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Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year

The Other Alice [a book review of sorts]

Yoshi and The Other AliceThe Other Alice
by Michelle Harrison

What happens when a tale with real magic, that was supposed to be finished, never was? This is a story about one of those stories . . .

Midge loves riddles, his cat, Twitch, and ? most of all ? stories. Especially because he’s grown up being read to by his sister Alice, a brilliant writer.

When Alice goes missing and a talking cat turns up in her bedroom, Midge searches Alice’s stories for a clue. Soon he discovers that her secret book, The Museum of Unfinished Stories, is much more than just a story. In fact, he finds two of its characters wandering around town.

But every tale has its villains ? and with them leaping off the page, Midge, Gypsy and Piper must use all their wits and cunning to work out how the story ends and find Alice. If they fail, a more sinister finale threatens them all . . . (goodreads.com)

Oh, internet. How can I express how much love I have for this novel? I have all of the feelings but I cannot find the words. So let me first tell you a bit about why I read this book – I read the book because it was written by Michelle Harrison, an author whose books have filled me with such joy and wonder that I need to read EVERY! STORY! SHE! EVER! WRITES! I kid you not.

Her first book was about faeries. If you know me, you know how I feel about faeries. The title even had the word “treasure” in it, and I looooooooove treasure. And the title also had the number 13 in it, and that’s like, my favourite number. And the story captured me fully. As did the next novel, and the next. I was sad when I ran out of Michelle Harrison books to read. I was reading them faster that she was writing them! (Work on that, MH.) Then I found out that a new story was being written, and this story had the name “Alice” in the title, and I looooooove the name Alice because: Alice in Wonderland. So of course I was mega-excited.

And THEN Michelle asked on the facebooks to help name something in her novel. There was a narrowboat in the book that a character lived on and she was trying to name it. I commented with a few brilliant ideas (note this was at the same time the internet named a research ship Boaty McBoatface, so you can get an idea of my brilliance!). I also added one real idea: Elsewhere. Because that word is just everything to me.

Elsewhere.

Best word/concept/feeling EVER.

And I won the comment poll, or whatever you want to call it. So my name is actually IN this book in the acknowledgements at the end and I am so excited to see my name in print. It’s almost like I wrote the entire novel MYSELF. (Right!?)

So, this new novel (that I totes helped write) is about a girl who vanishes and leaves a story unfinished, and about her brother who is trying to find her and help finish the story. Because scary things are happening, and magical things, and all of the things, and it’s just such a fantastically written story about stories that I never wanted it to end. I wish I had this book in my life when I was 10 years old. I seriously do. It has every element within it that I love dearly. The whimsy and magicalness of it all made me so giddy I was bouncing while reading it at times. I am 40 years old, internet, and I was so giddy about the whimsy in this book that I could not contain my happiness while reading.

I even love the concept of having a Museum of Unfinished Stories. Doesn’t that just sound delicious and delightful? The idea of it just swells around me with possibility!

I pre-ordered a copy of this book myself, but I also received a signed copy from the author because, as I mentioned, I did help write the darned thing. I will be gifting the non-signed copy this month to someone I hope enjoys it as much as I did. Here’s hoping. It was tough to find a hard copy of the book outside of the UK. It seems to be available only as an eBook on Canadian retailer sites, though I got my BOOK from the Book Depository UK shop (which I think was because I am in Canada. If you are in the US I don’t think it lets you order from the UK site?)

otheralicecollage

I haven’t blogged much at all this year, nor have I read very much (I’m up to 16 books though!), but I wanted to write about The Other Alice because it was a book that my soul needed so badly this summer. It was a perfect weekend escape for me when I needed to find solace in a more imaginative, whimsical space than what real life throws at us. I am now, sadly, out of Michelle Harrison books to read once more. I guess I’ll send her a note to help with the writing of her next novel, since I am obviously a much needed part of her process. 😉

If you love magical middle grade books, with very well developed characters, then I highly recommend you read everything you can get your hands on by Michelle Harrison. Her novels are worth everything.

Unrest

Unrest
by Michelle Harrison

Seventeen-year-old Elliott hasn’t slept properly for months. Not since the accident that nearly killed him. Sometimes he half-wakes, paralysed, while shadowy figures move around him. Other times he is the one moving around while his body lies asleep on the bed. His doctors say sleep paralysis and out-of-body experiences are harmless – but to Elliott they’re terrifying.

Convinced that his brush with death has attracted the spirit world, Elliott secures a job at a reputedly haunted museum, determined to discover the truth. There, he meets the enigmatic Ophelia. But, as she and Elliott grow closer, Elliott draws new attention from the dead. One night, during an out-of-body experience, Elliott returns to bed to find his body gone. Something is occupying it, something that wants to live again – and it wants Ophelia, too . . .(goodreads.com)

This book surpassed my expectations and my expectations were pretty darned high. I have been madly in love with Michelle Harrison’s 13 Treasures series (middle grade) and couldn’t contain my excitement when I found out she was releasing yet another book, but this time in the YA realm.

