Note about my Reviews

Dear Authors: The reviews in this blog are only personal opinions. I have absolutely no background in literature, writing or reviewing. I am a Librarian (actually a Library Technician for those who care OR know the difference) with a love for a good story. The opinions in the reviews are ONLY my OPINIONS. I am not commenting on the writers ability since well -- I am not a writer and never will be. If you are the author of any of the books reviewed here, my opinion is just that and not a judgment against you!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in our Stars
by John Green
Suggested Ages: 13+
Dutton Books (Penguin Books)
Buy from Indigo

Description: Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, 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


The Good Stuff
  • Damn you Green, you kept me up till 1:30 am and my eyes were still bloodshot in the morning from crying
  • Realistic teens and I know its very hard to believe for a YA book but the parents are not assholes -- I know so very rare
  • Brilliant dark humour thrown in exactly where it is needed 
  • If you don't love these characters there is something seriously wrong with you
  • Tough read as a Mom - cannot even imagine watching my child die
  • Hazel is tough and funny and caring and well quite frankly someone to admire
  • Hopeful - I know that sounds weird, but there is just something hopeful and reaffirming about the whole story
  • Never saccharine or unrealistic
  • Hate writing reviews for books I loved because I feel like I cannot express the right words to convey their brilliance
  • Will be buying the rest of Green's books with my next paycheck
  • Even the secondary characters are well developed
  • Could not put it down - even-though I knew someone might not make it and it deals with kids suffering and have hard time reading that sort of story 
  • Everything just flows perfectly 

The Not So Good Stuff
  • Did I mention how red my eyes were when I woke up the next day
Favorite Quotes/Passages

" I hated hurting him.  Most of the time I could forget about it, but the inexorable truth is this. They might be glad to have me around, but I was the alpha and omega of my parent's suffering."

"That's why I like you. Do you realize how rare it is to come across a hot girl who creates an adjectival version of the word pedophile? You are so busy being you that you have no idea how  utterly unprecedented you are?"

"Our city has a rich history, even though many tourists are only wanting to see the Red Light District" He paused. "Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read
  • This one is pretty much for everyone.  There is a sex scene but it is tasteful - just an FYI in terms of audience
  • Tough read for parents especially those whose children have had/have cancer

5 Dewey's

I received a copy of this at the Children's Breakfast at BEA 2012

Mom and Me Mondays: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien


The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
HarperCollins
ISBN: 9780618260300
Buy from Indigo 

Description: A great modern classic and the prelude to The Lord of the Rings

Smaug certainly looked fast asleep, when Bilbo peeped once more from the entrance. He was just about to step out onto the floor when he caught a sudden thin ray of red from under the drooping lid of Smaug's left eye. He was only pretending to be asleep! He was watching the tunnel entrance...

Whisked away from his comfortable, unambitious life in his hobbit-hole in Bag End by Gandalf the wizard and a company of dwarves,Bilbo finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Although quite reluctant to take part in this quest, Bilbo surprises even himself by his resourcefulness and his skill as a burglar!

Written for J.R.R. Tolkien's own children, The Hobbit met with instant success when published in 1937.



Jake's Review:  Would have been higher rating but the man just had way too much detail and his sentences were like 500 words long.  Liked that the characters from the Lord of the Rings (e.g. Gandalf, Elrond, etc) were in the Hobbit. I watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy with my parents so I was familiar with many of the characters.  I like the fantasy of the story with all the made up creatures and places.  My favorite character was Bilbo because even though he was a wimpy, lazy guy he became brave and fought creatures bigger and stronger than he was.  Gollum is one serious creepy dude (and Mom thinks she can do a Gollum voice but she can't - please make her stop)  I think Aidan would really like this one.

Jake's Rating: 8/10


Mom's Review: Jake and I decided to read this one together - in other words - I read a chapter out loud to him every night for almost a month.  An absolutely delightful fantasy tale that I highly recommend everyone to read. That being said -- oh my god -- Tolkien is the "King" of the run on sentence. Reading it aloud was excruciating at times,  I never knew when to breathe.  Not to mention the shear amount of times he went off topic. It truly drove me nuts at times.  It took us a while to get into it but about a quarter of a way in we were hooked and couldn't wait to read it each night.  The dialogue between Bilbo and Smog was worth each and every run on sentence.  The sheer amount of creativity put into this story is awe inspiring!!! Will be interesting to see what they do with the movies.  Best part was reading it with Jake every night, a truly wonderful bonding experience. 

