Note about my Reviews

Dear Authors: The reviews in this blog are only personal opinions. I have absolutely no background in literature, writing or reviewing. I am a Librarian (actually a Library Technician for those who care OR know the difference) with a love for a good story. The opinions in the reviews are ONLY my OPINIONS. I am not commenting on the writers ability since well -- I am not a writer and never will be. If you are the author of any of the books reviewed here, my opinion is just that and not a judgment against you!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman
ISBN: 978-0-06-225565-5
Buy from Indigo

Description: Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark

The Good Stuff
  • Gaiman is a brilliant storyteller with a gift for a language that is unequal
  • Neil's imagination and ability to create imaginary yet real worlds is also a gift
  • Fast paced, dark, twisted, everything you expect and love from Gaiman
  • The magic place of childhood before you grow up
  • Not a word wasted. I wish I had the words to convey the brilliance of his writing.  His words are almost poetic and so beautiful you can almost feel them wrap around you and drag you into his mind
  • Sacrifice, leaving childhood behind, but longing for it
  • Wanted to read this as soon as Gaiman discussed the inspiration behind the book.  You can feel how personal this book is to him even if you don't know the background
  • Friendship and sacrifice also another big theme of the story
  • As in many other of his books Gaiman understands and conveys what childhood is, not the happy, sweet innocent time that parents want it to be, but more dark and  uncertain (but still one of joy and wonder)

The Not so Good Stuff
  • I was a wee bit confused at times (but lets face it that probably more to do with my lack of intellect than Gaiman's talent)
Favorite Quotes/Passages

"As we age, we become our parents;  live long enough and we see faces repeat in time."

"Adult stories never made sense, and they were slow to start. They made me feel like there were secrets, Masonic, mythic secrets, to adulthood. Why didn't adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?"

"I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I found joy in the things that made me happy. The custard was sweet and creamy in my mouth, the dark swollen currants in the spotted dick were tangy in the cake-thick chewy blandness of the pudding, an perhaps I was going to die that night and perhaps I would never go home again, but it was a good dinner, and I had faith in Lettie Hempstock."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read
  • Marketed as an adult book, but I disagree, think 11+ would get something from it
  • Obviously fans of Gaiman's other book will enjoy
  • If you like something a little bit spooky but with insight and heart - this is definitely for you
4.75 Dewey's

I purchased this from work - cuz it's Gaiman and the man has an incredible gift

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project
by Graeme Simsion
ISBN: 9781443422666
Buy from Indigo

Description: An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges

The Good Stuff
  • One of the most delightfully sweet, funny and unique stories I have read this year
  • Don's relationship with Daphne was sweet (would actually liked to have more on this)
  • The scene where Don address' the Asperger's kids was positively brilliant
  • Just one of those screwball kinda comedies that you could totally see made into a movie (no surprise it was originally conceived as a screenplay)
  • Every single character is a pure delight
  • Rosie is perfect, a total screwball but with strength and compassion
  • Made me laugh my ass off on so many occasions, and on a few occasions cry a little
  • Fast paced
  • Makes you feel like that there is somebody for everybody, no matter how weird or different you are
  • Love that Rosie thinks Gregory Peck was the sexiest man ever

The Not so Good Stuff
  • No complaints

Favorite Quotes/Passages

"Apparently he had been an oncologist but had not detected the cancer in himself, a not-uncommon scenario. Humans often fail  to see what is close to hem and obvious to others."

"You know what I like about New York?" he said. "There are so many weird people that nobody takes any notice. We all just fit right in."

"Jesus addresses the angry mob who are stoning a prostitute: "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." A stone flies through the air and hits the woman. Jesus turns around and says, "Sometimes you really piss me off, mother."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read
  • Fans of The Big Bang Theory are going to eat this one up 
  • The perfect summer read
  • If you are looking for something light and fun, this is exactly what you are looking for 

5 Dewey's

I received a copy of this at the Simon and Schuster (Published in the US by Simon and Schuster) party at Book Expo America 2013

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

A House in the Sky
Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1-4516-4560-6
Buy from Indigo
Release Date: September 3, 2013

Description: The spectacularly dramatic memoir of a woman whose curiosity about the world led her from rural Canada to imperiled and dangerous countries on every continent, and then into fifteen months of harrowing captivity in Somalia—a story of courage, resilience, and extraordinary grace.

