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!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Nesr by Kenneth Oppel

The Nest
by Kenneth Oppel
ISBN: 978-1-44343-862-9
Buy from Indigo

DescriptionSteve just wants to save his baby brother—but what will he lose in the bargain? This is a haunting gothic tale for fans of Coraline, from acclaimed author Kenneth Oppel (Silverwing, The Boundless) with illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.

For some kids summer is a sun-soaked season of fun. But for Steve, it’s just another season of worries. Worries about his sick newborn baby brother who is fighting to survive, worries about his parents who are struggling to cope, even worries about the wasp’s nest looming ominously from the eaves. So when a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams, offering to “fix” the baby, Steve thinks his prayers have been answered.

All he has to do is say “Yes.” But “yes” is a powerful word. It is also a dangerous one. And once it is uttered, can it be taken back?

Celebrated author Kenneth Oppel creates an eerie masterpiece in this compelling story that explores disability and diversity, fears and dreams, and what ultimately makes a family. Includes illustrations from celebrated artist Jon Klassen
The Good Stuff

  • Once again Oppel excels at writing a story that both children, critics and educators will love
  • Oppel is one of those rare and gifted writers who writes books that don't talk down to children. This  my friends is a rarity
  • Not a word wasted
  • Hauntingly beautiful and wonderfully creepy
  • Simple, yet complex.  So many layers and the story will mean so much more as a child ages.  This is one to keep and read again as a child grows older
  • Honest and real (yes in spite of the paranormal aspect)
  • The cover and art work, make this a treasure that you will want to highlight
  • Steve is such a beautifully flawed and lovely little boy that I just want to take in my arms and say, its going to get better. Such a brave and wonderful little boy.
  • Ok, silly I know, but I geek out a little when an author makes a mention of a Canadian city or landmark

The Not So Good Stuff

  • I am already creeped out by wasps dammit

Favorite Quotes/Passages

" I knew I was broken too. I wasn't like other people. I was scared and weird and anxious and sad lots of the time, and I didn't know why. My parents thought I was abnormal, I was pretty sure. They said I wasn't, but you don't get sent to a therapist if you're normal."

"It couldn't, because it was so perfect that it wouldn't even  understand what it was like not to be perfect. it could never know weakness or fear."

4.25 Dewey's

I received this at the Fall Indigo Insiders Harper Collins Preview and don't have to share my thoughts at all, just like to share awesome reviews

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong

The Masked Truth
by Kelley Armstrong
Doubleday Canada (Penguin Random House Canada)
ISBN: 978-0-385-68475-0
Buy from Indigo

DescriptionRiley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for.

Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.

The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues.” But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.

The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.

Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next—but they’re about to discover that even escape doesn’t equal freedom

The Good Stuff

  • I am sure most of you know of my love for Kelley Armstrong and once again with this story she has solidified her position as Canada's most gifted storyteller
  • I want to kiss her feet for writing a stand alone story. 
  • I always want to suggest Kelley's stories to our teen readers, but many shy away from the paranormal aspects of her tales.  Now I can hook them in with this standalone, non paranormal story and they will grab her other stuff.  
  • Fast paced with plenty of twists and turns
  • A wonderful strong, and flawed female character who you will fall in love with and cheer on.  Kelley always can be depended on to create real fleshed out female protagonists that are kick ass and don't need a boy to save them
  • Intriguing secondary characters that are just as fleshed out as the main ones
  • Awesome love interest
  • Fabulous dark humour
  • Cannot wait to go to work tonight, to Staff Pick this baby and sell the shit out of it 
  • Sensitively and honestly deals with Schizophrenia in such a way that you learn something without feel like you are being preached too.  A sign of a truly gifted author and beautiful human being
  • Also deals with grief, suicide and PSTD and other mental illness' in the same way. Thoroughly impressed
  • Some magically written scenes with Max about his family issues
  • Brienne and Lorenzo's actions
  • Love the scenes between Sloane and Riley

The Not So Good Stuff

  • Was up way too late last night reading this and hubby almost had to grab it out of my hand and make me go to bed
  • Was pushing the kids to go to school so Momma could finish the book - now I feel mommy guilt - like I don't have enough of that

Favorite Quotes/Passages

"Blood money, that's what those packages are, and I want to scream at her in school, just stop in the hall and call her a two-faced bitch, and let everyone know what she did and and that it should have been her, goddamn it it, it should have been her.  Except I don't wish it was, I don't dare, because I wouldn't have trusted her to keep Darla safe, and let's be honest here, I wouldn't have trusted her to keep herself safe, and I still care about her enough to think of that, even after what she's done."

"It's up for us to say we'll be a good person because that's what we believe is right, not because it'll earn us a better place in the next life."

"It doesn't help, because they don't know if she does or she doesn't, and neither do I  and neither can you. But I do know you aren't to blame, And I do know that  doesn't really help either, despite everyone saying it. I wish you didn't feel that way, Riley, but I understand why you do."