Mom's Rating: 8.5/10

I borrowed my husband's copy to read aloud to Jake.  Yup he actually read a book once and liked it

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Wordsworth Edition
ISBN: 978-1-85326-104-6
Buy from Indigo

Description: Mary Lennox was horrid. Selfish and spoilt, she was sent to stay with her hunchback uncle in Yorkshire. She hated it.

But when she finds the way into a secret garden and begins to tend it, a change comes over her and her life. She meets and befriends a local boy, the talented Dickon, and comes across her sickly cousin Colin who had been kept hidden from her. Between them, the three children work astonishing magic in themselves and those around them.


Mini Book Review: I was disappointed when I first started the book as I heard so many fabulous things about this classic.  I almost gave up after about 30 pages as it was hard to read about a child who was just utterly unlikeable (and yes I can see how she bacame that way) But than something happened about 45 pages in I started falling in love with her and wanted to know more.  Such a charming, beautiful story and I now know why so many people list this as one of their favorite stories.  Since I have to get 3 reviews done by New Years Eve (Tomorrow) this is going to be a quickie review.  Fabulous character development and wonderful use of setting. You felt like you knew these characters and let me tell you the whole time I was reading, I also imagined that I was on the moors with the children.  As a child this would be a truly marvelous read. As an adult my only negative comments would be that some might stop reading because at the beginning Mary is so unlikeable.  Also the ending is a tad saccharine and predictable  - but I really didn't mind that as I am a big softie. To put it simply it is a lovely sweet innocent tale of the importance of play, good fresh air and the power of imagination.

4.5 Dewey's

I purchased this at the Indigo at the Eaton Centre for my BBC 100 Top Books Challenge (Yeah I totally failed I only finished 2 of the 5 I was going to review - but hey I moved across the country and became at stay at home mom)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Released: The Shapeshifters' Library by Amber Polo

Released (The Shapeshifters' Library #1)
by Amber Polo
Blue Merle Publishing
ISBN: 978-0977-329663
Purchase

Description: Love dogs? Love books? Love libraries? Hate Book-burning werewolves? Once long ago the Shipsfeather Academy was a training ground for an ancient race of dog-shifters whose mission was to protect the world’s knowledge. A powerful curse sealed these librarians in the basement of their building and gave the control of the town to a pack of book-burning werewolves.

Librarian Liberty Cutter watches in horror as the town’s public library goes up in flames and plans to re-establish the library in the abandoned Shipsfeather Academy building. Chronus, the Old English Sheepdog headmaster of the academy and leader of the dog-shifters, knows he must make some changes to continue to keep his pack safe. But even if he could persuade Liberty to believe in a talking sheepdog, how far can she be trusted? And will she ever be able to care for him as a man. He has to try, because Liberty Cutter and her staff of zany librarians may hold the key to the dog-shifters’ freedom…and the future of the town


Review:  A delightfully sweet simple urban fantasy story perfect for the those in the library field.  This is one that will appeal to the more mature reader who doesn't enjoy too much sex or violence which is something you don't see to much in the urban fantasy genre.  There is definitely a market for this type of story.  There is nothing wrong with the story it just wasn't my particular cup of tea, guess I am just too jaded. The story moves quickly and the characters are quirky.  My big complaint with the story that it was just too centered on the library world.  The constant mentions of "Thank Dewey" and "For the love of LC" or the mentioning of actual dewey decimal classifications #'s to describe something,  just became very irritating after a while. Once or twice would have been delightful and a nice sly wink to us library folk, but it was just too much of a good thing.  Also I felt at time like I was being preached too about certain topics.  And I know its a silly thing but the fact that all werewolves were evil book burners (ok anyone who burns books is evil) and all the dogs were good - just seemed a little too black and white for me.  Again this is just based on what I like and nothing against the author. Goodness know as you can tell by this review I have absolute no real handle of the English language.
 
Favorite Quote

"You mean every cranky, indolent, and downright nasty person who works in a library is a werewolf? That teacher in library school who turned every concept into an equation, the student assistant who mis-shelved the most popular books on purpose, and catologers who create obscure subject headings? Bureaucrats who cut library budgets and hours?  Parents who object to books containing any idea not already in their own heads?"



