Friday, 14 December 2012

The Name of This Book is Secret by Psuedonymous Bosch

If this were a normal cover for a normal book, I would tell you that this book is fantastic! Gripping! (According to their covers, all books are fantastic and gripping.) You’d meet the brave young heroes, Cass and Max-Ernest. * And you’d hear about how a mysterious box of vials, the Symphony of Smells, sends them on the trail of a magician who has vanished under strange (and stinky) circumstances. If this were a normal book, I would brag about the hair-raising adventures that follow – about the brain-twisting riddles Cass and Max-Ernest solve and the nefarious villains they face. But, sadly, I can’t tell you about any of those things: they might make you want to read the book.
You see, not only is the name of this book secret, the story is, too. For it concerns a secret – a big secret – that has been tormenting people like you for over...oh no! Did I just mention the secret? Then it’s too late.
I’m afraid nothing will stop you now. Open the book if you must. But, please, tell no one.
With apologies, Pseud. Bosch
*not their real names
(from book cover)

I have heard really great things about this book, so when Michelle and I decided to read it together, I was pretty excited. I did not stay excited for long. Unfortunately, this book did not do anything for me. It was interesting and I’m sure it is a book that children would absolutely love, but I was not gripped in the least. I did not find myself wanting to pick up the book at all and in fact had to force myself to pick it up so I could finish it and move on to my next read.
The characters in this story were fine, but I did not find myself attached to them at all. There were some humorous moments with them, but lack of connection with them resulted in not really caring where the story went and what happened. I have no idea where the story took place (there is not a whole lot of specific information the author gives), so I did not have a connection with the setting. I did like, however, that Cass’s grandfathers live in an old fire hall. That’s pretty cool.
I think if I was a child I may have enjoyed this book. I think I would enjoy the mystery, the not knowing, I would be super curious as to what this secret is, and I’d want to read the rest of the series. If any of you know a child around 10-12 I would suggest you tell them about this book. For me, it is not one that crosses-over well between adults and children. I give this book a 2/5.

Michelle's Review

Sounds pretty cool, right? A woman at work read it, said it was great.  There was great buzz about it and it flew off the shelves.  Tammy and I decided it would be our first together read and I was SO EXCITED!!!  If I had to describe this book in one word it would be ‘underwhelming’. I tried so hard to really like this book, but I honestly just did not. 
I am not a fan of books that are narrated by a third person.  Especially when that person is always telling me to stop reading the book, and to put it down and forget about it.  I think maybe in this case I should have listened.  Surprisingly it did not get on my nerves as much as it usually does, but I am still not a fan. I also found that I just could not get into the book because the narrator would not really tell us anything about the characters.  It was all a big secret so he told us to imagine what we wanted to imagine, change their names if we wanted, image it happening in our own town, etc.  That added to my inability to really get into the book, it is just not something I like.
I am the type of person who likes to go into a book blind and I did that with this book.  I didn’t really know what it was about and I must say that I still didn’t really see the point of the book until about half way through it. By then it was too late, I just could not get into it anymore.  I did not care about the characters, and I did not care about this secret.  There was a bit of good action at the end, but I was so indifferent towards it that it was not exciting.
Would I recommend this book to others? Absolutely.  I would love to hear that people enjoyed it; I am just not one of those people.  This is the first in a series and I can pretty confidently say that I will not be reading any more.  But if you love it please tell me why, I would love to hear what others saw that I did not.
Now you have 2 reviews for the same book and you can decide for yourself if it something you would like to try or maybe you know someone else who would enjoy it! I have included the pictures of the other books in the series (not in order.)
Happy Reading!!!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Blogging: A Year at a Glance

I have some ideas for my next few personal posts, all of which relate to my blog. This is my first full year of blogging and it has come with its ups and downs. I am an avid reader and I absolutely LOVE reviewing books! It is such a pleasure for me and I hope I can continue to do this for a long time to come! As long as you will keep reading my reviews, I will continue to review! When I am reviewing, I try my best not to spoil anything for a potential reader, but if there is ever anything in my review that is a spoiler, I will be sure to note it so that you can decide if you want to go ahead and read the review or not!

Working on this blog has come with its challenges as I do not have the internet at home. I keep up with my blog posts by coming to the library with my laptop once a week and I keep up with my Facebook page via my phone. I am hoping to one-day-soon have internet access at home so I can do even more with my blog! I have so many ideas for different contests, ways in which to advertise my blog and to help my followers and likes grow, I just need the time and access in which to make these things happen! There are also times when I want to post an "extra" blog because something has happened that gave me an idea or I read about a particular story or event that I want to share. Unfortunately this is not something I can do at the moment, but I will do my best to make note of whatever catches my eye so I can relay it to you either on here or on my Facebook page!

