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Saturday, March 31, 2012

In My Mailbox (6)

I've had a small but perfect week in books!  After all the wonders that have been piling up beside my bed, a small week was much needed.  Having just finished a heavier horror novel, I am going as girly as it gets: SOPHIE KINSELLA!  Also, my friend Ikhlas and I met up quickly to do one more book exchange -- and a cookie one!  Being quite the talented baker, Ikhlas has me drooling over pictures of her decident baked goods on a regular basis.  Today, when handing me SHATTER ME, Ikhlas also handed me a batch of pink frosted sugar cookies.  They are already gone and they were amazing!  All in all, a wonderful book (and cookie) week for me!



Book review: The Strain

Ever since reading ROSEMARY'S BABY in a 17th floor hotel room in New York late at night while it poured outside, I have been leaning more and more into horror.  The eerie combination of the downpour mixed with the satanic references of the book had me glued to the page.  Since then, I have been on the hunt for something just as thrilling.  A recommendation from my fellow horror fan, Alexis, (and a fabulous deal at Chapters) put Del Toro and Hogan's THE STRAIN next on the list.

THE STRAIN features a multitude of characters dealing with the after effects of a mysterious murder scene.  When a Boeing 777 lands at JFK airport and stops dead on the tarmac, traffic control is in a frenzy.  Not only does the airplane seem to have no power, but all of the windows have been pulled down. Representatives from the CDC are sent in to investigate and our main character, Dr. Eph Goodweather is pulled from an evening with his beloved son to rush to the airport.  Eph is a part of the Canary project, a "rapid-response team that investigates biological threats".  What they find instantly instills terror into the team and the reader.

Just the image of the plane, blacked out from the inside but illuminated by large spotlights from the outside, was chilling.  I won't lie, this novel is about vampires -- but not the sparkly kind we are now used to.  These vampires are demonic beings and the product of a virus; the spread being referred to as "the strain".

The story is built mostly on suspense and has you ripping through pages to find out what happens, but I was occasionally caught on the many transfers of characters. So many people are involved in the investigation of "the strain" and even more are caught in the effects of it.  Although I felt that this separated me from Eph a bit (who was undoubtedly my favourite character and the reason I enjoyed the book), I understand the necessity of all the background information. 


Certain scenes had my skin crawling, but there is no doubt that this book is the beginning of a trilogy, meaning the end leaves you with a further injection of terror rather than answers.  Del Toro and Hogan had me envisioning dark hooded figures standing in my doorways at night.  Mission accomplished.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Book Review: This is a Love Story

Confession: When I was in high school, chicklit was my vice.  I just couldn't stop reading about these women whose lives seemed to fall apart just so that they could finally fall together.  I would dreamily read through each one, only to replace it with another.  I LOVED them.  Then, during my first year of university, I hit a wall.  I wanted to read something utterly different and I jumped from Sophie Kinsella to Douglas Coupland.  Whenever I would return to chicklit, I would giggle my way through the first few pages, only to be reminded that, ah, yes, this is going in the same direction it always does.

That was until debut author, Jessica Thompson's THIS IS A LOVE STORY.  Drawn in by the cover (which I assumed was made to look super cute in order to make fun of the whole concept), I took a copy home from work at the same time as one of my bosses.  We would reconvene every morning while I made my coffee and she toasted her bagel and discuss Nick and Sienna, two of the cutest but also most frustrating characters in my literary history.  Though I wouldn't classify it as chicklit exactly, and it definitely didn't follow the usual plotline, it brought out that part of me that loves watching good people finally get what they want.  Except, I wasn't sure if that would actually happen and this is what kept me reading.

Nick and Sienna fall in love at first sight, and their chance encounter on the morning train only explodes when they discover that they are working in the same office.  But, nothing is as simple as it seems.  Both convinced the other feels nothing, Nick and Sienna proceed to date all the wrong people, while simultaneously never being able to let one another go.  Their blossoming friendship fools no one but themselves.

While I have never read David Nicholls' ONE DAY, I have heard many wonderful things and based on the plot synopsis (and the movie trailer, sorry!), I can say that the concepts are similar though dealt with much differently.  THIS IS A LOVE STORY had some sad parts (one in particular) but I didn't bawl my eyes out -- which my friend Yaz did while reading ONE DAY.  This story is slightly fluffier, but what makes it so much fun to read is the characters.