At the age of eighteen, Amanda Lindhout moved from her hardscrabble Alberta hometown to the big city—Calgary—and worked as a cocktail waitress, saving her tips so she could travel the globe. As a child, she escaped a violent household by paging through National Geographic and imagining herself in its exotic locales. Now she would see those places for real. She backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each experience, went on to travel solo across Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a TV reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Mogadishu, Somalia—“the most dangerous place on earth”—to report on the fighting there. On her fourth day in the country, she and her photojournalist companion were abducted.

An astoundingly intimate and harrowing account of Lindhout’s fifteen months as a captive, A House in the Sky illuminates the psychology, motivations, and desperate extremism of her young guards and the men in charge of them. She is kept in chains, nearly starved, and subjected to unthinkable abuse. She survives by imagining herself in a “house in the sky,” looking down at the woman shackled below, and finding strength and hope in the power of her own mind. Lindhout’s decision, upon her release, to counter the violence she endured by founding an organization to help the Somali people rebuild their country through education is a wrenching testament to the capacity of the human spirit and an astonishing portrait of the power of compassion and forgiveness

The Good Stuff
  • I think this is one of the hardest reviews I have ever had to write. How do you critique someones harrowing life story when you have no writing ability, and have not been through anything even closely related. This fiercely strong women has opened her heart and showed her pain and suffering to complete strangers. I don't want to do a disservice to her story with my inadequate words or trite commentary. Please forgive me for my inadequacy and just do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this harrowing, yet beautifully told book.
  • Amanda, I admire you and at the same time wish I had the power to make the rest of your life blessed to overcome the violence you faced. Your strength of will and of character is to be admired and your courage and ability to forgive is something we should all strive for. You give me hope for the future. I am so sorry when we met that I knew nothing of your past. I would like to go back in time and just hug you - I know that isn't much, but I am not a hugger by nature if that means anything. 
  • deeply personal
  • no holds barred
  • Inspirational
  • Couldn't put this down
  • Never a moment of poor me - she speaks frankly about her background and her ordeal, without ever putting blame on anyone
  • Haunting - this book is still with me eventhough I finished it early June
  • Fascinating and informative
  • Inspirational 
  • Hope and Forgiveness are the main messages she want to get through to the world
  • Takes what happened to her, and instead of letting it take hold and bring her down,  uses it to try to bring around change and to help this from happening to others
  • SPOILER - The chapter dealing with her attempted escape sickens me.  However, the sheer courage of one of those involved who tried to help does a least give me a little hope but at the same time breaks my heart for her probable fate
  • This will win awards my friends.  The collaboration between Ms Lindhout and Ms Corbett is seamless and perfect
The Not So Good Stuff
  • Had to find something to put here - would have liked to know more about Amanda's life since the ordeal
  • Cover is sorta blah (not sure if that will change for finished product) 
  • This is hard for me to say, but I have to be honest, whenever I read tales like this it makes me think even more poorly about that part of the world, and this makes me feel horrible.  I am the type of person who wants to believe that there is good in everyone. I truly don't understand how someone who believes in a God, can treat a fellow person this way and than think that a God would not only approve, but reward them for it.
Favorite Quotes Passages

"It was as if we were poise at the edge of a witch's cauldron or sat at the prow of a great ship in the center of an otherworldly ocean. I had seen this place in the magazine, and now we were here, lost in it. It was a small truth affirmed. And it was all I needed to keep going."

"The Kuchis reminded me a little bit of the First Nations people back in Canada, independent and unintegrated and pretty much worse off for it."

"I made peace with anyone who might ever have been an enemy.  I asked forgiveness for every vain or selfish thing I'd done in my life. Inside the house in the sky, all the people I loved sat down for a big holiday meal. I was safe and protected. It was where all the voices that normally tore through my head expressing fear and wishing for death were silent, until there was only one left speaking. It was a calmer, stronger voice, one that to me felt divine.
It said, See? You are okay, Amanda. It's only your body that's suffering, and you are not your body. The rest of you is fine."

"For one split second, I knew his suffering. It had assembled itself and looped through me in a rush. Its absolute clarity made me gasp. It was anguish, accrued over the brief span of his life. It was rage and helplessness.  It was a little. This was the person who was hurting me.  His sadness trenched beneath mine."

