Top Ten Tuesday

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is an interesting one that’s requiring just a little more thought. The topic: FREEBIE! Pick your own topic. So I’ve chosen the top ten literary related bucket list that I want to see/visit. Let me know what you think of these places if you’ve been to any of them. 🙂

10.Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht, The Netherlands – Okay, so I’m cheating here. I  visited this awesome venue just over a year ago now, but it’s definitely a place I want to go back. Maastricht is a small, unassuming, very old city in the southern Netherlands. We stumbled upon this beautiful old cathedral converted into a 3 store book shop just by chance. The floors are all open so you can view the beautiful paintings on the ceiling. I did purchase a book here, I’m proud to say.

9. The Strand – Yes, I am one of the few booknerds who’s never visited The Strand in New York. It’s at the top of the list with New York not being insanely far away. I want to spend hours just looking at the books here, and of course get a stylish and awesome tote bag with their logo.

8. Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal – the building itself is just as beautiful as the books it holds. If the apocalypse were to come tomorrow, I’d hope to be trapped in a bookstore like this one.

7. Cook & Book in Brussels, Belgium – I wish I’d known about this one when we were in Brussles! This bookstore/restaurant would be the greatest place to sit down and have lunch after a morning of sightseeing. And who knows what literary treasure you’d find! The decor is pretty sweet, too. Books strung from the ceiling? I’m in!

6. The Bookworm in Beijing – Of course this bookstore is appealing to the world traveller in me who wants to traverse Asia. An English language library, bookstore, and restaurant, this will definitely be a place to visit when I make it to Beijing.

5. El Ateneo in Buenos Aires, Argentina – Photos of this place take my breath away. It’s absolutely stunning. The books are housed in a converted 1920s theatre and it’s alight with gold. The images are so inviting and I can see myself spending days exploring the nooks and crannies of this place.

4. Shakespeare and Company in Paris – As if their website isn’t cool enough, their shop looks even more awesome. It looks quaint and completely adorable from the street. It’s the perfect quirky place to park my butt for a day and find something to read!

3. Livraria da Vila in Sao Paulo, Brazil – While I’m touring through South America, I’m going to have to make sure to make a pit stop in this bookstore. From the street this place has (or at least looks like it has) revolving doors of bookshelves. I’m sold. Let’s go.

2. Cafebreria El Pendulo, Mexico City, Mexico – Gosh I wish I’d known about this one the last time we were in Mexico. This bookstore is the perfect romantic setting in my opinion. It just looks like the perfect setting for the perfect love story. It’s filled with beautiful greenery, gorgeous archways, and yes, it too has a cafe.

1. Bart’s Books in Ojai, California – The world’s largest OUTDOOR bookstore. Nothing beats that. Nothing, I tell you!

 

 

 

Review: We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

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Advanced copy provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Title: We Are the Goldens

Author: Dana Reinhardt

Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books

Publication Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 9780385742573

We Are the Goldens

 Synopsis from Goodreads:

Nell knows a secret about her perfect, beautiful sister Layla. If she tells, it could blow their world apart.

When Nell and Layla were little, Nell used to call them Nellaya. Because to Nell, there was no difference between where she started and her adored big sister ended. They’re a unit; divorce made them rely on each other early on, so when one pulls away, what is the other to do? But now, Nell’s a freshman in high school and Layla is changing, secretive. And then Nell discovers why. Layla is involved with one of their teachers. And even though Nell tries to support Layla, to understand that she’s happy and in love, Nell struggles with her true feelings: it’s wrong, and she must do something about it.

We Are the Goldens is a short novel about familial bonds and the relationship between sisters, and the struggle to provide love and support through the first explorations of adulthood: adult feelings, relationships, and issues. It’s perspective is unique, told in an almost epistolary form from the younger sister to the older. It reads like a long diary entry which is at once difficult to adjust to and a gateway into the speaker’s inner most thoughts.

I wasn’t sure what to think of this novel from the beginning. I almost put it down more than once, but I persisted, having receive the e-galley from Netgalley in exchange for this review. The start is rocky, I will admit. The prose itself is jerky and it takes some time, but it does eventually establish a flow and the novel did improve vastly.

