December 27, 2015

The Book Lode (22): Christmas Book Haul!


It's time for my Christmas book haul! I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Books received:

Lies Like Love by Louisa Reid
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
Clover's Luck by Kallie George
Jane by the Sea by Carolyn V. Murray
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Are You My Boyfriend? by C. B. Bryza
Much Ado About Loving by Jack Murnighan and Maura Kelly 

Thanks very much to my parents for all of these books!

December 21, 2015

All I Want for Christmas Is... (6)

I'm counting down the weeks to Christmas by sharing some of the books that made it onto my wishlist (and maybe helping some of you guys add to your lists...?)!

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

20821047 From Goodreads:

In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented—and highest born—sons of the Kingdom of Britain are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover…

Gray’s deep talent for magick has won him a place at Merlin College. But when he accompanies four fellow students on a mysterious midnight errand that ends in disaster and death, he is sent away in disgrace—and without a trace of his power. He must spend the summer under the watchful eye of his domineering professor, Appius Callender, working in the gardens of Callender’s country estate and hoping to recover his abilities. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.

Even though she has no talent of her own, Sophie Callender longs to be educated in the lore of magick. Her father has kept her isolated at the estate and forbidden her interest; everyone knows that teaching arcane magickal theory to women is the height of impropriety. But against her father’s wishes, Sophie has studied his ancient volumes on the subject. And in the tall, stammering, yet oddly charming Gray, she finally finds someone who encourages her interest and awakens new ideas and feelings.

Sophie and Gray’s meeting touches off a series of events that begins to unravel secrets about each of them. And after the king’s closest advisor pays the professor a closed-door visit, they begin to wonder if what Gray witnessed in Oxford might be even more sinister than it seemed. They are determined to find out, no matter the cost…
I'm a big fan of historical fantasy, so this premise is right up my alley. Danya at Fine Print (hello fellow book blogger Danya! *waves*) described it as "what a Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer novel would have looked like with magic," which sounds like it was written for me. A college for magick-learning? Adorkable romance? A mysterious midnight errand resulting in death? YES PLEASE.

What books are you hoping Santa brings this year? Feel free to let me know in the comments or leave a link to your own blog post!

December 17, 2015

Burrito Bowl Book Tag


I haven't done a tag in a while, and I saw this one on Bring My Books, and it looked like fun so I thought I'd join in! This is the Burrito Bowl Book Tag (say that 10 ten times fast) created by Christina at Girl in the Pages and Joey at Thoughts and Afterthoughts.

The Ingredients:

Rice: The FoundationThe book that got you into reading (or book blogging)

I got into reading at a really young age, so I have no idea what to put for this one. Are we talking picture books, like Goodnight Moon or The Runaway Bunny? Easy chapter books, like the Junie B. Jones series? Or actual full-length novels, like the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary?

Perhaps I should pick one of my earliest "favourite" books, From Anna by Jean Little. I adored this book — I really connected to the protagonist Anna, her German background (my mom's side is German) and her struggle to make friends and find her voice. And I love the message of a German song in this book: "Die Gedanken sind frei," or "Thoughts are free."

Beans: The Filler The book with a whole lot of nothing going on

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley – I know loads of bloggers love this book, but sorry, it just didn't quite cut it for me. As I said in my review:

"I found the plot to be quite boring, or more to the point, non-existent. Not a lot really happens in this book, and the little that does happen occurs at a painstakingly slow pace." 
So...yeah. Sounds like it fits the 'whole lot of nothing going on' description quite well.
Protein: The Building BlockA book quote to live by

From The Lake House by Kate Morton, which I read recently:

"Sometimes feelings aren't as 'airy-fairy' as they seem. Sometimes they're just the product of observations we haven't realized we've been making."

Fajitas: The Crunch of TextureA book with immaculate world-building

Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan – this book did dystopian-fantasy genre-melding before genre-melding was a thing. Even now, given the copious amounts of YA fantasy with a vague dystopian feel to them, this novel stands out and feels fresh. And not many readers seem to know about it now, so I'm happy to highlight it!

