Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

What a great book! Divergent is one of those great first novels that really keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat right to the end... and desperate for the next in the series.

My love of dystopian books is no secret, and this one didn't disappoint at all. I found the story to be unique, engaging, definitely exciting, and I can't wait to continue with the series (why oh WHY did I read this so early... now I have to wait a year for the next one). I thought the story was really able to set itself apart from other dystopian tales making its characters and setting stand out. I found the world Roth created to be totally unique and yet almost believable with references to real world landmarks from Chicago. I loved how she mixed those into to remind the reader of where they were.

I have to say that I would totally be Dauntless if I lived in this dystopian Chicago. Jumping off of buildings, epic games of nighttime capture the flag? YES PLEASE! I'd love to be thrown into the fear simulations as well. I think it would be interesting to know what my greatest fears are and then to learn how to face them.

The characters in this book we absolutely fantastic. Tris was pretty kick-ass, but I love that she had a vulnerable side to go along with her toughness. I loved the hate characters like Eric and Peter and was really conflicted about Al. And Four.... mmmm, yes please again!. He is such an awesome character with a lot of depth and texture. Loved him.

I really appreciate authors who aren't afraid to "go there" with their characters and with their story lines. Those who don't necessarily tie everything up in a bow by the end...and Veronica Roth definitely one of those authors. She took some risks and threw some curve balls and they totally worked. The book wouldn't have been the same without them.

What I found most interesting as I read through this was that the plot didn't really "go" anywhere for the first 375 pages of the book, and yet I couldn't tear myself away from it. I was so engaged with the story and the characters that the "where is this going" question didn't really come-up. But then BAM.... the excitement tripled and I read the last pages in one super fast gulp. I love that I have very little idea of what will happen in the next installments and that the reader is left to speculate.

In-all, one of my favorite reads of 2011 so far.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

I decided to finally read The Forest of Hands and Teeth when I found a PB copy at my favorite used book store. I had heard very mixed reviews about it so I was apprehensive, but I wanted to read something different, something out of my comfort zone, and boy did I get that with this book.
The premise of this book really freaked me out. Not that I'm a stranger to post-apocalyptic tales (although this was my first zombie apocalypse story), but The Forest of Hands and Teeth is written in a way that really got to me. Not in a bump in the night kind of way, not in a "oh my god the zombies are going to eat my brains" kind of way, but in a "what would you do if the world as you knew it ended and you were one of what could be the last 6 people on earth". Does that make sense? I think it was the fact that they really didn't know what was out there that freaked me out. It's the same reason that the idea of space (as in outer-space) scares me to this day... the major unknown factor is super creepy and it's makes me very uncomfortable. Ryan skillfully crafted a story about desperate isolation in a giant and strange world. Creepy.

There's definitely a lot of excitement in this book. Although it starts out slow, the adventure begins rather suddenly and is spread through the rest of the story. It's not exactly "scary" but man, the unconsecrated are gross. There's no cheese factor to these zombies.... they are just plain nasty, and the world Ryan creates where life is constantly surrounded by death is just a little terrifying.

Along with the adventure and suspense comes a lot of really intense writing about personal emotion, life, love, sacrifice and really, the reason for existence. It's a very interesting combination of themes and somewhat surprising in a YA novel.

When I finished last night my husband asked me if I had enjoyed the book. My response, after thinking for a few moments was, "yes! definitely. But I never want to read it again and I won't read the next books". It's one of those stories that I'm glad I read, but it just made me too uncomfortable to want to revisit.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dystopian Tour 2011- Veronica Roth and Lauren Oliver Signing

Last night I got the extremely rare opportunity to attend a book signing at my local Chapters with YA authors Lauren Oliver (author of Before I Fall and Delirium) and Veronica Roth (author of Divergent).  To say that I was excited would be a gross understatement. First, a dystopian tour?  Yes please! Can't get enough! Second, we get very few authors in my little hometown and even in Toronto, the list of author signings that I actually care about is rather small.  So, when my fellow book nerd and friend Jessica sent me a tweet with the signing details, I was pumped.

It was very cool to listen to the author's talk about inspiration, influences, and the business.  I found out some cool tidbits like, did you know that Lauren wrote Before I Fall on her Blackberry?  Yeah.  Seriously.  She wrote it on the NYC subway while commuting between her full-time job, part-time job and full-time grad school and emailed it to herself each night.  Now that's dedication to your craft. 