Who Should Shouldn't Read
  • This may be a difficult read for the more sensitive
  • Other than those who are extremely sensitive, you must read this!
5 Dewey s

I received this from the charming and fun Felicia at Simon and Schuster - thanks for the heads up Captain Awesome

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pre BEA - Day 2

One of the most relaxing days I ever had in New York.  Jenn, best roommate ever, well except for the snoring thing had to leave early to attend a Pre-BEA session , so she told me to sleep in. And let me tell you I did -- I didn't roll out of bed till 9:00am.  I know that this probably doesn't sound like sleeping in - but hello, I'm a mom and this was luxury. Plus I didn't have my 4 yr old jump on me at 6:00am, cuddle with me, than giggle as he farts on me. This is the typical morning ritual in the Rayment household, so as you can imagine I was in heaven when I woke up.

After a relaxing morning shower (with no one popping their head and giggling about how mommy looks funny naked - note to self, must get lock for bathroom) and coffee, I met up with Michele and her outrageously fun friend Jen (yes we often called this BEA "The Abundance of Jen's) at their hotel.

Since Jen is a New York expert, we trusted her to pick us the perfect place for breakfast, and she did.  We ate at the H.K. (Hell's Kitchen) Cafe where I had a delicious spinach and feta egg white omelet that was to die for. Honestly the thing fueled me for the whole day without making me feel over full. Next time I am in New York I will definitely be checking you out again.  Coffee was fabulous too btw!

Then we just spent the day walking around New York (have to say it is one of my favorite cities, so alive and eclectic). Jen, our unofficial tour guide,took us to all of  her favorite spots in New York while teaching us how not to look like tourists.  It was a  fascinating, fun and the type of day I needed.  We had no plans and we just soaked in everything New York had to offer.  Enjoyed just being with people like me. After the stress of the last year, this was such a simple but wonderful day.

Honestly, cannot remember the order of our day, but here are just a few of the things we did.

Fishs Eddy - One of the most unusual and fun housewares stores I have ever been too. Really wish I hadn't been on a tight budget or I would have totally dropped a fortune there.

Washington Square Park: After walking around on such a hot and humid day, this was the perfect place to stop for a while.  Enjoyed watching the young children frolic in the midday sun without a care in the world.
Michele and Jen

Pic curtesy of Michele Li (Me and Jen - two of the Abundance of Jen's)

Union Square: A truly vibrant area of the city. I had my Tarot cards read by a women that Jen highly recommended.  I was impressed with this women's ability to read people (or her gift, still not sure on this one). She told me a bunch of fascinating things that were truly overwhelming. What I remember (hey I am old, remembering things is not my strong point) is that the universe is spinning around me and waiting for me to step up and make things happen. I have a light in me that attracts people ( you hear that Nathan Fillion, come and find me) and that I just need to step up and grab the things I want. She also told me that life gets more interesting and better around September of this year (Hmm coincides with my 4 yr old going to Kindergarten).  She also mentioned that I should mature - um not sure that is going to happen and stand up for myself.  One of my favorite things she said that there was a man with a secret in my future -- hmmm yup I am also hoping that that has something to do with Nathan Fillion having a secret crush on me -- come on Nathan, I may be a plain looking girl, but I have learned THINGS from books and shh don't tell Jeff ; )

Union Square

The Strand: The mecca for book lovers in New York. I had heard so many wonderful things about this store, I just had to visit.  Honestly, you could spend days in this place. However, we only had a few minutes so we took a quick look around and I also picked up a copy of The Messenger by Lois Lowry, that I had been looking for. I highly recommend taking some time to scope out this massive book store if you are ever in the area.

Loved this display made out of damaged books

Once again raced back to the hotel to get prepared for a publisher event.  Jenn and I attended the HarperCollins party at the KLounge and what a blast it was.

Ran into Cindy, who is a delightfully sweet and funny blogger from Canada (Yes we Canadians seem to find each other and bond).  I was a little nervous when I looked over and saw Wally Lamb.  He is one of those writers who intimidate me as I believe they are superior intellectually than myself and don't want to come across as stupid. Of course, Jenn, thought I was being a moron and dragged me over to meet him. He was such a delightfully frank and charming  man and he put me at ease right away.   I think we spent over an hour talking to him about education (he was a teacher) writing, kids, etc. Also had a chance to chat with Eloise James, Leah Clifford, Rachel Carter and so many more fabulous authors.

