sisters will be hitting the shelves March 14th, so make sure to add it to your to-read list, and keep your eyes peeled for it next time you're browsing around the bookshelves of your local bookstore! 

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story. . . 

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. 
So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay. 

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
 And she, for whatever reason, spares his life

For one of my classes last week I had to write and submit a book report based on a horror novel of my choice. After hearing so many wonderful things about Anna Dressed in Blood from my friend Chelsey, I decided to pick up a copy from the library and give it a try! It was fantastic! Rather that re-writing an entirely new review, I've copy and pasted my book report below. Sorry if its a little dry and formal...but my general thoughts and feelings are still there! I've cut out a couple of paragraphs to make it a bit shorter.... Enjoy!

Young adults looking for a thrilling horror novel to keep them up late at night have no need to look further than Kendare Blake’s latest book Anna Dressed in Blood. Published in August 2011, the book has received a great deal of acclaim from reviewers, and was placed on both YALSA’s 2012 “Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers” and “Best Fiction for Young Adults” lists. After picking up this eerie novel, it wasn’t difficult to understand why it has received so much praise, as the story of Anna Dressed in Blood is both horrifying and intriguing at the same time. Told through the narration of Cas Lowood, a teenage boy who hunts and kills ghosts for a living, the story is full of gore and frightening scenes that will send chills down a reader’s spine. At the same time, however, there is also some humour mixed in during the calmer points in the text, along with a strange underlying romance plot.

Although the novel is focused mainly on the development of the plot rather than the characters, readers will nevertheless find Cas’ sarcasm and wit appealing. His back-story is also quite heart wrenching, and will likely win over the sympathies of most audiences. Unlike Cas, the supporting characters are all rather flat, such as figures like Cas’ kitchen-witch mother and Thomas, the bumbling mind reader whom Cas eventually befriends. The fact that a sequel to Anna Dressed In Blood is already in the works, however, will hopefully result in better development of these characters in the future.

As in the case of most novels within the horror genre, the main theme and purpose of Anna Dressed in Blood is to frighten and entertain the reader. The horror in the novel is exemplified through Blake’s vivid and descriptive language, which gruesomely details the numerous murders that occur throughout the book. Indeed, the clarity of the writing makes it difficult not to picture the image of bodies being ripped and torn apart with ease. A unique aspect of Anna Dressed in Blood, which also added to the overall sense of horror while reading, was the fact that the text itself was printed in a dark red colour in order to mimic the appearance of dried blood. This coincided perfectly with the events in the novel, as Cas himself receives a note in the mail written in blood with Anna’s name on it. The fear generated by Blake’s writing, therefore, is one of the key reasons why Anna Dressed in Blood is ultimately a successful horror novel.

Canadian readers will also be thrilled to discover that the house which Anna haunts, and the setting where the majority of the novel takes place, is located in none other than Thunder Bay, Ontario! While writing Anna Dressed in Blood, Blake visited Thunder Bay in order to procure some local knowledge of the area, and the research shows in her writing. Not only does her description of the town’s appearance ring true, but all of the restaurants, waterfalls, and even the high school that Cas attends actually exist within Thunder Bay. Readers who are familiar with the area, therefore, will benefit from the added horror of imagining places that they have visited as being haunted by a vengeful ghost.

The only aspect of the story that I felt took away from the novel’s horror, however, was the fact that Blake added an underlying romance plot to the text. Although the romance doesn’t really surface until the last three or four chapters of the book, and isn’t excessively emphasized, it felt out of place in the novel. Not only that, it also somewhat made the character of Anna’s ghost less terrifying. As a result, while teenage boys may have enjoyed Anna Dressed in Blood throughout most of story, the sudden appearance of romance might take away some of their satisfaction in reading the novel.

Overall, Anna Dressed in Blood is a fantastic horror novel that will certainly thrill the majority of the readers who pick it up. The fast paced plot, gruesome imagery, terrifying situations, and supernatural characters are the combination that make this novel so perfect. While the novel is targeted at teen audiences, adults may also find enjoyment in the eeriness which the novel provokes.  The sequel, Girl of Nightmares, will be published in August 2012 and picks up right where Anna Dressed in Blood left off.  Promising to be just as gruesome and terrifying as its predecessor, I am already looking forward to finding out how this horrifying story will continue. 

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Monday, 5 March 2012

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs: The Popularity of Fairy Tales

I love my fairy tales. What I love even more, however, is when my favourite fairy tales are re-imagined with a new twist that makes me think differently about them. You can imagine my delight then when my brother shared this recent ad created by The Guardian which features the Three Little Pigs. I've always loved The Guardian (they're one of my favourite news sources)....but I love them even more now for this clever creation! Check out the video below!

Pretty creative right? While I was watching it I was reminded of one of my favourite picture books from when I was a child, Jon Scieszka's The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. When Scieszka's story first came out it was praised for its originality in telling this classic fairy tale from the point of view of the wolf. Whether or not you decide to believe the wolf's story is entirely up to the reader, but it certainly is an amusing version of the Three Little Pigs. Ironically enough, we studied this book in my Children's Materials class this past week! Talk about perfect timing! 

Anyways... I really loved this video and thought it was definitely a great piece of advertising on the part of The Guardian. Although I doubt it will ever happen, I'd love to see more videos showing the points of views of other famous fairy tale villains, like the ugly stepsisters, or the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk! They definitely released the ad at the right time considering the recent popularity of fairy tale shows like Grimm and Once Upon A Time, not to mention the two Snow White movies coming out this year! What is it with all of these fairy tale themed shows and movies lately?!? 

Although fairy tales have always been a part of popular culture, they seem to really be moving to the forefront over the past year. Is there something about our current society that is causing us to consume more fairy tale stories than usual? Is it because many of our current economic situations seem so bleak that we can't help but dream of being swept away by a prince charming type figure in a far away land unlike our own? Or do we perhaps find something comforting about the familiarity of these fairy tales that many of us have grown up listening to over and over again? I'd love to hear a psychologists viewpoint on this topic!

Since we are on the topic of fairy tales and everything... I was also recently introduced to a graphic novel series called Fables, which depicts fairy tale characters struggling to survive in the human world. The twists in Fables are surprising yet interesting, as the big bad wolf has reformed and is now a sheriff, while Prince Charming has become a free loading womanizer. I inhaled the first volume in about a day and already have the second one on hold at the library. It's definitely a series to check out if you are as much of a fairy tale lover as I am! 

Jack and Bibgy (Big Bad Wolf) from the graphic novel Fables
So did you guys enjoy The Guardian ad as much as I did? What do you think about this recent resurgence of fairy tales in film, tv shows, and books? Do you have any particular favourite fairy tales or fairy tale retellings?