July 31, 2011

In My Mailbox (32)

In this meme, hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, we share the books we've received, bought or taken out from the library. This IMM covers the past two weeks.


Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey (thanks very much to Musings of a YA Reader!)

From the library:

Many of these are for the Psychtember event coming up in a month, but there's no way I can read all of them in time. And I still keep ordering books! *shakes head*

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
I Don't Want To Be Crazy by Samantha Schutz (poetry memoir)
Sea by Heidi R. Kling
What Are You Afraid Of? (short stories edited by Donald R. Gallo)
Life, After by Sarah Darer Littman
Split by Swati Avasthi

Skin by A.M. Vrettos
Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams
Mindblind by Jennifer Roy
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Broken Memory by Élisabeth Combres
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick
All-in by Pete Hautman

And I just opened up Saving Francesca today to find this written inside:
which made me smile. Not, of course, that I condone writing in library books :P

As She Grows by Lesley Anne Cowan (adult)
Amen, Amen, Amen by Abby Sher (adult memoir)
The Karma Club by Jessica Brody
Fractured: Happily Never After? 3 Tales by Joanna Karaplis
The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (adult)
Shirley by Charlotte Bronte (adult)

July 29, 2011

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Song of the Lioness

This is a regular feature on my blog. Here's how it works: you take a book, choose 3 guy characters from the book, and then the other person has to pick one to kiss, one to marry, and one to kill.

This week, it's the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce! If you have not read this YA fantasy series...what are you still doing here? Go read it!

The men:

1.) Prince Jonathan

2.) George, King of Thieves

3.) Liam, the Shang Dragon
So, who do you kiss, who do you marry, and who do you kill? And as always, if you'd like to join up and do your own, feel free to mention it in the comments or leave a link to your post there :)

July 28, 2011

Psychtember: Your Chance to Question An Expert!

I'm really pleased that there'll be several mental health professionals participating in Psychtember! In fact, Carolyn Kaufman, author of The Writer's Guide to Psychology, will be dropping by. Dr. Kaufman is a clinical psychologist, writer and writing coach, and her book offers a lot of great information in a concise package. More to the point, it's dead-on in terms of accuracy.

I'd love to give my readers this opportunity to suggest questions or topics for Dr. Kaufman to discuss. Are you wondering what misconceptions about psychology pop up most often in novels? How to tell when therapy is being accurately portrayed? Any burning questions about creating characters with mental illness? 

Here's your chance to get an expert's opinion on writing and mental health! Just leave your questions in the comments below (or if you'd prefer you can e-mail me with them).

July 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Fine Art of Truth or Dare & The Way We Fall

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

This week's picks:

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

Goodreads' description:

"Pretty in Pink meets Anna and the French Kiss in this charming
romantic comedy

Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that’s just fine by her. She’s got her friends— the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She’s got her art— and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it’s hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they’re dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?"

This one looks really cute. Perhaps a bit fluffier than I normally read, and the crush-on-the-popular-guy has been done many times before, but hey, there's a comparison to Anna & the French Kiss (which I really enjoyed). Also, I'm hoping the art angle will make it a bit different from books with similar storylines.

And now for something completely different...

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

Goodreads' description:

"It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.

And then you're dead.

When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.

Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.

Because how will she go on if there isn't?

Megan Crewe crafts a powerful and gripping exploration of self-preservation, first love, and hope. Poignant and dizzying, this heart-wrenching story of one girl’s bravery and unbeatable spirit will leave readers fervently awaiting the next book in this standout new series."

We've seen a lot of dystopian and post-apocalyptic books recently, but not too many dealing with disease/pandemics. I like the premise of the island being quarantined and the villain being something you can't easily fight. Plus the cover is cool, love the falling font.

What books are you waiting for?

July 26, 2011

Forget-Me-Nots: The Nose From Jupiter

Forget-Me-Nots is a feature on my blog for highlighting books I enjoyed in childhood and the teenage years that I don't see getting much attention nowadays.

I haven't done one of these in so long!

