Sunday, December 30, 2012

Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy New Year

It's the most wonderful time of the year - no really. I love December, Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, whatever it is you celebrate (and I celebrate most of them with equal love).  I love this time of year because it's the time of year when you get together with family, keep traditions, mourn the loss of old ones, and create new ones. It's been a year of change for me, personally and professionally, and I have nothing but hope for 2013.

My family and friends know me really well - well enough to know that when they're at a loss for what to get me (hell, now even when they aren't) they just get me a gift certificate for books. Seriously, I broke into the triple digits for book gift certificates this year.  I used to get actual books - I'd write a list and divide it up between everyone who liked buying me presents and then they'd pick and choose which books they wanted to get me. We all got over that, and everyone realized just handing me a gift certificate wasn't actually a cop-out.  That's a lie. My best friend actually bought me a real book, but she's allowed because she gets me.

That pile of books you see is part of the pile of books I bought with the big-chain bookstore gift certificates (the used book store ones will require more thought).  Here's the thing: I'm a librarian. I love the library. I really really do. Go to the library, we have books and not books, and movies and tons of awesome stuff. But I love having books - actual books, that I can read more than once, and lend out, and maybe get back and read again. So far one of these books is now arguably my favourite book ever (Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore), I finally replaced JPod (seriously, I've owned about 6 copies of this book and they keep mysteriously disappearing), and sorry library hold list a mile long, I just bought Escape from Camp 14.

So come at me 2013.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate

I love historical fiction. Love, love, love. Ariana Franklin's Mistress in the Art of Death is one of my favourite series, brilliantly written with a fantastic plot.  I've been looking for something to fill the void, and so was excited to get sent this ARC. I also admit, I'm one of those people who generally guesses if I'll like books based on the publisher, and while I admittedly haven't read much of Minotaur, I love St. Martin's Press (no they didn't pay me to say that, I get nothing for it. I mean, feel free to send me books, but really, I won't, and I just generally like them as a publisher).

Anyways, so I was sent A Murder at Rosamund's Gate, and lo, I had my holiday reading. Except I read it before the holidays. Oops.

I think first off I'm guessing they're setting this up as a series, though I could very easily be off in guessing that because the book stands pretty solidly as a stand-alone. Generally I really loved the books. The characters are endearing and well written - Lucy Campion is fun heroine because she's not really a heroine. The other characters aren't just there as props, you get drawn into the class politics that permeated 17th century England (A topic I admittedly can always get behind) and the story itself rather cleverly brings together a murder mystery, socio-economic politics, religious drama (The Quakers are coming!) and the looming of the plague. Calkins does so in a way that doesn't make it seem like she's just throwing it all in because she has to, but really makes it into a wonderful story that doesn't feel at all crammed together. Calkins also clearly is a excellent storyteller with a knack for character writing.

I'd wholeheartedly recommend this book to a pretty wide variety of people - personally I loved it and it both met, and exceeded my expectations of what I wanted from it.

*** I was sent this book by the publisher - all opinions are my own.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios

So fun facts about me: I great up in Stratford (Ontario, not England) and the Festival was a huge part of basically everyone's lives - your parents worked there (yes, my mom did), you knew someone who did, your family business supported the tourists, or you worked there (yep, I did!) and it was basically non optional that you'd go there as a school and then camp field trip (True story, I saw Alice through the Looking Glass 6 times because of school and various camps) (I also hated it) (Sorry Sarah Polly).  Unlike most elementary schools (or so I hear) we also studied Shakespeare all through grade school- one of the other schools did this whole big thing where they painted pictures, and their teacher re-wrote the plays to be accessible. My slacker school just had us read these books, and watch cartons.

So basically I'm saying that while I'm in no way claiming to be a scholar, I got Shakespeare. My favourite play is Pericles, my favourite character is King Lear and I can explain to you in detail why the Globe, and therein Main Stage have thrust stages. So I was tentatively excited to have won this book, because with great power, comes great responsibility. By that I mean if people find out you're from Stratford, everyone becomes and expert and tells you AT LENGTH everything they know about Shakespeare and blah blah blah. From that, I do know that arguably the First Folio of Shakespeare is one of the most important publications in terms of modern English (the others probably include the King James Bible and a terrifying number of others I'm too tired to be clever about), and I also knew (because this is something we all know in Stratford (you're thrown out if you don't)) that about 1000 copies were printed, and apparently 232 have been accounted for.  We know this, because Eric Rasmussen has a crack team of Folio Hunters. True Story, when I was a kid, I wanted to be on this crack team but then oops I got distracted by something shiny.

