Book Review | Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon Book Cover Review

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the novel.]

“Love is worth everything. Everything.”

I first heard about Everything, Everything at the wonderful #RHC Blogger Preview the ladies at Random House Canada hosted back in February. Everyone was super excited about it, and I couldn’t wait to read it! So, was Everything, Everything like the title suggests?

Everything, Everything is the story of Madeline Whittier, who has been confined to her house her whole life due to a sickness that makes her allergic to the outside world. She lives a sterile life inside her house with only her mom and her carer Carla to interact with. Then, one day, a new family moves in to the house next door. Suddenly, Maddy is tempted to risk everything, everything…

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s a quick read, the story is captivating (in fact, I read the whole book in only a few sittings), and it features illustrations that Yoon’s husband created (so cute!). It was a lot of fun, if you can call it that, getting to know Maddy and learning more about her situation as the book went on. I can hardly imagine not being able to go outside for something as simple as fresh air. Her friendship with the boy next door was exciting and dangerous and it reminded me how falling in like was like as a teenager (rare disease excepted).

That being said, it has been a few months since I read the book, and besides remembering all of the excitement I had for the first half of the book, I also started rethinking how I felt about the second half. It’s really hard to talk about it without revealing any essential information, but it did end up being quite unrealistic and over-dramatic, if I can say that. (Although, one could argue that the premise is unrealistic to begin with.) When I was reading the book I was completely swept away by it, and I guess what I’m trying to say is that after thinking about the book for a few months, I wish that there was more of a resolution at the end. I’m sure this paragraph has been terrible to read as I’m kind of beating around the bush, but I’d love to talk to anyone who’s finished the book already!

Verdict: I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for a quick teen read with a unique plot (and adorable illustrations), but be prepared that the second half (while incredibly fascinating) may not be as strong as the first half.

Read if: You’re looking for a quick read to get you out of a slump, are intrigued by how someone might live without ever going outside, want to read something created by a husband and wife team!

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Book Review + Giveaway | Spinster by Kate Bolick

Spinster Kate Bolick Book Review Cover One More Page

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the book.]

When you think of the word “spinster,” what comes to mind? In modern language, “spinster” often conjures images of sad women who live alone with perhaps one or more cats. Generally, “spinster” evokes the thought that these women have been unable to find partners. But what about those who willingly choose to be alone? Why is “spinster” associated with “failure?” Why are single men allowed to be called “bachelors.” while single women are labeled “cat ladies?” In Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, Kate Bolick attempts to reclaim the term, spinning it into an empowering expression that celebrates female independence and self-reliance.

The book is divided into 10 chapters, in which Bolick shares her personal experience with having the “spinster wish” to be alone and self-sufficient. She also shares her research on her five “awakeners,” Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edith Wharton, who proved to her that women can dare to make a life of their own.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As someone who is currently in a relationship, I went into the book a little nervous that Bolick would be pro-singledom and anti-coupledom. Luckily, that couldn’t have been farther than the truth. Bolick is not arguing for one relationship status or the other; what she really wants is to move past the idea that women are meant to be wives or nothing, and help society realize that women can fully rely on themselves, whether they’re in a relationship or not. It’s an encouraging yet realistic text, written from a place of personal experience and research. Bolick doesn’t claim that being a spinster is always easy, but she does make it clear how rewarding it can be.

Bolick’s five “awakeners” are all female writers, spanning mulitple generations. As such, this book does contain quite a bit of literary biography, which greatly appealed to me as a self-proclaimed literature nerd. This is a non-fiction book that reads like a story, making it perfect for a new-to-nonfiction reader like myself.

Whether you’re coupled or single, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own is an enlightening read that hopes to take the power back from the patriarchy and urge women to pursue their dreams and passions, whether that means being married or not. There are options for women outside of marriage, and Spinster works to remind us all of that while being respectful of everyone’s choices.

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to meet Kate Bolick in Toronto and, thanks to Random House Canada, I have a signed copy of this thought-provoking book to give away to one Canadian reader!

**CLICK HERE TO ENTER GIVEAWAY**

CONTEST RULES:
1. No purchase necessary.
2. Open to residents of Canada only.
3. If a winner is picked and their Twitter account only has giveaway entries, I will choose again (unless I can tell by their other accounts that they will actually read the book). I want the winner to genuinely enjoy these books!
4. Have fun and good luck!