The Nose from Jupiter by Richard Scrimger

Goodreads' description:

"How do you shut up when your nose is doing all the talking?

Alan is not big or strong. He hates playing soccer and can barely keep up in math class. Moreover he’s fodder for every bully for miles around. But all that changes the day Norbert, an alien from Jupiter, comes to earth on an exploration mission and moves into – Alan’s nose. Soon Alan isn’t acting like himself, but is Norbert really to blame? Loud, pushy and hilarious, Norbert teaches Alan to stand up for himself, even when the odds are stacked against him."

I was first introduced to this book in elementary school, when my teacher read it aloud to us. She did a great job of the voices (especially the squeaky voice of Norbert) and it was hilarious! Since then I've re-read it multiple times and still enjoy it. It's a great MG read, full of humour and a male protagonist who's an underdog you'll enjoy rooting for. And of course, there's no one quite like the unforgettable Norbert, who steals the show. There are a couple more in the series, but the original is still the best! (And bonus: the author's Canadian :D)

Anyone remember this one?

July 23, 2011

Blogoversary & Giveaways!

I'm celebrating my 1-year blogoversary today! Technically my very first post was back in May 2010, but it was one year ago today that I joined the Book Blogger Hop for the first time, people actually became aware of the existence of my blog, and I got my first followers and comments. :D

If you'd like to take a look, here's the very first post I ever wrote. Kind of embarrassing (were these intended to be reviews? Really?) but I'm very pleased with how far I've come. It's been so much fun to have become part of the book blogging community and be able to talk about all my bookish thoughts with other readers who understand my passion! Really when I started this blog I never dreamed that one year later I'd still be going strong and would have gained over 400 followers. O_O Thanks very much to everybody who's stuck with me!

To celebrate, I'm having 2 giveaways!


- Entrants must be 13 years of age or older.

- No following or tweeting is required to enter (though both, of course, are always appreciated).

- However, if you are an old follower (by either GFC or e-mail subscription) you get 1 extra entry. This means you were following me BEFORE this giveaway announcement. Make sure to give me your exact GFC username (or the e-mail you use to subscribe) on the form. Please be honest here so you don't get disqualified! Normally I don't give any extra points for following, but since it's my blogoversary I'd like to reward the people who have been with me up until now :)

- If you have a Canadian address, you can enter each giveaway once. If you live outside of Canada, you are only eligible to enter the international giveaway once.

- Both giveaways end Aug. 6 at 11:59 pm EST.

- Comments are nice but do NOT count as entries.

- The winner of each giveaway will be selected randomly and contacted by e-mail.

Now for the actual giveaway prizes...

Giveaway #1 — Open to Canadian addresses only. Winner's choice of either Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (hardcover) or Thirst No. 1 by Christopher Pike (paperback, includes The Last Vampire, Black Blood, and Red Dice), as pictured below.

Giveaway #2 — Open internationally, anywhere the Book Depository ships (you can see here for a list of countries they ship to). Winner's choice of 1 book from my review list, provided that it is currently available from the Book Depository and under $15 CAD.

Both contests are now closed.

Good luck!

July 22, 2011

Forbidden: In A Nutshell

Goodreads' description:
"Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending."

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

One sentence sum-up: a story of the most illicit romance of all — that of brother and sister.

My reaction: Forbidden is the kind of book that reaches out and punches you in the gut. And I mean that in a good way.

I don't even really know how to describe my reaction to this book. I found it a little slow at the very beginning, but I started to get really wrapped into the characters and their lives, and pretty soon when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it and feeling the need to read some more. For me, it was kind of like watching one gigantic train wreck and not being able to tear my eyes away. That's not a reflection on the writing — which is very well crafted — but rather on the fact that I knew this was not going to end well. I hadn't been spoiled as to the specifics of the ending, but I knew it wasn't going to be happy.