But this is a review, so here you go:  Rasmussen formed his team in the mid-90's with the goal of documenting as many surviving copies as possible and determining their provenance - this books is kind of a best of of what his team did. The world they discovered was... fascinating, obsessive and mildly terrifying. I don't really want to get into the stories, because I think that that ruins things, but it includes Cubans, a Pope, a bricklayer and a playboy. I don't really want to get into it, because if you're interested you should just go read it because it's a fun romp through a thoroughly obsessive and mildly insane group of people who are trying to do the impossible because you know that the next copy is hidden in Great Great Aunty Muriel's attic, under a million fur coats and possibly in a trunk that you lost the key to.

So here's the thing. I wouldn't recommend this to someone unless I knew they a) loved shakespeare b) loved anecdotes or c) were really into the tracking of loss of historical record (it's a thing, I promise).  That all being said, I really did enjoy the book. It's a fast read that make me laugh, taught me things about how books are lost, found and faked and generally was clever and interesting. A lot of the problems I've seen people have with it is that the author didn't get into a lot of detail about the stories - Rasmussen kind of flung the story at you, but glossed over the heavy investigative/academic work that you all know they did. I don't actually have an issue with him having done this- and I think it was the right choice. That stuff he glossed over  is intense, and usually not in a way that would be interesting to a lay person reading it. I do admittedly wish he got into a bit more detail with some of the stories I found more interesting, but I think he was going for a kind of overall quick "Hey, this is what we're doing isn't it cool" thing with the book. Basically? Yeah, yeah it is cool.

*** I was sent this book by the publisher- all opinions are my own.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Born Weird

Born Weird is... Weird. I know, I know I'm ridiculously original  with saying that. So clever, people should pay me to write this stuff. So I knew nothing about Kaufman, other than I had heard about him vaguely at the only Toronto literary thing I've been to literally in 3 years when someone told me he was funny.

The thing is, everyone's family is weird.  We all say that, right? I'm pretty sure we all also say "ha ha you think your family is weird, but compared to mine they're normal".  Well folks, we're basically all mad here, and that's kind of the core of Born Weird. Kaufman drags a family who was blessing/cursed/blursed by The Shark (aka Grandma, and really, who's Grandma wasn't a shark?) so they could survive being raised by their too young kind of crazy parents.  Grandma Weird (ok, so to clarify, really, their last name is Weird) decided the blessings-turned-curses need to go, and says she'll get rid of them on the day she dies and her (youngest?) grandchild Angie proceeds to go on a mildly mad-cap journey across Canada and randomly Upliffta (it's a thing. If I explain why it's a thing, I'll ruin the thing, so I'm not ging to explain the thing) to gather her siblings so they will no longer be cursed. Obviously, they all show up, or the curses don't get lifted.  It's a fairy tale guys.

So also hilariously, Goodreads has this on the Fantasy shelf. That confuses me a little, but it does have a princess so I guess I'm ok with it. The book is strange, quirky and full of family drama.  It's a quick read, and  admittedly adorable (though I kind of feel the author will hate I called it adorable) even if it is a little confusing.

*** I was sent this book by the publisher - all opinions are my own.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Winter Witch

So here's the thing about Goodreads Giveaways. I don't enter all of them - I have this ridiculous mindset that if I enter to win ALL THE BOOKS by some twist of fate I'll only win the ones I don't really want to read. So I did legitimately want to read this book. I've been (really) meaning to read Paula Brackston's The Witch's Daughter for years and I keep getting distracted. So when I saw The Winter Witch I was excited because hey, distract myself with a book I've literally been meaning to read for years with a new one by the same author.

This book hits a lot of boxes for me - Historical Fiction, specifically Celtic History, Fantasy, Magic, Witches and more importantly, latent Witches. A part of life that anyone from that culture gets. It's also a YA book, and recently I'm loving them - part work related, part they're just plain good. I love the 500 Kingdom's books, and it wasn't until after I read them I found out they were a) YA books and b) put out by Harlequins' teen branch. I've touched on this before. Still baffled. Either way, so YA books. I like them.