Have you read Spinster? What does the term “spinster” mean to you? Would you consider yourself a “spinster sister?”

#RHCBloggerPreview: 10 Spring/Fall Titles to Put on Your Radar

Random House Canada RHC Blogger Preview

There are many reasons why I love being a book blogger, and one of them is being able to find out about new and exciting titles before they’re published. Last night, the wonderful ladies at Random House Canada (Lindsey, Aliya, and Jessica) hosted a blogger preview at their Toronto offices and it was a wonderful night learning about some of their upcoming books, chatting with fellow book-lovers, and munching on delicious pizza! I definitely left the event feeling super excited about the books they told us about, so I thought I would share my enthusiasm with you all. So, here is a list of 10 books that I think should be on everyone’s radar!

1. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume (June 2nd, 2015)

Judy Blume In The Unlikely Event Book Cover

Let’s just dive right in, shall we? I grew up reading (and loving) Judy Blume, so I couldn’t be more excited to hear that she is releasing a brand new adult novel. Based on true events that witnessed a series of passenger airplane crashes within a three-month period, In the Unlikely Event “bring[s] us the lives of three generations of families, friends, and strangers who will be profoundly affected by these events, either directly or indirectly.” Read more on Goodreads here.

2. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (March 3rd, 2015)

Kazuo Ishiguro The Buried Giant Book Cover

It’s been a decade since Never Let Me Go, but Kazuo Ishiguro is back with The Buried Giant! I’m really looking forward to reading this as I thoroughly enjoyed the #RemainsReread with Random House Canada last year where we read (or re-read) The Remains of the Day. (Read part 1 of my re-cap here.) This has been described as “a story of a marriage” as well as a “myth-like.” Aliya made a particularly great point about Ishiguro: (Paraphrased to the best of my ability!) “His books are not always easy, but they are always worth it. He never writes the same book twice.” Yep, I’m in. Read more on Goodreads here.

3. Boo by Neil Smith (May 12th, 2015)

Boo Neil Smith Book Cover

Lindsey introduced this book as “Lord of the Flies meets The Lovely Bones.” Intrigued yet? “In an afterlife exclusively for thirteen-year-olds, an oft-bullied social misfits makes the friends he never had on Earth in this charmingly quirky coming-of-age novel.” In parts a murder mystery, I think this book will have everyone buzzing when it comes out in May. Read more on Goodreads here.

4. We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen (May 12th, 2015)

We Are All Made of Molecules Susin Nielsen Book Cover

I have raved about Susin Nielsen before, but I couldn’t help squealing when We Are All Made of Molecules came on the screen at the conference. I have actually had the privilege of reading this book already, and it is amazing. Seriously, I have never disliked a Susin Nielsen book ever. This book is a “hilarious yet deeply moving story [about] a sweet, awkward boy and a not-so-sweet girl.” It has the perfect balance of laugh-out-loud funny and serious topics. SO. GOOD. Read more on Goodreads here.

5. Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin (March 17th, 2015)

Gretchen Rubin Better Than Before The Happiness Project

You may have heard of Gretchen Rubin before, as she is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project. In Better than Before, Rubin “tackles the question: How do we make good habits that are easy, effortless, and automatic?” I  am definitely a creature of habits (some of them bad), so this seems like just the book for me! Plus, I’m making it a point to read more non-fiction this year, so Better Than Before kills two birds with one stone. Score. Read more on Goodreads here.

6. A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install (August 4th, 2015)

A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install Book Cover

Everyone who has read A Robot in the Garden already seems to be enamored with it, and it’s not hard to see why. Described as “Pixar-esque” and “if Up and Wall-E had a baby” (credits go to Siobhan), this is a “funny, touching, charming, wise, and a bit magical novel that explores what it is to be a man, a sentient being, and even a parent.” It seems like Tang the robot will be one of those characters that we will love long after the book is done. Read more on Goodreads here.

7. His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay (August 11th, 2015)

His Whole Life Elizabeth Hay Book Cover

I have an embarrassing confession to make: I have never read anything by Elizabeth Hay. It’s never too late to start though, right? His Whole Life is sure to be a big Canadian release, and I can’t wait to read this book that “[starts] with something as simple as a boy who wants his dog [and] takes us into a richly intimate world where everything that matters to him is at risk: family, nature, home.” Lindsey called this book “a story of a family” and “really accessible,” so I’m excited to make this my first book by Hay. Read more on Goodreads here.

8. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (June 9th, 2015)

Finding Audrey Sophie Kinsella Book Cover

My heart started doing crazy things when this book was introduced. If you know me, you’ll know that I love the Shopaholic series, so it’s no surprise that I’d be excited for Sophie Kinsella’s venture into writing for young adults. I’m especially interested in Finding Audrey as it deals with anxiety disorder and psychological recovery. Plus, how amazing is that cover?? Read more on Goodreads here.

9. Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs by Davide Cali; illustrated by Raphaelle Barbanegre (April 14th, 2015)

Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs Davide Cali Raphaelle Barbanegre Book Cover

What if Snow White didn’t have to entertain 7 dwarfs, but 77? This is a picture book reimagining of the famous Snow White tale “with hilarious results.” It’s “a funny, twisted retelling for fans of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and The Three Pigs by David Weisner.” We were shown a few of the illustrations at the conference, and I thought those alone made the book worthy of picking up. I’m intrigued by this one! Read more on Goodreads here.

10. Good Food, Good Life: 130 Simple Recipes You’ll Love to Make and Eat by Curtis Stone (March 10, 2015)

Good Food, Good Life Curtis Stone Recipe Book Cover

We all agree that Curtis Stone has a “media-friendly” (read: attractive) face, but that’s not the only reason to check Good Food, Good Life out. As someone who always struggles to find recipes that are both easy to make and delicious, this sounds like just the book for me. “Recipes include Butternut Squash with Sage Brown Butter, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Alabama BBQ Sause and Asparagus, …” I’m drooling just thinking about it. Read more on Goodreads here.

Honourable mentions (Fall titles!):

  • The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. It’s a new Margaret Atwood book. What more do I need to say?
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Aliya loved “everything, everything” about this book. It’s about a girl who is allergic to everything and has to live a sterile life. What will happen to her when she falls in love with the boy next door? What intrigued me the most about this one is that there is artwork throughout the book. Ooooooh!
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. This sounds similar to The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and is a must-read for book lovers. I think the story speaks for itself. I’m sold.

So there you have it! It was so difficult to choose only 10 books, but somehow I managed. Are you excited about any of these upcoming titles? Are there any other books that should be on my radar?

*Thank you again to Random House Canada for hosting this fun event!

Book Review + Giveaway | If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

For Will Cardiel, the Outside is uncharted territory. He’s been living with his agoraphobic mother Diane inside their house in Thunder Bay, Ontario for most of his life, opening the door only for deliverymen to collect cheques and drop off groceries and items they order online. Will has always seen himself as his mother’s protector from what he calls “Black Lagoon,” and he spends his days Inside drawing masterpieces and keeping his mother company. Inside was all he ever needed – until a loud bang from Outside piques his curiosity and lures him out of the safety of his home. What follows is a story ripe with adventure, bravery, and most of all, love.

I was lucky enough to be invited to Michael Christie’s book launch here in Toronto at the independent bookstore Type Books (creators of this amazing video, by the by) this week. I was extremely excited to attend the event because I absolutely adored the novel and wanted to learn more about the writing process from the author himself. I was able to chat briefly with Christie at the event where he told me that it took him four years to write the book, during which he read over 40 memoirs so he could feel confident in writing about a character with agoraphobia. His dedication to his research really shines through in If I Fall, If I Die, as Diane is an extremely complex yet utterly believable character at the same time. I loved that the “Relaxation Time” chapters gave Diane a voice in between chapters told from Will’s point of view, as it can be argued that her progress throughout the book is just as momentous as his.

If I Fall If I Die Michael Christie Map of Thunder Bay

A map of If I Fall, If I Die’s Thunder Bay.

It always catches me off guard how packed 300 odd pages can be. Diane’s story could have easily been a novel on its own, but in If I Fall, If I Die, it is just one part of a larger story. Once Will takes his first steps and becomes acquainted with the Outside world, he (and the reader, along with him) is almost immediately swept up in the “criminal underbelly of city life,” teaming up with his new friend Jonah on a quest to find a missing boy. They navigate their way in and out of Thunder Bay, collecting clues and learning how to lift fingerprints. Will’s Outside world is both scary and comforting at the same time as he discovers that he is simultaneously stronger and more vulnerable than he ever knew he could be.