I had some questions I was burning to ask (like if and how they've had to deal with YA nay-sayers and why they think YA lit has exploded the way it has, especially with adults) but I was too chicken.  I was also completely awkward when I went up to have my books signed.  I didn't have the nerve to ask for a picture and, although I wanted to say something incredibly intelligent and witty, I couldn't think of a single thing to say beyond "hi" and "thanks".  It was pathetic actually.  Lauren did tease my husband a little about being dragged along to a book signing, but other than giggling at that and giving the standard greetings... I said nothin'.  Totally forgettable. *sigh*  I'm such a loser.

In the end, I got three beautiful new signed hardcover books that I can't wait to read, and got to meet two very cool YA authors.  All in all, a great night for a book nerd! 

Delirium and Before I Fall signed by Lauren Oliver

Divergent signed by Veronica Roth

I also got a swag bag filled with Delirium and Divergent related trinkets and other assorted junk. I LOVE free stuff!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Heaven and Earth (Three Sisters Island Trilogy, book # 2)

After really enjoying Dance Upon Air, I was excited to dive back into the World of Three Sisters Island and the lives of its characters. Even though I had just finished Nell and Zack's story, I was excited to see how Ripley's part played out, because she had been such an independent and spirited character in the first installment.

When the story started, I was hooked immediately. Geeky and clumsy Mac had me intrigued from the beginning and I loved him right through the entire book. I think he was the perfect, calming, rational yin to Ripley's yang.

I have to say that my enjoyment of the book faltered in the later chapters due to Ripley. My patience for her attitude and arrogance started to wear thin and she really began to annoy me. Her back and forth feelings about her powers started to get old. I hope that in the next installment, she's a little more at peace with them.

My only other wish for the book is that we got a little more of that small-town, cutesy island feel. I really adore the setting and would like to read more about it.... have it remain an integral part of the book.

But at the end I can say that I truly did enjoy the book, even if not quite as much as the first, and I am excited to finally hear Mia's story. In my opinion, it has the potential to be the best of them all.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I celebrated Mother's Day with my Mom at her house over brunch.  My Step-Dad did the cooking, I did the cleaning and Mum just relaxed.   I had picked up a Zero Gravity Chair as her gift after years of listening to my Mum talk about getting one (seriously, if you don't have one, you need one), so we had a really nice time sitting in the backyard chatting on what turned out to be a gorgeous day.

Part way through the morning, my Mum hands me a tiny little ring and asks me if I would wear it with my wedding set. I tried it on and when the platinum band fit nicely under my rings, I agreed.  Then she proceeded to tell me that it's  my great-grandmother's wedding band and it's over 75 years old.  So now of course, I had to take a better look at it.  You can see that there used to be some kind of engraving on the band that's now worn off.... but it's still absolutely beautiful. 

Mum had me promise to wear it.  She said it was too big for her and she was afraid to have it sized give it's age and delicacy... but that she didn't want it to sit in a box anymore.  It's too big for me as well, but tucked under my wedding set, it's in no danger.

I've spent a lot of time staring at the ring, trying to imagine the history of my family that it's seen.  Did they buy it together as a young couple anticipating their wedding?  Was it on Gram's finger when my grandmother was born or got married? Did it accompany her to the funeral of my great-grandfather?  How long did she wear it after he passed?   How many birthday parties, weddings, Christenings and funerals of my relatives did it attend?  I know it sounds cheesy, but this ring represents the love that is responsible for my family.  It's responsible for my grandmother, then my Mum, and subsequently... me.  The idea of that fascinates me.

So now I'm wearing three rings on the ring finger and I'm excited to have a little piece of my family's history with me everyday.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cayo Largo 2011

I'm going to try to keep this a brief as possible because if I don't make a conscious effort, this post could be incredibly lengthy as I detail the entire trip minute by minute. So, here comes the condensed version.

We napped, we read, we lounged by the pool, we rented scooters and toured the whole (tiny) island twice, we took a sunset dinner cruise, I swam with the dolphins, we snorkeled at a coral reef and shipwreck, we visited and iguana sanctuary island, saw a live crocodile, we ate a lot, we drank way too much beer and too many pina coladas, we swam, we body surfed, we sat in the rocking chairs on our balcony listening to the ocean, I held a starfish and a baby sea turtle, we were pulled over by the Cuban police on our scooters and we took many walks on the AMAZING beaches. We had perfect weather.... not a single day of clouds.  It did rain twice, but only overnight so the puddles in the morning were the only indication.  We just.... had an incredible time.