It doesn't even start with the characters in a good place. Their mother is obviously running for 'Worst Mom of the Year' and their father is nowhere to be seen. Maya and Lochan are taking care of the whole family themselves and burning themselves out doing it. The younger siblings don't understand and the middle child has entered the rebellious teen phase. And it only gets worse from there, when the nature of Maya and Lochan's relationship turns romantic and you just know that spells trouble ahead. There was this dread in the pit of my stomach, this feeling that it was only a matter of time until they got caught and someone found out... And yet, irrationally, I kept hoping, and I kept reading.

Best aspect: The way Suzuma makes you care about her characters. Forbidden isn't driven by plot, it's driven by character and situation. And yet, somehow, even though there isn't a lot of action or many memorable plot points through most of it, I was absorbed by it. I particularly loved Lochan as a character. He's such an unusual guy — shy, tentative, introspective, and closed off from the outside world due to an extreme case of social anxiety. Yet he allows himself to open up around Maya, and she gets to see the real Lochan. More generally, I just enjoyed all of them as a family, desperately trying to stick together and survive.

Plus, this book made me cry. I was tearing up at one point while reading, and then afterwards when I was trying to record my thoughts I honestly just started bawling. I don't cry often over books, so that immediately puts it up a few notches in my estimation.

The incest angle: the incestuous nature of Maya and Lochan's relationship is not ignored or pushed aside by any means. They struggle with it, just as the reader will, as their heads war against their hearts and bodies. In some scenes it's easy to forget they're related, but in others it's brought up as an altogether too painful and wrenching reminder. It might squick you out a few times when you actually think about it (I don't have a brother, but I can imagine that would have made it even more uncomfortable for me as a reader) but it's impossible not to root for them all the same. They depend on each other so much, and are so fiercely loyal and protective of one another, that it just seems right for them to be together — even though, as Lochan points out, "How can something so wrong feel so right?" I really appreciated that Suzuma showed us how they could have gotten to this point; how, over time, after years of acting as a stand-in "mom" and "dad" to their younger siblings, and trusting no one outside of their family, they would turn to each other for romantic love as well. To them, it's natural to want each other, and their deepening relationship is both a blessing and a curse. It's the one bright spot in their lives and in this book — and yet it's what will surely be their downfall.

If I could change something... Before I read Forbidden I saw reviews criticize it for not having the most authentic teen boy's perspective, and for being rather melodramatic. And while I do see their points, neither of those criticisms weigh that much with me compared to everything else Forbidden has going for it. Yes, there is a lot of angst going on here (and I did think Maya reacts over-the-top in one part in particular), but if any couple deserves to exhibit some angst, it's these two. And fine, you're probably never going to meet a teenage guy as sensitive and thoughtful as Lochan, but I think the tough life he's had so far is at least partly an explanation for his unusual maturity.

I actually don't have much I would change in this one. There are a few points at which the drama is overstated and could be toned down to feel more real, and some of it feels a bit repetitive. Also, this is a tiny quibble, but I didn't like the pet name "my love" Lochan and Maya used for each other — it seemed out of place with the rest of the dialogue, too old-fashioned to be authentic for teens. But overall, I wouldn't tinker with it much at all (which is quite rare for me!)

In five words or less: painful, depressing, thought-provoking and amazing.


I know that whatever the reasons for our feelings, however much I try to justify them, it doesn't change anything: Lochan cannot be my boyfriend. Out of the millions and millions of people that inhabit this planet, he is one of the tiny few I can never have. And this is something I must accept—even if, like acid on metal, it is slowly corroding me inside.

Read if: you're looking for a unique book that will make you hurt for the characters and what they're up against. But prepare to feel sucker-punched by the end.

Final verdict: 5 shooting stars. Suzuma gets major points just for having the guts to write a story about a topic most YA authors wouldn't dare touch. But the fact that it's a story with such a powerful emotional impact makes it worthy of 5 stars — and your reading time.

Note: I would only recommend this for older YA readers, as there is mature content (including explicit sexual content), themes, and language.

July 21, 2011

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Lord of the Rings (the Hobbits)

This is a regular feature on my blog. Here's how it works: you take a book, choose 3 guy characters from the book, and then the other person has to pick one to kiss, one to marry, and one to kill.

