December 31, 2012

The Book Lode (10) – Last one of 2012!


There are quite a few memes to choose from now for showing the books we've gotten recently, so I thought to be fair I'd link my posts up to a different meme each month. I'm grouping the posts under the name "The Book Lode," and this month I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews.


The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti
This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel
Child of Faerie, Child of Earth by Josepha Sherman
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Thanks very much to my parents and my sister!!


The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

For review:

The Lazarus Machine by Paul Crilley
Empty by K.M. Walton

Thanks to Pyr Books and Simon & Schuster Canada!

If you watched the vlog, you know I am facing a dilemma: I can keep either Seraphina or Code Name Verity. Which do you think I should pick? Let me know your vote in the comments!

And as bonus fun: here's a vlog of some of my vlog bloopers from 2012. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

December 30, 2012

Books of 2012 Survey

best books read in 2012
It's time again for the end-of-the-year book survey hosted by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner

1. Best Book You Read In 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want)

Historical fantasy/paranormal: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin

Dystopian: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Contemporary: Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian and Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Paranormal: the Vampire Academy series

Magical realism: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness 

NA: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller 

Adult: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (apparently forgetting is a theme here...)

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

I'd heard really glowing things about Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar, but it really didn't do much for me — I found it slow-moving in terms of plot and the progression of the relationship was off. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight also failed to wow me — it's not a bad way to pass a few hours, but doesn't stand out in the sea of contemporary YA. And I thought A Witch in Winter had a premise with promise, but the execution just didn't live up to it.
 3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?  

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters. I didn't have huge expectations for this one, but it was pretty darn hilarious! 

 4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?

 LOL, probably still The Hunger Games.

 5. Best series you discovered in 2012?

The Vampire Academy series (although technically I kind of "discovered" it last year, since I read the first book last December.)  

 6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?

Robin LaFevers, Siobhan Vivian, and Adele Griffin (she wasn't new to me but she became a favourite author of mine this year), to name a few.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Daughter of Smoke & Bone was out of my comfort zone in that it was just so strange. It took me multiple tries to get into, but finally I did and I actually ended up enjoying it for the most part. 

 8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?
 Hmmm, this is a tough one. Grave Mercy, Insurgent, and Article 5 all fit the bill here. 

 9. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year:

I'll probably re-read some of the books in series to prep for the next book that's coming out. So ones like Grave Mercy, Insurgent, Article 5, and Sapphire Blue

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?

Can't pick just one, but here's a few:

11. Most memorable character in 2012? 

It's always really impossible for me to answer this question, so I'm going to change it slightly, and go with books that had narrators with strong/memorable/well-written voices.  

Male character: Travis from Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Female character: Rose from the Vampire Academy series

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?

Crossed by Ally Condie. Also, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton showcased some fantastic storytelling.
13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012? 

Hmmm, not sure about this one...maybe A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I felt totally drained after reading that one.
 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read? 

Again, the Vampire Academy series. 

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012? 

I don't tend to keep track of quotes as I read so I'm not sure I can pull out a favourite from this year.

 16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012? 

Shortest: Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral 
Longest: Probably The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton 

 17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

The endings of All You Never Wanted and The Forgotten Garden (the second one I actually did talk to my mom about, because she'd already read it!)
18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

Ismae and Duval from Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (and honourable mention to Mary and James from The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee, who have to be one of my favourite historical YA couples ever) 

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously

Hmmm, probably either Picture the Dead or All You Never Wanted, both by Adele Griffin. 
20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I ordered this one in large part due to Nomes' glowing review, and it was a bit more of a gamble for me than some of the books I read because it's adult (and I tend to stick to YA most of the time). But I quite thoroughly enjoyed it, so thank you, Nomes! 

Also, I know multiple bloggers raved about A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, so I put it on my Christmas wishlist last year and received it as a gift. It's a book I likely would not have picked up on my own. I finally got around to reading it recently and was definitely impressed (although it's so sad!). 

What books made it onto your top 2012 list? You can link up your own response to the survey here on Jamie's blog.

December 26, 2012

What Alice Forgot: A Close-Up Review (Adult)

"Remember the woman you used to be ...

Alice is twenty-nine. She is whimsical, optimistic and adores sleep, chocolate, her ramshackle new house and her wonderful husband Nick. What's more, she's looking forward to the birth of the 'Sultana' - her first baby.

But now Alice has slipped and hit her head in her step-aerobics class and everyone's telling her she's misplaced the last ten years of her life.

In fact, it would seem that Alice is actually thirty-nine and now she loves schedules, expensive lingerie, caffeine and manicures. She has three children and the honeymoon is well and truly over for her and Nick. In fact, he looks at her like she's his worst enemy. What's more, her beloved sister Elisabeth isn't speaking to her either. And who is this 'Gina' everyone is so carefully trying not to mention?

Alice isn't sure that she likes life ten years on. Every photo is another memory she doesn't have and nothing makes sense. Just how much can happen in a decade? Has she really lost her lovely husband forever?
" (from Goodreads)
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty


In a way, there are sort of three different Alices in this story. There's the Alice who's just hit her head and lost 10 years of memories, and is seeing the world through the eyes of her 29-year-old self. There's glimpses of the 39-year-old Alice that she's become in those 10 years. And then there's the "new" Alice we see at the end of the story.

