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Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year


There is just so much going on these days that I am so tired my soul hurts. Most of the stuff isn’t even bloggable in a public sense, so I have been extra quiet lately. I try to find the energy to post about something positive or witty, but find that I can’t. Not right now. It’s not like life is over or anything, it’s just that there’s been a steady build-up of so much negative that it’s literally exhausting to try and find the positive. Trying to stay happy and fake positivity is just draining.

Today’s weather certainly doesn’t help. Gloomy, dark, rainy and windy makes for a melancholy Sunday.

When I find the energy again and I am not falling asleep everywhere, I’ll make the effort to update. I have a slew of photos to post of dogs and tomatoes (because I just know you’re clamouring for those) and updates on how the dogs are doing. Right now they just don’t seem like very important things to write about.

Misery loves company though and I know a lot of people are going through similar negative phases in their lives right now. At least we have each other, right?


by Jessica Martinez

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

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

Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall…. (goodreads.com)

Release date: October 18, 2011

I am not a contemporary fiction fan. I tend to like my stories imbued with serial killers, dragons, sorceresses, detectives, etc. However, I also try my best to give books that show up for review a chance. I know, technically, that if I didn’t ask for the book I shouldn’t feel so obligated to read it, but at the same time, I don’t receive many books from publishers (when I do, they all seem to come at the same time) and I feel as though since I am being gifted this amazing opportunity I should DO something about it. Therefore I give the books a chance (most of the time). I can’t promise I’ll finish something and if it looks to me like a book I might not enjoy, I can’t promise reading it in a timely manner.


Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised with what I discover when I pick up a book I’d never read otherwise. I have to say that the summary for Virtuosity did nothing for me at first because of the focus on kissing a boy and pining away, blah, blah, blah. I can’t stand teen romance books. I feel like if you’re a teen and the only problem you have is that a boy you like doesn’t like you back, well, you’ve got it great, kiddo. (Which I think is why I’d rather read contemporary fiction about teens/people with serious problems like drugs, abuse, alcohol. It seems much more reasonable to me.)

Thing is, Carmen isn’t just pining away for a boy in this book. She’s dealing with other problems – doing what her mother wants her to do, keeping up her home on that pedestal by winning competitions and touring and playing violin so that she can be adored and win MORE competitions. Carmen was a much more complex character than the summary above paints her to be.

I liked Carmen a lot. I liked her fears and her bravery and her humour and her mind. This book is by no means dystopian in any way, but it has a similar theme – a girl grows up knowing only one way of living and thinking it’s enough until something happens to open her eyes and then she has to fight for control of her life and decide which way to go. Until Carmen meets Jeremy, I think she’s pretty content thinking that the way her life is going is the only way there is. It seems normal. When Jeremy shows up, independent and with his own way of approaching the world, Carmen starts to question her own life. She rebels, but not in a very dangerous way. She just learns that life is there to live and maybe her mother doesn’t always know best.

The book interested me on a couple of levels. First, as I work in a music faculty in a prestigious university, I was drawn to the music references and the sort of inside look at what might make a musician tick. I wondered if this book would appeal to any of the string students we have. If any of them felt the same way. I had left the book on my desk one lunch time when I had to run out and do some errands (I hate carrying a heavy bag when I don’t need to) and when I came back I had a note on my desk from the director of our grad studies department asking to borrow the book when I was done. I think this just might appeal to people in my office. 😉

I was also very interested in Carmen herself. I thought the growth she showed throughout the novel to be realistic and I was sympathetic to her cause. I really liked her and I liked Jeremy as well (arrogant British boys are just interesting to me!). I believed the two of them together. I believed their feelings for each other and the choices they made. Do I think they’ll last forever? No. They are 18 years old. That’s way too young to know what you really want to do for the rest of your life, but it’s the perfect time to start finding it out. I think the ending of the story was exactly what both characters needed at that time in their lives to help shape them into who they will really, truly become as they get a little bit older.