Nick, to me, was a Ted Mosby.  Maybe I'm just watching too much How I Met Your Mother, but Nick is constantly battling between what he wants and what he thinks he needs, just like our favourite sitcom guy, Ted.  Sienna is that ridiculously sweet, "I want to help the world", driven but slightly naive young woman who knows what she needs but tries to deny herself what she wants.  What a perfectly confusing match!  THIS IS A LOVE STORY is the story of how sometimes, you just have to let go and run with life.  My favourite part of the whole book was the dialogue and all the witty British banter. This is the perfect read to get you into spring mode!  THIS IS A LOVE STORY will be in bookstores May 1st!

Also, check out this fabulous interview with Jessica Thompson here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book Review: The Small Hand

This month, I participated in my first ever Book Club read!  My friend Alexis runs a casual online book club called Gin & Rhetoric and after winning a copy of this months read, I was all excited to get involved.  Alexis shares my love for horror (and ultimately "The Creep Factor"), so my excitement was doubled when the book she chose was Susan Hill's THE SMALL HAND.  For those who don't recognize the name, Hill is the author of THE WOMAN IN BLACK which was recently made into a film with Daniel Radcliffe.  I saw the movie in theatres and though I did enjoy it, I thought that reading the book may have made it slightly scarier.  Reading THE SMALL HAND, I assumed, would be like getting the chance to scare myself even more than a movie could.  I was wrong.

THE SMALL HAND, is more of a novella than a full length novel.  At a mere 176 pages, I made the assumption that I could devour it in one sitting.  Not so much.  THE SMALL HAND centers around an antiquarian bookseller named Adam Snow who, after making a few wrong turns on his way home from a meeting with a client, finds himself on the property referred to as The White House.  Decrepit and abandoned, Adam feels a peculiar pull to the house.  As he begins to explore, he feels an innocent child hand slip into his own.  Rather than feel a chill and the rise of nerves, Adam feels oddly content holding this invisible but tangible hand.  While back at home, Adam is constantly thinking of the small hand: who did it belong to?  Was it a ghost?  Why was it gentle?  Was he being haunted?  Adam's search to both find the origin of the small hand and the reason of why it periodically materializes in his own leads him down an exploration of his own sanity and the sanity of his brother (a former mental patient).  

Though the story is meant to take place in the modern day, the dialogue and writing style had me picturing the nineteenth century.  Then emails would be discussed and my mental image of butler-style overcoats disappeared.  Adam felt completely flat to me and nothing about the small hand actually creeped me out.  Though the scenery was described with such delicate and beautiful details, I felt a constant urge to just flip to the end of all the eloquent descriptions and get to the horror!  I closed the covers of the book feeling a bit disappointed but more surprised that the same woman who created such a gruesome story as THE WOMAN IN BLACK had written this light-feeling ghost story.  Talking to Alexis after, we determined that our feelings about the book were mutual.  Unfortunately, as far as horror novels go, I will not be giving THE SMALL HAND a round of applause. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

 
I am officially drooling over this trailer.  Fairytales have never quite lost their appeal to me.  Being the first thing I read as a child, re-interpretations have always intrigued me -- and THIS is AWESOME!  The graphics, the cinematography, the set design, all absolutely stunning. Enjoy =).


Sunday, March 25, 2012

In My Mailbox (5) [Vlog]


Oh boy .. not the most lovely thumbnail.  But.. onward!

Wow -- I talk ridiculously fast here!  Truth be told, my audio has been super difficult for some reason and I recorded this a few times, only to have the audio still stink.  But, you'll get the general idea!

All the great books from my friend Ikhlas are mentioned on her blog: The Whimsical Whims of Ikhlas Hussain.

In case 10 minute videos will put you to sleep, here are the wonders once again!


Hope you all had a wonderful week in books!  Looking forward to seeing what everyone got in their mailbox this week!

In My Mailbox is hosted each Sunday by Kristi at The Story Siren.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Whitebrow

As I get older, I feel like I become even more proud to be Canadian.  I am proud of our land, our people and (being in the realm of the arts) our talent.  My interest in Canadian writing has peaked over the past year but also, I have tried to hone in a bit more on Canadian musical talent.  Luckily for me, one of my newest favourite talents is not only local, but a friend! 


Before moving to Montreal, I spent one year at Carleton University in the Journalism program -- and in residence.  Being in res is an experience in its own.  I met so many interesting people and in turn, learned a bit more about myself.  One person I saw a lot of, as he was in the same program as me and also on my floor, was Gabriel DeSantis.  Though you could sometimes hear his soft singing and guitar-strumming seeping through the walls, I had no idea how truly talented Gabe was.

