October 28, 2011

Halloween Antidotes: For Fellow Scaredy-Cat Readers

Since Halloween is fast approaching, I've been seeing plenty of lists popping up around the blogosphere lately recommending various scary, spooky, creepy, unsettling, will-make-shivers-run-down-your-spine books.

Books like this one, which I'm still not sold on. Should I read it?

And that's great, for those people who love to get horrified out of their minds. But I am, well...

 ...a scaredy-cat.

Horror movies make me shudder. I can't stand blood and gore. And don't even get me started on spiders.

Now, I do understand the appeal of books that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Personally, I have a soft spot for psychological thrillers, rather than the traditional kind of horror that involves lots of grotesque violence. But once you're trembling in your boots, then what do you do? Well, read on.

In honour of the spooky holiday coming up, I have compiled a list of books that you should read if you've just watched a terrifying movie/read a terrifying book, or if you are just feeling generally scared because strangers are ringing your doorbell and demanding you give them candy:

1.) Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (and the accompanying sequels) — the dragons aren't scary, they're friendly! (Well, most of them.) And the bad wizards just make fools of themselves most of the time. Plus in one of the books there is a blue 6-foot flying rabbit-turned-donkey...and let's face it, NO ONE can be scared of that.

2.) Unearthly by Cynthia Hand — there's really quite a limit to how terrifying angels can get. Even dark ones. And there's a super cute romance in this one :D

3.) Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty — this is one of my ultimate contemporary feel-good reads! Unless you have a fear of letters, you will love this book.

4.) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins — yeah, I think the title says it all. Fear factor = low. Awwwwww factor = high.

5.) Please Remove Your Elbow From My Ear by Martyn Godfrey — how can anything be scary when you're reading a book that has the word "elbow" in the title? It's impossible. Plus this book means guaranteed laughs.

6.) Victoria and the Rogue by Meg Cabot — Historical more your thing? Well, I can't vouch for the historical accuracy of this one, and it is admittedly very cheesy in places, with a heroine who is unthinkably obtuse and irritating at times...but she's also stubborn, bold, and good-intentioned, and it's a frothy fun read with a very enjoyable hero in Jacob Carstairs. Only steer clear of this one if neckcloths terrify you. 

7.) The Arkadians by Lloyd Alexander — unlike some of Alexander's other books (The Iron Ring, for example, or his Prydain series) the villain of this one isn't super evil or creepy. It's full of wonderfully distinct characters on a journey that incorporates other stories into the larger one.

8.) Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine — okay, there are a few dangers in this one, like ogres and stepsisters. But Ella holds her own against them just fine! It's one of my favourite fairy tale retellings (I love this book and will push it at any opportunity :D).

9.) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen — another one of my ultimate comfort reads! There is absolutely nothing scary in this one. So whisk yourself into a world filled with balls, teas, long sleeves and Fitzwilliam Darcy!

10.) The Nose from Jupiter by Richard Scrimger — this book is hilarious. You will laugh away your fears.

So that's my suggested list of books for cozying up with on Halloween! What books would be on YOUR list?

October 27, 2011

The Beginning of After: A Snapshot

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

From Goodreads: "Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It’s all about Before and After. What I’m talking about here is the ka-pow, shake-you-to-your-core-and-turn-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy.

Sixteen-year-old Laurel’s world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel’s life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgment. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss—a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways."

The subject: a girl struggling to recover from the deaths of her parents and brother. Laurel's voice is enjoyable and her character relatable, and I felt a lot of sympathy for her, especially right at the beginning after the accident.

The setting: the New York suburbs.

Shutter speed: fairly slow-moving, but smooth. It's character-driven, so there isn't a lot of action, but at the same time it reads really easily. However, it does lose momentum/direction in parts (especially the second half) and some of it feels repetitive. 

What's in the background? Oh, the unresolved tension between Laurel and David... which got dragged out longer than I felt was really necessary. But I was rooting for them to get together! 

Zoom in on: Laurel's relationship with her brother and parents. They die at the beginning so we don't get to know them that well, and I think a few more memories/flashbacks might have helped make them feel more real.