As a side note – I don’t normally like to read and blog about books that won’t be out for another 2 months. I actually thought this was a September release when I started it and only when I went to look up the release date did I notice my error. Since I like to blog about the books as soon as I read them (or, rather, in the order that I read them), I don’t schedule posts for months later. Since September starts this week (HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!) I figured it’s not too bad. My apologies if you want to run out and buy the book now. 😉


Perfect (Impulse, #2)
by Ellen Hopkins

Everyone has something, someone, somewhere else that they’d rather be. For four high-school seniors, their goals of perfection are just as different as the paths they take to get there.

Cara’s parents’ unrealistic expectations have already sent her twin brother Conner spiraling toward suicide. For her, perfect means rejecting their ideals to take a chance on a new kind of love. Kendra covets the perfect face and body—no matter what surgeries and drugs she needs to get there. To score his perfect home run—on the field and off—Sean will sacrifice more than he can ever win back. And Andre realizes that to follow his heart and achieve his perfect performance, he’ll be living a life his ancestors would never have understood.

Everyone wants to be perfect, but when perfection loses its meaning, how far will you go? What would you give up to be perfect? (goodreads.com)

Release date: September 13, 2011

This is one of those situations where I can honestly say that had I not been sent a book for review, I would never, ever have picked up an Ellen Hopkins novel. Sure I’d seen the novels around in the store, those big, chunky, square books with one-word titles. I knew perfectly well they were there, but I’d never picked one up and leafed through it. I was certain these books were not for me. I don’t do contemporary fiction and I am frightened off by most contemporary fiction about badass teens (badass meaning, drugs, drinking, sex… I am, for some scary reason, ok with mental illness, eating disorders and mental institutions.) The books just didn’t call out to me. I had them written off completely.


I certainly didn’t know that these books were all written in VERSE.

Let me tell you that I was none too pleased about this book showing up, unannounced on my doorstep with the implication that I was to read and review it. I can’t just NOT read a book sent to me by a publisher. I have way too much guilt associated with that. I feel like I have been giving this awesome opportunity that others would jump at and I can’t just ignore it. This is one of the main reasons I do not like to receive books for review – way too much anxiety attached! Sure I’ll agree to a couple when asked, if they look like my thing, but getting books as a surprise terrifies me!

So, I picked up Perfect last night because it comes out in a month. I wanted to at least give it a try before writing it off completely. I was scared. Scared that I wouldn’t like the story. Scared that I wouldn’t be able to read a book written in verse. Just scared.

I didn’t  need to be scared. Though it took me a “chapter” or two to get into the flow of the writing, I quickly discovered just how beautiful the flawed stories of these teenagers’ lives really was. The book literally took my breath away since at one point I realized I wasn’t breathing at all as I flipped page after page.

My one thought halfway through the book and now, just as I finished reading it was this:

How have I not read anything by Ellen Hopkins before?

I now have to go out and buy Impulse. Why? Because I just read the summary and found out it’s set in a psychiatric hospital. It’s the first book before Perfect and I am guessing that some of the characters at the end of the companion novel are in Impulse. (Annnd… of course the stores near me do not have it in stock! Argh! What is WRONG with Chapters/Indigo lately!? Ordering online is fine and dandy, but sometimes I like to give my credit card a break and pay with CASH!) I desperately want to read more of Ellen Hopkins and her beautiful verse. Just the way the words were scattered across the page for each character was so captivating to me. For someone who feels words and sees sentiments, the words were placed almost perfectly (no pun intended) on the pages.

I have Simon & Schuster Canada to thank for helping me broaden my horizons on the literature front. I would never have read an Ellen Hopkins novel otherwise. I am so happy I took the plunge and made myself pick up the book. I will never look back now and must try out all of her stories.

Impulse series

  1. Impulse
  2. Perfect

(Like my fancy photo? I had taken it with Instagram when I received the book and I liked how it came out so much I decided to use it for the post. Photoshop Elements is fun and all, but it’s a lot of work. heh heh…. I honestly don’t know how I lived life before my iPhone and Instagram!!)