Me and my pal Wally
One of my favorite photos - this shows how fabulous and down to earth Wally - and also how hilarious my pal Jenn is 
 Now I am just one of those people who is bound to do something stupid, so I am going to  tell you all about it for your amusement.  Looked over and noticed one of the authors had a button (Fabulous ideas H.C., as in most cases with authors, you have no idea what they look like) that said Evanovich.  In hindsight, really should have looked closer at the first name -- but hey, I was half way through a lovely merlot on an mostly empty stomach (was on a seriously tight budget).  We chatted for a long time about all sorts of things, until she made some sort of comment about book sales. I said why should you worry, as I regularly sell at least 5 copies of her book each week.  And being the extremely classy women that she was said, oh I think you have me confused with my aunt "Janet Evanovich".  Busted I totally thought she was Janet Evanovich. Man I felt like a total ass, but if it helps Stephanie -- I totally pre-ordered  your book as soon as I came home to make up for it.

Jenn, Adriana Trigiani and Stephanie Evanovich
Now on Adriana Trigiani. You are a wonderfully larger than life person and I bought your book the first day I came back to Toronto just because I enjoyed talking to you.  You made every single person you met, feel like they were fascinating and someone you felt a connection too. You truly made every person feel like they were special.

Everyone I chatted with raved about the appetizers.  I had to keep away from them as I have a sensitive stomach when it comes to certain spices.  However, the wine was delish and the service was fabulous.  My only complaint that was nobody was introduced - but hey it was a cocktail party so I guess that was the point.
Photo courtesy of Jenn (wish I had written down the name of the wine)
 As we left, once again we received a lovely bag filled with books from the authors that were present at the party. Thank you Alaina Waagner &  HarperCollins for a truly wonderful event that I will remember always.

Me and Leah Clifford
And Wally, thanks again for making a small town girl feel like she was at home and would you mind being a tutor for my 11 year old ; )

We tweeted one of my favorite bookish men, Cammy,  to find out what he was up to.  We met up with him at The Ace Hotel where he was attending a private event hosted by Simon and Schuster for Amanda Lindhout.  We also ran into the fabulous Felicia from Simon and Schuster (she has a fabulous personality, so fun, honest and passionate about her job - next time I am in T.O. Felicia -- I am taking you out to LUMA for dinner!!). I also had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Hanson, the President of Simon and Schuster Canada. He was a truly charming man and hopefully I convinced him that he needs to send the handsome and talented Brad Smith to Chapters Shawnessy for an author event.  Had a few minutes to chat with Amanda Lindhout about her book and about living in Canmore (Near where I live in Calgary). She is a truly beautiful and peaceful individual and I wish I had had a chance to read her book before I met her.  Also ticked off that another one of our bookstores in Calgary scooped her up for an event before the store I worked at did.  Obi Wan Cammy you must teach me your ways, so that I can make Chapters Shawnessy the MUST stop place for authors.

Goofing around with Jenn (Pic courtesy of Jenn)

Cammy had to take off with the Simon and Schuster staff so Jenn and I hung out and chatted while snacking down on the best grilled cheese I have ever eaten -- and trust me I have eaten a lot of grilled cheeses. The Ace has a great vibe and it is the perfect place to people watch.  Than it was back to the hotel to once again pass out -- after all tomorrow was the official Day 1 of BEA and I needed to be rested.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Entwined with You by Sylvia Day

Entwined with You (Crossfire #3)
by Sylvia Day
ISBN: 978-1-405-91027-9
Buy from Indigo

Description The worldwide phenomenon continues as Eva and Gideon face the demons of their pasts, and accept the consequences of their obsessive desires…

From the moment I first met Gideon Cross, I recognized something in him that I needed. Something I couldn’t resist. I saw the dangerous and damaged soul inside–so much like my own. I was drawn to it. I needed him as surely as I needed my heart to beat.

No one knows how much he risked for me. How much I’d been threatened, or just how dark and desperate the shadow of our pasts would become.