Anything out of focus? There's an almost-sex scene that I thought happened awfully suddenly in the progression of the relationship.

Also, Laurel seems to move on from her grief a bit more quickly than I might have expected.

Ready? Say... "Loss."

Click! 4 shooting stars. This book hasn't stuck with me and isn't particularly memorable, but I actually really enjoyed reading it at the time. I liked being in Laurel's head; she makes mistakes but learns from them, and her relationship with David is believably rocky as it changes and takes on different tones throughout. Overall, it's an easy read that feels very realistic.

Note: there is a bit of mature sexual content.

Disclaimer: I received this book for review from the publisher.

October 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Last Princess and The Traitor in the Tunnel

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!

The Last Princess by Galaxy Craze

Goodreads' description:

"Happily ever after is a thing of the past.

The year is 2090.

England is a barren land. Food is rationed. Oil has decimated the oceans. The people are restless.

A ruthless revolutionary enacts a plan to destroy the royal family, and in a moment, the king is dead. His heiress, Princess Mary, and her brother, Jamie, have been abducted, and no one knows their fate. Princess Eliza Windsor barely escapes, and finds herself scared and lost in London's dangerous streets.

With a mind for revenge and the safe recovery of her siblings, Eliza joins the enemy forces in disguise. There she is tempted by her first taste of independence -- and true love. Ultimately she must summon her courage and fight to ensure that she does not become... The Last Princess.

The premise of this one really interests me...a futuristic one that somehow manages to sound rather historical! I love the idea of a princess fighting for survival in 2090.

And now for some actual historical fiction...

The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee

"Queen Victoria has a little problem: there’s a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Mary Quinn takes the simple case, going undercover as a domestic servant. But before long, a scandal threatens to tear apart the Royal Family.

One of the Prince of Wales’s irresponsible young friends is killed in disgraceful circumstances. Should the Queen hush things up or allow justice to take its course? Mary’s interest in this private matter soon becomes deeply personal: the killer, a drug-addicted Chinese sailor, shares a name with her long-lost father.

Meanwhile, James Easton’s engineering firm is repairing the sewers beneath Buckingham Palace. Trouble is, there’s a tunnel that’s not on the plans. Its purpose is unclear. But it seems to be very much in use.

These overlapping puzzles offer a perfect opportunity for Mary and James to work together again… if they can still trust one another. This is Mary’s most personal case yet and she has everything to lose."

Ahhhh, can't wait for this one! I am in need of another Mary-and-James-on-an-adventure fix...but it'll be a little while till I get it, since this one doesn't release in the US until Feb 2012.

What books are you waiting for?

October 24, 2011

Heads-Up: Jodi Picoult Sweepstakes!

Jodi Picoult's a popular author (and a couple of her books — like Nineteen Minutes and The Pact — deal with some issues involving teens) so I thought I'd let you guys know about the sweepstakes contest Simon and Schuster are holding for her books! If you'd like to enter to win a library of Jodi Picoult novels, go HERE.

The collection of books includes her latest, Sing You Home, and the entry deadline is Nov. 8th.

Good luck!

October 23, 2011

More Psychtember Giveaway Winners!

More of the Psychtember giveaways have ended and I've drawn the winners!

For the Adele Griffin giveaway, Random.org chose...


For the Popular giveaway, Random.org chose...

Ricki from Reading Challenged!

For the Without Tess giveaway, Random.org chose...

Laura from All of Everything!

For the But I Love Him giveaway, Random.org chose...

Nikki from Take Me Away...!

I've already heard back from Angie and Nikki. The other winners have 72 hours to reply to my e-mail before I select another winner. Congrats to these four, and thanks to everyone else who entered!

Edited: I've now heard back from all the winners!

In My Mailbox (40)

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

For review:
The Humming Room by Ellen Potter
Life is But a Dream by Brian James

Thanks very much to Macmillan for these!

October 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind and All These Lives

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!