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
by Jonathan Auxier

Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes is the utterly beguiling tale of a ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery. One fateful afternoon, he steals a mysterious box that contains three pairs of magical eyes. When he tries the first pair, he is instantly transported to a hidden island where he is presented with a special quest: to rescue a lost kingdom from its tyrannical ruler. With the help of the Fantastic Eyes and his loyal companion (a knight who has been transformed into an unfortunate combination of horse and cat), Peter Nimble embarks on an unforgettable, swashbuckling adventure to save a people in need — and to discover his true destiny. (goodreads.com)

When I received an email asking if I would be interested in reviewing a middle grade novel from Penguin Canada, I said YES! I swear I don’t only read kid books. I read adult ones, too! Only lately the fantasy type stories have just been so much better in kid-lit – especially middle grade books! I am not a YA/MG blog, but it seems like that this summer, doesn’t it?

I almost said no to the book because of the “eyes” issue. I do not like to read about eyes and thought it might be gross. I am so happy I took the chance because this book is, well, FANTASTIC.

If you’ve read the Peter and the Starcatchers** series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, I can tell you this compares to that, only it’s a little more whimsical, with less pirates (but there are thieves!) and nothing set in real life. Pure fun fantasy awaits you when you pick up this book.

Peter Nimble is a likable character right from the start. He’s had a pretty rough time growing up and wasn’t treated all that well, but still, by the age of 10 he’s a pretty thoughtful and caring little boy – even if he is a thief! Regardless of how others treated him, Peter tends to listen to his heart and make choices that might go against the way he was raised.

I had to say I was captivated by just the first line and although it made me laugh outloud, I also thought “ooo, I wonder if people will complain about this and totally NOT get the spirit of the story”. See for yourself:

“Now, for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves.” – p. 3, Chapter 1

In fact as soon as I read that and laughed, I read it out loud to my husband who said “WHAT?” and then laughed as well. I knew this was going to be a fun ride from there. The narrator is witty and has hilarious little asides to what he’s telling you. The entire feeling of the narration was jovial and fun. It was almost as if you could see a twinkle in the narrator’s eye even if you had no idea who was narrating (the author?)

I also became quite smitten with Sir Tode and was delighted when the two became travelling buddies. The two characters together were so enjoyable to read, I was almost sad when I got to the end of the story.

The ending does have some darker moments, there is death and evildoings, so though this is middle grade, I think it might be a little easier on the older end of the spectrum, unless you are sure your child is ok with people (and creatures) dying. I might add that I did tear up a little bit over birds once or twice.

The entire story was so enchanting I almost felt like I was watching a cartoon. The story took hold of my imagination and I could almost see everything on those pages come to (animated) life before my eyes. Each chapter is adorned with a sketch of a scene or character that will appear within it. The cover pages and index are full of art and the cover of the book itself just holds so much magic that it makes me giddy looking at it.

I had one of my total geeked out moments when I read the “About the Author” at the end of the story and discovered that Jonathan Auxier had grown up in Canada. Even though he’s now living in the States I shall consider him a Canadian author (YAY!) and be proud to tell people I pass in the store that not only should they buy this book because it’s amazing, but also because a fellow Canadian wrote it and THAT is something to be excited about!

The adventure and humour and life lessons (in a non-preachy way) are just splendid in Peter Nimble and although I don’t quite want a sequel to this story, I would LOVE to read more fantastical tales from the author in the future. I think he’s a Must Buy! now for me after this one.

** Please ignore my Twilight reviews on that Peter and the Starcatchers link. I don’t know what I was thinking because I honestly do not like the books at all. I do admit to finding the first book original and interesting, but the rest of the series (and I didn’t finish it) sucked. I am almost embarrassed to link you to that post! I hemmed and hawwwed over whether or not to link it and if I did to delete those two mini-reviews. *cough* How embarrassing!