Entwined by our secrets, we tried to defy the odds. We made our own rules and surrendered completely to the exquisite power of possession

The Good Stuff
  • This author has a true gift for writing erotic sex scenes
  • Impressed with the emphasis on therapy for their troubles. They keep making mistakes, but they talk them through and work at it everyday - very refreshing
  • Nice addition of some lighter moments between Eva and Gideon and scenes with them spending time together without mind blowing, tear inducing sex
  • Monica is such a despicable mother, she makes me feel like I am the best mom in the world
  • Enjoyed the fleshing out of the characters background stories

The Not So Good Stuff
  • I can't help it but when I got to the end I was like wtf - I thought this was only going to be a trilogy.  I know it's my fault for not knowing but I just wanted a conclusion. I actually threw down the book I was so frustrated - hmm note to self, must get out more 
  • Also even-though the sex scenes are seriously steamy, there were way too many of them, I like a little more plot with my smut
  • Worried about poor Cary - he obviously needs help and Eva needs to more of a friend to him, especially since he is always there for her

Favorite Quotes/Passages

"Shut up." I slid off him and smacked his shoulder. "We are totally dysfunctional."
"I prefer 'selectively deviant.' But we'll keep that to ourselves."

"And I really want you to stop hurting yourself over what was done to you. You were raped. You were a victim and now you're a survivor. There's no shame in that."

"You and me, we're both guilty of tiptoeing around Mom-Oh no, don't upset Monica!-because we'd rather just give in than deal with her meltdowns. But that's emotional extortion, Richard, and I'm done paying out."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read
  • If you read and loved the first two books most likely you will eat this up
  • Need some inspiration for the bedroom - this could be very helpful
  • If you want something fast paced, this probably isn't your thing
  • Need some new fantasies or feeling unsexy - definitely some ideas here
  • Great beach read or if you just finished a sombre book, this is a nice change of pace
3.75 Dewey's

I received this from Penguin UK in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

BEA Book Addicts Haul

Here is some pics of the books that I received at BookExpo America 2013

Arc's etc

Brilliant Novel - Thanks Felicia
Picked up for Jen L. at work

Signed Books


Could have picked up at least 50 of these - picked my four fave - and only took those
Fun stuff to share with friends and family - the wimpy kid umbrella was my personal fav (Post it notes from Elora's Cave close second)
  Purchased Items

Picked up only simple cheap gifts for the boys and my first "real women" purse (I'm more of a back back girl)
Had to buy SOMETHING from the Strand - and I have been looking for this
Not Shown  - the yummy cupcake from Magnolia Bakery that I inhaled in 5 seconds flat - YUMMY!

Pre BEA - Day 1

Once again I was blessed to be able to attend BEA & lets face it escape the children for a while.  This year it was a very big deal for me as I moved across the country and have been separated from my bookish pals for almost a year. Honestly this year I was more interested in hanging with Jenn, Terri and Michele than actually attending the event.

I left bright and early from Calgary to hop on my flight to New York, with a 2 hour stop over in Toronto (Was supposed to meet one of my friends, but we figured this stopover wouldn't work as well on the way home.) It was torture being so close to the ones I love and not being able to see them.  Took good use of my time and finished reading Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick (while sipping on a yummy Timmy's) before jumping on my flight to New York.

Took Air Canada this time and while not as good as WestJet or Porter, it was still an pleasant flight. Watched A Good Day to Die Hard for a while but it bored the crap out of me so I took out my laptop and worked on my review for Gorgeous instead.

Rogers had screwed up and not put into service my phone package so when I arrived at La Guardian I had no reception on my damn phone.  Poor Jenn who was supposed to meet me had no way of getting in touch with me. Finally got some change and used the pay phone to find out where she was (next terminal from mine)

Finally we found each other and raced back to the hotel to freshen up for the SimonTeen party that was being held at the Hudson Terrrace

Sorry Simon we showed up so late, and were so loud (ok it was Terri and me, Jenn was a good girl)

We missed a lot of the talks, but the ones we did get to hear were fascinating and funny!

Party (Pictures courtesy of Michele)
 The appetizers were yummy - especially the sliders and the wait and bar staff were delightful. (As a stay at home mom and part time Chapters worker - my pay isn't so great so the free food was a huge bonus as I was on a very tight budget), The best part was just hanging and catching up with Jenn, Michele and Teri (and her delightful Mom) and meeting Ardo in person for the first time.

Two of my buddies Michele and Ardo both won prizes which was fabulous and it was nice just hanging with all the bookish people. The gift bag we got as we left was truly spectacular and very generous.

Some of the books from gift bag
 Thank you SimonTeen (and Teresa Ronquillo for the invite) for hosting a fabulous event.