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind by Meg Medina

From Goodreads:

"Sixteen-year-old Sonia Ocampa was born on the night of the worst storm Tres Montes had ever seen. And when the winds mercifully stopped, an unshakable belief in the girl's protective powers began. All her life, Sonia has been asked to pray for sick mothers or missing sons, as worried parents and friends press silver milagros in her hands. Sonia knows she has no special powers, but how can she disappoint those who look to her for solace? Still, her conscience is heavy, so when she gets a chance to travel to the city and work in the home of a wealthy woman, she seizes it. At first, Sonia feels freedom in being treated like all the other girls. But when news arrives that her beloved brother has disappeared while looking for work, she learns to her sorrow that she can never truly leave past or family behind. With deeply realized characters, a keen sense of place, a hint of magical realism, and a flush of young romance, Meg Medina tells the tale of a strong-willed, warmhearted girl who dares to face life's harsh truths as she finds her real power."

Magical realism in a YA? Sign me up! I love the premise of this one — the superstitions of others causing Sonia guilt, and spurring her to move to the city. And the cover is simple but beautiful!

All These Lives by Sarah Wylie

From Goodreads:

"Sixteen-year-old Dani is convinced she has nine lives. As a child she twice walked away from situations where she should have died. But Dani’s twin, Jena, isn’t so lucky. She has cancer and might not even be able to keep her one life. Dani’s father is in denial. Her mother is trying to hold it together and prove everything’s normal. And Jena is wasting away. To cope, Dani sets out to rid herself of all her extra lives. Maybe they’ll be released into the universe and someone who wants to live more than she does will get one. Someone like Jena. But just when Dani finds herself at the breaking point, she’s faced with a startling realization. Maybe she doesn’t have nine lives after all. Maybe she really only ever had one."

I'm not sure if there's any element of fantasy/paranormal to this one, or if it's all psychology...but either way I'm interested! The "nine lives" premise makes it stand out from other "issue books," and yet it sounds just as dark and intense.

What books are you waiting for?

Virtuosity: A Panoramic Review

To fit with the photography theme, these are now titled "panoramic" reviews (but they use the same format as the "in a nutshell" reviews of before.)

Goodreads' description:
"Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot...what if Jeremy is better?

Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can't end well, but she just can't stay away. Nobody else understands her--and riles her up--like he does. Still, she can't trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what's expected.

Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall...."
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

My reaction: I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the music performance industry; I thought the portrayal rang quite true from everything I've heard about it.  The main characters Carmen and Jeremy were both likeable and easy to relate to, despite the fact that unlike them I have never participated in any major music competitions. Carmen may be innocent and naive, but it's believable, because she's intelligent too. We see her mature throughout the novel and end up making some decisions I had to really respect. And the writing style was easy to get into and smooth throughout.

I'm not typically a big fan of the open ending, but I thought it kind of worked for this book — we're given two possibilities of Carmen's future, and they're both hopeful. In particular, I thought the open ending when it came to resolution with Carmen's mom was realistic; I was glad to see it didn't get sappy or sugar-coated. Their relationship is one filled with tension, due mainly to Diana's attempt to live vicariously through Carmen's ascent as a performer — a role seen often for parents of musicians who are, or were, musically talented themselves, but in the case of Virtuosity, it's done well. It was refreshing to see that Martinez does not back down from making the mother pushy and controlling, even to the very end.

Best aspect: The twist that the competitive angle put on Carmen and Jeremy's relationship. It's a realistic way of keeping them apart and putting up a barrier without involving a tired old love triangle like we see so often these days. This 'I-like-him-but-I-can't-trust-him' mentality added a whole other layer to their romance.

If I could change something... Judging from the back cover, I expected the Inderal and Carmen's addiction to play a larger role in the storyline than they actually did. It seemed more like they were added in there to show that some musicians do go through these situations, rather than as a natural part of Carmen's journey. I wasn't too sure about how certain aspects of the addiction were handled, as well. (Spoiler, highlight to read: I thought that the withdrawal symptoms Carmen exhibits when she goes off the drug should have been more severe and lasted longer, given that she stopped cold-turkey and had been on Inderal for quite some time by that point.)

In five words or less: entertaining and enlightening

Read if you liked: The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer-Wolff, Mountain Solo by Jeanette Ingold

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book for review from the publisher.