I was thoroughly impressed by how, on top of the boys’ adventuring and Diane’s mental illness, Christie managed to fill an action-packed book with meaning and things to think about. The book is not only a coming of age story, but also one about the complexities of the mother/son relationship and a stark commentary on the racial prejudices against First Nations peoples in Thunder Bay. But while there is a seriousness to the story, Christie effortlessly infuses humour and completely normal situations to this captivating tale. One of my favourite parts in the book were those where Will and Jonah were practicing on their skateboards; in those moments, the story becomes a universal one, and readers get a glimpse into a very organic relationship between boys and their boards. Knowing that Christie was a professional skateboarder made it even more special; I guess it’s true that passions stay with us forever.

Like most of my favourite books, If I Fall, If I Die has layers upon layers to be dissected, analyzed, and loved. It was a pleasure to read a book that was able to capture so many voices so accurately with such beautiful prose and emotion. This is a book you won’t want to miss in 2015.

Luckily, thanks to the always-generous Random House Canada, you can enter to win a copy of this wonderful book here on my blog!

**CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY**

CONTEST RULES:
1. No purchase necessary.
2. Open to residents of Canada only.
3. If a winner is picked and their Twitter account only has giveaway entries, I will choose again.
I want the winner to genuinely enjoy these books!
4. Have fun and good luck!

Have you read If I Fall, If I Die? Do you have a favourite CanLit book? (This one is in my top ten.)

Book Review | The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

The Strange Library Haruki Murakami Book Cover North America

[I received a copy of The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami (Translated by Ted Goossen) from its Canadian publisher Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the novel.]

After my first experience with Murakami earlier this year, I’ve been eager to read more from this famous Japanese writer. Well, I’m happy to report that my second encounter with Murakami’s wonderful (translated) writing did not disappoint.

The first surprise, for me, was the book’s presentation. The book was shrink wrapped when I received it, and before opening the package, I thought that the cover was to be removed completely, like a sliding cover of sorts. But, to my delight, I was wrong:

The Strange Library Haruki Murakami North American Book Cover Sample

…instead of sliding off, the book opens outwards! This in itself made the book feel unique and special, but it doesn’t stop there. The book is filled with funky graphics and photographs that really add to the strangeness of the story. It ties the book together in a really uncanny way, and I especially loved the consecutive images towards the end of the story. (Kudos to Chip Kidd, who once again has created an unforgettable work of art.)

But perhaps I should rewind and go back to the basics: the story. The novel (or, perhaps more accurately, graphic short story), is called The Strange Library and a strange library it truly is. Other words I’d use to describe it: peculiar, haunting, nightmarish. The basic plot: a boy walks in to his local library looking for some books about taxation during the Ottoman Empire, and is instead sucked into a confusing labyrinth where he meets a sly old man, a “sheep man,” and a beautiful girl. He soon learns that the library is a prison, and that his captor has no intentions of letting him out. Can he work together with his odd companions to escape? Or will he be stuck in this torturous library forever?

I found this story particularly interesting because there seemed to be a lot of symbolism and imagery that demanded the reader’s attention and begged to be analyzed. I think, on the surface, this is a curious, somewhat scary story about a boy trapped in a library, but underneath it all, is a tale about fear, loneliness, and loss. At 96 pages, I was able to read this book in one sitting but its length is deceiving as it packs a lot into its pages. If you’ve been following my blog you may remember how I sometimes have a hard time with shorter stories; I sometimes find them underdeveloped or too short for my taste (even though I realize that short stories are, by nature, short). However, I did not have problems with The Strange Library‘s length, and I definitely attribute that to Murakami’s wild imagination and Goossen’s translation. Even though I am considering the book read at this point, I still feel like there’s so much more to discover. I will most definitely be re-reading this book.

As a sort of aside, I’m not sure how the book appears on e-readers, but I would suggest reading this in print. The coloured pages and the inventive design makes it so, so worth it.

Verdict: Another strong Murakami read for me. This story is so delightfully haunting and weird that I just can’t stop thinking about it. I’m looking forward to re-reading it and discovering new things every time.

Read if: You’re looking for a short but wildly imaginative read, enjoy books that are illustrated or have a graphic component to it, are a English-speaking Murakami fan that just can’t wait to see what he has in store for us. (I am officially jumping on the Murakami fan bandwagon!)