Nell is a soccer playing, Shakespeare loving girl with a best friend Felix who might also be the love of her life. She’s struggling to live in the shadow of her idolized older sister who, in her eyes, is infinitely wise, beautiful and perfect. Nell strives to live her high school life in the image of her sister and try and achieve the same level of perfection. Her relationship with Felix is simultaneously both simple and very complex. Their exchanges are rooted in the purest of friendships, but there is underlying tension as friendship contemplates development into romance. I enjoyed reading their banter and their camaraderie adds a much needed sweetness to a heavier story.

This novel addresses some very real issues that face teens today and it does so in a way that’s accessible, relatable, and not too overwhelming. The characters face the struggles of transitioning from childhood to adulthood and are tentatively learning to deal with and comprehend issues of death, relationships, sex, isolation, etc.

The build up to the final climax and the greatest struggle faced in the book was a point of struggle for me. I saw the ending coming from miles off. I knew the ending to the book at a quarter of the way into the story. There was little subtle about it. This was a major flaw in the story’s unfolding for me. Why continue reading if you know what’s going to happen? Nell’s story isn’t anything new, but I do like the way that the issues were presented. The obviousness of the plot is the reason for my rating: 3/5 stars.

I would say this book borders on the younger edge of YA fiction in terms of its target age. Nell is 15 years old, and the target audience is probably in and around that area. The diction has a simplicity about it that conveys this innocence of the protagonist, but also slots the book into a younger age range. It’s not a bad read, and a younger audience will definitely enjoy it.

 

Review: The Dark World by Cara Lynn Shultz

18513759 **I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for and honest review**

Title: The Dark World

Author: Cara Lynn Shultz

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Publication Date: 27 May 2014

ISBN: 9780373211203

The Dark World (Dark World, #1)

 Synopsis from Goodreads:

Paige Kelly is used to weird–in fact, she probably corners the market on weird, considering that her best friend, Dottie, has been dead since the 1950s. But when a fire demon attacks Paige in detention, she has to admit that things have gotten out of her league. Luckily, the cute new boy in school, Logan Bradley, is a practiced demon slayer-and he isn’t fazed by Paige’s propensity to chat with the dead. Suddenly, Paige is smack in the middle of a centuries-old battle between warlocks and demons, learning to fight with a magic sword so that she can defend herself. And if she makes one wrong move, she’ll be pulled into the Dark World, an alternate version of our world that’s overrun by demons-and she might never make it home.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this book when I first received it. I wasn’t too keen on the cover, but the description seemed similar to books I’ve enjoyed in the past. Reading the first 50 pages or so, I was still unsure where the book was going. The story though, caught me completely off guard and I think that’s why I enjoyed Shultz’s story so much.

What I Liked:

Page Kelly is an awesome teen female protagonist. I loved her humour and her sarcasm. She’s weird and quirky and quick with the wit. I’ll admit, I read this story a lot on the commuter train on my way to and from work and I laughed out loud more than I’m willing to admit. Shultz and I could be friends I think. Her humour adds a wonderful bright spot to this intense and often dark story, punctuating scenes of terror with much needed and hilariously good relief.

Paige is shunned by the rest of the school so she immediately appeals to anyone who understands what it’s like to be bullied or outcast. She’s an accessible character who’s misunderstood and misjudged, I know, a typical YA protagonist trait, but it gets better. Unlike so many female characters we’ve seen before, Paige isn’t shy or boring and she doesn’t think of herself as plain. She’s confident, despite being thought to be crazy. As Logan, the lover interest, points out, she (and I’m paraphrasing) “holds her head high despite being constantly mocked.” She’s ultimately okay with who she is right from the start, a refreshing trait to see. It is her confidence and her quirkiness that makes her attractive and prompts the novel’s romance.

Paige’s process of self-discovery is quite unique as well. It takes a while for her to uncover her strengths and her powers and to come to know the young woman she’s become. These changes are something she faces head on and her bravery is something I admire. Although her process is a little slow and contributed to my difficulty getting into the book in the beginning, her journey of realization over time is what made me like this book even more. We learn as Paige learns. Shultz reveals an imaginative, fantastical, and terrible world to both Paige and the reader. We are constantly reminded that things in this world are not always as they seem.