When I choose a book to read, I try and make sure it is different from the one I just read and reviewed. If you've read a bunch of my blog posts, you will probably have an idea of what kinds of books I enjoy reading (erm, cozy mysteries come to mind...), but I hope you also see that I read a variety of genres. I am always trying to expand my reading list and I am open to suggestions!!!! I also read so much that I do not review all of the books I have read, so if you mention a book to me, it is possible I have already read it! I tend to choose books that have been on my reading list for a while, have just come out and I'm super excited about them, or ones that have been recommended to me! Feel free to text, email, message, or comment on my blog with recommendations you have for me! I will do my best to read them in a reasonable amount of time!

In the coming few weeks I plan to "summarize" my reading and reviews for the year. I will post what books I have read in particular genres, my goals for 2013 (with reading and with my blog), as well as summarize the exciting opporunities I have been lucky enough to have this year with regards to my blog. I hope my luck continues next year and more opportunities come my way! I would love to get in touch with more authors, find out what YOU think of books you have read, and get more people reading my reviews!

I have randomly posted some pictures of books I am hoping to read in the new year throughout this blog post.  As always, thank you for your continued support! It is great to see my number of followers and likes growing! I hope it will continue to grow in 2013!!!!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Monster by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

The spectacular fantasy series from Garth Nix and Sean Williams continues!

Since moving to the town of Portland, many bizarre things have happened to Jaide and Jack Shield. The twins have discovered their own magical powers - and have seen how they can go horribly wrong. They have met cats who talk and humans who keep silent about deep, dark secrets. And they have begun their fight against a deadly force known only as The Evil.

Still, Jaide and Jack have yet to meet the strangest resident of Portland. It''s a creature that only comes out at night, a beast that defies human description. Jaide and Jack have never seen it . . . but they''re about to. And when they do, destruction and disaster won''t be too far away.

Garth Nix is a fun kid’s author. He has interesting ideas and I have no idea how he comes up with them. The Monster is book 2 in a series called The Troubletwisters. The main characters are Jack and Jaide, twins who find out they are troubletwisters. In this adventure, they are certain that The Evil is going to come back and can’t help but wonder if the Monster of Portland is The Evil. While they are trying to help, they end up making things worse. I think that it is so much fun to read these kinds of books and I think that kids would get a real kick out of them. As an adult I find myself sometimes thinking “Why are you doing that? This can only end badly.” Haha.
This second installment was fun, but not quite as exciting as the first. The cats, Kleo and Ari, are very involved in this story and that suits me fine (I may love cats a little.) Grandma X is very mysterious and you can’t help but constantly wonder what is going on behind the scenes that only she and the author knows. I felt bad for Jack and Jaide in this book because they are both uncertain about their Gifts and their roles as troubletwisters. They are still learning and do not fully understand how everything works. They even lose their Gifts at one point and it hits them pretty hard. All of this makes sense in the end, though, when the book reaches its climax and the puzzle pieces fall in to place.
I think that any child, boy or girl, would absolutely love this series. There are only 2 books so far and I’m not sure how many there will be, but it is adventurous, it has main characters of both genders, and it’s just all around fun. I would definitely recommend buying this for a child in your life! And if you are an adult who likes to just escape and go on adventures, give it a shot! Why not, eh? I give this book a 3/5.
Happy Reading!
Next Review: The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

Friday, 7 December 2012

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Seattle, 1933. Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, good night and reluctantly leaves for work. She hates the night shift, but it’s the only way she can earn enough to keep destitution at bay. In the morning – even though it’s the second of May – a heavy snow is falling. Vera rushes to wake Daniel, but his bed is empty. His teddy bear lies outside in the snow.
Seattle, present day. On the second of May, Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge awakens to another late-season snowstorm. Assigned to cover this “blackberry winter” and its predecessor decades earlier, Claire learns of Daniel’s unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth – only to discover that she and Vera are linked in unexpected ways. (from back of book)

