Friday, December 30, 2011

Favourite Book of the Year

Since I haven't actually read all that many books this year, I feel like it would be a bit pointless to do book awards (though I love them and have been reading everyone else's)!  But I did want to write a little special something for my favourite book of the year.  Since everyone seemed to enjoy the personal stories attached to Anna Dressed in Blood, I thought I'd include one more!

My absolute favourite book of the year (and now one of my ALL TIME favourites) is...

The Art of Racing in The Rain
by Garth Stein


I know what you're thinking, because if you haven't read this, you will have one of two responses:
1) Aww, it's about a dog.  How cute.
2) Really... from the perspective of a dog.. mm, no thanks.

I am yet to convince one person to read this.  That doesn't mean I have stopped trying.  This book is more than anything you can grasp from the synopsis.  The only character I have ever loved as much as Enzo (yes, he's the dog) is Anne of Green Gables.  Enzo will forever be racing the track in my heart.  

The story begins with Enzo as an aged dog, slowly losing his canine agility and spunk.  He has had a full life and he knows it -- full of drama, excitement and more love than you can imagine.  As he confesses his wish to be put down by his beloved owner Denny, Enzo decides to take us back over his years with Denny and his family.  We go back to square one when Enzo is a puppy that Denny brings home.  Enzo is there through the heated excitement of a new love when Denny meets his wife.  He becomes the guardian of Denny's daughter and eventually, Denny's sole supporter in a severe court battle.  

Enzo claims to be a philosopher -- an educated dog.  When Denny leaves for work, he leaves the TV on.  Enzo learns that in Mongolia, when a dog dies, his tail and paws are cut off and he is buried in the hills, where his spirit can run.  If he has lived a full life, he may come back as a man.  And Enzo is ready.

I had seen this book plenty of times at the bookstore and even gawked at how adorable the cover was -- but it was by a dog (yes, I said it too).  When the director of my Humber program read it and became the gushing enthusiast I am now, I decided to give it a shot.  I read EVERY spare second I had.  I laughed out loud on the bus to school (I'd quote it, but out of context, it would just sound odd).  Then .. (and here's the good part), I sobbed in class.

5 minutes before the conclusion of lunch, I had 15 pages of the book left.  Everything was coming to a close and I HAD to finish.  When my teacher began talking, I slipped the book under my desk and kept reading.  My friend Liz kept nudging my arm but I couldn't stop.  Then, I started crying.  So yes, I was sitting there, eyes in my lap (not a big class either.. I was clearly noticeable), crying.  At the last sentence, I started sobbing.  I actually had to get up and leave the room, still clutching the book, because I couldn't stop crying.
All that said -- here is my plea.  Please read this book.  It will be one of the most heartwarming reads you will ever have.  Whether you have a dog, love animals or neither -- it makes no difference.  It is phenomenal.  Please get yourself a copy.  Enzo awaits.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: Anna Dressed In Blood

Wow.  Just ... wow!

This review is going to be slightly different than usual -- including a time-line for how my reading progressed because what happens is a testimony to how much I loved this book.  As soon as I read a few reviews, I knew I needed to read Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood.  Creepy, teen horror with an odd love twist?  Yes, please!  I read the first half of the book in about a day and a half.  Then last night, around midnight when I usually call it a night, I hit the action -- and it never stopped!  I ran out to the couch so to not disturb a sleeping Jay, but when a specific part about a section of Cas' house (trying not to reveal spoilers here) came up, I got actual shivers.  My radiator made a weird noise and I scurried back to bed like a scared child.  I turned my bedside lamp back on and continued.  About a half hour later, an exhausted Jay begged me to turn the lights off.  So I grabbed my flashlight. 

I finished Anna Dressed in Blood around 2:30 am by light of my trusty flashlight (I seriously need a book clip light) and couldn't wait to wake up and write about it!  My adrenaline has not pumped like that in ages!

The novel follows Cas, the son of a once legendary ghost killer who was brutally murdered a few years before.  Cas knows his father's killer was not your typical ghost and plans to avenge him once he feels strong enough to compete with this other-wordly being.  When Cas hears Anna's story, he knows that she will be his final test.  Right away, Cas has a feeling -- something is different about Anna.  She is stronger than most and much more brutal.  But why? Cas does not plan on developing feelings for Anna, a girl who lived a tortured life even before her horrendous death.  But there is something special about this haunted girl.  Even though she may be a brutal killer, she understands herself -- and Cas.  Just like Cas, Anna is not at all what she seems.