What I Didn’t Like as much:

Paige’s thought process, especially when confronting her romantic feelings are often frustrating. I can see that her inner turmoil stems from her social struggles and her lack of experience in the love department, but she often seems to be self-sabotaging. The romance moves along smoothly for a while, only to be disrupted by her seemingly involuntary mood-killing interjections. I wanted to shake her sometimes to get her to wake up and be smooth instead of the super awkward teen she sometimes is (and she is only seventeen so I can’t fault her for that).

As much as I enjoyed this book, it’s not a story that I haven’t seen before in some form or another. Paige is a really unique character and I’d curious to know about the Dark World and what lies within it. But the demons and warlocks and the battle that’s centuries old is the traditional fallback plot for fantasy novels.

Overall:

I was pleasantly surprised and caught off guard by Schultz’s authorial style and voice. Her voice is unique and has a commanding presence throughout Paige’s journey. She’s able to quickly drive the story and create a thrill in the frantic scenes of action and danger, but she so easily contrasts these heart-racing moments with scenes of excitement and budding young love. I’m excited to see where this story continues in the second novel.

Top Ten Tuesday

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It’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday. Welcome! This weeks topic is one I had to think about for a little while: top ten books about friendships. Now it isn’t because I don’t read books about friends, but more often than not, I find that the novels I pick up are about family relationships, solitary experiences, or romantic development. Friendships are usually a side plot and aren’t so much the main focus of the story. But here goes. I’ll give it a shot.

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5. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater – What I love about the friendships in this series is that they are so unassuming and accepting. Friends are brought together by a natural magnetic attraction and their bonds are strengthen through unification in working towards a common cause. I love boys’ friendships. The camaraderie and the devotion that exists in these boys’ friendships is touching and adds great strength to the plot. They stick with one another through the tough times, and that makes the good times all the more sweet.

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4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett – With women of different races and classes brought together in a time where cross-racial friendship were not widely accepted, and friendships borne out of a desire to expose truth and to achieve freedom, The Help was full of the purest and most self-less friendships that are both touching and inspiring. I adored this novel.

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3. Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares – This is such a great story of teen friendship, and more specifically, the devoted, fun-loving, open friendship of teen girls. The friendships in this series span years and great distances. The girls transition from high school to college together, experiencing some of life’s most pivotal changes together. This is a book/series that all teen girls need to read.

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2. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – One of my favourite books from my childhood, this story shares the absolute self-less love that accompanies only the purest of friendships. This beautiful story depicts the desire to give and help out those we love. The story is the absolute truth of life long friendships.

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1. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See – A laotong pair share a bond that is greater than that of husband and wife. Lily and Snow Flower are laotong. Their friendship spans a lifetime, from childhood to death, surviving neglect, betrayal, and a lifetime of hardships. It is a testimony to the durability of friendship forged in life’s most crucial years and through shared experiences.

So, it’s only a top 5 this week. I wracked my brain to come up with new books (that I haven’t talked about to you before) about friendships. I could only come up with 5, but I think it’s a pretty good selection.

Review: Played by Liz Fichera

16177036 **I received an e-galley of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**

Titled: Played (Hooked #2)

Author: Liz Fichera

Publisher: HarlequinTEEN

Publication Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN:9780383210947

Played (Hooked, #2)

 Synopsis from Goodreads:

This Game Is Getting All Too Real

He said: I like to keep under the radar and mostly hang out with my friends from the rez. But when I saved Riley Berenger from falling off a mountain, that rich suburban princess decided to try to save me. 

She said: If I can help Sam Tracy win the heart of the girl he can’t get over, I’ll pay him back for helping me. I promised him I would, no matter what it takes.

I read this book in all of 3 hours. I wasn’t very impressed, I have to say. I didn’t realize this book was the second in a series until after I’d finished and looked up the author on Goodreads.

What I liked:

I thought Sam was a very interesting character. He’s that quite guy at school who’s intelligent, but likes to keep to himself. I admired his drive to get away from his small town life and to make something of himself. He seems like a hard working, devoted guy and for the male love interest in a teen romance novel, he’s all a girl could ask for.