I loved the 29-year-old version of Alice. She was such a fantastic character, with a wry sense of humour that, frankly, was uncannily similar to mine at times. This made for quite a funny first third of the book or so, as she reacts to all of this "new" information she's learning that she doesn't remember. And this younger version of Alice is introverted, so we had that in common as well. Even the slightly snarky, internal running commentary of her thoughts as she observes people throughout the day felt familiar — so yeah, I definitely connected with her.

In stark contrast, I strongly disliked the glimpses we're shown of the 39-year-old that Alice was before the accident. She's a sanctimonious, bitter, jaded, snooty, type-A sort of personality. To put it bluntly: she's just plain mean. I was really worried at one point that the book was going to end with Alice transformed once more into this horrible person, and I was going, "if that happens, I am going to hate the ending." I was feeling really sad and missing the younger, slightly clueless but innocent, sweet, and well-meaning 29-year-old Alice. Thankfully, though, Liane Moriarty came through for me and I actually liked how it ended. I do wish we'd been shown more of Alice becoming this final, third version of herself. Major spoilers, highlight to read: I had a little bit of difficulty seeing the two Alices merge to become one, so to speak. The Alice at the very end isn't the same as the younger Alice — she's more serious and doesn't seem to have the same sense of humor, which is a shame — but she obviously loves her kids and Nick very much. I was relieved that she and Nick end up together; their marriage is a constant work in progress but they didn't give up on each other. And it sounds like she's started to patch things up with her sister as well.

Elisabeth: Alice's sister's story is really sad because of her depressing situation of repeatedly miscarrying and not being able to carry a baby to term. It didn't make me cry or anything, but I understood how it could have contributed to a strain between the sisters; Alice has three beautiful kids and Elisabeth just wants one child, and she's despairing and beginning to lose hope. The little excerpts we're given of Elisabeth's perspective help to flesh out her nuanced thoughts and feelings on this please-let-me-have-a-baby situation, which has pretty much taken over her life.


The premise is fantastic as a way to showcase how people and their lives can change in ways they wouldn't have expected when they were younger. In Alice's case, nothing that she thought her life would be like is actually how it is ten years down the road. This is demonstrated by placing these two different versions of Alice (the 29-again Alice and the 39-year-old Alice that she discovers she's become) in stark contrast. It's a simple and yet effective way of showing that your life can turn out to be something you didn't expect, and also that you can change in ways you thought you might never change. Alice herself is quite shocked at what her life's become, now that she's looking at it through new eyes.

Stories that play with memory can either be done really well or really poorly, so I was pleased to see that What Alice Forgot falls into the first category. Moriarty seems to have a pretty strong grasp of how memory works and she uses it to great effect here. Of course, the retrograde amnesia Alice experiences is quite sweeping and severe (she can't remember anything from the past 10 years), and I'm not sure how realistic a consequence that is for the nature of Alice's injury, but that's something the reader will have to accept in order to go along with the general premise. The idea of odors evoking memories is strongly based in research and certainly rings true for me. So does the fact that Alice's body remembers to do some things that she can't retrieve from her explicit memory

The way Alice gets her memories back at first just in bits and pieces is also very believable. Everyone expects her to get her memory back instantaneously, but anyone who's studied some psychology will know that memory is a complex, messy matter. People seem to keep blaming her because she can't remember stuff, and think that if they just talk about it a little longer she'll remember. (Nope.) I'm a little dubious about the resolution of this storyline (spoiler: many of Alice's memories flood back with a particular trigger) but I suppose it's possible — memory can't be pinned down easily and varies a lot between individuals.


I preferred the first third to the latter 2/3rds for the simple fact that I found it more humorous. As Alice starts to figure out that her life is pretty crappy — a terrible relationship with her estranged husband Nick, a strained relationship with her sister, difficulties with her daughter Madison, and friendships that have fallen apart — things got really depressing and the humor died down. Add to that the storyline involving Elisabeth, and the whole thing was feeling bleak for a while there. Thankfully, Alice manages to repair her relationships to some extent, and the mood does pick up towards the end (although the earlier humor of just-been-hit-on-the-head-Alice never resurfaces, sadly).

I would have liked a deeper examination of the sister relationship, as we don't get much discussion between them about why they drifted apart. I wish we'd seen more of them reconnecting, and not just because of how the sub-plot involving Elisabeth is resolved (spoiler: the miracle baby — which I thought was a little too HEA, but I was still glad for Elisabeth and I liked that she ended up adopting as well), but because it was an important step in their relationship. I also didn't really care much about the storyline involving Frannie. Generally, though, I really enjoyed the family dynamics and psychology that What Alice Forgot delves into.

Writing style:

I don't have anything specific to say about the writing style — just that through both humorous sections and depressing ones, the quality of writing is consistently excellent.