After the event was over we went back to our hotel and passed out cold.  We needed the sleep after such a busy day. Tomorrow Day 2, where I get to just walk around and enjoy vibrant New York City (one of my favorite towns)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Don't Lick the Minivan by Leanne Shirtliffe

Don't Lick the Minivan: and other things I never thought I'd say to my kids
by Leanne Shirtliffe
Skyhorse Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-62087-526-1
Buy from Indigo

Description: As a woman used to traveling and living the high life in Bangkok, Leanne Shirtliffe recognized the constant fodder for humor while pregnant with twins in Asia's sin city. But in spite of deep-fried bug cuisine and nurses who cover newborn bassinets with plastic wrap, Shirtliffe manages to keep her babies alive for a year with help from a Coca-Cola deliveryman, several waitresses, and a bra factory. Then she and her husband return home to the isolation of North American suburbia.

In Don't Lick the Minivan, Shirtliffe captures the bizarre aspects of parenting in her edgy, honest voice. She explores the hazards of everyday life with children such as:

•The birthday party where neighborhood kids took home skin rashes from the second-hand face paint she applied.
•The time she discovered her twins carving their names into her minivan's paint with rocks.
•The funeral she officiated for "Stripper Barbie."
•The horror of glitter.
And much more!

A delayed encounter with postpartum depression helps Shirtliffe to realize that even if she can't teach her kids how to tie their shoelaces, she's a good enough mom. At least good enough to start saving for her twins' college, eh, therapy fund. And possibly her own. Crisply written, Don't Lick the Minivan will have parents laughing out loud and nodding in agreement. Shirtliffe's memoir might not replace a therapist, but it is a lot cheaper

The Good Stuff
  • A truly beautiful mix of laughter and love
  • This is the kind of parent I want to hang with. She obviously loves her children beyond reason, but is frank about how hard and boring it is at times. 
  • Even the more Sappy (her word, not mine) passages are fabulous. Real, sweet, yet never ever what I would consider sappy
  • Yup this one made the JR Staff Pick - it is my duty to help out those new parents who want to buy What to Expect When You're Expecting - and get them to buy something more practical (trust me just get those parenting books that help you with the medical stuff and than just buy parenting books like this that make you laugh - that will help you more. Trust your instincts people, love your child and believe in yourself - that makes all the difference) Oh yeah and don't do everything for them, they need to learn to do things themselves (When I worked in a college library I saw what happens when mom and dad did everything for them -- they have no idea how to survive)
  • She understands what its like to be a parent after "working for a living"
  • Impressed with the fact that she breastfed even though she had Mastitis - I totally feel like a wimp now LOL!
  • Loved all her stories about living in Thailand
  • Really respected her decision to mention she had postpartum depression but doesn't go into detail. As some of you know I suffered the same fate and don't want to burden or remember that horrible darkness but I too am not ashamed
  • Halloween Candy - yup we are simpatico on this one and the Santa Clause as discipline routine
  • Makes you feel like you are not alone - and if you are a parent, you know how important this is
The Not So Good Stuff
  • She made me snort with laughter on Calgary Transit and people stared (Yup not in TTC territory anymore where people are used to weirdos laughing out loud in public and they don't stare at you
Favorite Quotes/Passages

" Parenting Tip: Keep your household well stocked with these items essential to newborns: diapers, wipes, alcohol, alcohol, and alcohol"

"Being parents, we boarded early so we could keep our babies cooped up in an enclosed space even longer. As we sat on the tarmac, we watched innocent passengers struggle down the aisle to our row, recheck their boarding passes in disbelief, and wonder what they did to get such bad karma."

"Parenting Tip: When you ask your children a question, the reply "nothing"  means they're guilty. Either investigate or hide."

"I smiled, wondering how many times Canada's Prime Minister had been compared to a Ken doll."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read
  • Fans of Kathy Buckworth will eat this up
  • Every parent or expectant parent should read this - this is real folks, not those holier than thou textbook parenting books that make you feel like you are the worst parent in the world (BTW that I also totally threw out 6 months into my first child's life)
4.75 Dewey's

I purchased a copy of this because I met the author and after talking to her figured anything she wrote would appeal to me - yup right again

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Openly Straight
by Bill Konigsberg
Arthur A. Levine Press (Scholastic Press)
ISBN: 978-0-545-50989-3
Suggested Ages: 13+
Buy from Indigo

Description: Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He's won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he's gay. He's been out since 8th grade, and he isn't teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that's important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys' boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret -- not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate breaking down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn't even know that love is possible.