What I didn’t like:

Wow. Well, my greatest issue with this book lies with its shocking similarity to another book that you may not have heard of before called Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I honestly felt like I was re-reading Twilight sans vampires and werewolves. My biggest pet peeve with novels, or stories in general, is rip offs, and this novel was so similar, that I couldn’t help but wonder if the author is a huge Stephanie Meyer fan and began this novel as some sort of fan fiction. Let me take you through point by point here:

1. Plain jane girl who doesn’t see herself as attractive, yet all da boys think she’s hawt. Check.

2. Setting: Phoenix, Arizona. Check. (Yes although Twilight doesn’t take place in Phoenix, we all know that Bella was born and raised there and returns there in the final conflict.

3. Heroine hurts her leg, rendering her immobile/with a limp/out of commission for part of the novel. Check.

4. The villains have a weird vendetta against our desirable heroine. Bikers with guns and a desire to rape. Scary death vampire wants to eat human girl. Check and check.

5. The love interest is a sexy Native American boy who lives on the reserve, is shunned by the rest of the high school society, and enjoys life on the fringes with his reject friends while taking care of his motorcycle. Check.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you the gory details. I mean come on. I’ll give you 3 similarities before you’re novel is too similar to another story before I call plagiarism. This is too much likeness to be considered happenstance.

Lastly, Riley is the least redeemable protagonist I’ve come along in a while. She’s annoying, she doesn’t listen, she has no respect for peoples boundaries, and her fashion sense is bordering on devastating. We’re told at the beginning that she’s kind of a loser/loner smart girl, but honestly I don’t know where her brains were past page 4 because she didn’t demonstrate anything resembling intelligence to me. I cant see how Sam comes to love her in the end. I mean, sure I get the whole teen romance thing, but she could have been a little more likeable to at least make their relationship believable. I’m with Sam’s original impressions that she’s a spoiled, bratty, annoying, bossy girl. He should have gone with his cut and stayed away.

I love teen fiction. YA’s are a wonderful break for me and I try to critique them fairly, taking into account the target audience and the quality of the work. I also hate to give bad reviews, especially from a galley, but I can’t lie and say this book was good. It’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever read, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Review of The Homeland Directive, Robert Venditti and Mike Huddleston

8962287Title: The Homeland Directive

Author: Robert Venditti

Illustrator: Mike Huddleston

Published by: Top Shelf Productions

Date Published: 2011

ISBN: 9781603090247

Rating 5/5

The Homeland Directive

Synopsis from Goodreads:

As head of the National Center for Infectious Diseases, Dr. Laura Regan is one of the world’s foremost authorities on viral and bacteriological study. Having dedicated her career to halting the spread of infectious disease, she has always considered herself one of the good guys. But when her research partner is murdered and Laura is blamed for the crime, she finds herself at the heart of a vast and deadly conspiracy. Aided by three rogue federal agents who believe the government is behind the frame-up, Laura must evade law enforcement, mercenaries, and a team of cyber-detectives who know more about her life than she does – all while trying to expose a sinister plot that will impact the lives of every American. Set in the Orwellian present, The Homeland Directive is a modern-day political/medical thriller from Robert Venditti (creator & writer of the New York Times bestselling graphic novel The Surrogates).

What I liked:

I’m not one for politics, and I can’t fully wrap my head around American politics in particular, but the political crime thriller, The Homeland Directive is stunning both in art, sequence, and story. The most alluring thing about this graphic novel is the absolutely stunning artwork and illustrations scrawled elegantly across the pages. From page one, this graphic novel had my attention wholly. What’s absolutely fantastic about this one is that each location—geography, characters, setting—is defined not only by a different style of artwork that encompasses the feel and tone and character of each location, but is further enhanced by the colours that drew out the essence of each city: charcoal for the White House, rainbows for the clubs of New York, black and white on grid paper for an office, and so on. It is so intricate and contemplated and it’s beautiful.