With witty and emotional prose, Blake pulled me into the story from the first page.  I have never read a more gruesome teen novel, but everything was written perfectly.  Anna's story will be enough to make you cringe and pull your blankets tighter around your body, but her character will break your heart.  Normally, I don't have overly emotional reactions to teen reads, but Anna made my chest ache.  Knowing that the life she lead was not uncommon and that so many suffer just as she did made everything so much more difficult to read.

Blake combined so many things into this book: thrills, emotional moments, witty dialogue and fantastic story-telling.  I couldn't recommend it higher.  You must meet Anna.  You must read this book.

Oh and PS -- the book takes place in Thunder Bay!  Yay Ontario =)!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wrapping up the year

This is one of those good news/bad news posts.  Let's start with the bad and get it over with.  I, Chelsey, am ashamed to confess that I was totally off my game this year with reading.  After finishing my degree, graduating, going to Humber, graduating, doing my internship and then frantically getting ready for the holidays, I really didn't have as much time as I hoped to read.  A lot of the books I read were required for school or work and my own choices hung out on the back burner.  I have read a sad total of 28 books this year -- and for someone as obsessed as myself, that is a pitiful excuse for a number.  By the end of this month, I will have at least two more finished (blowing through them as we speak) but still, 30 books?  Really?

So, the good news!  I have a few goals for January!  Here we go!
  1. Read 60+ books in 2012!  I am a bit of a slow reader, so for those who are quick, this might look like a minuscule number -- but for me, it's quite ambitious.  I would normally go with 50, but I have a bunch of children's books that I would love to read (Peter Pan, The Secret Garden, The Search for WondLa, etc..) so those will probably take up the extra 10!
  2. Of those 60, read at least 3 classic novels.  Right now Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, The Scarlet Letter, Rebecca and Gone With The Wind are all on my shelf and I really need to get going on those ones!
  3. Make at least half of the books I read ones I pick off my own shelf!  I have WAY too many books and for every book I read, I probably get at least 5 more.  I don't go to Chapters and go nuts, believe me, I can't afford that, BUT I do take the liberty to attend all booksales I know of and am a bit of a fan of bookfinder.com.  SO -- I will tackle my own shelves this year!
  4. Don't be a genre brat.  This year, I discovered YA again.  When I was a younger teen, YA was really not that great.  By the time I was 14, I was already in the adult section and never really went back.  Then this year, I read Vampire Academy in January and the rest of my year was spent catching up on all the amazing books I missed out on as a teen.  Now, this year, although I will most definitely still be reading YA, I want to get back into other genres that I love: biographies, horror and fiction.  Maybe even branch out and read some non fiction and sci-fi/fantasy?  Romance even?
And that is all for me!  I can't wait to get a better start on this year.  I refuse to finish 2012 with the measly number I had this year.  Do you have any goals for 2012?!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Love Sales!

Last night, as I sat clutching my proudly purchased Anna Dressed in Blood, I was in my glory.  The 30% off hardcovers at Chapters (plus my irewards 10%), followed with a little Christmas money had allowed me to finally get that book I've been yearning for!  Then, as I sat texting my friend Natalie (from Browsing Bookshelves), she reminded me that the warehouse near our homes was having its annual 50% off sale.  Last year, I had picked myself up Vampire Academy in hardcover for $5!  So this morning, I got up, got dressed and bolted to the warehouse with a small list of books I would look for. 

My friends, this was like no other book buying spree I have ever had.  I NEVER buy more than 2 or 3 books at once -- too expensive for me.  But this!  Super discounted, remaindered books PLUS 50% off?!  I walked out with some amazing titles for a grand total of $26.50!  Now, I officially own enough books to fill my entire apartment.  I'm so excited to dive in -- let the reading begin!