"I am, however, old enough to know when important stuff is being discussed and get my ass someplace I can eavesdrop."

5 Dewey's

I received this from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani

All the Stars in the Heavens
by Adriana Trigiani
ISBN: 978-0-06-231919-7
Buy from Indigo

DescriptionThe movie business is booming in 1935 when twenty-one-year-old Loretta Young meets thirty-four-year-old Clark Gable on the set of The Call of the Wild. Though he’s already married, Gable falls for the stunning and vivacious young actress instantly. 

Far from the glittering lights of Hollywood, Sister Alda Ducci has been forced to leave her convent and begin a new journey that leads her to Loretta. Becoming Miss Young’s assistant, the innocent and pious young Alda must navigate the wild terrain of Hollywood with fierce determination and a moral code that derives from her Italian roots. Over the course of decades, she and Loretta encounter scandal and adventure, choose love and passion, and forge an enduring bond of love and loyalty that will be put to the test when they eventually face the greatest obstacle of their lives.

Anchored by Trigiani’s masterful storytelling that takes you on a worldwide ride of adventure from Hollywood to the shores of southern Italy, this mesmerizing epic is, at its heart, a luminous tale of the most cherished ties that bind. Brimming with larger-than-life characters both real and fictional—including stars Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, David Niven, Hattie McDaniel and more—it is it is the unforgettable story of one of cinema’s greatest love affairs during the golden age of American movie making.
The Good Stuff

  • Brings flesh and life to a forgotten scandalous event that happened during the golden age of movies
  • Author obviously did some serious research into this one and you can also feel her love for her subject matter
  • Loved reading about a couple of my favorites, David Niven and Hattie McDaniel and lets face it that time in Hollywood history was so very fascinating
  • Made me feel for those involved in the movie industry could never be themselves 
  • Loved the banter between Gable and McDaniel - seriously this would have been so risque in anywhere but Hollywood during the time.  A black woman flirting with a white man - in anywhere else this would have been shocking to people (Makes me love Hollywood a little and Gable a little bit more)
  • Enjoyed learning a bit more about Loretta Young 
  • Some absolutely beautiful poetic writing at times
  • Every scene with David Niven is a delight, hoping he was as wonderful in real life
  • The scenes between Alda and Loretta are the heart of the story
  • Made me want to do some research into Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Spencer Tracy and David Niven
  • Sad how an actress could get pregnant an lose everything, but nothing would happen to the actor who got her pregnant

The Not So Good Stuff

  • At times it just feels like the author is just telling you what the characters are doing and feeling rather than having the story flow
  • I do have a problem when someone one gives thoughts and feelings to a real life person - not a bad thing, its just something I have a hard time coming to grips with
  • Man Loretta Young married such a jerk, for such a talented actress she really had no sense when it came to men

Favorite Quotes/Passages

"You can cut the 'sir' stuff."
The deckhand swallowed hard. "But I'm British, Mr Gable. We sir from the start."

"A ditch digger with a British Accent could walk through the gates of MGM, and Louis B. Mayer would sign him up.  An American ditch digger would walk through the same gate and be escorted off the lot. There's something about you people. You sound like you have culture."

"That's why there are so many babies in the world. It's called winter."

"The movies, for a paying customer, could be entertaining and uplifting, but for those who worked on the inside, there was a seven-day-a-week grind with little reprieve from impossible schedules and demanding talent."

"A good father doesn't make a child feel unsafe, unworthy and unwanted and your husband made me feel  all those things  and still does."

"Nobody thinks about the children," Alda said. "I know they're matinee idols, but they're real and they have lives, and their children have feelings."

3.5 Dewey's

I received this at the HarperCollins Indigo Fall Preview Event & I don't have to review - but I like to share and Cory and Shannon do such a fabulous job of  highlighting their books, I want to share - even though this one wasn't my favourite

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Japanese Lover by Isabele Allende

The Japanese Lover
by Isabele Allende
Atria Books (Simon and Schuster)
ISBN: 978-1-5011-1697-1
Buy from Indigo

DescriptionIn 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco's parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family's Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family, like thousands of other Japanese Americans are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.

Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco's charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.

Sweeping through time and spanning generations and continents, The Japanese Lover explores questions of identity, abandonment, redemption, and the unknowable impact of fate on our lives. Written with the same attention to historical detail and keen understanding of her characters that Isabel Allende has been known for since her landmark first novel The House of the SpiritsThe Japanese Lover is a profoundly moving tribute to the constancy of the human heart in a world of unceasing change
The Good Stuff

  • Engrossing sweeping historical family saga
  • Richly written, and well researched, historical detail
  • A lot of well placed humour
  • Flesh and blood characters that feel so very lifelike
  • A positive portrayal of an assisted living/old age home
  • Horrifying and fascinating information pertaining to the internment of the Japanese in San Francisco 
  • Thoroughly enjoyed the relationship between Irina and Alma.
  • Perfect story for a book club or class discussion
  • Lyrical writing
  • Fantastic character development, especially in regards to Irina
  • Allende is truly a brilliant storyteller

The Not So Good Stuff

  • Story line jumps around a little too much and is jarring at times
  • Had a sudden urge to go work at a Seniors community in order to develop a relationship like the one between Alma and Irina 

Favorite Quotes/Passages

"It depends.  I stroke them, and they always like that, because old people don't have anyone who touches them, and I get them hooked on a TV series, because nobody wants to die before the final episode."