Have you read The Strange Library? What did you make of everything that happened? Do you think what happened was real? If you haven’t read the book, do you think you will?

Book Review + Q&A | Alphabetique by Molly Peacock

Alphabetique Molly Peacock Characteristic Fictions Book Cover Book Review

[I received a copy of this book from its publisher Random House of Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the novel.]

This is going to be a special post! I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to share some questions answered by Molly with you (thank you, Random House Canada!), so keep reading to find the Q&A section at the end of my review (spoiler: I loved the book!). 😉

Once I read Molly Peacock’s dedication — “To all those who imagine alternative lives” — I knew that I would enjoy her new book Alphabetique: 26 Characteristic Fictions.

Presented as 26 short stories, Peacock imagines the lives of each letter in the alphabet as if they were all alive. From “C, the Softie” to “E’s Encyclopedia of Emotions” and “R and her Great Egret,” these individual letters, under Peacock’s wing, have the capacity to feel real, actualized emotions and live full anthropomorphic lives.

Weaved throughout this unique and inventive concept is Peacock’s lyrical, poetic prose and deft commentary. One of my favourite lines from the book comes from “C, the Softie.” In the story, “c” learns that not all feelings can be translated into words, that “confusion is necessary before conclusion.” Peacock elaborates,

“Not everything charms into words instantly. Some things whinny inside you or skitter out as hooves of colour and later clang like horseshoes against a forge. Some things can’t be crammed into a concept. They just have to be cried.” (page 12)

This is just one of the many poignant statements Peacock makes in Alphabetique. As someone who isn’t always able to express their emotions so beautifully, these small details and observations added an extra element to the book for me to admire and love.

Not all of the stories are so serious though: “While Jiggle Juggles, J Makes Jam” is a pleasure to read out loud due to its abundant alliteration (a device that is used throughout this delightful book); “O’s Full Circle” is a sexy story about a letter learning to feel comfortable in her own body; “T’s Diary” reveals a self portrait that records much more than vanity. As a collection, these stories are wonderful reads for the dreamers and language lovers out there. They are smart, well-written, and have a lot of heart. Some read like poems while others are fairy tale-like. I would be surprised to find someone who doesn’t love it.

Verdict: An impressive collection of short stories that wowed me. The stories put a smile on my face with its intelligence and wittiness. Go ahead and read it – you won’t be disappointed.

Read if: You’re a dreamer, love fairy tales and short stories, and are ready to go on a whimsical, smart, alliterative journey. If you’ve ever wondered what each letter of the alphabet would be like if they were capable of thinking and feeling.

***

Now for the question and answer part!

Q: What’s the importance of noticing in our everyday lives? (I was especially excited to read Molly’s answer to this because from reading her book, it really seems like she picks up on all the little details of life! Her answer is just as beautiful and poetic as I’d imagined it would be.)
A: When you notice something, even if it’s only a button or an orange or the pattern in a sidewalk grate, it’s as if someone has handed you a rarity. Attention creates luxury because it stops time. For a suspended moment you are calmly energized by what you are seeing, hearing, and touching. It brings you back to your senses. Even the gravel beneath your feet becomes a marvel of a mosaic.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Go with the Flaw.

Q: What words do you try to live by?
A: Only do what you can only do.

Q: Pencil or pen?
A: Pencil for poetry on blue lined pads. Computer for prose!

Q: Do you get jealous of other writers?
A: Sure, but then I remember Jean Rhys who said, “we’re all just drops in the ocean of literature.”

Q: What’s your practical advice for writers?
A: Schedule your writing. I mean that. Actually schedule the time you write. Then when your family and your job and Grandma and the wolf and your dentist demand your time, you can actually look at your calendar and say, I’m sorry, I can’t make it then. Can you do 2:15pm instead? If your time to write is actually designated in your ical, or written in your datebook, all those around you (including you yourself) will take it seriously. Your calendar is a monument to your time. Carve it—or be carved.

***
I also recently learned that Molly has an Alphabetique Advent Calendar for those of you who can’t wait to start getting into the countdown spirit! The calendar has already started, but you can subscribe to it here and see the archive as well!

Plus, don’t forget to follow Molly on Facebook, Twitter, or at www.mollypeacock.org!