Final verdict: 4.5 shooting stars. It's unusual for me to connect with a book about a 39-year-old, but in the case of What Alice Forgot, I could! I didn't have too much trouble even in the latter stages where she takes on the more mature role of actually being a 39-year-old. I feel like the author really understands human nature and how relationships can deteriorate. In short, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It reminded me of the TV shows Samantha Who? and, in a more abstract, conceptual way, Being Erica (most of my readers probably won't be familiar with that one, but it was an awesome Canadian TV series!)

This book counts toward my goal for the TBR Pile reading challenge.

December 23, 2012

The Language of Flowers: A Panoramic Review (Adult/New Adult)

"A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.
" (from Goodreads)
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

My reaction: I felt really conflicted about this book. I found the main character very difficult to relate to and understand, as she's come from a background that's so different from mine. Having been switched from foster home to foster home and lacking stability in her life, Victoria is very distrusting of everybody. She's aloof, holding herself distant from most people; she appreciates her solitude and doesn't like to let others in very often. (In fact, apparently when she was younger she would throw up when touched by strangers!) 

There were so many times that I wanted to shake Victoria and make her see reason, because she kept thrusting away everyone who cared for her. It's frustrating because it takes so long for her to realize the mistakes that she's making. It seems like she's kind of scared of herself, and the damage she could cause to others; she doesn't trust anybody else, but she doesn't trust herself either.

So to be perfectly honest, I didn't like Victoria that much through most of it. Towards the end, we see a change in her that is rewarding (spoilers, highlight to read: when she finally allows herself to love and be loved, putting family first and giving Grant and her daughter another chance), but it's almost too little, too late. I don't think it quite makes up for the cloud that overshadows most of the book, and the transition itself is a little fast.

The dual narrative works very well here; it's interesting to see the present 18/19-year-old Victoria and then begin to understand how she became that girl through the chapters set in the past. They dovetail nicely together, each of them contributing to the reader's understanding of the same mystery. 

While it was good to see Victoria's business grow and watch her stand on her feet as a businesswoman, I thought that part of book was on the less believable side of things. Would people really care so much about the meanings of flowers? It's a gimmick that could go over well with a certain crowd, I suppose. The flowers angle didn't do that much for me, but it provides something to make the story stand out a bit more.

Best aspect: The universal themes tackled here. There's a lot in this story about guilt, pride, misunderstandings, regret, forgiveness, and being able to say you're sorry. Maybe even a bit of redemption, and certainly a lot about love not only romantic, but also familial (in particular, maternal), and even just caring. It's very much a story of character growth and coming to understand yourself, and it also highlights how drastically things in the past can affect the present.  
If I could change something... I would have liked to have seen more of Catherine. I feel like we don't really get to understand her that well because we only see her through Elizabeth's and Grant's eyes.

I also could have done with a little more romance in the Victoria-Grant relationship. I understand that a traditionally "romantic" relationship probably wouldn't work for Victoria because of her unusual interactions with people, and I think that Grant understood her better than a lot of others, and gave her space. But I wanted more resolution to their storyline (spoilers: we see from Victoria's perspective how she thinks things will play out in the future, but we aren't given any scenes of promises or declarations). 

A Tapestry of Words The "New Adult" aspect: The past narrative matches Victoria's voice to her age quite well, but the present narrative was a little less consistent. At first her voice seemed age-appropriate, but as the book went on, I felt like her voice got a lot more mature (less like age 19 and more like early 20s). However, it's true that she has to deal with some very adult situations (spoiler: becoming a mom).
If you haven't read it: don't go into this one lightly. It's a thought-provoking, serious, heartfelt story, and probably just about everyone can learn something from it. It's sad in a haunting sort of way, though, so be prepared for the sober tone.

If you have read it: more than one aspect of this book reminded me of The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton — anyone else get that vibe?

Just one more thing I want to mention: this book contains the most horrifying depiction of motherhood I think I've ever read. If I was going just by this book's portrayal, I don't think I'd ever want to have kids. Spoilers: I'm thinking of the scenes where she's trying to breastfeed and the baby won't be satisfied. Her breasts bleed, and she becomes so, so desperate for the baby to stop sucking. Her frustration and irritation and panic and fear that she's not doing it right and that she can't be a mother are communicated very viscerally to the reader. Also, she's not a very competent mother — I was astounded when she left her baby alone more than once! I know she's having a rough time, but you don't do that with a baby. It's difficult to watch as she struggles to be a mom and then gives her child to the dad without even telling him that it's his daughter.

Wiping my bloody hands on my pants, I grabbed the spoon and ran toward the house, tripping and falling and picking myself up without ever letting go of my prize. I bounded up the steps, pounding the heavy metal spoon against the wooden door relentlessly. The lock turned, and Elizabeth stood before me.

For just a moment we looked at each other in silence — two pairs of wide, unblinking eyes — then I launched the spoon into the house with as much strength as I could gather in my thin arm. I aimed for the window over the kitchen sink. The spoon flew just inches past Elizabeth's ear, arched high toward the ceiling, and bounced off the window before clattering into the porcelain sink. One of the small blue bottles teetered on the edge of the windowsill before it fell and shattered.

"There's your spoon," I said. 

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars. 

Note: This book contains some mature (including sexual) content.

This book counts towards my goal for the "New Adult" reading challenge.
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