Salsa: The Dance of FlavourA book that kept you on your toes

Jasmyn by Alex Bell – this book was just so bizarre and wild that it kept me flipping the pages never knowing what I'd get next! Black swans falling dead out of the sky? Check. A black horse appearing and disappearing? Check. A mystery involving Jasmyn's dead husband? Check. 

Corn: The Explosion of SweetnessA memorable scene with friendship/romance


This is a pretty small scene, but I like the moment in Sanditon by Jane Austen (and "Another Lady") where Charlotte first starts to realize that she's developing feelings for Sidney. They share this moment where he's teasing her and she's aware that she's enjoying it, and of course she tries to reason with herself afterwards because she likes to think of herself as a very practical sort of person. But she ends up being pretty distracted by it for the rest of the outing.

Cheese: The Bond of CalciumTwo characters from different books you wish could be friends

I kinda think Suze from the Mediator series by Meg Cabot and Rose from the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead might get along quite well. Suze takes down ghosts, Rose battles vampires... they'd be a paranormal-busting undefeatable duo! Although, personality-wise they're similar – outspoken, outgoing, impulsive – so they might be at each other's throats sometimes too, when they disagree about a course of action. I guess it comes with the territory...?

Sour Cream: The Tangy TopperThe quirkiest character you've ever read (protagonist or supporting)

Oh man, I do not know who to choose for this. I like quirky characters in certain types of books, usually when the whole cast is full of over-the-top, wacky characters and so everyone kinda "fits in." Like the Bagthorpe family in Ordinary Jack by Helen Cresswell or the cast of characters in the Prydain series and The Arkadians by Lloyd Alexander. I'm less of a fan of quirky characters when there's just one and it seems like the author is trying to make them as "unique" as possible, as if to say to the reader, "She's just so quirky!! Isn't it great?"


Guacamole: The Cost of Creaminess A book you paid too much for


Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. I believe I bought this in hardcover. For full price. Now I regret this.

Lettuce: The Handful of CrispinessA refreshing concept/theme in a book

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness approaches the well-worn 'parent with cancer' premise in a fresh, creative way, using a fantastical metaphor to get to powerful emotional truths.

Chips: Le Pièce de Résistance A must-read rec (if you like..., then try....)

If you like Japanese culture and mythology, then you should read Little Sister by Kara Dalkey. It's a quick little YA fantasy read set in historical Japan, a coming-of-age tale of sorts for a young girl who must learn to be brave.

Tabasco: The Kick to the FaceYour favourite fight/action sequence

Hmmm, well, fight/action scenes don't tend to be my favourite parts of books, even though at the time of course it's a good part of what makes the reading experience. Usually I'm just happy if my favourite characters get through it intact, lol. I think I tend to actually remember and enjoy fight scenes that are more humorous than gory. Like, some of the fight scenes from Harry Potter. I love the part where they're trashing Hogwarts to get rid of Umbridge and Professor McGonagall says to Peeves as he's trying to remove a lightbulb, "It unscrews the other way." Or the scene in Crown Duel where Meliara chucks a candlestick at Vidanric's head. :D

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)21060

We're supposed to tag 5 more people after answering the questions, but I'm not sure who has or hasn't done this tag yet, so I'm just tagging whoever wants to participate!!

December 15, 2015

All I Want for Christmas Is... (5)

I'm counting down the weeks to Christmas by sharing some of the books that made it onto my wishlist (and maybe helping some of you guys add to your lists...?)!

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
15839984 From Goodreads:

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.
"Beauty and the Beast" is one of my favourite fairy tales, so of course I always perk up whenever I find a new retelling of it. This particular one seems to be kinda love-it-or-hate-it among the book blogosphere, so I've been a little wary of getting it, but in the end it made its way onto my wishlist. (The votes were resoundingly in favour of "get it!" in my Get it or Forget It? poll, with plenty of convincing arguments!)
What books are you hoping to find under the tree this year? Feel free to let me know in the comments or leave a link to your own blog post!

December 14, 2015

The Book Lode (21)


Yes, it's another book haul finally! Here are some of the books I've gotten over the past few months. I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Books for review:

Hexed by Michael Alan Nelson (unsolicited)
The Lake House by Kate Morton
The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

Thanks to PYR Books and Simon & Schuster Canada for the review copies!

