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!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

Dear Killer
by Katherine Ewell
Katherine Tegan Books (HarperCollins)
ISBN: 978-0-06-225782-6
Suggested Ages: 16+ (listed as younger, but I disagree due to well see my comments)
Buy from Indigo

Description: Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe



Random Thoughts
  • Not sure how I really feel about this one as it disturbed me on so many levels, especially after the murder of five college students that just happened here in Calgary
  • Would however lead to some fascinating discussions about topics such as nature vs. nurture, evil, morality, nihalism
  • See some real promise in the authors writing and she has plenty of time as I just noticed she is only 18 yrs old - good on ya, I was working for Zellers in a polyester wraparound dress at that age
  • Disturbed that a mother would teach a child to be a killer
  •  A lot of things didn't make sense to me, and I really didn't buy  Kit as a "perfect killer" based on her inner monologue and actions
  • I'm glad it ended the way it did
  • Didn't feel a connection to any of the characters
  • Good opening chapter, but than goes downhill
  • Kit is annoying and her inner dialogue is juvenile 
  • Dumbest police department ever
  • Heard that is is supposed to be like Dexter, I soo don't think so. Dexter only kills bad people first off, and well Dexter has a brain
 Memorable Quote

"I'm a higher power," I said, "because the people need something to be afraid of. They need a monster under their stairs."

2 Dewey's 

I received this as part of the insiders program at Indigo and am in no way compensated or asked to review on this blog or sell copies (and right now they are probably disappointed they did as this one just bothered me)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
Scribner (Simon and Schuster)
ISBN: 9781476746586
Buy from Indigo

Description: From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work


The Good Stuff
  •  Hauntingly beautiful writing, almost poetic
  • Such fascinating and real characters
  • Some truths about life so elequently written
  • What could have been a depressing tragic and bleak story under less deft hands, turns into a hopeful, raw and honest tale of survival and life
  • Gives insight into how young boys were turned into Nazi's
  • This could be turned into an award winning movie, with the right director and cast
  • Enjoyed the secondary characters and felt they rounded out the story.  I especially enjoyed Marie Laurie's family and friends
  • Loved the inclusion of Jules Verne's works  
  • Gives you some understanding of the meaningless of war and the right and wrong on both sides
 The Not So Good Stuff
  • The jumping from one time frame to another can be a wee bit jarring
  • Relly have to pay attention or you are going to miss things
  • Not enough tied up plot points for my taste (Yes I need things wrapped up, I am a simple girl)
 Favorite Quotes/Passages 

"Seventy-six years old," she whispers, "and I can still feel like this? Like a little girl with stars in my eyes?"

"Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever." 

"They just say words, and what are words but sounds these men shape out of breath, weightless vapors they send into the air of the kitchen to dissipate and die."

"When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery: I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?"

4.5 Dewey's


I received this from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Spun by Catherine McKenzie: Blog Tour and Giveaway

Spun
by Catherine McKenzie
HarperCollins Canada
ISBN: 978-0616000281
Buy from Indigo

Description: In this funny and touching novella, bestselling author Catherine McKenzie returns to the story of Amber Sheppard, It Girl and celebrity train wreck from McKenzie’s reader-favourite novel, Spin.

Life has been rough for starlet Amber since leaving rehab. She’s been two years sober, but no one seems to believe her -- not the gossip media, not casting agents, and most certainly not her spotlight-loving parents. With her friendships ruined by betrayal and her career at a standstill, Amber’s just trying to get her life back on track. It doesn’t help that her former love, movie star Connor Parks, keeps trying to draw Amber back in, not just to their relationship but to his hard-partying ways. One fateful night, Amber breaks down and agrees to join him on board his private jet as it readies for take-off -- a decision that will change her life forever and expose her to a whole new level of scrutiny and heartbreak.


The Good Stuff
  • Enjoyed the scenes between Amber and Kate. They have a complicated but intriguing relationship
  • The speech Henry gives at Connor's funeral was beautiful and honest 
  • Fabulous insights about the paparazzi and the famous and wanting the rich and famous to fall hard
  • I am so glad Catherine wrote this novella, as I wanted to know more about Amber 
  • Realistic character development. I was intrigued by Amber in Spin, but I fell in love with her in Spun
  • Wickedly funny, yet heartfelt and honest 
  • Didn't want it to end. Read it in one setting while curled up in a warm blanket with a lovely Pinot  Noir
  • I sort of see Amber as a more in touch Lindsay Lohan - just a little bit, you can see hope for Amber's future, unlike Ms Lohan however. (That girl needs some tough love and to be around people that actually give a damn for her)
  • Once again Ms McKenzie entertains, while at the same time  making you think
  • McKenzie is a born storyteller and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next
  • For those who have not yet had a chance to read anything by this author,  what the hell are you waiting for, get yourself to a bookstore (I suggest Chapters Shawnessy in Calgary, where a delightful CER named JR works - yes that is me) and pick up everything, you will not be disappointed

The Not So Good Stuff
  •  Too bloody short, wanted more. Amber is a delightfully fresh and fun character. 
  • Would have liked more of the wickedly funny
  • Yup so both points here are just saying that it was fabulous, I just wanted more (I know, I know I am such a selfish little git)
Favorite Quotes/Passages

"I suspect this stance actually has more to do with Kanye leaving me off a guest list or two in the last year, but I leave Olivia to her moral ground."

