Monday, October 31, 2011

Blog update

I've decided to put this up publicly and let you all know what I'll be up to for the next month. That's right, I'm NaNoWriMo'ing! And now that I've told you all, I can't possibly back out at the last minute...which would be right now. Anyway, I have a bunch of reviews that I hope to have up shortly but if you don't see me around for a while, this is why. I'm hoping, though, that NaNo will encourage me to write like crazy and I promise to update my progress. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Location with Jennifer Hillier

There's another great event upcoming, if you live in the Greater Toronto Area. Jennifer Hillier, a Canadian author, will be launching her debut novel, Creep,  on November 7th. Check out the flyer below for more info:

To read more about Jennifer's work, check out her website here. She's already got a second book in the works and let me tell you, any book that has Jeffery Deaver telling you to lock your doors, sounds like a win to me! Hope you can make it out to the event.

Review: The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

My name is Meghan Chase.

I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.

This time, there will be no turning back.

Available at Amazon, Book Depository, Chapters, Harlequin

I'd been working on this series as part of a book club read on Goodreads and I will admit that each book gradually made the entire series grow on me. (My reviews of The Iron King, Winter's Passage and The Iron Daughter are linked here.) The idea of Iron Fairies and how they came about is a very cool concept, but it's the characters and their situations/battles that have steadily improved for me.

Going into The Iron Queen, it was initially with the thought that it would be the end of the series, then, of course, with the announcement of The Iron Knight coming out, it was uncertain whether much closure would come about. Truly, I had certain formulaic expectations of how this book would end. And, wow, I did not expect things to go the way they did (I even said this out loud as I was reading it.) Kudos to Julie Kagawa for surprising me (and going against the grain!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Triangles by Ellen Hopkins

In this emotionally powerful novel, three women face the age-old midlife question: If I’m halfway to death, is this all I’ve got to show for it? Holly, filled with regret for being a stay-at-home mom, sheds sixty pounds and loses herself in the world of extramarital sex. Andrea, a single mom and avowed celibate, watches her friend Holly’s meltdown with a mixture of concern and contempt. Holly is throwing away what Andrea has spent her whole life searching for—a committed relationship with a decent guy. So what if Andrea picks up Holly’s castaway husband? Then there’s Marissa. She has more than her fair share of challenges—a gay teenage son, a terminally ill daughter, and a husband who buries himself in his work rather than face the facts. As one woman’s marriage unravels, another one’s rekindles. As one woman’s family comes apart at the seams, another’s is reconfigured into something bigger and better. In this story of connections and disconnections, one woman’s up is another one’s down, and all three of them will learn the meaning of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness before it is through.

Available from Amazon, Book Depository, Chapters, Simon and Schuster Canada

When starting to discuss Ellen Hopkins, the first thought is about her writing style. While it is not new to the world at large, it was a new reading experience for me. Sure, it's in a poetic form, but she tells a narrative tale, even incorporating titles into the main stream of the story, giving the impression (and rightfully so) that constant care has been put into every line; every page.

One particular font is used in the telling of each woman's part until the point of view is about to change. At this precipice between character POV's, there would be a breakdown of sorts. Hopkins moves into a more abstract thought to sum up what she'd just written. I found this served an effective method to withdraw the reader, temporarily, from the intense emotions of each "chapter"; a carefully placed pause to allow the reader time to regroup. And, visually, with each turn of the page, you never knew what the next one would look like. This made for an artful, fascinating reading adventure.

Format and style aside, I was emotionally invested in the story from the very beginning, with her portrayal of a disgruntled wife, a mother with an ailing child, and a lonely single mother. Before page 50, I could barely bring myself to read Marissa's story (the mother with the sick child). The anticipation alone of what might happen in each of her "chapters" was enough to reduce me to tears. Considering the relatively small number of words used to this point, they were chosen and positioned so well as to offer the reader maximum impact....eliciting full on waterworks.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday (1)

I have seen this post over at My words and pages, with Melissa participating frequently. It sounded like a great idea, so today I give it a shot!

The credit for the original idea goes to Dottie at Tink's Place. A picture is posted on Monday mornings to which you write a story of around 350 words, and link up on her blog on Friday. Simple enough, right? We'll see....

Here's this weeks picture and my virgin offering. Please feel free to critique honestly (but not cruelly ;):

Jonah swung his arm back, hesitating slightly. Then he pitched his arm forward, with all of the force he had, the line swinging out from the fishing rod in a near perfect arc.  He was usually a much more patient fisherman, but he had other things on his mind tonight.