There are no words to describe how much I love Sarah Jio. This is her third book that has been published, there are 2-3 more books awaiting publication or being written (THANK GOD) and I will buy every single one of the books she writes until she stops writing. Jio has a way with words and stories that no author I have ever read has had. And this story did not disappoint.
I love the historical aspect in this story because you get a sense of what the world was like for people in 1933. The gap between the rich and the working poor is severely obvious and people were struggling to have enough food to eat and pay their rent. I think it makes people realize just how lucky we have it today and the fact that we can’t buy the next iphone or the biggest television is really not a big deal.
I enjoyed getting to know both Vera and Claire. Both women are dealing with loss, and both are in very different situations. Vera works very hard to support herself and Daniel and no matter what, she never has enough money to cover all of the things she NEEDS. She is a strong woman and I commend her perseverance and her will to survive. She becomes a very different person when she loses Daniel and her life takes a turn for the worst. Claire is a modern day woman who has also lost a child, but in a different way. She and her husband are becoming more and more distant from each other and this story about the Blackberry Winter is the first story in a long time that has brought light to her eyes and she finds herself really engrossed in it. She is persistent, even when it seems as though she is getting nowhere with the story, and she ends up getting more than she bargained for.
The way Jio connects her characters to each other is absolutely brilliant. She brought back some characters from her first book, The Violets of March, and I was very happy to see them again and to discover what happened to them after the story. I am absolutely baffled at her work and I truly think each of her books is a work of art. I have always wanted to be a writer (I believe I am more of a reader and not a storyteller) and if I were to be like any writer out there today, I would want to be like Sarah Jio. I would want people to count down the days until my next book is released. I would want my readers to read my books over and over again. I would want my readers to love my work so much that they feel the need to buy copies for all of their friends (don’t get too excited guys. This is not something I can afford lol.) IF YOU HAVE NOT READ SARAH JIO, YOU MUST!!!!! I absolutely give this book a 5/5 and if I were the type to go above and beyond, I would actually give her a 7/5.

One of my favourite things about Sarah Jio (aside from her writing) is she is absolutely a normal person. It is very obvious that she cares about her readers and if you are part of a book club, if you send her a message, she will call your book club and say hi! I have been lucky enough to interview Sarah via email for the second time this year!!!! I hope you enjoy it! Thank you again, Sarah!!!!
Q: You come up with the most incredible story lines! What is your inspiration and once you have an idea, how do you start developing it
A: Thank you! The idea process is my favorite part, actually. I have what I like to call a "chronic disease" and that is that I get so many novel ideas! They come to me from every angle of my life (songs on the radio, things my kids say, snippets of conversations I overhear at the grocery store), and I love how they take root. My most recent novel, BLACKBERRY WINTER, was inspired by a song I heard on radio called Blackberry Winter, sung by the talented Hilary Kole. [note: You can find this on Youtube if you want to link to the song!] For me, if if I have a title I love and a vague idea of the setting and feel of the story, I can usually start to hear the characters whispering to me soon after. That’s such a fun part for me!

Q: I loved that you brought in some characters we were introduced to in The Violets of March. Is that something you knew you were going to do or did it just happen during the writing process?
A: Glad that you noticed! I love being able to drop in characters from past novels into my current novels because it's fun for me to see them again and I think readers enjoy seeing where characters end up. After all, they're sort of like old friends, and there's something sad about "The End" when you know you won't get to see them again. Also, as a reader, I love it when authors do this. Maeve Binchy was a genius at this technique. 

Q: The way that Claire feels after losing a child is very realistic and what I would imagine would be very close to how it feels to lose a child. What did you do in order to gain this real perspective?
A: While I have never personally gone through the agony of losing a child, I have let my mind wander to that frightening place on many occasions, especially while writing Blackberry Winter. I forced myself to consider how I would feel if something happened to me or my unborn baby during pregnancy, and I was able to channel my character, Claire, a bit in the process. 

Also, tragically, while I was writing this novel, one of my dearest friends told me the horrible news that her baby son was dying of brain cancer. I wrote a bit about how that affected me and the writing of this book in a special note at the end of the novel.

Q: What was your favourite piece to write in Blackberry Winter?
A: I suppose I loved writing about the whirlwind romance between Vera and Charles. He (and Daniel) was the one bright spot of her very difficult life, and I loved seeing her so happy and loved. Her happiness practically leapt off the page as I was writing those pages. She loved him so much.

Q: Were there any scenes that you wrote for BW that did not make the final cut?
A: There were a few, but this novel was, thankfully, at a very complete state when my editor read it. She made some great suggestions for improving some chapters, which I was so grateful for, but in the end, it was nice that there wasn't any significant revision work that needed to be done. Not every novel is this streamlined, and looking back, it still amazes me how clearly this story came together for me. It truly was a pleasure to write. 

Q: Of the three books that have been published to date, The Violets of March, The Bungalow, and Blackberry Winter, which is your favourite and why?
A: I suppose The Violets of March will always have a special place in my heart because it was my first novel, and The Bungalow because I dedicated it to my husband (and because the love story in that novel still haunts me to this day!), but, I feel that Blackberry Winter has grabbed my heart the most, especially because it deals with motherhood (have I mentioned that I'm the mom of three little boys ages 5, 3 and 1?). 

My fourth novel, The Last Camellia, will be out on May 28, 2013, and I can't wait for you to read it! It's my darkest and most mysterious novel yet!