3 Dewey's

I received this from the author in exchange for an honest review.  Sorry Amber, have to be honest and review has nothing to do with your talent, just my particular enjoyment of the story

Reached by Ally Condie

Reached
by Ally Condie
Dutton Books (Penguin)
ISBN: 978-0-525-42366-9
Suggested Ages: 12+
Buy from Indigo

Description: After leaving Society and desperately searching for the Rising—and each other—Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again: Cassia has been assigned to work for the Rising from within Society, while Ky has been stationed outside its borders. But nothing is as predicted, and all too soon the veil lifts and things shift once again.


The Good Stuff
  • Nice hopeful realistic ending
  • Condie has a gift for the prose, very poetic
  • Fascinating world building
  • Characters develop maturely
  • Loved how the two boys didn't try to one up each other or fight each other for Cassia - very refreshing
  • I'm sorry I really, really wanted to love this book but I just basically found it meh - like she had to flesh out a two story book into three due to a contract - but her writing is truly beautiful and she is fabulous at character development
The Not So Good Stuff
  • I expected better - but after finishing I felt that this series might have been far better as only a two book series
  • Now its been a long time since I read Crossed, but found myself on many occasions being a little bit confused by what was going on  (maybe should have reread series again)
  • Many things happen way too conveniently 
Favorite Quote/Passages

"So don't worry if you don't hear from me as often. I'll find my way to you as soon as I can. I have a plan. Ky, I know that you 're going to want to come find me, that you're going to want to save me. But I need you to trust me to save myself."

"She tries to explain. "What I'm trying to say is that you've found your way home. You were born to help people, and you'll find a way to do that, no matter where you are. Just like the redfish are born to find their way back from the ocean."

"They are in all of us. I believe this. That every person might have a way to fly, a line of poetry to put down for others to see, a hand to heal."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read
  • Strictly for those who have read the first two books

3.75 Dewey's

I purchased this at Chapters Shawnessy as I had read the first two books in the trilogy and NEEDED to know what happened

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lipstick and Bangs

Lipstick and Bangs
by Colleen McKie
Fierce Ink Press
ISBN: 9780988106796
Buy from Smashwords

Description: Colleen McKie brings readers back to her high school days in the early 90s with Lipstick and Bangs. It was a time of change in which she began to diverge from the interests of her lifelong friends to become an alt rock music girl with a bookish affinity for Stephen King.

Lipstick and Bangs is the true story of navigating identity at an age when everything is weighed against the pressures of friendships and boys.

In the crush or be crushed world of teen dating, can she be true to herself when she’s unsure of who that person really is?

The Good Stuff
  •  The words flow so smoothly and easily you feel you are there
  • Raw and honest & reminds me so much  of my own life
  • Got a kick out of when Todd says he's going out to Banff to work in a resort - as in the early 80's that is exactly what my hubby Jeff did (at the Banff Springs hotel)
  • Relevant message about being yourself & having the courage to be different
  • Canadian author
  • admire those who write so openly and honestly about their painful memories
  • Proceeds of sales go to charity
  • Not a fan of short stories, but I enjoyed
The Not So Good Stuff
  • Too short -- yeah I know  short story - I get it, I just always want more
Favorite Quote

" He told Mike you were kinda cool. You know, in a geeky way.
In a geeky way? Oh, how nice. I'm sure my sarcasm was lost on Trina.  He might have well has said I had a great personality."
 

Who Should/Shouldn't Read
  •  Perfect for any one who is or ever was in high school
  • For us girls who were just a little bit different
4 Dewey's

I received this from Fierce Ink Press in exchange for an honest review

Monday, December 10, 2012

Love You Like Suicide by Jo Treggiari

Love You Like Suicide 
by Jo Treggiari
Fierce Ink Press Co-Op
Buy from Fierce Ink Press 

Description: Set against the backdrop of the 1980s California punk scene, Love You Like Suicide explores the dark side of growing up. Author Jo Treggiari writes frankly about a period in her youth when she was addicted to drugs and living in a derelict neighbourhood.

After a near-fatal accident, Jo is determined to clean up and start a fresh, new life. But there's one thing she can't leave behind: a tender friendship, on the brink of being lost forever.