"It was like driving a cross between a bicycle and a wheelchair." (Jen's note: the best description of a smart car ever!)

"Because I have time to spare, and for the first time in my life nobody expects anything of me.  I don't have to prove anything. I'm not rushing everywhere; each day is a gift I enjoy to the fullest."

"Hearts are big enough to contain love for more than one person."

4 Dewey's

I received this from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Open Heart, Open Mind by Clara Hughes

Open Heart, Open Mind
by Clara Hughes
Simon and Schuster Canada
ISBN: 978-1-4767-5698-1
Buy from Indigo

DescriptionIn 2006, when Clara Hughes stepped onto the Olympic podium in Torino, Italy, she became the first and only athlete ever to win multiple medals in both Summer and Winter Games. Four years later, she was proud to carry the Canadian flag at the head of the Canadian team as they participated in the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. But there’s another story behind her celebrated career as an athlete, behind her signature billboard smile.

While most professional athletes devote their entire lives to training, Clara spent her teenage years using drugs and drinking to escape the stifling home life her alcoholic father had created in Elmwood, Winnipeg. She was headed nowhere fast when, at sixteen, she watched transfixed in her living room as gold medal speed skater GaƩtan Boucher effortlessly raced in the 1988 Calgary Olympics. Dreaming of one day competing herself, Clara channeled her anger, frustration, and raw ambition into the endurance sports of speed skating and cycling. By 2010, she had become a six-time Olympic champion.

But after more than a decade in the grueling world of professional sports that stripped away her confidence and bruised her body, Clara began to realize that her physical extremes, her emotional setbacks, and her partying habits were masking a severe depression. After winning bronze in the last speed skating race of her career, she decided to retire, determined to repair herself. She has emerged as one of our most committed humanitarians, advocating for a variety of social causes both in Canada and around the world. In 2010, she became national spokesperson for Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk campaign in support of mental health awareness, using her Olympic standing to share the positive message of the power of forgiveness.

Told with honesty and passion, Open Heart, Open Mind is Clara’s personal journey through physical and mental pain to a life where love and understanding can thrive. This revelatory and inspiring story will touch the hearts of readers everywhere
The Good Stuff

  • Even though her life has been tough at times, there is no self pity or blame
  • Fascinating background in the day to day training involved in a competitive athletes life
  • Likeable, honest writing.  Feels like you are listening to a friend tell a story
  • Admire her for what she has accomplished with her life, especially her work with Right to Play and Bell Canada Lets Talks
  • Found it interesting what goes on during the Olympics
  • Speaks very openly about addiction and mental illness
  • Loved her Dad even though he was a very troubled man.  She makes you feel the good in him, despite his demons
  • Honestly I was fascinated by the training and the ins and outs of competitive sports. The incredible drive and determination is awe inspiring (ok, also remember I am a Librarian and a nerd, so sports is sooo not my thing)
  • Interesting to learn about the pressure to dope and all about the different methods
  • I have always been less than understanding about the importance of sport and she really made me how much sport can inspire and help someone (Ok most of my negativity comes from being shit at sports and made fun of by jocks, I still remember being insulted in high school by a girl named Christine about my lack of athleticism - I'm 45 and I still remember that moment)
  • I really enjoyed the stories about her experiences while working on Right to Play. Truly inspiring, fun and so raw and beautiful
  • Loved her colourful dialogue (Yup I also believe that people who swear are more honest and trustful)
  • Amazed by the amount of eating disorders within competitive sports, Liked that she talked so openly about her own struggles.  Hey we have something in common - who knew - no one is safe from that inner demon
  • Impressed with the connection in regards to  her Father at the beginning and the end of the story. Nicely done

The Not So Good Stuff

  • Jumps around a bit

Favorite Quotes

"As a kid, you just try to survive. You grind whatever awful things you are experiencing into dust as they're happening.'

"My Dad used to say to me, "Clara, never put anyone below you, and never put anyone above you. There are good an bad people - you can't deceive yourself into thinking otherwise - but it has nothing to do with race or income."

"This lesson in a taxicab on a cold winter's day showed me the potential of human beings to transcend hatred, greed, and genocide. Even now I marvel that someone could come to this kind of peace after losing so much."

4 Dewey's

I received this from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review