"Didn't keep you from taking the assignment, though did it? Again."
"True. My name is Kate. I'm an alcoholic and an awful person."
"You have to really mean it when you say that."


"None of my new clothes fit me properly and I've gained three pounds. I'm starting to look healthy, which had better stop pretty soon if i ever want to get cast in anything again."

4.5/5 Dewey's

I received an e-book copy from the author in exchange for an honest review 



 













 
Sorry technical difficulties for giveaway. Please entere here







Friday, May 2, 2014

Audio Book Review: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram
by Gregory David Roberts
St Martin's Press
Read by  Humphrey Bower
ISBN: 9780786168828
Buy from Indigo


Description: "It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."

So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.

Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.

As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.

Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas---this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature



Random Thoughts
  • I can't lie if I had to read this I might have been frustrated with but listening to it was a truly memorable experience - Thanks Jen for recommending this one
  • Truly one of the most beautifully lyrical and poetic tales that reads like an autobiograpy (and from my understanding of the author it is based on his life story) His use of language is gorgeous
  • Humphrey Bower has a remarkeble talent for voice work
  • I trust you not to fall in love with Prabakar 
  • Broke my hear I was actually bawling at one point while listening (just before I had to pick up my son from Kindergarden)
  • I just didn't buy his obsession with Karla, found her to be meh (and if I had to listen to him talk about her eyes one more time I was going to scream)
  • Utterly mesmorizing and you lose yourself in Lin's world
  • Its like 5 stories in one
  • Each and every character is fully developed and flawed and so very human
  • Wonderful insights into various cultures - and made me think of my own inner preconceived notions about these various cultures
  • For the first time in my life I have a desire to see that part of the world - the author truly brought it to life
  • Shows the beauty andzest for life of those who live in poverty
  • Such universal truths throughout the story
  • No spoilers but all I can say is Prabakar!!!!
  • Perfectly said about the treatments of the soldiers worldwide
  • The treatment of prisoners was appalling - just to break someones spirit
  • Ewww the insects 
  • Learned a lot of history
  • Makes you think about the nature of life, good vs evil, too much power in too few hands (a quote as well), crime and punishment, god and so much more
  • Story still stays with me many weeks after listening to
  • On many occasions I had this same idea in my head while listening "The separation that they found so easy and instinctual-this is my criminal life, over here, and that's my religious life, over there-was impossible for me"  I had a hard time understanding that those who live a life of crime can be so religious is an alien thing to me, yet I found myself understanding and loving these characters - very weird
  • Excellent book for a book club (a serious one though)

Memorable Passages (Sorry couldn't choose only 3 this time)

“It's forgiveness that makes us what we are. Without forgiveness, our species would've annihilated itself in endless retributions. Without forgiveness, there would be no history. Without that hope, there would be no art, for every work of art is in some way an act of forgiveness. Without that dream, there would be no love, for every act of love is in some way a promise to forgive. We live on because we can love, and we love because we can forgive.” 

“That's how we keep this crazy place together - with the heart. Two hundred fuckin' languages, and a billion people. India is the heart. It's the heart that keeps us together. There's no place with people like my people, Lin. There's no heart like the Indian heart.”

"I told him that on the journey you had loose motions, and you made such a mess in your over-underpants that we had to throw them away.' 'You told him,' I asked, 'that I shit my pants?' 'Oh, yes, Lin. I certainly couldn't tell him that you have no over-underpants!' 'Well, of course not.” 

"Nothing ever fits the palm so perfectly, or feels so right, or inspires so much protective instinct as the hand of a child"

"Every life, every love, every action and feeling and thought has its reason and significance: its beginning, and the part it plays in the end. Sometimes, we do see..Nothing in any life, no matter how well or poorly lived, is wiser than failure or clearer than sorrow. And in the tiny, precious wisdom they give to us, even those dread and hated enemies, suffering and failure, have their reason and their right to be.

I went to war. .... I survived, while other men around me died. ... men whose lives were crunched up in mistakes, and thrown away by the wrong second of someone else's hate, or love, or indifference.
 