Love You Like Suicide is a gritty, true account of an adolescent who struggles against the odds to make a better life for herself

The Good Stuff
  • Heartbreaking, raw and honest
  • Takes courage to write about such a dark period 
  • Not a word wasted, story is quick and to the point - a slice of life type story which are always intriguing
  • Gifted writer - has a unique writing style that may not appeal to all, but it is fresh and real
  • Author is Canadian - Yeah I know but I am Canadian and its important to me
  • Gives you insight into someone fighting an addiction and wanting something better for themselves
  • Love the opening paragraph, it hooked me in right away
  • Some of the proceeds from the sale go to charity - makes a do gooder like me happy

The Not So Good Stuff
  • Won't lie, not much of a short story lover, as I think I always just want more, so I always get frustrated when it just ends (It's not you Jo - it's me)
  • Hard to read stories about a world I have no understanding of - it is very dark
Favorite Quote

"How should I write this?
In third person so it becomes just a story?
In second so that you can pretend you were there too?
In first, so that I can drown in a tidal wave of sorrow, sink under the weight of it, remember what it feels like to be utterly lost?
First person it is."


Who Should/Shouldn't Read
  • Perfect for those looking for something dark and gritty and honest
  • Not for those looking for a fast paced or light story -- this has heart

3.75 Dewey's

I was sent an ecopy for an honest review from Fierce Ink Press

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Age of Hope by David Bergen: Mini book review

The Age of Hope
by David Bergen
HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-1-44341-135-6
Buy from Indigo

Description: Born in 1930 in a small town outside Winnipeg, beautiful Hope Koop appears destined to have a conventional life. Church, marriage to a steady young man, children - her fortunes are already laid out for her, as are the shiny modern appliances in her new home. All she has to do is stay with Roy, who loves her. But as the decades unfold, what seems to be a safe, predictable existence overwhelms Hope. Where - among the demands of her children, the expectations of her husband and the challenges of her best friend, Emily, who has just read The Feminine Mystique - is there room for her? And just who is she anyway? A wife, a mother, a woman whose life is somehow unrealized?

Mini Book Review:  It's always hard to write a review for a book that you just couldn't get into even-though you appreciate the talents of the author. I don't want to turn people off of the book, but at the same time I cannot lie and say I loved it. Beautifully written, which kept me reading even-though I wasn't really enjoying Hope's story. I just found her wishy washy and the storyline just left me feeling depressed.  I also think I had a problem with it because it was based in Winnipeg & just brought back memories of High School English. Which also makes me feel as stupid as I did back than trying to figure out why someone was interested in reading about some women who survives through it all.  I do that everyday, I'm a survivor, but I don't want to read about women like me.  I'm just a simple girl and need something more than a character study, I want adventure or at least to learn something.   He's an extremely gifted writer and I think this will be a big hit.  But as I said before, it's just not my thing.  Mr Bergen you are a talented writer with a true insight into the human psyche and I applaud you for that


3 Dewey's (Based on my enjoyment not on the talents of the author)

I received this at the HarperCollins Indigo Insiders event & didn't have to review


Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

Mrs Queen Takes the Train
by William Kuhn
HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0-06-220828-6
Buy from Indigo

Description: After decades of service and years of watching her family's troubles splashed across the tabloids, Britain's Queen is beginning to feel her age. She needs some proper cheering up. An unexpected opportunity offers her relief: an impromptu visit to a place that holds happy memories--the former royal yacht, "Britannia," now moored near Edinburgh. Hidden beneath a skull-emblazoned hoodie, the limber Elizabeth (thank goodness for yoga) walks out of Buckingham Palace into the freedom of a rainy London day and heads for King's Cross to catch a train to Scotland. But a characterful cast of royal attendants has discovered her missing. In uneasy alliance a lady-in-waiting, a butler, an equerry, a girl from the stables, a dresser, and a clerk from the shop that supplies Her Majesty's cheese set out to find her and bring her back before her absence becomes a national scandal.