I hope you have enjoyed this special post as much as I have! I am so grateful to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions. It is such a joy for a reader to be able to connect with a favourite author! If you are interested in reading Sarah Jio, be sure to check out my archives and you will find my reviews of her 2 other books, The Violets of March and The Bungalow, as well as my first interview with Sarah!
Happy Reading!
Next review: The Monster (Troubletwisters Book 2) by Garth Nix

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Making a Difference

I have been thinking for a while now that I want to do more for others. I am limited in my time and transportation, so I cannot volunteer like I wish I could. I know that Christmas time comes with a lot of different opportunities, so I have decided one thing I am going to take part in is A Book For Every Child.
"A Book For Every Child is a year-round project established in 1992, with the goal of giving books to children and youth who otherwise would not own a book. A Book For Every Child promotes awareness of the importance of books in a child's life, supports family literacy and has a direct and lasting impact on children in our community."

"The books are distributed to children of all ages who otherwise would not own a book, though more than 50 area agencies serving families and children."

"This year's campaign is our 21st! In the past 20 campaigns we have been able to distribute nearly 143,000 books to children, thanks to the generosity of Londoners."
When I was choosing my books at the store, I wanted to get a variety. I chose a couple of Christmas stories because I absolutely LOVE Christmas stories! And I love these 2 books very much. I also thought it was important to get some classics (if you read my personal post last week you know this!), so I was very excited to find these classics!


"You may purchase books at participating booksellers who offer a 20% discount from Nov.10-Dec.22.
*Coles Bookstore, Masonville
*Oxford Book Shop, 262 Picadilly
*Scholar's Choice: Trafalgar at Airport Road, 101 Fanshaw Park E., & 3120 Wonderland Rd. S.
*The Book Store at Western: University Community Centre
*Books Plus: 1153 Western Rd.
*Chapters: 86 Fanshawe Park Rd. E. and 1037 Wellington Rd."
I had so much fun choosing these books for the book drive, however it was SO hard to stick to a limit! I know that I wanted to get one teen and one 9-12 so that older kids would have something great to read as well. This was difficult, but I chose 2 of my favourites: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (an AMAZING teen book about suicide) and book 1 in The Rangers Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (for more information about this series, you can find my review of it in my archives.) I hope that whoever gets these books loves them as much as I do!

"Financial donations are also most welcome and gift cards are available on request. These funds enable Library staff to purchase new books on your behalf for children of all ages."

If you are interested in donating to this program, visit any London Public Library or visit the library website for more information. I really feel it is important that those of us who are in a better position than others help out where we can. It doesn't matter how big or small our action is, anything helps.

I apologize for sounding corny, but let's make this world a better place!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Red House by Mark Haddon

Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his estranged sister, Angela, and her family to join his family for a week at a vacation home in the English countryside. Richard has just remarried and acquired a willful stepdaughter in the process; Angela has a husband whose career has collapsed and three children who sometimes seem alien to her. The stage is set for seven days of resentment and guilt, staples of family gatherings the world over.
Because of Haddon’s extraordinary narrative technique, the stories of these eight people shine with the power of lived experience. Told through alternating viewpoints, The Red House becomes a symphony of long-held grudges, fading dreams and rising hopes, tightly guarded secrets, and illicit desires. But they do try – to forgive, to reach out, to sooth, to love – all adding up to a portrait of contemporary family life that is bittersweet, comic and deeply felt. As we come to know the characters, they become profoundly real to us. We understand them, even as we realize they will never fully understand each other, which is the tragicomedy of every family. (from book cover)
I wanted to share this alternate cover that I found. I actually like it better!!!!

I was not overly excited to read this book. I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in college and did not like it. As I was reading, though, I found myself enjoying the book more and more. I really like British stories (for whatever reason lol) and it got to the point in which I could not wait to be able to read more and find out what was going to happen next.
This is an extremely messed up family of 8. Not one of them is without issues. Insecurity, sexuality, faithfulness, trust and more are issues that are dealt with in this story. Richard is selfish and appears as though he is not even capable of loving. Louisa is keeping secrets from her past from Richard and has little faith in her daughter. Melissa is angry and in need of a friend. Angela is stuck on an event from her past that is making her miserable and makes the reader question her sanity. Dominic is a bit of a twit. He is a coward and untrustworthy. Daisy is confused and seems very sure of herself in some ways, but extremely insecure in others. Alex is a teenage boy. Enough said. And Benjy lives in his own little world, is a bit of a strange child, and does not know how to deal when adult issues sneak their way into his world. I think that when people read this they will either relate to the messed up family (not in the same ways, but most of our families ARE messed up, let’s be honest) or will feel better about their lives and realize they are not as messed up as they thought they were. Or maybe both haha.
I have to admit, there were small sections of the book in which I had absolutely NO idea what the author was talking about. Maybe if I did understand them my eyes would be open to another dimension of the book, but I feel as though I understood the storyline fairly well.
If you are a fan of British stories, like messed up storylines, or just want to try something different, give The Red House a try. You might be surprised (as I was) to find yourself really enjoying it! I give this book a 3/5.
Happy Reading!
Next Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

The Sarah Jio review is a special review, so be sure to check it out! It will be posted on Friday!!!!!