Thanks again to Random House Canada for this wonderful opportunity!

Have you read Alphabetique? For those of you who have, did you have a favourite letter?

Giveaway | Not That Kind of Girl: A Night With Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham Not That Kind of Girl Toronto

Lena Dunham has been someone I’ve admired for quite a while. I think that she’s an important public figure in that she seems like a pretty down-to-earth person with a lot of interesting things to say, especially about gender relations and mental health. I am a huge fan of her show GIRLS and I devoured her newly-released memoir Not That Kind of Girl in two days (in my opinion, I read it a little too quickly, but that’s what re-reads are for, right?). So, when I managed to snag tickets to see her in Toronto, I was over the moon.

When I watched GIRLS for the first time, I was in a place in my life where I felt like I was getting it together but also not really getting it. I found a lot of myself (and my friends) in the girls in the show, and the honesty with which it portrayed women (or, at least, a group of women) really impressed me. I finally felt like there was a show that was real; it wasn’t sugar-coated or tied up neatly. I could relate to it. Oh, and did I mention that on top of that it’s also funny and thought-provoking? Because it’s both of those things too.

I’m happy to report that Lena in person is just as impressive as Lena on screen or Lena in writing. Her answers to interviewer Johanna Schneller’s questions were smart, humorous, and honest. She was very articulate and charming and I agreed with a lot of the things she said. Since I was basically in awe the whole time I was at the event (honestly, it felt like such a surreal night), I didn’t think to write down any quotes; luckily, Jessica from Paper Trail Diary has a wonderful re-cap that I urge you to check out.

After her on-stage interview, Lena signed copies of her book. She was incredibly friendly and really took the time to talk to each of her fans. She even personalized each book, which I wasn’t expecting her to do since the line up was so long. I was a jumble of nerves when talking to her but I managed to get a few words out and I’m glad I got the chance to tell her how much I love her work. It was truly a magical night.

Now, here’s the fun part! I want to share my love for Lena Dunham with YOU! I was able to get an extra copy of the book signed, so I’m giving it away to one lucky reader!

**CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY**

CONTEST RULES:
1. No purchase necessary.
2. Open to residents of Canada + the United States only.
3. If a winner is picked and their Twitter account only has giveaway entries, I will choose again.
I want the winner to genuinely enjoy these books!
4. Have fun and good luck!

Are you a fan of Lena Dunham? Will you be checking out (or have you read) Not That Kind of Girl?

Book Review | Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult Leaving Time Book Review Book Cover

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Random House of Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the novel.]

If you’re a reader, I’m sure Jodi Picoult needs no introduction. Since publishing her first book in 1992, she has written 20 more novels, including Leaving Time. That’s pretty much one book a year. Impressive, right? I’m a little ashamed to say that Leaving Time was my first experience reading Picoult. However, I’m not ashamed to say that I couldn’t put the novel down once I had started it. 

Leaving Time is a detective novel of sorts, as it follows 13 year-old Jenna Metcalf as she recruits two unlikely companions to help her find her missing mother. You see, many years ago, Jenna’s parents owned and ran an elephant sanctuary until one unfortunate night where an accident happens inside an elephant enclosure and Alice Metcalf is never seen again. Where did Alice go? Is she safe? Why didn’t she bring Jenna with her? Will Jenna be able to find out the truth of what happened to her mom?

This book touches on many things that draw me into books: a missing character, a fierce immovable, hopeful love, and a group of characters yearning for second chances. Picoult uses multiple narratives to give her main characters their own voice, and they all reveal a bit of themselves to readers as time passes. It’s interesting to note that Alice is one of these narrators, though it is unclear in the beginning where she is narrating from. This adds to the intrigue of the novel, and as each of the characters involved in the “incident” come under scrutiny, readers start to question everything they thought they knew – especially when it comes to Alice. Why did Alice leave? Was it out of fear? Something else?

Though the story of Alice’s disappearance takes up a lot of the plot, one of the most endearing things about Leaving Time was the trio that sets out to uncover the truth. On her quest to find her mom, Jenna recruits Serenity and Virgil, a psychic and a former detective. It was wonderful to watch as the trio’s relationship developed, especially since Serenity believes in (or knows, rather) a more spiritual world whereas Virgil is deeply invested in science and facts. Somehow, these seemingly discordant elements find their way together in Leaving Time.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fascinating elephant observations that take up a major part of the novel. Both of Jenna’s parents were elephant researchers before the enclosure accident and much of Alice’s narration focuses on her studies, especially her findings on elephants and grief. Alice is fixated on the relationship between an elephant and her calf, and what happens if either of them are left behind. This ties in well with Jenna’s journey to find her mom and made me wonder whether we’re not so different from other creatures after all.