The Good Stuff
  • Delightfully odd and uniquely refreshing
  • Richly developed unusual characters who feel very real
  • Makes you realize that the Queen is a living human being and not just a figure head (yes this is a fictionalized version of the Queen - but still)
  • Discusses race & class differences but in a non preachy in your face sort of way - almost light and playful - but at the same time makes you see the absurdity of judging someone based on race or class (Hope that makes sense probably should have taken the cold medicine AFTER I finished this review)
  • Adored the character of Rajiv and found his back story intriguing - don't want to put any spoilers but his interactions with other characters in terms of his race are funny yet sad and true
  • The Queen's journey is that of most women dealing with mid life crisis & depression and the age old question of "Did I do any good in this life?"
  • Found myself wondering actually how the Queen feels and what makes her happy
  • Actually learned a few things about the inner workings of the Royal Household
  • A wonderful healing journey
  • Within characters various discussions they discuss frankly serious issues such as homosexuality, post-traumatic stress and depression - again never done in a preachy way, just matter of fact and out in the open

The Not So Good Stuff
  • Jumps around a lot which I found quite disconcerting -- but hey I was also very sick while reading -- so take that with a grain of salt
  • Felt the yoga bits didn't really work - that they were just thrown in to make it even quirkier - but hey it could be that I just couldn't imagine H.R.H. actually doing a child's pose
Favorite Quotes/Passages

"She recalled with shame how little she'd taken it seriously when Diana Wales was suffering from depression. None of them had. In her depression was only something that soldiers returning from battle suffered, 'shell shock' yes, but everyone felt dejected every now and again. You didn't take medicine for it. You pulled up your socks. Went for a walk. The whole Diana business had taught her that depression was an illness and that there were drugs that would help if it didn't lift after a month or two of feeling unhappy."

"This time it was Anne's turn to shoot Luke a resentful glance.  He was after all a young man of about her nephew's age,  and sometimes she wondered whether all young men weren't in league against all old ladies. Young men hadn't looked at her on the street for a long time and she still minded."

"Now he'd inherited the earldom and was old enough to stand in the pulpit, he thought he could give her a lecture in how to behave. That was gratitude for you. Had she the power, she certainly would have thrown him in the Tower at that moment. But no, she was quite powerless, she had to do as she was told."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read
  • Wonderful book for a book club.  Would lead to fabulous discussions on the Monarchy, Depression, public figures, fame, racism & class
  • Would definitely appeal to those fascinated by the British Monarchy
  • Keeping my copy for when my Mother-in-Law comes to visit as I think she would really enjoy this one
4.5/5 Dewey's

I received this from HarperCollins as part of our Indigo Insiders program & am in no way required to review

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachman - Mini Book Review

The Peculiar
by Stefan Bachmann
Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins)
ISBN:978-0-06-219518-0
Suggested Ages: 9+
Buy from Indigo

Description: Don't get yourself noticed and you won't get yourself hanged.  In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings--Peculiars--and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley--Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he's noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish . . . and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.


Mini Book Review: Delightfully twisted & morbid fairy tale mixed with an almost steampunk vibe.  Was flabbergasted that this was written when the author was only 16. Seriously, I could barely get my homework done at that age, let alone write such a brilliant tale.  I was hooked in from the opening paragraph of this story with its vivid imagery and eccentric characters. The story does drag a wee bit about a third of the way through the story but it does pick up quickly. Lots of fascinating characters and an intriguing storyline that will keep you hooked to the end of the tale.  Love to see characters (Mr Jelliby) who are ordinary and relatively wimpy, do extraordinary and brave things.   The ending almost killed me though with its cliffhanger especially since I have no idea how long it will be till the next story comes out.  Hope this makes sense, I am home sick, and even less articulate than normal. Highly recommend this for the middle grade reader who is a little more sophisticated in his reading tastes. 

Favorite Quotes

``A murmur passed through the gathering. Mr. Jelliby squirmed. Oh, not murder, Why couldn`t people simply be nice to each other.``

``You are so alike really, you English and the faeries. So desperately far on either side that you can`t see anything in between. Ah, well. I`ll not talk. This part of London, nobody talks but the face on the coin, and as I said, it`s none of my business.``

``Bartholomew almost belonged here in this strange place. He could do the same things everyone else did, and no one would drag him off for it. No one would even notice him. For once in his life it wasn`t he who was peculiar.``

Who Should or Shouldn`t Read
  • Definitely for fans of the Leviathan series
  • Would recommend for the more mature middle grade reader  - Librarians make sure you pick just the right reader for this - this isn`t for everyone
4.25 Dewey`s

Simrit lent me a copy of this as she thought I would enjoy it