After seeing Alice Hoffman speak about her books, I read a bunch of synopsis and decided that I HAD to read The Ice QueenThe Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova is a gothic historical romance that I have been eyeing for some time.  Wicked is ... well, WickedDivergent comes HIGHLY recommended from all the bloggers I follow.  Kelley Armstrong's The Reckoning completes my Darkest Powers series and Anna and the French Kiss has got stunning reviews!  So excited =).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Camera Filters

I have a very hard time containing myself with gifts -- as soon as I buy it for you, I want you to open it!  This led to an early exchange of Christmas gifts between my boyfriend and I.  We wanted to open our gifts alone in our first apartment together with our very first tree!  I was so excited to see that he bought  me a digital camera!  I am a HUGE picture person and my camera is becoming a bit ancient.  I spent the night and all day yesterday taking pictures of my apartment and of every move Jay made.  This camera is the coolest thing ever!  Maybe I'm just used to my oldie, but this one has so many features I didn't know a camera could have.  Here are a few shots =).

Shot one -- the book cover looks extra creepy with this filter!

This tea pot is one of my favourite parts of my bookshelf.  I don't use it that often but it  makes me happy regardless.

My desk never looked so creepy!  Or artistic!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hardcover Blues

Books are all about the story, but when you fall in love with books as physical objects TOO, it makes things more difficult.  As a teen and in my early twenties, my book buying method consisted of going to Chapters, browsing the backs of books and finding one that suited my mood.  I stayed away from hardcovers because I knew I couldn`t afford them anyways.

Now, because of Goodreads, being in the industry and a part of a tremendous blogging community, my book buying methods have been altered significantly.  Now, I know about a book I want to read before it is even released and suck it up when I have to purchase the hardcover for $20-35.  If I bought one book a month, it wouldn`t matter as much -- but this is not the case.

So now, as Christmas nears and I feel selfish just thinking about buying myself a book, I am feeling the hardcover blues.  Tomorrow, my boyfriend and I leave on a train to Montreal for a few days, will train back, and then drive to my family`s home in Niagara.  All that traveling a moving around will require reading material and although I have tons of books to read already, a spectacular review of Anna Dressed In Blood from the Nocturnal Library has me counting my pennies.  Then I stop when I notice it is in hardcover and Shatter Me is in paperback.  Though Anna Dressed In Blood seems more my thing, the extra $9 and weight of the book actually has me reconsidering.  Shatter Me has been on my to-read list for ages, but when I noticed it was in paperback, I decided -- yes, I would buy it!

Knowing I have to travel and transport gifts as part of my luggage, toting around a few hardcovers seems a pain.  I also miss the malleability of a paperback and the ability to pull the covers wide open and dive right into the text.  I always find myself fumbling with the hardcovers more.  Though this stuff really shouldn`t matter -- it is starting to!  Hardcovers are beautiful on the shelf, but this doesn`t mean much to me at all.  I will proudly display a torn up paperback just as easily as a pristine hardcover.

I know the answer to the problem would be an eReader and though I have tried, it just doesn't do it for me!  I am a paper lover through-and-through.  What about you?  Do you have a preferred reading format?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sorry -- I've been reading!

So last Friday, around 5 pm, my internship with S&S Canada finished and (yes, I'm a cryer), I had to bolt out to avoid being overly emotional about leaving.  In the twelve weeks I have spent with S&S, I had grown to feel like part of the team, made a few friends, gained some serious respect for the people I met, and learned more than you can possibly imagine.  Over the course of the internship, I accumulated some wonderful books from going to events, meeting authors and working on campaigns.  Now, as the search for work begins, I have some great books to keep me company while I look for that perfect publishing position!  Here is a fun picture that was taken during my time with S&S at the IFOA kick off party.  Pardon my frumpy look -- those pants and I don't have the best clothing/wearer relationship.  Regardless, Margaret and I had a wonderful time together.

Yesterday, I promised myself I would spend the day cleaning my apartment, which looks like it has been hit by the Christmas tornado -- and I love it!  After writing over thirty Christmas cards for co-workers, my couch is covered in the glitter from the cards.  But, as I got dressed to start my day, I decided 8:30 am was too early to work and I deserved some time to read.  A few hours later, I was so into my book that I wanted to talk about it and who else to chit chat with than one of my closest friends, Yaseena.  Yaz has been in Ireland for the past 4 months, so Skype has been our saving grace.  After a 5 1/2 hour Skype date (we had a LOT to catch up on!), I finally cleaned the house.  Then got back to my book..