He had arrived here a few hours ago, to the place he had found such comfort in as a child. Try as he might, he couldn’t wait until morning to get out on the water. The night was peaceful with only the call of the birds to detract from a feeling of total remoteness. The water was still; smooth like a sheet of perfectly made glass. What Jonah couldn’t figure out was why none of this was settling his sense of foreboding. So here he sat, hoping his favourite method of meditation would do the trick. Maybe he'd find a reasonable explanation to everything that was going on around him besides the obvious "you're losing your mind".

Review: The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Jacquetta, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg and kinswoman to half the royalty of Europe, was married to the great Englishman John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI. Widowed at the age of nineteen she took the extraordinary risk of marrying a gentleman of her house-hold for love, and then carved out a life for herself as Queen Margaret of Anjou's close friend and a Lancaster supporter - until the day that her daughter Elizabeth Woodville fell in love and married the rival king Edward IV. Of all the little-known but important women of the period, her dramatic story is the most neglected. With her links to Melusina, and to the founder of the house of Luxembourg, together with her reputation for making magic, she is the most haunting of heroines.

Available from Amazon, Book Depository, Chapters, Simon and Schuster Canada

It's no secret I'm a big fan of Philippa Gregory's, though I'm still working on reading her backlist of books. The Lady of the Rivers  represented something new for me: a more complete look at a series (in this case, The Cousins's War).

Ms. Gregory is known for her portrayal of historical women, giving life to otherwise one dimensional historical facts. This is very much the case with Jacquetta. What is interesting though, is that all of the characters involved in the Cousins' War are given this same opportunity and, as such, you feel empathy for them all. But the stories throughout this time period are about picking sides. Ms. Gregory gives equal attention to each woman, making it hard to do that. Fortunately, which ever side we would choose today has little relevance to history.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review: Betsy Wickwire's Dirty Secret by Vicki Grant

Betsy’s life is officially over: Dumped by her boyfriend, betrayed by her best friend . . . how is she ever going to show her face again? 

Determined to avoid everyone and everything from her previous life, Betsy stumbles into an unusual cafĂ© and an even more unusual girl. Dolores Morris—a mouthy, green-haired outsider Betsy can’t quite remember from school—talks her into starting a cleaning service. Before she knows it, Betsy is down on her knees, dressed like a dust bunny, scrubbing strangers’ toilets. 

It’s a long way for the most popular girl in school to have fallen. But Betsy finds comfort in the wine bottles and prescriptions and other dirty secrets she finds hidden in her clients’ homes. She also finds love with a client’s son, friendship with Dolores and a liberated sense of herself. Her new life soon falls apart, though, when valuables begin to go missing from some of the homes she and Dolores have been cleaning. Betsy discovers the hard way that not all dirty secrets can just be swept under the rug.

Available from  Chapters, HarperCollins Canada,

Betsy Wickwire's story is a completely relatable one: having your heart broken in such an overwhelming manner has happened a million times over. And Betsy's ensuing desire to hide herself from the world....well,who hasn't wanted to do that at one time or another? It's these initial reactions to Vicki Grant's Betsy Wickwire's Dirty Secret  that had me hooked..

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Review: Circle of Fire by Michelle Zink

With time dwindling but her will to end the Prophecy stronger than ever, Lia sets out on a journey to find the remaining keys, locate the missing pages of the Prophecy, and convince her sister Alice to help--or risk her life trying. Lia has her beloved Dimitri by her side, but Alice has James, the man who once loved her sister--and maybe still does. James doesn't know the truth about either sister, or the prophecy that divides them. And Alice intends to keep it that way. 

There are some secrets sisters aren't meant to share. Because when they do, it destroys them. This stunning conclusion to Michelle Zink's Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy will make saying good-bye bittersweet for readers.

Available at Amazon, Book Depository, Chapters, HBG Canada, Author's Website

Circle of Fire is the last book in the Prophecy of the Sisters Trilogy, and it was something I had long been waiting for. It is a strange thing though, when you have been anticipating a book like this for so long but when you begin to read, the realization hits that this is truly the end. Such was the case as I read through this book. Initially, I read at such a slow pace, I thought I would never finish! I couldn't keep it up for long, as I really needed to see how things would play out between Lia and Alice.

Part of my enjoyment with this series stemmed from familiar elements that I love built right into the story (standing stones, mystical worlds, etc.). There were also new places, new wonders to be discovered this time around. In Circle of Fire, we get to travel to Ireland, to a series of underground caverns (cairns) and see the ingenuity of people from long, long ago. I've said it before, I love learning about "real" things from fictional books. Thank you, Michelle Zink, for furthering my education!
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