Now, preforming under the name Whitebrow, Gabe is rising in the Toronto scene.  I attended his EP release a few months back and another show in the downtown Toronto core just last night and had to share some of his stuff with you all.  Whitebrow's music is categorized as mostly folk-blues, but his command of a multitude of genres is what makes him so compelling to listen to.  With both a guitar and a harmonica, Whitebrow performs original music as well as covers from Bon Iver to Sublime.  Not to mention his cover of Jackson Browne's These Days actually brought tears to my eyes last night!

Do me a favour and visit his Reverbnation page, watch some of his videos and check him out on CBC's music player.  Watching a fellow Canadian succeed is one thing, but knowing them personally adds a whole other aspect (speaking of Canadian, check out his song, Northern Lights for some patriotic lyrics).  His music is wonderful -- enjoy! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Forsaken


During my time at Simon & Schuster Canada, I was given the opportunity to present a few titles at their sales conference.  As much as speaking in front of a large group of people is intimidating, speaking about something you love makes all the difference.  I have been checking Goodreads religiously for the release of the cover of debut author Lisa M. Stasse's THE FORSAKEN.  I had the ultimate privilege of presenting this book and I must say, not only is this cover absolutely stunning, the plot is by far one of the most intriguing ones I have ever read:

As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.
This whole concept blows my mind. THE HUNGER GAMES meets LORD OF THE FLIES type deal, this book has addictive writing and such creativity!  Though I only had the chance to read the beginning, I am positive that this book has the potential to be a major success for Stasse!  Strike your interest?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Scene: 25 pages to the end of the novel with a huge twist thrown into the plot.  My read on the subway home turned my usual half hour ride into what felt like two minutes.  Scanning the pages as fast as I could, I stop focusing just long enough to run down the subway steps and onto the street.  I began my slightly uphill ten minute trek home, my nose still buried in the pages.  Yep, I was one of those.  Right after I read a particularly horrifying sentence, a drop of rain lands on my page.  Then another.  HOW IS THIS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?!  I almost ran the rest of the way home, barely had my coat off and flopped on the couch to finish the book.

All that to say, this book is unputdownable!  Worth every tid bit of praise it has received over the past few years, THE HUNGER GAMES was one of those novels that sucks you out of your own world and drops you into another.  I felt like every time I closed the book, I was like Katniss going to sleep -- making myself vulnerable.  I HAD to keep reading -- all the time.  Collins not only met all of my expectations for this book, but she exceeded them in so many ways.  She created a cast of characters that felt so real to me, and a world that began as a blank slate in my mind, turned into an empire.  Panem put me completely off balance, contemplating just how terrorizing it would be to live in constant fear and knowledge that your life is temporary; not in the sense that you could get hit my a car tomorrow, but that the fate of you and those you love is entirely in the hands of a corrupt and insensitive force.

And Katniss!  This girl easily climbed her way up the Anne Shirley podium of wondrous leading ladies and is sitting among the top (sorry, Anne cannot be dethroned -- ever).  I loved her.  She was the epitome of perseverence for me and I couldn't put the book down because I had to know that she was okay -- this selfless, courageous and radiant young woman.  And Peeta!  Not your typical YA leading man, he was the steady heartbeat of the book.  Katniss was the calculating one, while Peeta ruled with emotion, in the best way possible.  Perhaps my favourite literary team as of yet!

I have tried to write this review a few times and have finally accepted that it is just going to come out sounding like a gush anyways.  No attempt at clever witicisms will make a difference.  I have been a total girl about this book and have been repeatedly watching the movie trailer too.  Not one for the cult classic books-to-movies, I have never seen the Harry Potter movies and stopped halfway through Twilight, but this is a whole new ballgame.  I cannot WAIT for this film!

Suzanne Collins, THANK YOU!  Now, onto CATCHING FIRE!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In My Mailbox (4)

So, normally I wouldn't write a post for just one book, but this week, I kind of have to.  During my shift at Indigo on Wednesday morning, a lady asked to speak with my manager.  On my way to the back, she called out, "It's Sue, from Scholastic!"  Since the past year of my life has been devoted to beginning my career in publishing, the chance to speak to anyone from a publishing house gets me way too excited.  After her talk with my awesome store manager, Lori, Sue came to the front desk and proceeded to break my weekly book buying ban by telling me all about Scholastic's newest YA release, ABOVE.  I walked out of work with this book in my purse for the following reasons:


1) Leah Bobet is CANADIAN!  What book loving Canadian would ever pass up the chance to support one of our own in a genre that we love... eh?
2) The CN Tower is featured on the absolutely gorgeous cover.
3) Though it is categorized as YA, Sue assured me that the literary tone of the book reads almost adult.  A "crossover" title like this has a widely scoped audience and will resonate with teens and adults alike.
4) It is blurbed by Emma Donoghue!
5) Sue's enthusiasm was undeniable.  I could not listen to that lady speak about this book with such passion and NOT pick up a copy.

