i'm darkness and light, bubbles and faerie wings. i am sparkles and glitter, shadows and clouds. i love purple, and faeries, and books, and music.

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Arranged

Arranged
by Catherine McKenzie

Anne Blythe has a great life: a good job, good friends, and a potential book deal for her first novel. When it comes to finding someone to share it with, however, she just can’t seem to get it right.

After yet another relationship ends, Anne comes across a business card for what she thinks is a dating service, and she pockets it just in case. When her best friend, Sarah, announces she’s engaged, Anne can’t help feeling envious. On an impulse, she decides to give the service a try because maybe she could use a little assistance in finding the right man. But Anne soon discovers the company isn’t a dating service; it’s an exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriage service. She initially rejects the idea, but the more she thinks about it-and the company’s success rate-the more it appeals to her. After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world, so why wouldn’t it work for her?

A few months later, Anne is travelling to a Mexican resort, where in one short weekend she will meet and marry Jack. And against all odds, it seems to be working out-until Anne learns that Jack, and the company that arranged their marriage, are not what they seem at all. (goodreads.com)

Having ADORED Catherine McKenzie’s Spin earlier this year, I was more than happy to agree to review her latest US release on my blog. Her being a Montreal author made me want to support her from the start, but the love affair I had with Spin just made me want to promote the heck out of her even more.

I will say right off that I did not love this book nearly as much as I did Spin but I did enjoy it greatly.  Face it, there are very few books that ever reach that euphoric level of love with me like Spin did, so I’m not being negative about Arranged.

Catherine McKenzie has a sort of Sarah Addison Allen-esque way with characters. Characters that are real and tangible. Characters that have flaws but are still charming and warm. McKenzie’s stories have a lot of humour to them, too. Anne Blythe comes off the pages as funny and endearing through her inner monologues and outer dialogues with the other characters in the book.

I finished this book feeling happy. Happiness isn’t something that I have been feeling a lot of lately, but Arranged left me content and relaxed. I could see this book being one of those sappy, rom-com movies that you’d force your man to, but you’d probably both end up enjoying it. I know there are only so many ways to say that this book is funny and charming, but I can’t stop saying it because it’s 100% true.

Catherine McKenzie is officially an authors that I will always buy a book from in the future. She’s up there with Sarah Addison Allen but she gets extra points for being a Montrealer. 😉

In My Mailbox #54 – The “Hey, look! A surprise book!” Edition

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

All my IMM posts can be found here!

Between the Lines
by Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer

New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult and her teenage daughter present their first-ever novel for teens, filled with romance, adventure, and humor.What happens when happily ever after…isn’t?     Delilah is a bit of a loner who prefers spending her time in the school library with her head in a book—one book in particular.Between the Lines may be a fairy tale, but it feels real. Prince Oliver is brave, adventurous, and loving. He really speaks to Delilah.     And then one day Oliver actually speaks to her. Turns out, Oliver is more than a one-dimensional storybook prince. He’s a restless teen who feels trapped by his literary existence and hates that his entire life is predetermined. He’s sure there’s more for him out there in the real world, and Delilah might just be his key to freedom.     Delilah and Oliver work together to attempt to get Oliver out of his book, a challenging task that forces them to examine their perceptions of fate, the world, and their places in it. And as their attraction to each other grows along the way, a romance blossoms that is anything but a fairy tale. (goodreads.com)

This lovely book just showed up in the mail earlier this week from Simon & Schuster Canada. My first instinct was “I have to email them and get off the adult fiction list!” because Jodi Picoult is quite a well-known adult author. It was my HUSBAND who pointed out he was pretty sure this book was YA from the summary he was reading. In my defence I’d received two other parcels that day and one was FULL OF STICKERS! And stickers make me happy, so I was distracted. 😉

Between the Lines is Jodi Picoult’s debut into YA lit, so I think this might actually count towards the 2012 YA Debut Author Challenge! It releases June 28, 2012.

When I was looking up the book on Goodreads to prepare this post, I noticed a different cover – I think this might be a UK edition? I will admit that I much prefer this cover to the one above. I don’t know if it’s the colours, or the lack of Real Person Face (I really don’t like faces of real people on my book covers!) but I don’t think I would have been quite so quick to judge this as a non-YA book. It has a much more fairytale vibe to it, in my opinion.

What do you think about the covers? Which do you prefer?

And that’s it for IMM this week. I didn’t think I’d be doing one of these for a long time.

OH WAIT!!

I DID get another book for review, but I think I got it the week prior, I totally forgot! Oops.

Arranged
by Catherine McKenzie

Anne Blythe has a great life: a good job, good friends, and a potential book deal for her first novel. When it comes to finding someone to share it with, however, she just can’t seem to get it right.