The beaches on this island are indescribable.  The sand is perfectly white, the water is amazingly blue (and so warm) and they go on forever.  Cayo Largo was actually named to have the most beautiful beaches in the world by a UK travel magazine.  I loved every second of this trip and I can't wait to go back.

Resort: Grande Caribe Playa Blanca - ex: Barcelo (4 star)

Here are some of my favorite pics:

(This is actually in Toronto, at baggage claim.  But it was just too appropriate)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dance Upon Air by Nora Roberts (Three Sisters Trilogy Book # 1)

Whenever I need a quick read that can carry me through a rainy weekend or a bout of sickness.... Nora Roberts comes through. I can always count on her to write something that will keep me entertained and that's hard to put down. Dance Upon Air was no exception. Roberts crafted a charming, yet mysterious setting, likable characters and a storyline that grabbed me right from the beginning.

I think I was even more drawn to this story than some of her others given that I have a long harboured desire to live on a tiny island (hence my recent attempt to transfer to the University of Prince Edward Island) so I could easily imagine the settings as they were described, the little cottage, the house on the cliffs.... all of it is what I want someday.

I've always had a little fascination with Witchcraft as well, so I found many of those aspects very interesting. Roberts wrote about them in such a way that they didn't overshadow the story or throw it into the "fantasy" genre. I felt it was basically a romantic suspense, with a little paranormal thrown in for good measure.

I especially liked the conflict in this story. The abused wife on the run, taking her life back and finding happiness is a plot that I love to read.

Was it a great work of literary fiction? No. Was it predictable as all romances are? Yes. Did I love reading it anyway? Absolutely. I'm already working on the second book in the series and can't wait to spend some quality time with it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Congo by Michael Crichton

This was exactly the type of book I've been looking for lately. Talk about a page turner. I've come to the realization that I'm a HUGE fan of adventure books and I think it's why I'm so drawn to many dystopian stories. For example, I could have continued reading about the Hunger Games arena endlessly and loved the journey in the novel Unwind.... all the running, hiding out, close calls and nail-biting moments. Harry Potter 7 was my favorite of the series for just the same reason. I devour the adventurousness of it all.

I decided to ask around for good adventure stories. Congo (along with Michael Crichton in general) was on the of first books recommended to me so I grabbed an old paperback copy and my local indie.

I LOVED IT! Such a fun and suspenseful adventure. From the first page /first attack, to rafting on the river, to surviving through the night, I loved almost every second of it.

I really enjoyed many of the characters as well, especially Amy. Many of her little comments made me laugh out loud. Her quite literal interpretation of life was comical and really insightful. I also loved reading about Munroe and Peter's relationship and conversations with Amy.

The only tiny complaint I had was the shear volume of scientific and historical data that was thrown at you. In my opinion it didn't really add to the story. I understand that the author needs the reader to have a basic understanding of the details behind the expedition but the amount of it was not necessary it my opinion. Many of these parts of the book would drag... but not enough to make me dislike the story. I simply found myself skimming through them to get back to the main plot.

In all, I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be reading more Crichton soon. It's exciting to find an author that I like so much... especially when he has such a large selection of books to keep me busy for a while.

If you like adventure, don't hesitate to pick this one up.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen

This book has been on and off of my TBR list for ages because I couldn't decide if it was something that I truly wanted to read, or if it was really my "style". Then, with the movie coming out there has been quite a bit of buzz about it, so I finally decided to pick it up for my vacation.

Oh how I adored this book. The characters and setting are so rich and well written that I literally couldn't put it down. I created the scenes in my head in immense detail and could see, hear, and even smell and feel the words as they jumped off the page at me.

I must admit that several parts were very difficult for me to read. Gruen writes about the life of circus animals in a way that made me extremely... uncomfortable. However, it wouldn't be as honest and believable as it is without those aspects and truths. I fell in love with the animal characters, Queenie and Rosie especially.

What I think I enjoyed most about this story were the relationships. Not just that of Jacob and Marlena but also between Camel, Kinko, Rosemary and Jacob (to name a few). The bonds and fights and intense emotion made them fascinating to read about. I could really imagine old Jacob reliving these scenes as he contemplates his life.

I truly loved this book and will be recommending it to everyone for while. A rock solid tale of love, adventure, choice and life. If you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favor and go pick it up. Personally, I can't wait to read more from Gruen in the very near future.