Yes, covers and plot lines sell books, but if you really want to get excited about something, let a book lover tell you about it!

I also received a few fabulous ARC's this week (eeeek!) but I am going to save that for a vlog in a few weeks!  Hope you all had a fabulous book week!

(IMM is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

(Note: V. emotional review!)

Like so many others, cancer has affected my life immensely.  Not that long ago, the numbers of those whose lives had been greatly altered by this disease were much lower -- but now, almost everyone has suffered from the many pains of cancer.  My father was diagnosed with leukemia six years ago and after cancer took his health and his adored job as a firefighter, it threatened to take his life.  He underwent a bone marrow transplant in late 2010.  My family held our breath for months, watching my dad suffer through one flu or infection after another.  His immune system was obliterated for the surgery and took nearly a year to stabilize.  Now, seventeen months later, my dad is finally getting his stride back.

This is a common story.  The story that is not commonly told, however, is the story of what happens to a person in the in-between.  The months my dad spent in the hospital and my mom spent living in a hotel down the street just to be close to him, were devastating.  I feel like I aged tremendously during this period of my life; absolutely terrified but being as much of an adult as I could so that my dad knew I could handle seeing his excessive weight-loss and the tubes that reached into his shirt and burrowed through his skin, into his heart.  There was so much about what happened to my dad emotionally during this time that I just didn't understand.  I reacted and responded, but I didn't understand.

John Green helped me understand.

This book was almost like a lifeline to me.  All the times I wondered why my dad wanted to be alone in his room or the times he said things that didn't make sense to me.  I feel like all of a sudden, I get it.  Green creates characters, more real than you can possibly imagine.  Hazel, regardless of her age, was so similar to my dad -- it shocked me, both in emotions and attitude.  Even her snarky remarks that made me laugh out loud made me think of my dad's funny sense of humour.  She is sick, and knows that her life is being stretched thin and doesn't want to cause anyone more pain then she has to.  Until she falls in love with Augustus Waters.

Augustus was one of the most enjoyable characters I have ever read.  I laughed more in this book than I did in books MEANT to be humour reads.  He was witty, honest and such a total nerd.  He was the perfect character.  Even Isaac, his best friend, was wonderfully written.  Isaac, oh my god, you broke my heart.  I can't tell you why.  Just read the book and you'll know.

I don't even want to tell you anything about the actual plot.  These characters had burrowed into my heart and unlike the tube's from my dad's chest, they will NOT be removed.  I do not re-read books often, but I will re-read this.  I will also make everyone I know who has ever had cancer affect their lives read this (...and everyone else too).  Hazel, Augustus and Isaac were literary heroes to me, just like my father is my real life hero.  Hazel's parents deserve an award too.  Regardless of the box or two of kleenex I went through, this book healed my heart a little.  It encapsulates and captivates.

John Green, thank you for helping me understand.  This book stole my heart and I haven't quite got it back.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

In My Mailbox (3) [Vlog]



Phew!  Hopefully that wasn't TOO much rambling.  But here are the promised links!

My friend Alexis' blog entitled Gin & Rhetoric can be found here and the Facebook page the book club is run from is here.  We have until March 20 to read THE SMALL HAND, so pick up a copy from the library or a bookstore near you and read along with us! 

For more information on the Love of Reading Foundation, click here.

Hope you all had fabulous book weeks!  Let me know what you got in your mailbox.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Judging a book by its cover..

For anyone who follows this blog on a regular basis, you will know that last year, I read (what became) one of my favourite books ever: Alma Katsu's THE TAKER.  Katsu absolutely captured me in so many ways and if you want a reminder or encouragement to read it, check out my original review here.  And while I'm at it, a few wonderful reviews have been posted since from great Canadian bloggers I follow: Andrea's review on Cozy Up With A Good Read and Ikhlas's review at The Whimsical Whims of Ikhlas Hussain.  I also branded it with my Staff Picks sticker (my very first pick -- woo!) at Indigo Spirit where I am working part-time.  Now.. onward.