Unrest is such an incredibly well-written and thrilling ghost story. If you’re thinking in participating in that RIP Challenge thing in the fall, I would suggest you add this one to your list of books.

There’s no fluff in this story. From the first page to the last, I was gripped by the mystery. My heart raced, I was happily creeped out and the suspense was just delightful.

I’m not quite sure how to write about this book without giving anything away because there were so many twists and turns and surprises throughout that I want you all to experience them for yourselves. I loved everything about the book from the way Elliott and his father and brother interact, to Ophelia to the ghosty goodness.

Unrest is completely different that Michelle’s 13 Treasures series. Those books were well-written as well, but have a different feel to them (not just because they were middle grade and this isn’t). I found Unrest to have a more literary feel to it. That isn’t quite how I want to explain it, but I can’t think of how else to put what I mean in words. It’s certainly not a fluffy book (not that fluffy books aren’t awesome.) It’s a book whose words carry weight.

GAH. I am not explaining this well at all. It’s close to what I call a “Smart Book” but it’s not exactly there, but it’s certainly not fluff.

I’m going to stop now because I’m not making sense and I don’t want to take away from how amazing this book is. (And I am not just saying that because I know, and like, the author.)

And I’m not taking away from YA literature when I say this – Unrest could be on the adult fiction shelves under thriller. I think it’s only YA because it has a teen protagonist, but I’d put the book up there with the amazing adult thrillers that come out.

Damn it all…. THIS BOOK IS AWESOME AND SUSPENSEFUL! Read it. Just do it. Even if you wait until autumn. Just ignore my failed attempt to explain what it’s like. Ugh.

The 13 Secrets

The 13 Secrets (Book 3)
by Michelle Harrison

If Michelle Harrison had never written The 13 Treasures I would never have met her and would have missed out on a wonderful person and new friendship in my life. Not only am I a total fangirl for her writing, I am also kicking myself that we live so far away and may never get to meet. One of the awesome things about the internet is allowing friendships to happen that never would have otherwise. The non-awesome thing? A lot of those friends won’t live close by. That sucks.

Thanks to the awesome that is Michelle and Jenny from Wondrous Reads, I was able to obtain this book with a signature all the way from Jolly Ol’ England. I am forever in their debt and I thank them sooooo much!

My adoration of the first book in this trilogy was what introduced me to Michelle, I was nervous about reading the second book, even though I was desperate for it, because I had entered that “friends with the author” phase and what if I didn’t like it? Turns out I didn’t have to worry because it blew me away. And of course I was waiting until my birthday this year to get this final book, The 13 Secrets. As much as I loved the first two books, I have to say that the conclusion to this trilogy was probably the best yet. It was dark and creepy at times and it was full of suspense and surprises.

The only negative I have is that because it was rather dark and suspenseful I was unable to focus on it the week I lost my dog. I had gotten about 100 pages in and had to put it down briefly and I read Kim Harrison’s Pale Demon instead. (Turns out if your last name is Harrison, I will turn to you for comfort.)  A week after the saddest day, I turned back to this story and finished it within days. It’s meatier than the first two I think. There was more substance and a lot going on. There were a slew of new characters that I enjoyed and suspected (and I was right in my suspicions, too! So HA!) There were twists and turns I had not expected at all and enjoyed the surprise I was feeling. It’s so rare that this happens in books for me.

Tanya, Fabian, Rowan and the adults in the manor were all present. Mad Morag, the gypsy in the forest was also present. I like her so I was happy. There was just so much adventure in the story that I was whisked along. It was all in this realm, too, so no travel to the faerie realm or back in time or anything. Just present day, with some mystical speedbumps, adventure.

I find myself a tad depressed over the end of the trilogy. I don’t want more in the series, I think we’ve visited enough, but I do hope that Michelle continues to write because I would love to read more of her work! And one day, I will get myself to England and I will go to a tea shop and sit and chat with Michelle about all sorts of things! The only thing stopping me now is my complete lack of money and my extreme fear of flying over water. Maybe she should just come to Montreal…
13 Treasures trilogy

Buy the book: AmazonCA | Book DepositoryUK

Rambling Reader: The Best YA Books You Haven’t Read

Kelly at YAnnabe contacted me about this special Blog Blitz she was organizing and although I was very interested in participating I failed because this was an extra-busy week and I have had little to no time to blog. So my post is late, when it should have been up on Thursday, or even by the end of Sunday. Since I am writing this Sunday morning and I decided I wanted to do a video post that still needs to be filmed, I don’t know if I’ll make the deadline. I got it up in time, go me!! Either way, I still think this is a great idea to post about some of the best YA books that people have read that didn’t seem to get as hyped as others.

My top YA picks from the video are:

The Puzzle Ring – Kate Forsyth

The 13 Treasures – Michelle Harrison
The 13 Curses – Michelle Harrison

Sisters of Misery – Megan Kelley Hall
The Lost Sister – Megan Kelley Hall

The Swan Kingdom – Zöe Marriott

The Good Girls’ Ghouls’ Guide to Getting Even – Julie Kenner
Good Girls Ghouls Do – Julie Kenner

If you head on over to Kelly’s original post you can see the list of participants, last I heard it was 39, which I think is pretty impressive!