This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate being different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.

The Good Stuff
  • Loved that every single character felt real, not a stereotype in the bunch
  • Rafe is such a loveable character even when you want to slap him upside the head
  • So many wise observations about the evils of labeling
  • Positive messages and asks some honest questions that would be great for discussion
  • Scenes dealing with sexuality are raw yet sensitively written
  • Hopeful ending - not neatly wrapped up - just perfect and real
  • Rafe's parents are a true delight. Odd and fun and well quite frankly - perfect. I loved the scenes with them 
  • Discusses the implications of the words acceptance and tolerance and that we need to celebrate our differences instead of accepting or tolerating differences
  • Delightfully wry and funny
  • Fabulous character development

The Not so Good Stuff
  •  Honestly at this point I can't think of anything
Favorite Quotes/Passages

"But even then I wouldn't go on about being straight. I didn't want to lie; I just wanted to not be the guy whose main attribute was liking other guys. Been there, done that."

"It needs to be said that sometimes my mom forgets important details when she talks. Like the time she told us she was considering leather (couches, it turns out), or when I was little and she said, "Here's a napkin to put your balls in" (the Atomic Fireballs that I was eating, she meant)."

"That is good," I said. But I was thinking, Wouldn't it be nice if we lived in a world where no one thought being gay was even something to ride someone about."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read
  • Yeah pretty much anyone over the age of 12 - that really includes you mom, dad, teacher, therapist, Librarian - you get the picture right.
5 Dewey's

I received this from Scholastic in exchange for an honest review

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake: Mini Book Review

Girl of Nightmares
Kendare Blake
Tor Teen
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2866-3
Suggested Ages: 12+
Buy from Indigo

Description: It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor

The Good Stuff
  • Reminded me a little of Buffy the Vampire Slayer - which by the way is the highest praise.  Whedon could make a totally awesome series or even a stand a lone movie based on these two books
  • Fabulous humour - I cannot tell you how many times I laughed my ass off while reading. It's quirky and dark and again very whedonish
  • Cas is such a likeable character, even when you want to smack him upside the head for being so stupid
  • Dark, creepy and just totally engrossing - kept begging my boss to let me just finish the last  50 pages before I had to get back on the sales floor
  • Cas' mom is fabulous - the kinda mom we all need
  • Strong secondary characters 
  • Loved the relationship and dialogue between Cas, Caramel and Thomas
  • Great opening line 
  • Love the cover of both this and Anna dressed in blood
  • The author describes Lake Superior so bang on and beautifully
  • not as prominent as in the first book but still most of book is set in Thunder Bay (trust me if you have ever been there, you know it is the perfect setting for a haunting)
  • There is an old library with a rolling ladder and a scene in the Tower of London (which is on my bucket list for places to see) 
  • Lots of twists and turns, had no idea what was going to happen
  • Would like to see a story based on Justine
  • Perfect ending!!!!
The Not So Good Stuff
  • drags a wee bit
  • This isn't a bad thing more of an FYI - it is quite dark and twisted at times, not one for the easily spooked YA reader
  • Do you have any idea how frickin hard it was to pick only three quotes

Favorite Quotes/Passages

"She goes up the stairs, to the room she's taken over for spell work. It's full of block wax and oils and dusty bottles of herbs. I hear that other mothers have entire rooms designated for sewing. That must be weird.|"

"Personally, I think that eating the cookies is a minor point compared to the part where Morfan sent h is grandson to unknowingly visit a dead family member, but hey, everybody has their pet peeves. Apparently, Thomas's is dead peoples' snack food."

"She glares at me resentfully, like I'm being unfair. But she's probably going to try to kill me, and kill me righteously, so eff you very much."

4.75 Dewey's

I purchased this from Chapters Shawnessy the day after I read Anna Dressed in Blood because I needed to know what happened!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Better to Wish by Ann M. Martin

Better to Wish (Family Tree #1)
by Ann M. Martin
Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0-545-35942-9
Suggested Ages: 8-12
Buy from Indigo

Description: In 1930, Abby Nichols is eight, and can't imagine what her future holds. The best things today would be having a dime for the fair, keeping her Pops from being angry, and saving up eighty-seven cents to surprise her little sister with a tea set for Christmas.