I’m glad that the characters, mystery, and elephant facts were such an interesting read because I did, unfortunately, find the ending to be a little anticlimactic. Though I wasn’t able to predict how the book would end, I couldn’t help but wonder if a more perceptive reader might have. That being said, a good book is as much about the journey as the destination, so I would still confidently recommend Leaving Time for anyone who wants a fast-paced and captivating read.

Verdict: A strong, engrossing read despite a somewhat anticlimactic ending. It features some very strong relationships that are wonderful to read about and a plot that will keep you turning the pages until you’re finished. Plus, there are elephant facts and jokes!

Read if: You love reading and learning about elephants, are a sucker for books that focus on mother-daughter relationships (like me), want to read a book that will keep you up reading past your bedtime. 😉

Have you read anything by Jodi Picoult? Will you be picking up Leaving Time?

10 Reasons Why I’m Thankful For Blogging and the Bookish Community

Karen One More Page Blog

When I started One More Page less than 8 months ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I mean, I knew it would entail a lot of reading and reviewing, but I had absolutely no clue how much it would, not to be too hyperbolic, change my life. I know it sounds crazy, but when I take an introspective moment and think about where I was last year compared to this year, I realize that book blogging has made a huge positive difference. Last year was difficult for a few reasons: I had just moved from Vancouver to Toronto and thus hardly knew anyone in this big city, I had just moved in with my boyfriend and that needed getting used to, and, to be honest, I had no idea how to work towards my passions even though I felt a strong urge to do something. So, as I gear up to celebrate Canadian thanksgiving this year, I thought I’d list 10 reasons why I’m thankful for blogging and the bookish community.

1. The amazing books I hear about on a daily basis.

I’m sure all book lovers will agree with me that our to-be-read piles can get pretty out of control. Well, let me tell you, book blogging and being more active in the online bookish community has definitely exposed me to A LOT of amazing books daily. I have to carefully pick and choose which ones to add to my to-read list or else it would be even crazier than it is now, but I’m thankful for the fact that I am constantly finding new books to love.

2. It has broadened my reading horizons.

The great thing about learning about so many new books every day is that some of them are books I never would have heard of otherwise. Better yet – some of these books are ones that I would never think to pick up had I not heard about them from trusted friends. Being in this community has given me a sense of adventure when it comes to reading again, and for that I’m thankful.

3. The community.

Who would I turn to when I need book recommendations if not for this wonderful, welcoming community? Whether I’m having a bad day and need someone to vent to or have just read an AMAZING book that I NEED to talk to someone about, you guys have always been there to listen. I’m so, so thankful for you!!

4. It has taught me not to be ashamed of what I like to read (aka taking the “guilty” out of “guilty pleasure”!)

When I was still in university and an English major, I would sometimes feel guilty admitting that I was REALLY excited for the new Shopaholic book or the new Meg Cabot novel. However, since joining the blogging/bookish community, I have finally found friends who understand what a hunk Michael Moscovitz is (Hi, Adriana!) and this has really made me come out of the “guilty” shell. So what if I occasionally love reading “chick lit” or young adult novels? That doesn’t make me better or worse than any other reader. Thank you, all, for finally setting me straight.

5. The wonderful friends I have met in real life.

As I mentioned before, I hardly knew anyone in the city besides my family members, boyfriend, and work friends after moving here last year. I’m so thankful for the bustling Toronto literary scene and for the wonderful bookish people that organize and go to those events! Thanks to these events, I’ve been able to meet some amazing people in real life and even though we don’t hang out all the time, it makes me so happy to see a familiar face from time to time. I want to make a special shout-out to Leah from Books Speak Volumes: I’m so thankful that you drove all the way to Toronto just to hang out!! Also thanks to CJ from ebookclassics for co-hosting the book blogger brunch with me! I can’t wait to do it all again. 🙂