PS – I have NO idea why my blog theme has suddenly decided to delete all spaces after punctuation (especially commas). I have the same theme and version on my other blog and it is working FINE. I am not smart enough to go through the code to try and pinpoint the problem. So until I can figure this out (through their forums hopefully?) please forgive the mess. I am highly displeased with this predicament! IMPROPER!!!

PPS – I think this qualifies as a 2011 Debut Author Challenge book! It’s MG, and I think that’s ok? I am totally adding it to my list.

Hard Bitten

Hard Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires, #4)
by Chloe Neill

Times are hard for newly minted vampire Merit. Ever since shapeshifters announced their presence to the world, humans have been rallying against supernaturals–and they’re camping outside of Cadogan House with protest signs that could turn to pitchforks at any moment. Inside its doors, things between Merit and her Master, green-eyed heartbreaker Ethan Sullivan are … tense. But then the mayor of Chicago calls Merit and Ethan to a clandestine meeting and tells them about a violent vamp attack that has left three women missing. His message is simple: get your House in order. Or else.

Merit needs to get to the bottom of this crime, but it doesn’t help that she can’t tell who’s on her side. So she secretly calls in a favor from someone who’s tall, dark, and part of underground vamp group that may have some deep intel on the attack. Merit soon finds herself in the heady, dark heart of Chicago’s supernatural society–a world full of vampires who seem too ready to fulfill the protesting human’s worst fears, and a place where she’ll learn that you can’t be a vampire without getting a little blood on your hands… (goodreads.com)

Although The Book Depository has attempted to thwart  my UK edition purchasing of this series, I fooled them by having Jenny have it shipped to me. Like heck I’m about to switch to the NA editions when I am 4 books in. Take that, Book Depository and your discriminating ways! (Ok, so I still love BD even if I am highly miffed at the blocked UK titles.)

I went through three phases reading this book. I started out “meh” and although I enjoy the series I wasn’t feeling the way I thought it was going. Then I switched to “yay” because the book got a lot more fun and interesting. The final phase was OMFG WTF?!!?!? with that ending. OMG THAT ENDING! I was completely blown away and did NOT see any of that coming at all. Way to mix it up, Neill. Way to keep this series fresh and original. Way to shock the heck out of me!

Of course I shan’t be telling you lot anything about the ending because I do not want to spoil it. =P

Merit is such a great character! She’s smart, independent, tough, sweet and sarcastic. She does not spend her newly immortal life pining over Ethan (although there are moments, but it’s not done in a way that makes my teeth gnash together in rage), she doesn’t make stupid choices and only get out of tough situations by luck. She’s the type of heroine you want to read about. One who can take control of a situation but still have life-like reactions to what’s going on. She’s not invincible by any means and she does make mistakes, but everything about her seems natural. If I had to pick another female protagonist who I find smilar, I’d pick Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs series. Tough, smart, but normal and realistic.

Part of Merit’s charm is her friendship with Mallory. I adore Mallory and though she didn’t play as grand a role in Hard Bitten as I would have liked, it still made me smile to find her on the page. I am hoping that more about her sorceress studies will crop up in future books (two more at least! Woot!)

It’s odd that I love this series so much since it’s about vampires and I don’t like vampires. Something about the Chicagoland vamps is different than most other urban fantasy vampires. The series is just that slightly different that makes it stand out among the crowd. The writing is fantastic, the humour divine and the characters relatable. Yet, Chloe Neill’s YA series (Dark Elite) isn’t cutting it for me and it has witches in it! I have been 3 chapters in to Hexbound for two months and I just can’t bring myself to care about the characters or story. I liked the first book well enough to have bought the second, but I’m not feeling it.

I think I’ll stick to the adult novels for now. I cannot wait until November to read about what happens after this ending, because hooooo boy!

Chicagoland Vampire series

  1. Some Girls Bite
  2. Friday Night Bites
  3. Twice Bitten
  4. Hard Bitten
  5. Drink Deep
  6. Biting Cold
  7. House Rules
  8. Biting Bad  – August 2013
  9. Wild Things – 2014