October 16, 2011

The Results of the Psychology Survey!

At the beginning of Psychtember, I conducted a survey to get at what my readers' perceptions of psychological issues. Now I've taken a look at the results, made some pretty pie charts, and voila! Here they are for you to enjoy as well :)

First, some demographics:


No surprises there :D

Age ranges:

I'm happy to see such a great variety of ages in my readers!

Educational background in psychology or related discipline:

And now for the actual questions:


As you can see, over 75% of the respondents think of something other than rats running in a maze, patients in a psychiatric ward, or Freud, when they hear the word "psychology." There were some great write-in responses to this one, including:

  • Brain parts!
  • College classes
  • my Husband - a psych major!
  • Things that mess with your head
  • Someone saying "How does that make you feel?"
  • Frasier!

The majority chose the response, "Psychotic? Really? I'm going to need a lot more proof than that," rather than, "Heck yes she's totally psychotic!! Who *does* something like that?"

Nice to see this result, since technically, there are no obvious signs of psychosis (having hallucinations and/or delusions) in the arch-rival's behaviour. She *could* be psychotic, theoretically, but she could have something completely different going on (some anger management issues, perhaps?) The word "psychotic" is tossed around in general conversation in a very casual way, giving it meanings that are actually completely inaccurate. It has nothing at all to do with being psychopathic, which is a whole other can of worms.


With this question I was getting at the different types of therapeutical orientations. 50% of the respondents think of a therapist and client sitting across from each other, the client sharing his/her experiences while the therapist nods and says, "And how do you feel about that?" This would be a humanistic/client-centered approach. 32% think of a therapist giving his/her client lots of information, trying out some practice exercises with him/her, and then assigning the client homework. This represents cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).

And of course, the client on a couch while the therapist strokes his beard in thought is psychoanalytic therapy (the more traditional variety) —which very few of you picked!

There were also a few of you who gave your own responses, which included:

  • A client telling a therapist how things have been since the last meeting
  • A relationship that can, ideally, help the client understand herself better and lead a fuller, more conscious life


I loved the incredible variety of responses to this question! About 26% chose "Oh no, she's analyzing me right now, isn't she? I can tell!" and about 21% of you are fellow psych geeks (YAY!) but there were also a ton of creative write-in answers.

They ranged from the excited:

  • That's awesome! I wish you were Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds
  • To ask her if she's studied cog sci or neuroscience - fascinating stuff!
  • Awesome! That's what I want to get!
  • bet she has some great stories!!
    To the lukewarm:

    • Cool?
    • That it's cool, but I don't really think more about it than I do any other job.
    • Interesting. Feel like sharing anything about it?
    And then to the downright less-than-enthusiastic:

    • Meh
    • Pfft, that's what people major in when they don't know what they want to major in.
    There were also a couple who took a more personal angle:

    • Can you examine this or that issue I seem to have?
    • I know more about her field than she does.
    5.) Your friend confides to you that she's been diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. You think to yourself:

    This question was getting at perceptions of OCPD and OCD — there's sometimes confusion between these, but they are separate disorders. It looks like most of you recognize this! OCPD involves a general mindset revolving around organization and perfection, but there are no specific obsessions and compulsions as there are in OCD.


    I'm concluding from this that I have a large number of readers who are big Lord of the Rings fans and don't like to miss out on the fight scenes! :P

    I included this question because schizophrenia is often confused with dissociative identity disorder (DID), and they are two COMPLETELY different issues. One of the primary symptoms of schizophrenia is psychosis, whereas with DID, the individual has multiple identities. Gollum has his alter ego Smeagol, for example.


    The majority would be interested in hearing more about the book, but there were also a few write-in responses that wanted to know some specifics:

    • Is it depressing?
    • Option 1 followed by- But umm, how ACCURATE is it?! Is it gonna piss me off?!
    • Which illness?
    • Is he a victim or a monster?
    I found it lots of fun to read your responses, and I was pleased to see that many of you have quite a strong base of knowledge surrounding psychology!

    What do you guys think of the results? Anything surprise you?

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