As I was interning with Simon & Schuster when the new cover was being contemplated, I can say that I have been waiting patiently for its debut so that I can post about it here.  I loved THE TAKER's original cover -- the eerie castle in the distance and the creepy but royal look it possessed.  However, a new edition will be coming out at the end of March with a completely different twist on it.  To me, this cover is absolutely stunning but slightly reminiscent of a YA cover.  I have a feeling this will be more eye-catching on a shelf and hopefully it will draw in the audience that THE TAKER rightly deserves, however, I also fear that teens will pick it up when it might not exactly be an appropriate teen read.


 What are your thoughts on both of these, extremely different but equally lovely covers?  Oh, and if you haven't read this book yet -- PLEASE DO!  Click on either image to be directed to the Chapters Indigo website for purchase details.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Street Etiquette -- NOT A Love Story


 When I lived in Montreal, I encountered my first subway system.  Getting used to the chaos that surrounds this form of transportation was difficult.  For the fun of it, I wrote a post on my then blog, Bright Lights Big City entitled "Street Etiquette" where I used a few of my own stories to construct a list of rules for subway/ bus/ sidewalk travelers.  Three years later, I am still wondering how this code of conduct does not exist.  Or it does, but is rarely ever abided by or enforced.

Scene: 8:35am Wednesday morning.  I am on my way to a job interview, dressed in my absolute best and feeling a healthy combination of excitement and terror.  I have finally gotten used to being uncomfortably pressed against at least four other people during my ride from Keele Station to Yonge & Bloor.  I have learned not to wear my heals on the train, as I am sure I have punctured enough toes (from abrupt stops followed by staggering attempts to remain standing) to last me a lifetime.  I have learned to hold my lunch bag low, so to not upset the people who are pressed up against my endless supply of lunch-filled tupperware.  I have managed to become comfortable enough standing so close to a seated person that I am almost in their lap, just to make room.  Apparently, these unfortunate learned lessons have not reached the entirety of the general population.  Halfway between stops, an extremely tall and decently built older gentleman stands up from his seat and begins pushing himself through the crowds of people gripping the poles for dear life as to not go tumbling when the car rolls to a stop.  He grips a cane with determined strength and proceeds to body check a good ten people (including yours truly) on his way to the door.  When a frustrated man yells "HEY!", after being pushed into another lady, the man responds with a "HEY!".  The younger guy instantly sprouts fire out of his ears, "You just pushed me!"  What followed made my faith in humanity momentarily wobble.  The large man stood taller than before, towering over the younger man and yelled, "I'M ON A CANE, F**KFACE!"  Pretty sure I wanted to reach over and cover the ears of all the children riding with their parents on their way to school, and to smack the tall man upside the head.  I was appalled.  And so, I am here once again to revise and re-title one of my favourite former posts.

THE SUBWAY/ STREETCAR/ TRAIN ETIQUETTE RULES

1. When the subway arrives, let the people who are getting OFF go first.  Unless of course, you want to be trampled à la Lion King stampede.  Just be patient.  Wait!  I promise, the train will not magically disappear if you are NOT the first one on.  Now, carry on.

2.  Let the people who were waiting before you get on first.  I know you are in a rush but buddy, you live in Toronto.  Everyone is in a rush.  Wait your turn.  Thank you.

3.  If you have a seat, look up occasionally to ensure that you are not making a 90-year-old lady attempt to keep her balance while you pretend life beyond your 24 Hour newspaper does not exist.  Be courteous and let the lady sit.  Seriously.  One of my major pet peeves.

4.  Watch your language.  I feel like this should just exist in all public places -- especially when you are surrounded by children.  It slips out once in a while, I understand that, it happens to the best of us.  But don't get on the bus and start yelling about your intimate life with your four other friends, or having a fight with your ex on your cellphone repeatedly calling someone a "whore".  You won't want your kids hearing this, so take other people's children into consideration as well.  Also, I really don't want to hear about your sexcapades while I am reading a deliciously good thriller on the bus.

5.  Don't put your purse on the seat beside you when there is an onstream of people filling into the car.  Honestly, your purse should fit on your lap.  If I had more guts, I would sit right on someone's lap and say "I know your purse is big but if I can fit here, I'm sure it can too."  But I don't, so instead, I will vent here.

I'm sure there is more I would love to add later but for now, this works.  Anything that drives you crazy?