One More Page kmn04books Summer Book Picks

 6. The authors.

Where would we all be without the amazing, inventive, and compassionate authors that write books for us to love every day? I’ve been so lucky to meet some wonderfully inspiring writers over the past year! Thank you all for writing books that have truly made me think, feel, and dream! Now if only I could get over that stutter I seem to develop when I’m near authors I love…

7. The opportunities.

There is no denying that book blogging has introduced me to things that I never would have been able to experience otherwise. Thank you to Penguin Canada for sending me my very first review book (the beautiful, heartfelt The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry), to Random House Canada for always being so supportive of me and my blog, to House of Anansi/Groundwood Books for understanding how cathartic it is to read books that make you cry, to the many other publishers and authors that have gotten in touch, and, most recently, the CBC for giving me my five minutes of fame on their website! 🙂

8. It’s really helped me feel at home in a big city like Toronto.

I know I’ve kind of touched on this earlier, but meeting bookish friends and attending literary events around the city has made me feel so much more comfortable here. I love that the bookish world is truly such a community, and such a friendly one at that! Book people are truly the best people. 🙂

9. It has pushed me to really love reading again after not reading for a year.

With the added exposure to so many great books, it would be difficult for me to NOT fall back in love with reading! I really believe that everyone is a reader. If you don’t think you like reading, it’s probably because you haven’t found the right book for you yet! I’m thankful for my reignited passion for reading.

10. It has confirmed my love for the bookish world and just how much I want my career path to be related to books.

Back when I was deciding whether to “take a risk” and become an English major, the main source of stress was the worry that nothing would come out of it career-wise. Well, three years have passed since I decided to dedicate all of my time and energy into literature and books and I really can’t say I regret it at all. My blogging journey has only reaffirmed how much I want to be, to quote Ariel, a part of this world. My goals are now clearer than ever and I am really, truly thankful. From the bottom of my heart.

I’m a little worried that I got too sappy there, but everything I’ve written here is true. I have so much love for what I do with One More Page and I am grateful for everyone that I’ve met and everything that I’ve learned in the past 8 months. Thank you thank you thank you. (I think I should also give a mini thank you to Sean, who doesn’t ever lose it when I keep getting more and more books…)

What are you thankful for this year, book-related or otherwise?

Book Review | The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan The Children Act Book Review Book Cover

I have a confession to make: I’ve never read an Ian McEwan book before this, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Not for any big reason, but I had missed the Atonement train when it came out years ago and I didn’t feel particularly compelled to read The Children Act the day it came out. However, as luck would have it, I randomly came across it at the library (the library’s bookmobile, to be exact) and thought, Why not? The best thing about the library is that it’s free.

Well, friends, I finished reading The Children Act a few nights ago and I’m glad I did.

The Children Act is mainly about Fiona Maye, a High Court Judge who specializes in the family court. When the book starts, Fiona and her husband Jack are in the midst of an argument. Jack feels unsatisfied in their marriage, and proposes something that he thinks could make things easier. However, Fiona sees the suggestion as an ultimatum and her ego -or sensitivity- prevents her from admitting to Jack what is really bothering her that’s causing her to be so cold towards him. It turns out an old case has “left a scar tissue in her memory,” and has followed her from work into her daily life. What she doesn’t know is that her upcoming case, one that centres around a dying boy and his parents’ beliefs, will take this to the next extreme…

The Children Act balances Fiona’s court cases and personal life very well, giving the same attention to both. I sympathized with the ambitious, childless Fiona and found myself rooting for her and Jack to be okay. The novel’s big court case raises a lot of tough questions about religion and morals as well as the relationship between a Judge and her cases. Do Judges ever regret their rulings? Are they morally responsible for their cases after they’ve been closed? I found these questions to be very interesting and I find myself thinking about it even a few days later.

At only 221 pages long, this is a relatively short, fast-paced novel. I found it very stirring emotionally and the main case had my nose glued to the book until it was over. I’m not sure it’s a book I love enough to re-read, but it definitely engaged me throughout the reading process and left me with difficult questions to think about.

Verdict: A fast-paced novel that asks questions about the legal system, religion, and how little things have the power to affect us in big ways. A gripping read that I felt offered me a good introduction to McEwan’s work. I would definitely read another book by him.

Read if: You enjoy reading about legal cases, want to find out what the Children Act is, love books that have characters that you will want to root for and never forget.