Books purchased:

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Face to Face by Caroline B. Cooney
Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
The Art of Secrets by James Klise
The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson

December 9, 2015

All I Want For Christmas Is... (4)

I'm counting down the weeks to Christmas by sharing some of the books that made it onto my wishlist (and maybe helping some of you guys add to your lists...?)!

Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra

23655201 From Goodreads:

"London, 1872. Seventeen-year-old heiress Leonora Somerville is preparing to be presented to society -- again. She's strikingly beautiful and going to be very rich, but Leo has a problem money can't solve. A curious speech disorder causes her to stutter but also allows her to imitate other people's voices flawlessly. Servants and ladies alike call her "Mad Miss Mimic" behind her back...and watch as Leo unintentionally scares off one potential husband after another.

London in 1872 is also a city gripped by opium fever. Leo's brother-in-law Dr. Dewhurst and his new business partner Francis Thornfax are frontrunners in the race to patent an injectable formula of the drug. Friendly, forthright, and as a bonus devastatingly handsome, Thornfax seems immune to the gossip about Leo's "madness." But their courtship is endangered from the start. The mysterious Black Glove opium gang is setting off explosions across the city. The street urchins Dr. Dewhurst treats are dying of overdose. And then there is Tom Rampling, the working-class boy Leo can't seem to get off her mind.

As the violence closes in around her Leo must find the links between the Black Glove's attacks, Tom's criminal past, the doctor's dangerous cure, and Thornfax's political ambitions. But first she must find her voice."
I'm ordinarily interested in YA mysteries set in Victorian England, but add in a character with a speech disorder? Icing on the cake for me (since I'm a speech-language pathologist)! I'm interested to see how Leonora's stutter is portrayed, and the reactions to it given the time period.

Plus, bonus: Sarah Henstra is Canadian! :)

What books are you hoping to find under the tree this year? Feel free to let me know in the comments or leave a link to your own blog post!

December 7, 2015

The Lake House: A Panoramic Review (Adult)

"From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours, an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heartstopping suspense and uncovered secrets.

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.
" (from Goodreads)

The Lake House by Kate Morton

My reaction: This book had me really invested in the story until the last few chapters. I'd DNFed another book recently and so I was hoping this one would do a better job of pulling me in — and it did, certainly. I kept coming back to it, enjoying getting to know the characters (with all of their many flaws and secrets) and watching as Sadie slowly unpeeled the mystery of what happened that night. I'll admit, maybe 2/3rds of the way through I started getting frustrated because I just wanted to know already and the mystery was getting drawn out so long, since they kept coming up with new theories as each new piece of information was revealed! But I was on board, because I found the characters and their motivations and relationships (especially those in the historical timeline) fascinating. As always, Morton described the atmosphere of the surroundings well, although Loeanneth did remind me somewhat of The Forgotten Garden

I really enjoyed getting to watch as Sadie constantly revised her theory as she gathered new evidence. It was very logical and it let the reader feel like they were right alongside her, trying to figure this out (with, of course, some additional information they got from the historical chapters). Finally we do find out what happened that night, which wasn't so surprising anymore given the secrets we'd learned along the way, but it made sense. It didn't turn out as tragically as I'd been expecting, given that there'd been such a foreboding tone throughout the story, but it certainly fit with everything we'd learned. 

But then Kate Morton took things a step further and the very end — which I guess was supposed to be the 'big reveal' — was just too convenient and wrapped up too quickly. It was like everything got resolved perfectly neatly, no loose ends, all pieces of evidence fit tidily into the puzzle, and it came off as contrived. Spoilers, highlight to read: The thought had briefly crossed my mind that one of the other characters might be revealed to be Theo, but I had dismissed it. And indeed, I found Bertie turning out to be Theo to be too coincidental. The fact that Sadie just happened to get interested in this unsolved mystery, and then ends up being related to Alice? All of the evidence we're given to make it seem more realistic, like the button from his romper that ended up on the floor in the nursery and was still there all those years later? (Speaking of which — how careless was that initial police investigation, really?) Anyway, the cheerful tone of the ending just didn't seem to fit with the darker tone of the rest of the story.