So here's the good - I read a lot of Historical Fiction, I got my undergrad degree in it so I have a general at least latent knowledge of history and I like it. The book was spot on for where a historical fiction book should be - it was written in a way that didn't make it seem like Brackston was throwing in historical facts just because, the details were woven in beautifully and as a HF book, it was very well done.  Morgana was a lovely character, with depth and excellent character development. Cai was also well done and gave a fascinating prospective.  The writing itself was also generally solid, and it was a very readable book.

The less good is that I actually didn't love the book. The characters other than Morgana and Cai were slightly on dimensional and it felt like some of the details were a bit thrown together. I delayed writing this review because I wasn't entirely sure why the book didn't grip me and I think it's because (this kills me to say because I hate trilogies) but I kind of wonder if this should have been book one of a trilogy.  Brackckston is clearly a fantastic writer, with creative lovely ideas and fantasic plots.  I think if there had been a bit more character development for the other characters, and a little more time given to the ending it would have been an amazing read.

*** I was sent this book by the publisher - all opinions are my own.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The River

I am putting this out there right off: I am unsure how I feel about this book.  I've been sitting on this review a little, hoping I would figure it out, but no dice, so here's what you get. First off, since I picked this book up I had A Change is Gonna Come pretty much stuck in my head. So you're welcome for that. But really, the like "It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die" probably sums up where this book is at pretty well.

So here's the thing, I ditzed out when I first requested the book, and somehow I missed that this was a Christian novel. So I was being me, and updating my status on GoodReads to having it as 'read' and lo, I saw that it was a Christian > Inspirational book. So that kind of changed my framing of how I read the book because at the same time it makes more and less sense. So again, full disclaimer, I am not Christian, and didn't realize it WAS a Christian book. So basically my take away is this book can either be read as an adventure story, or an inspirational story. I read it as the former.

This book was... emotional. For lack of a better term. There were a lot of highs and lows and even though it was a bit of a slow read, I don't mean that in any negative way. The River makes a lot of promises that it will change your worldview and it fell a bit short on that to me. It was a good book, that draws you in and you don't want to stop reading it - even when you are a bit frustrated with the writing.  Basically, I think what I'm saying is I see why people loved the book, and I see why people were totally apathetic to it. This is probably  a horrible review, but it's actually not because I've recommended this book a few times, and I would recommend it again.

**I received a free copy of the e-book from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I heard about this book a while ago, and have meant to grab a copy for a while.  I don't know what took me so long (I know, a month after publication. Slacker.).  The premise sounded fabulous - based on the true story of a dead prostitute's frozen body found propped up at city hall when suffrage was in it's height, Casanova chose to tell the story through a fictional 16 year old daughter. The basic premise is that 16 year old Sadie Rose lost the ability to speak after her mother died 11 years ago.  She was taken in by a senator, and Sadie feels pressure to be who they want her to be, even if she isn't quite sure who she is. When she finds pictures of her mother, it unlocks memories and helps her find her voice.  That's as much summary as you get, because other better people write other better summaries.

The thing about this book is that I found it... pensive. That's almost the right word, but maybe quiet works better? It's not an action packed book, full of adventure and unpredictability, it's a coming of age story that more slowly takes you on a journey. But that's also not right because that makes the book sound boring, and it isn't. Casanova does a great job with the historical setting and the resulting social details - Google tells me Casanova wrote for American girls and I find that not at all surprising. Clearly historical fiction is an area she enjoys writing about.  Frankly, that's one of the problems - I wonder if Casanova is writing a touch out of her comfort zone in terms of age bracket, because the plot at times is a bit awkward, and some of the secondary characters are a little too shallow. That being said, Sadie Rose is a great character, pitched pretty spot on to her 13-17 age range (though I admittedly would lean more to 12-15 age range for recommendations, personally).

Casanova is generally a fantastic writer - the book is beautifully written and the premise is solid. I liked this book, I just didn't love it. But that's not a bad thing, because I will 100% suggest this book to some of the teens at my library. I think younger readers will find something very appealing about Sadie's rather rapid transformation - the identifiable nature of feeling the need to figure out who you are.  All this being said, it was a quick read and an enjoyable one.