But Abby's world is changing fast. Soon there will be new siblings to take care of, a new house to move into, and new friends to meet. But there will also be good-byes to say and hard choices to make. As Abby grows older, how will she decide what sort of life will fit her best?

In this incredible new series, bestselling author Ann M. Martin brings the past and the present together one girlhood at a time and shows readers the way a family grows.

The Good Stuff
  • Very realistic and true to the time period (warning some of it is quite sad and may be hard for the more sensitive reader but it is written beautifully and appropriate for the age level)
  • Abby is a strong willed likeable character that you will cheer for
  • Loved the relationship between Abby and Rose
  • Moral issues are done in a non preachy way which is an impressive feat for middle grade fiction
  • Will encourage readers to learn more about this period of history
  • Liked the slice of life and how the series will go through 4 generations of women.  Reminded me a little of a series by Phillappa Carr that I read when I was a teen. This type of series really appeals to me
  • All of the characters feel very real and act appropriately for this period of time
  • Looking forward to reading the rest of the series
  • Lovely use of humour

The Not So Good Stuff
  • Jumpy at times
  • Father is a misogynistic racist jerk

Favorite Quotes/Passages

"Long years later, when Abby was old, very old, she liked to recall this evening. Not because Rose had lost her dime, of course, but because it was pleasant to dwell in this time when losing a dime was the biggest worry she and Rose faced. They hadn't yet learned that it was better not to know what was waiting for them around the corner."

"When we grow up," said Sarah, "we should tell our husbands that we have to live next door to each other so that we can see each other every single day and our children can be best friends, too."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read
  • Great book for middle grade girls who are not into the paranormal
  • Some more sensitive middle graders might want to stay away as it deals with darker subject matter like mental issues, racism, death and depression
  • Fans of the babysitter's club will enjoy this series as the writing style is the same and highlights the importance of friendships
4.5 Dewey's

I received this from Scholastic in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick

By Paul Rudnick
Scholastic Press
ISBN: 9 - 78-0-545-46426-0
Suggested Ages: 12+ (Strong language & sexuality)
Buy from Indigo

Description: Inner beauty wants out. Eighteen-year old Becky Randle is an ordinary girl who receives an impossible offer. She meets Tom Kelly, the world’s top designer, and he promises to create three dresses to transform her from a nothing-special girl into the Most Beautiful Woman Who Ever Lived.

Becky thinks Tom is a lunatic, or that he’s producing a hidden camera show called World’s Most Gullible Poor People. But she accepts, and she’s remade as Rebecca. When Becky looks in the mirror, she sees herself – an awkward mess of split ends and cankles. But when anyone else looks at Becky, the see pure five-alarm hotness.

Soon Rebecca is on the cover of Vogue and the new Hollywood darling. Then she meets Prince Gregory, heir to the British throne, and everything starts to crumble. Because Rebecca aside, Becky loves him.  But to love her back, Gregory would have to look past the blinding Rebecca, to see the real girl inside. And for that, there`s not enough magic in the world.``
The Good Stuff

Fabulous and not preachy messages about inner beauty, friendship, love

Plenty of laugh your ass off moments (which was a tad embarrassing as I read much of it on the flight to Toronto from Calgary)

 Great friendship between Becky & Rocher – very realistic  

 Never really wanted to marry a prince (I am more of a court jester kinda girl) but would change my mind for Prince Gregory

Reminded me a little at times of Meg Cabot’s mixed with Helen Fielding
 The Not So Good Stuff

Story jumps around a little – not horribly, but just an fyi 
Sometimes the message of the story took over and the characters didn’t feel as real (again no big deal because the message is a fabulous one)

 Favorite Quotes/Passages

“I sometimes wish that just like me, nobody had a face, just so we could all stop wasting so much time worrying about what we look like, and what other  people look like, and how we measure up.”

“Mirrors are more dangerous than guns or cars or crystal meth, because they’re cheap, readily available and everyone’s addicted.”

“I decided that maybe everyone has at least a touch of dysmorphia;  maybe  it’s impossible for anyone to ever truly know what they look like.”

Who Should/Shouldn’t Read

Any female over the age of 12 (Some strong language and sexuality)

4.25 Dewey’s

I received this from Scholastic in exchange for an honest review