4.5/5 Dewey's

I purchased this from Audible and well lets face it, everything I read or listen to, I share with you

Audio Book Review: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel (Abhorsen #1)
by Garth Nix
Narrated by Tim Curry
Audio CD by Listening Library
Book published by HarperCollins


Description: Ever since she was a child, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead that won't stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that world.

Though her journey begins alone, she soon finds companions: Mogget, whose seemingly harmless feline form hides a powerful spirit; and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. With only each other to trust, the three must travel deep into the Old Kingdom, toward a battle that will pit them against true forces of life and death -- and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own hidden destiny



Random Thoughts 
  • Just plain adored Mogget - such an intriguing little feline (and also gets some of the best dialogue)
  • Excellent world building
  • Chapters Jen told me about this one - she had me hooked at Tim Curry narrates.  Didn't even look at what the book was about, just wanted Tim to read to me.  Don't worry Garth,  I ended up truly enjoying the characters, the world and the dialogue.
  • Sorry cannot lie, the cover is blah and I probably would have walked by it with not a second glance. 
  • Tim Curry narrates - that is enough reason to listen to (On that note, best not listen to this at 11:15pm on a foggy night - trust me!)
  • A delightful, magical tale that I wish I had known about earlier
  • Sabriel is a delightfully flawed, rich character
  • Doesn't pander to the young reader. This is dark and nasty absolutely wonderful
  • Appreciated the fact that how their magical world exists is just matter of fact and never explained.  And also doesn't go into much detail (which is why I usually don't read fantasy)
  • Cannot wait to listen to the next installment 
  • Mogget voiced by Tim Curry - divine!
Memorable Quotes (sorry not many, a total pain in the ass to do quotes on audio books)

 "I love you," he whispered. "I hope you don't mind.”

“Fear and realisation of ignorance, strong medicines against stupid pride.”  

4 Dewey's

I borrowed this from the Calgary Public Library, but it is also available from Audible

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Guest Post: After the Book Deal by Jonathan Auxier

Today I welcome the charming, talented and handsome Jonathan Auxier to the blog.  I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Ontario Library Association SuperConference a couple of years ago.  If you haven't read his Peter Nimble (link to review) , I urge you to pick up a copy today. 

The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel, The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!

***

Day Eight: Being Heard in the Crowd
Yesterday we talked about how to plan a successful book launch, today we’ll be looking at some other book events—namely conferences festivals.

Conferences
These are effectively trade shows for people in the book industry—they are less about selling books than building buzz and awareness. Some major examples are BEA, ALA, and AWP. These events put you in direct contact with the gatekeepers of publishing: reviewers, librarians, and teachers. The best thing about conferences is that there’s a lot less “selling” and a lot more fun conversation with like-minded people. Really, it’s a chance to meet members of your tribe face to face.

Debut authors very rarely present at conferences. In most cases, presenters are invited by the event organizers (and they can’t very well invite you if they don’t know who you are!). The more likely thing is that your publisher will send you out to sign some ARCs in their booth and then have dinner with key industry people. Again, your job is less to sell your book than sell yourself as an exciting new voice in the world of publishing. Even though people are having fun, there is some very real pressure: your publisher will be paying close attention to see how you interact with people in the industry. Your goal is to be charming, engaged, and above all professional. This is where it’s important to have already developed your author platform—you should by now be completely comfortable talking about your books and yourself as an author.

Book conferences are amazing and incredibly fun. Not every author gets sent to these sorts of events, but you should definitely lobby for your publisher to bring you out. Those interested in conferences may also want to check out my post Five Things I Learned At ALA.

Book Festivals
While conferences are about connecting with industry people, book festivals are about connecting with actual readers. This is probably the most important thing to remember: festivals are mainly concerned with making sure the readers have fun ... no one really cares if the author enjoys herself. With few exceptions, book festivals are incredibly noisy, crowded, and a little chaotic. It can be hard to do a Q&A when a band is playing loud music across the way. Authors do connect with readers and sell books—but rarely enough to cover travel and hotel.

So what’s the value in attending book festivals? Festivals provide a chance for authors to connect with local bookstores (who organize the various panels and handle sales for signings). Really, your biggest goal should be to make sure that the bookseller likes you and wants to invite you back to do an event in-store at some future date. Having a relationship with independent booksellers is invaluable, and festivals are an essential part of that equation.

The other perk of book festivals is that (aside from your actual panel and signing) there is a lot less pressure to be “on” ... which means you can goof off with other writers! Some of my closest writing friendships have started at book festivals. My advice is to first and foremost approach book fairs as a chance to meet and connect with peers.

That’s it for AFTER THE BOOK DEAL! Tomorrow I’ll be talking at Shelf Employed talking about how to handle the dreaded no-show signing event. Swing by, and please-oh-please spread the word!

***

JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores this May—why not come to his book launch party? You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children's books old and new.




Available for preorder from Indigo June 3rd
Available now from Indigo