This week, it's Lord of the Rings again! There are just so many fabulous guys to pick from in that one. Or in this case...hobbits.

And the choices this time are...

1.) Merry

2.) Pippin

3.) Sam

So...who do you kiss, who do you marry, and who do you kill? And as always, if you'd like to join up and do your own, feel free to mention it in the comments or leave a link to your post there :)

July 20, 2011

Get Psyched Up for Psychtember!

Mark your calendars, because in September I'll be hosting a month-long blog event! "Psychtember" will feature YA books focusing on mental health. I got my undergraduate degree in psychology and still have an interest in it, so I'd like to see this category of YA get some more attention! The event will be highlighting a mixture of books, both upcoming and recent releases (since our knowledge of mental health is continually changing). The featured books may deal with topics like eating disorders, depression, schizophrenia, and addiction. (Yes, this is why my "In My Mailbox" posts have included so many library books over the past couple weeks!)

Did you know?

You may know a friend or family member struggling with mental health problems, or even have had experience with it yourself. Since it's so significant in the teen years, I thought it would make sense to look at how mental health issues are portrayed in YA books — the disorders themselves as well as coping methods, treatment and recovery. I'm hoping this event will help to make these kinds of books more accessible to a wider audience.

There'll be reviews, guest posts, author interviews, and giveaways! And helping me out will be these awesome bloggers, many of whom have studied (or are studying) psychology:

Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing
Small Review
Musings of a YA Reader
Brave New Adventure
One Book at a Time
All of Everything
Musings of a Reader Happy
A Backwards Story

If you'd like to grab the button and spread the word, that would be much appreciated! :)

A Tapestry of Words

I'm still looking for more people to contribute, so if you're a blogger who reads YA and has a background or perspective related to psych, please contact me! Also, if there's a book you'd like to see featured, feel free to suggest it and I'll take it into consideration :)

July 19, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Think All Teens Should Read

This fabulous meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and this week it's books we think all teens must read. Awesome topic!

So, in no particular order...

1.) Pride & Prejudice — I think I first read this one when I was about 12, and I've re-read it plenty of times since! You can't go wrong with Austen and P&P is probably the best one to start with.

2.) The Harry Potter series — this is pretty much a no-brainer. (And yes, I'm cheating and including the entire series here :P)

3.) A Tamora Pierce book — it doesn't really matter which one (although I am partial to the Song of the Lioness and the Immortals series), but for solid YA fantasy Tamora Pierce is a must.

4.) Something by Shakespeare — I read Romeo & Juliet in Grade 8 and went on to study Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest later in high school. Reason to read? Shakespeare is awesome. Why wouldn't you want to?

5.) Jane Eyre — I read this one when I was around 12 as well. How better to start off an appreciation of Gothic novels than with the best one out there?

6.) Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes —It's a classic for a reason, and a great example of how writing style can be so effective in telling a story.

7.) The Giver by Lois Lowry — I saw this on another list and I have to agree! The Giver is a fabulous introduction to dystopian fiction, and frankly still one of the best dystopian YA reads out there (despite this recent influx in the genre).

8.) Animal Farm by George Orwell — okay, George Orwell's books are not fun and this one quite disturbed me, to tell the truth (partly because I read it when I was pretty young, probably before I was really ready for it). But, I do think it touches on a lot of really important themes and it's a book that will stick with you.

9.) The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. I studied this play in high school and actually quite liked it. It's beautiful, thoughtful, and sad.

10.) Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman — I remember being in my mid-teens and asking my mom for books to read from my parents' shelves (my parents' and sister's bookcases always seemed far more alluring than my own...grass is greener and all that). She pulled Mrs. Mike out and gave it to me, saying something like, "I think you're old enough to appreciate this one." It's part old-fashioned love story, part adventure in the Great Canadian North. You'd better have tissues at hand when you read it, though.

I'm sure there are way more I could add, but I'll stop at ten. Looking at the list, a surprising number of these are adult books. Anyway, what books are on your list?

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