After yet another relationship ends, Anne comes across a business card for what she thinks is a dating service, and she pockets it just in case. When her best friend, Sarah, announces she’s engaged, Anne can’t help feeling envious. On an impulse, she decides to give the service a try because maybe she could use a little assistance in finding the right man. But Anne soon discovers the company isn’t a dating service; it’s an exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriage service. She initially rejects the idea, but the more she thinks about it-and the company’s success rate-the more it appeals to her. After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world, so why wouldn’t it work for her?

A few months later, Anne is travelling to a Mexican resort, where in one short weekend she will meet and marry Jack. And against all odds, it seems to be working out-until Anne learns that Jack, and the company that arranged their marriage, are not what they seem at all. (goodread.com)

Didn’t mean to forget about this one! I am totally proving my lack of interest in All Things Book these days. Geez. So, yes! I have been lucky enough to receive yet another Catherine McKenzie book for review from William Morrow Paperbacks and I am actually excited about this one, even if I can’t seem to read just now. I was totally smitten with Spin and I was able to read it when I couldn’t read anything else, so I’m looking forward to picking this one up soon. 😉

And for honest and for true that was all that was in my mailbox book-wise this week (and last)! I have a TON of  bought books on their way to me and I think they’ll all show up this coming week. If I’m feeling up to it I’ll do a video for them next weekend. 😉

Off to look at what books the rest of you bought/received this week in the hopes that something will want to make me read again!

Graveminder

Graveminder
by Melissa Marr

Three sips to mind the dead . . .

Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the attention her grandmother Maylene bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the small town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn’t a funeral that Maylene didn’t attend, and at each one Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: She took three sips from a silver flask and spoke the words “Sleep well, and stay where I put you.”

Now Maylene is dead, and Bek must go back to the place she left a decade earlier. She soon discovers that Claysville is not just the sleepy town she remembers, and that Maylene had good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in Claysville the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected; beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D. If the dead are not properly cared for, they will come back to satiate themselves with food, drink, and stories from the land of the living. Only the Graveminder, by tradition a Barrow woman, and her Undertaker—in this case Byron Montgomery, with whom Bek shares a complicated past—can set things right once the dead begin to walk.

Although she is still grieving for Maylene, Rebekkah will soon find that she has more than a funeral to attend to in Claysville, and that what awaits her may be far worse: dark secrets, a centuries-old bargain, a romance that still haunts her, and a frightening new responsibility—to stop a monster and put the dead to rest where they belong. (goodreads.com)

I’m slowly working through the last of the review books I have, since I decided to not really accept any more. Of course I did jump at the chance to review Graveminder by Melissa Marr because, hey, MELISSA MARR. I say this having still not completed the Wicked Lovely series, mind. (I have a love-hate relationship with that series, I seem to like half the books and hate the other half.) What I DO love about Melissa Marr’s storytelling is her writing, so I knew I had to try her adult novel.

The gorgeous cover of the trade edition, plus the curiosity the summary created helped me stick with the book through a somewhat slow start. I had some doubts that I wouldn’t care much about the characters or the plot when I started reading, but I am immensely glad that I kept on because – WOW! What a creepy and charming novel all wrapped up into one.

I wrote on Goodreads that Graveminder made me think of Sarah Addison Allen teaming up with Tales from the Crypt Keeper. Although the story and characters are not as epic as those Ms. Allen creates, I still got the same vibe once I was a little further into the book that I do in SAA’s novels.

There were aspects of the book that bugged me, though, especially the “romance” aspect. I was a little annoyed by Byron’s constant pining over how much he loooooooooves Rebekkah and how he’ll always be there for her, as a friend, as more, etc. But he loooooooooves her sooooooooo much. Always has and always will. Get over it already, buddy. Find another topic. I’m yawning here. It’s pretty inevitable that these two are going to end up together, so I could have done with a little less pining and a lot more explanation of this whole Undertaker and Graveminder business. I found some of the description of the Underworld place a little vague at times, too. The whole business about Rebekkah being shot and Mr. D. having some secret agenda was slightly confusing to me. I thought I’d missed something and I reread that part twice, still clueless.

What I did love though was the originality of the story. I loved that Claysville has this somewhat paranormal pact where no one dies until they hit 80 and no one can leave. I love Marr’s take on the zombie-type character, without it being a zombie. The chapters with Daisha freaked me out completely (until she became much more sentient). The horror/thriller aspect of the story was original and fresh. Sure the romance parts were predictable, but easily overlooked in my opinion because I was so enraptured by the Hungry Dead.

I have to say that I was almost completely in the dark about what was going on with the Hungry Dead, too, until a certain line had been spoken, then I was almost positive I knew what the Big Reveal would be. I was right, but it was also revealed in a twistier manner than I was expecting so it wasn’t too disappointing once I got to the end.