*** Review is based on an advance copy from NetGalley. Blah Blah this didn't affect my review. Promise.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success

It is absolutely no secret I have one of those mild fascinations with psychopaths - not the kind where I have books and books and books on the topic, and spend my life trying to understand the mindset, but the kind where I legitimately find the idea of having on/off switches that control how and what we define as our personalities - I don't get it, so I'm fascinated by it. This book makes the claim there are times when a "me" focused philosophy is beneficial to your well being, and to that I say obviously. It's no secret that for years people have been saying top executives have a climb their way to the top no matter what mentality and it works.  Personally, I found the author's use of the game of chicken as a time when being a psychopath is a good thing - the person who keeps going straight wins over the person who swerves.  .... .... ... yes.  In theory. That's a great example. In terms of real world applications, I'm pretty sure when there are millions of lives at stake we don't really want this to be something that's a thing.  One reviewer said "One Cuban Missile Crisis is enough" and yeah, that.

That being said, I genuinely really really really liked this book. It was fascinating. I loved the comparison between psychopaths and Tibetan monks in their mutual ability to detect deep emotions that are invisible to others - the sense of isolation and self-focus making people more adept at being aware of others is an enticing thought to base something out of. Tibetan monks spend lifetimes learning to be in a relaxed state of mind, and the fact that psychopaths are in this state without any sort of practiced state of mind, but rather a state of mind naturally aimed at being observant specifically of other peoples weakness' is just plain interesting.  Some things were obvious (if you watch any tv crime drama), such as psychopaths not feeling any sort of normal reactions when viewing horrifying images implies an almost baffling self-mastery of emotions. This being said Dutton points out that they seem to be born with this capacity to not feel and react, but his comparison to high performing CEO's, high-stress surgeons and military/rescue strategists results in a interesting discussion on the nature vs. nurture standoff. What makes some people serial killers and others at times heros?

So the long and the short is I think this book is fascinating, and really a compelling study of psychopaths for the layman.  Psychopaths may well be all around us, and arguably they're some of the most productive members of society. Dutton points out we don't recognize them because they have“…the consummate ability to pass themselves off as normal everyday folk, while behind the fa├žade—the brutal brilliant disguise—beats the refrigerated heart of a ruthless, glacial predator.”

Dutton's writing was fantastic and verging on brilliant because he has a unique ability to make a non-fiction book interesting, accessible and informative in a way that doesn't make you feel like you're being talked down to. I've said for a while now that Normal is usually a lie, and damn if this book doesn't back it up.  That freaks me out a little more than I'm willing to admit.

*** Review is based on an advance copy from the publisher. Blah Blah this didn't affect my review. Promise.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Scent of Magic

So it's no real secret I like Maria V. Snyder. I blogged about her here and here and Scent of Magic didn't disappoint. I've said it before, and I'll say it again too: I'm constantly shocked and admittedly a lot impressed with what Harlequin MIRA and  Harlequin LNA are putting out on the market (no, they didn't pay me to say that. Actually I'm pretty sure they would pay me not to say that). I remember after reading the 500 Kingdom's books by Mercedes Lackey I was baffled that they were put out by Harlequin - so bravo Harlequin.  You should hire me to be a librarian, or something. So all that being said, Snyder is great, and her books are solid. Generally.

More specifically this is a great part 2 of the trilogy - character building is solid, there are the expected twists and turns and it's all in all a fun read. I really like where Snyder is taking the book - the whole Death Lily/Life Lily is a really interesting discussion point that it's entirely possible I'm reading too much into. Snyder's writing doesn't fall into the romance trap - a lot of the book is spent with the two main love interests apart from each other, and while Snyder carefully keeps them thinking of each other, they aren't wrapped up in a (usually tiring) "missing" of the other one. I was admittedly a touch annoyed at the alternating between Avry and Kerrick in the first and third person points of view - and that each portion ends with a cliffhanger gets to be a little overdone.  That being said, the adventure is exciting, and arguably most important the plot is plausible and realistic.  Blah blah blah it's fantasy-ish, but Snyder builds her books on a realistic fantasy. Is that a thing? My review, so yes. Yes it is.

As a bit of an aside, I think one of the things I like most about Snyder's writing is the attention she pays to the secondary characters - she really builds a world and it's clear she focus' on each character in a way that shows a lot of thought to their growth, change, and adaptability.