I really do hope that this post has helped some of you discover fantastic new YA fiction to pick up and enjoy. Spread the word!

(Background music provided by: Ian Axel “This is The New Year” CD out now!)

5 Questions: author Michelle Harrison (The 13 Treasures / The 13 Curses)

As a special birthday treat to myself I’m dedicating today, January 23, 2010 to one of my newest favourite authors of all time – Michelle Harrison! I have reviewed her new book, The 13 Curses (and I loved it!) and now I am excited to present this tiny little interview for all of you to enjoy!

1. I’m curious about the writing process for The 13 Curses as it flips between two points of view – the story of Red in the Faerie Realm and of Tanya and Fabian in the mortal world. How do you write a story like this? Do you write out each story on its own then combine it with the other? Or do you write it all in one shot?

I wrote it all in the order it appears in the book. It was the best way for me to keep track of how the story fitted together, and maintain a connection with Tanya and Fabian which, even though this is very much Red’s story, was important. It was also good for me to flip between what was happening on both sides, the Faerie Realm, and the human world, as generally what occurs with Red is quite dark so it made for a nice break. I did switch some of the chapters around in the earlier part of the book as the timings didn’t quite work at first. Initially I had intended for it to be that way to indicate the difference of time between the two worlds, but when I read it back it came across as too confusing.

2. I was surprised by some of the harsh decisions that were made throughout the story (of which I won’t get into specifics lest I spoil anything). Were you at all nervous about including less than happy-ending type events and decisions in the book? It is rare that a YA or MG book has many, if any at all, dark decisions. Normally the books are all happy and sweet, and everyone lives happily ever after. In The 13 Curses it’s not always that way, especially when it comes to Red.

When I made the choice to give Red her own story I knew it would be a much darker tale than Tanya’s. She’s had a much tougher life and had to grow up fast. However even I was surprised at some of the decisions she makes, which must sound odd, but I couldn’t imagine her reacting in any other way than she does. I was slightly nervous about it in parts, yet at the same time I wanted to show that horrible things can and do happen to people of all ages, but they can still get through them – even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time.

3. Are you nervous at all about “breaking into” the North American market? I know that your first book, The 13 Treasures was well received in the UK, evening winning the 2009 Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize, how do you think it will go over in the US and Canada? Aside from the cover, were there any other changes to the book before it crossed the pond?

I’m nervous and excited in equal measure – I’ve no idea what’s going to happen. The book has done well internationally with rights sales, which gives me hope that it’ll be received positively. I’m actually coming out to do a pre-publication tour of five cities in the States at the beginning of February: LA, Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. I’ll be meeting with booksellers and librarians, so hopefully I’ll be able to gauge how the book will go down then to some extent. It’ll be my first time to the States too, so doubly exciting!

Aside from the cover there aren’t too many differences. The most notable was that in the US edition the prologue was cut. The other two biggest things were that the treatment of Brunswick, the goblin, at the hands of his companions was toned down a little to be less violent. There’s also the mention of a suicide in the UK edition that was cut for the US. Other than that it was the general small things, like changing ‘pavement’ to ‘side walk’ for a US audience.

Do you hear that, American book bloggers? You make sure you visit Michelle when she comes to your State! (If only there were a Canadian leg, too!)

4. How do you write your stories – paper & pen or computer? Do you have a favourite pen, colour or font that you find you MUST always write in to help your creativity? (Or am I the only one who is like that? ha!)

It’s a mixture of both. When I begin I tend to use pen and paper much more, for starting the chapters and for making notes to myself. This is because I hate staring at a blank computer screen. I’m not too bothered about which type of pen, though I prefer fine liners rather than biro type pens if possible. I find that even if I do a couple of pages of writing and half of it is scribbled out, then I can see that I’ve done quite a lot. I don’t usually write more than a few pages before typing it up. I don’t like to read my own handwriting back – it’s harder to be impartial! If it’s typed it could have been written by anyone. As I get further into the story I tend to get straight on the computer and use paper less, to save time.

5. If you were a tree, what sort of tree would you be?

I’d be a rowan tree! They’re believed to be protected against dark magic and evil. Second choice, a magnolia tree as they’re really pretty. I’m hoping I’ll end up with a garden that has both in, someday.

BONUS QUESTION : I know you’re a fan of The Merrybegot by Julie Hearn (which I did buy but still have not read, bad me!) and have recommended this book to others. Are there any other books out there that you think fans of your books will enjoy?

I’ve been told that The 13 Treasures has reminded people of Eva Ibbotson’s and Cornelia Funke’s books, both of whom I’m a fan of. Their stories are often based in the ‘real’ world with magical aspects coming into the characters’ lives in some way. I think the ‘Septimus Heap’ books by Angie Sage could also be something to recommend if you enjoyed The 13 Treasures/Curses.

Thanks again, Michelle! And I hope your debut in North American goes splendidly! All you book bloggers in Canada and the US, go out and buy The 13 Treasures and read it and I hope you love it as much as I did. And if you love it, feel free to buy the sequel from the UK. 😉