Overall, I think Melissa Marr’s debut into the adult literary world was a success. I was browsing through reviews on Goodreads and noticed that opinions of this novel are all over the place. I love that about a book! I’m in the middle of the love-hate group. I liked this novel a bunch, but it was slow to start and had some annoying looooooooooove issues (really, Byron, grow up, dude). I was creeped out and stayed up way past my exhaustion point where I lost vision in both eyes (when I get really sleepy my eyes dry out and blur like crazy. I was squinting so hard for the last 80 pages of the book I had a headache by the time I was done!). I am very happy to have been offered a chance to review this novel for you guys.

For those of you who might have started it and not finished it, I suggest this – try it out in October where the weather is gloomy and perfect for a creepy ghost story. Try reading it for Carl’s RIP challenge. Sometimes the right season can help you get into a story, at least I find that happens. Also remember, I found the start slow and almost gave up myself. Besides, look at that cover! I couldn’t put aside a book that looked THAT pretty! 😉

Spin

Spin
by Catherine McKenzie

Kate’s To-Do List:

1. Go to rehab
2. Befriend/spy on “It Girl”
3. Write killer expose
4. Land dream job

Piece of cake!

When Kate Sandford lands an interview at her favorite music magazine, The Line, it’s the chance of a lifetime. So Kate goes out to celebrate—and shows up still drunk to the interview the next morning. It’s no surprise that she doesn’t get the job, but her performance has convinced the editors that she’d be perfect for an undercover assignment for their gossip rag. All Kate has to do is follow “It Girl” Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop—and complete the thirty-day program—they’ll reconsider her for the position at The Line. Kate takes the assignment, but when real friendships start to develop, she has to decide if what she has to gain is worth the price she’ll have to pay. (goodreads.com)

Release date: February 7, 2012 (in the US) This has already been out in Canada for a year or so.

People. I should have read this years ago, before the rest of you and been telling you all of its amazingness all this time! I have failed you, Internet. I am a bad, bad Montrealer, Canadian and reader.

The first things that stood out to me as I read Spin were: a) Katie reminds me of Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich’s mystery series. Sure, Katie isn’t quite as inept as Stephanie, but her comments and sarcasm were up there. b) I laugh out loud with almost every page I turn. c) If I had a desk near me while I was reading I would have be banging my head against it saying “WHY DIDN’T I PICK  THIS UP SOONER!” I am very upset with myself over this.

I have seen many people call Spin “chick-lit”, and I guess you could call it that since the protagonist is female, but I really didn’t see it as chick-lit myself. (Never mind the fact that I have an aversion to being told I’m reading chick-lit!)

Katie is such a likeable, real character. She has her flaws (just like characters in Sarah Addison Allen’s stories, do) but she had them with humour and sarcasm. heh This story is refreshing in its originality even when you think it’s going to be a cookie cutter plot. Sure there’s a budding romance among the mess and a moral dilemma that’s sort of easy to see through, but the rest of the book was written so well that I honestly did not want this story to end.

While I was picturing Stephanie Plum as Katie (well, my imagination version of Ms. Plum) I was constantly picturing Amanda Seyfried as Amber Sheppard. I don’t know WHY I had an image of Amanda Seyfried in my mind, but I did. To be honest, I don’t even think she was described in any way similar to Ms. Seyfried, so my imagination just went down its own path. Still, it was sort of fun to picture AS in rehab in this situation.

One of my favourite parts of the story was when Katie had to fill out the Are You An Alcoholic? questionnaire before her admittance to the rehab centre. I laughed so hard at her answers and her reasoning behind them. I do believe this is the point that I realized Spin is going to rocket almost to the top of my Most Favourite Books Ever list. An author blurb on the cover of this book compared Katie to Bridget Jones, which I can sort of see. I laughed a lot while reading both Bridget Jones books, too.

I am someone who loves boarding school stories and stories set in institutions (like a psych ward), setting Spin in rehab made me think of Girl, Interrupted (which I adore) and I had to laugh when Katie makes a comment about having “another Girl, Interrupted moment” during the story.

Even the many, many references to songs and musical artists (since Katie is all about music and getting that dream job writing about it) were fun. Turns out, Katie and I share many a musical taste. There’s even a playlist listed at the end of the book so you can groove to all of the songs that are mentioned.

I do believe that even if you are more inclined to read YA novels, that you will find Spin HIGHLY enjoyable. Never mind that Katie has just turned 30, the humour and story are so worth picking up a copy of this book and savouring every page. I know a lot of you who read my blog are more YA-oriented, but please believe me when I say that Spin will not disappoint you. It’s not paranormal, it’s not about a teen, but it’s about a very real, flawed, likeable woman who has her coming of age a little bit late in life.

Go, now! Get thyself thy very own copy of Spin and watch how it just makes your day that much brighter!

(Thanks to William Morrow Paperbacks for the copy of this book – which I agreed to review even though I am not really accepting review books right now because I totally wanted to help promote a Montreal author! Montreal REPRESENT!)

Catherine graciously agreed to answer some questions for me as well (after I harassed her on twitter, because I am rude like that, yo!). You can check that out here!