The story, too, is fast-paced and thrilling and sweeps you up in the action and the threat of an imminent and deadly epidemic. As the action intensifies, the illustrations become more artful, capturing fast an erratic movement, bloody conflict, and ubiquitous death. The climax of the story was exhilaratingly tense. I couldn’t put it down.

And I’ll say one last thing about the artwork, and more specifically, the cover art. The image above depicts the threatening tones of this book perfectly. The government and death are united into one seemly image, capturing the heart of the story: you cannot trust the very presence that is instilled in society to keep society safe.

What I didn’t like:

Because the story is so fast, I sometimes felt as though I’d missed an important aspect. There was one poignant moment very close to the end where the action was abruptly halted and I couldn’t figure out the reasons behind the sudden shift in tone and action.

Conclusion:

Overall, this was such an engaging read. I bought it at TCAF (thanks to the guy who sold it to me and gave me a deal!) and am I ever glad I did. It’s an incredibly complex story that definitely requires a second read. The creators have woven a web of a story that is intertwined and well-connected from beginning to end.

 

Top Ten Tuesday

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After a few weeks absence, it’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday! I have to start off by apologizing for slacking off for the last few week’s Top Ten Tuesdays. Life has gotten busy and now (hopefully) things will be a little back to normal.

This week’s topic is: Top ten books I almost put down but didn’t.

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10. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: This one was definitely not one of my favourites. There was just enough in this book to keep me hooked and have me seeking answers and resolutions, but man this one was a struggle.

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9. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: I had a hard time getting into this one at first, but I’m so glad I persevered. This book was a recommendation from a close friend of mine and it turned out to be one of my favourites. If it wasn’t for her insistence that I read it all the way through, I would have never discovered such a beautifully tragic book.

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8. Allegiant by Veronica Roth: Gosh, now that I’ve read this book and had time to think it over, I wish I had put it down. I enjoyed Divergent and I kept hoping and wishing that the series would pick up, or that the story would improve just a little bit. It didn’t. This book was a waste of time, in my opinion (sorry to the die hard fans).

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7. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden: It took me a long time to get into this book. I carried it around with me, 50 pages read, for days and days and days. It’s a heavy book so you can imagine I tired of lugging this thing with me everywhere. Finally, I gave myself an ultimatum: shelve it or finish it. So, I finished it because I love Joseph Boyden. And he, again, did not disappoint. 🙂

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6. The Great Gatsby: When I first picked this one up it was because, at some point way back in high school, everyone started talking about it. Honestly, starting this book was a chore the first time around and I wasn’t too keen on finishing it. But multiple reads later, it’s one of those comfort books for me. I pick it up on a lazy summer afternoon and lose myself in it, if only for a little while.

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5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (series) by Stieg Larsson: Gosh these books have dreadfully boring beginnings. Thank goodness I worked in a place where I was permitted to read on my downtime. Having a time where there’s nothing to do but read forces you to get through the tedious bits. These books all turned out to be intense, fast paced, gripping reads. If you can stick it out through the blah at the beginning.

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4. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: I loved the beginning of this book…and then things got weird. I had no idea the hype surrounding this book until weeks after I’d purchased it. You know, it was a decent read. It’s fascinating and I think it definitely deserves a second read to help fill out the story. But about 100 pages in, I almost put it down because the story changed into something I wasn’t expecting and something I didn’t fully comprehend.

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3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: I almost put this book down mainly because of its size. It’s a daunting read. It’s weighty and difficult to open as a mass market paperback. I’m glad I set these thoughts aside though, because to this day, it’s one of the most beautiful books that I’ve read.

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2. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare: It took me a little while to get used to the writing style, but in the end, I read the first three books in the Mortal Instruments series. It wasn’t until book 4 that I actually had to put the book down. The first three, although I read them years ago, were very enjoyable, fast-paced, YA reads.

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1. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles: This highly metafictive text did not immediately pique my interest at the start. It it wasn’t for the assignments I had to complete on this novel, I don’t know if I would have continued reading beyond the first few chapters. The story was so complicated and detailed that I ended up (surprisingly) loving this book in the end. It’s so aware of itself as a novel and as a work of fiction. This startling text was very enjoyable in the end.