Best aspect: the psychological aspect that's introduced partway through. I won't give spoilers but those of you who know me know that I love psychological elements in my stories! And this one makes sense with the historical setting. 

Also, I really loved the character of Eleanor. It's very easy for the reader to be sympathetic to her, and it was so intriguing to see how differently she was portrayed when the narration was in her own head versus the POV of her daughter Alice. Even when I didn't always condone what she did (spoiler: it is always hard for me to support characters when they engage in adulterous affairs), I could sort of rationalize why she was doing what she was doing, because of the circumstances.

If I could change something... I'd give it an ending that was a little more realistic and bittersweet, perhaps ambiguous, and less "perfect." I also wish we'd been provided with more explanation and background for the storyline involving Mr. Llewellyn. 

If you haven't read it: and you enjoy long, slow-burn mysteries involving family secrets, troubled relationships, and characters who feel very human, then pick this one up — especially if you don't mind endings that come off as rather convenient. The setting and vibe of the story, especially at the start, really reminded me of the film Atonement (I haven't read the book), so if you enjoyed that, you might like this one too.

If you have read it: what did you think of the ending? Did it work for you? 

Just one more thing I wanted to mention: There were some passages in here that are very quotable! I kept updating my Goodreads status with quotes as I read.  

Quotes like:

"Sometimes 'feelings' aren't as airy-fairy as they seem. Sometimes they're just the product of observations we haven't realised we've been making."


"In her relief, Eleanor had stood for a time in the darkened room, watching the faint undulations on the lake, silver-rimmed clouds being drawn across the pewter sky, nursing the uncanny sense of being the only person on earth awake." 

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars. An engrossing mystery with characters that come alive; however, I was a little let-down by the ending, which was not as impactful as I would have hoped.

Sidenote: anyone know why they seem to have changed the cover design of Morton's novels with this latest book? The Lake House cover doesn't match the others, and I think I prefer the original style.  

Disclaimer: I received this as an ARC for review from the publisher.

December 4, 2015

All I Want For Christmas Is... (3)

I'm counting down the weeks to Christmas by sharing some of the books that made it onto my wishlist (and maybe helping some of you guys add to your lists...?)!

A pre-order of Remembrance by Meg Cabot

17302879  From Goodreads:

In REMEMBRANCE, the seventh installment of the Mediator series, all Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva).

But when she stumbles across an ancient murder, old ghosts—and ex-boyfriends—aren’t all that come back to haunt her.

REMEMBRANCE will be the first ever adult installment of the Mediator, published by William Morrow, the adult division of HarperCollins, the company that brought you the YA books in the series.
This one won't have been released by Christmas, but it does come out early next year... and it is the first *adult* book following Suze from Meg Cabot's YA Mediator series! I loved the Mediator series (seriously, how can you not adore Jesse?!) and so I had to put this one on my list, for the nostalgic value if nothing else. Although I am totally here for some more ghost-y shenanigans, ex-boyfriends (don't tell me Paul is back! please, no!) and, of course, the Jesse/Suze chemistry.

What books are you hoping to find under the tree this year? Feel free to let me know in the comments or leave a link to your own blog post!

December 1, 2015

#GivingTuesday: Global Literacy

It's #GivingTuesday today, where lots of worthy causes and charities are being highlighted!

Grammarly contacted me with a request to post this infographic about illiteracy around the world, and of course I was happy to do so (especially since, in return, they've said they will donate $10 to a literacy-promoting charity!).

Some of these stats are pretty staggering — illiteracy isn't something most people who are literate normally think much about, but it can make such a huge difference in terms of the limitations on access to services and opportunities for people who aren't literate.

Global Literacy Infographic

Since the infographic doesn't give the names of any specific literacy charities, I'd thought I'd just mention the 3 literacy charities Grammarly has said that I can choose from (for their $10 contribution):

Reading Is Fundamental
First Book

Feel free to check them out! I'm going to, so I can figure out which one I'd like them to donate to on my behalf :D

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