You know when you haven't loved a book in a while and then all of a sudden, you're reminded of why you love to read so much?  Not that I wasn't enjoying my other books, but I was never really able to dive into them because of busy work and personal life schedules.  Now, with some spare time on my hands, I am devouring Alma Katsu's debut novel, The Taker.  Though warned by some that it is quite dark and at times gruesome, I wanted to judge for myself.  I cannot put this book down!  The writing is wonderful, engaging and the story is so twisted and creepy that there is no good place to stop reading!  For all of you who like gothic and eerie reads, this is for you!  Though not for the faint of heart -- there are some graphic scenes.  Click here for the Goodreads synopsis.  Also, check out the trailer here!  There are also videos of Alma talking about the book that are totally worth watching! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ryan Gosling is passionate about publishing

So tomorrow marks the end of my internship with Simon & Schuster Canada and although I am sad to be leaving, the thought of embarking on my career journey with this kind of experience behind me is comforting. 

Ryan Gosling and his publishing banter have been circulating our office today and one of my friends sent me the picture below.  I just had to share!

How did he know?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: The Virgin Cure

For some reason, I am always drawn to stories about brothels in the 1800s.  There is just something so interesting about the way women lived and the double life men engaged in just to be near them.  In Richard B. Wright's Mr. Shakespeare's Bastard, prostitutes were tough women, boyish, rugged and vulgar.  Amy McKay's "near-whores" were much different.

I knew I had to read The Virgin Cure as soon as I read the synopsis.  "The Virgin Cure" was the belief that men with sexual diseases could cleanse themselves by deflowering a virgin.  Scarily enough, this is still believed in some cultures.  Girls as young as twelve years old were taken off the streets and made into the most elegant of ladies to be sold off to the highest bidding gentlemen for sex or raped by vicious and selfish men in dark alleys as they went to and from their theatre shows.  Ami McKay's narrator, Moth, becomes one such girl.

After being sold off to a wicked wench of an aristocratic woman, Moth is tortured daily simply for being an attractive young girl.  When she finally runs away, her fate is sealed by allowing herself to be taken to Miss. Everett's home, where girls are raised to be "near-whores" -- high-end and respectable girls who are lavished by their male suitors.  Miss Everett promises luxury and safety to her girls in exchange for their virginity and continued services to men who pay a pretty penny.

One woman stands in the way of Moth's lost innocence: a beautiful and kind-hearted doctor who has devoted her time to caring for the street kids, prostitutes and "freaks" who work for Mr. Dink's, a museum of fascinating talent.  Dr. Sadie is modeled after McKay's own great-great grandmother who did exactly that. 

I fell in love with Dr. Sadie.  I smiled through every scene she entered and found her to be my favourite part of the entire book.  Her heart of gold glistened on each page and I could just picture the trunk at the end of her bed, holding all of her memories, dresses and dreams.  Dr. Sadie refuses to let Moth give herself to the highest bidder and will do anything she can to stop her from being the next ruined woman.

McKay's writing is beautiful, and I found myself marking pages to come back and re-read.  (I thought of adding in a few here, but you'll just have to go see them for yourself!)  This book was an absolute gem: hard to read at some points, raw, delicate and beautiful all at once.  You have never seen the dark streets of New York quite like this.  Ami McKay is a wondrous writer!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Realm of Magic Not JUST For Kids!

(Please note that this post is also featured on the YA Simon blog for Simon & Schuster Canada.)

You don’t have to be a kid to fall into magic realms.  I was reminded of this the other day when The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe played on CTV on Monday night.  I spent the whole movie wondering why I had never read the Narnia books, or any other “other worldly” kids books.  I somehow skipped The Golden Compass and was too old for The Spiderwick Chronicles.  Or was I?

Last night, I crawled into bed with The Fantastical Serial Edition of the Spiderwick Chronicles; a gorgeous 600-paged book consisting of the first five books in the series and tons of bonus content (including some stunning sketches showing the birth of the characters from Tony DiTerlizzi himself).  I adore Holly Black’s writing and have heard so much about Tony, so I just had to give it a shot.  I felt immediately transported back to the excitement I had as a kid, diving into another place, time and world.  Tony’s drawings are intricate and absolutely beautiful.

When you are a reader, your imagination is like a sixth sense.  It comes naturally to let it wander into unknown areas, but to be guided through them by a storybook mastermind is such a pleasure!  I’m already looking forward to heading back to Spiderwick tonight!  My next big trip is to WondLa and you’re more than welcome to join!