Overall thoughts: I really enjoy Snyder's writing, characters and plot development and this is pretty much exactly how I personally think a teen/YA romance/adventure book should be written. The cliffhangers? They were a bit much by the end.

*** Review is based on an advance copy from NetGalley. Blah Blah this didn't affect my review. Promise.

Friday, October 26, 2012

House of Leaves

I don't think I've been less able to write a review for a book than I feel I am for this book. And I mean that in a holy shit it was amazing way. I've heard it said that there's a cult following for this book, and I 100% ended up sitting in the woods, clutching this book and giving all my possessions to the leader. Leader is good ya'll. I don't know how I didn't read this book for so long, but my BFF is reading it and told me to pick it up. My BFF is finishing her phD in neurogenetics or *something* complicated like that, and reads a solid mix of amazing books, and romance novels (hey, similar to my reading a solid mix of amazing books and urban fantasy) (I suggest reading UF personally though).
So here's the thing. This book fucked me up. I'm sorry to swear, but there's no other way to say it. Usually I cope with books that disturb  me by taking forever to read them. I was done this book in two days, and I'm relatively sure this book should actually be classified as a category three narcotic because the dreams I had were not ok. I don't normally summarize books because I like to give my feelings - I feel it makes the review more of a feeling based review, I want to tell you why I think you should or shouldn't read the book. Or flat out tell you to go read it. The thing is I cannot summarize this book. Yes, I read it, but this book is basically the definition of metafiction. Have you read Raw Shark Texts? It's kind of like that but it takes it about 20 levels further in terms of making you want to talk about life, the universe and everything. 

So here: 
  • It had footnotes. I love footnotes
  • Played around with typography and colours. A+
  • Metaphysical Space Time Continuum house? Maybe? Excellent.
  • I actually said "Jesus" out loud while reading it.
I don't even know. I loved this book. In case that's not clear. It's probably not clear, because shut the front door what just happened. But I loved this book. I also hated Raw Shark Texts so take from that what you will. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Touch of Power

So I generally hate reading the first book of a trilogy - something about how I finish and want to keep reading. Instant gratification at its best/worst.  The thing is I really really do like Maria V. Snyder. I couldn't put down Study series, it was fantastic and I really wanted something that was an easy read, but not a boring read (and I mean this in the best possible way).  Snyder reminds me a lot of Tamora Price - strong characters, solid plotlines, great pacing and romance that doesn't make you roll your eyes and go "Really?"

All that held pretty true to form for this book. For lack of a better term this is a lovely book. There are twists and turns and adventure and while there are a few gaps in the flow of some background information, I'm pretty sure that will come out in the next two off the series. There's also a lovely bit of whimsy - human eating plants make a surprisingly fantastic plot point. Who knew?  Generally it's just a very very readable story - I'm sparing you the summary because it's *everywhere*.  So here's the deal. I'm a librarian. I was turned onto Snyder by someone who works at a bookstore. So it's not that I know everything, or even that she and I know everything. But what we DO know is books.  With exceptions for personal tastes, two people who know books say go read this writer. I *personally* liked her Study series a bit more, but that being said I read the whole Study series, and not just the first book.

So go, read it. Trust me, I'm a librarian.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking

Full Disclosure I won this book as a Goodreads Firstreads. The thing is though, I entered the contest because I read the summary and immediately laughed because hand to god this book was almost exactly a conversation I was having with a good friend recently.  Basically we were talking about how we find the whole "self-help" thing boring.  My problems (not that I have any, obviously) do not stem from me not having any faith in my ability to get through things, so why do I need to wake up everyday and tell myself it will be a good day. Sometimes it isn't. You deal, and you move on.

... Anyways.

So the stars aligned and I won this book.  I was pretty excited, because you know, I wanted it.  Burkeman is a writer for The Guardian who (I believe?) (I should know this) (If not know, find out, since I'm a Librarian and it's what I do) explores psychology in his weekly column. The Antidote looks at finding contentment from different perspectives, moving your focus outside of yourself, not focusing on finding security, realizing your own mistakes and weakness and sometimes damnit realizing that being negative is actually the most positive outlook you can have. Basically this books is giving legitimacy to something we all kind of hoped - it's ok to not be perfect, it's ok to not be happy, it's ok to just plow through some things muttering to yourself about how this bleeding sucks and you just want it to be over so you just get. it. done. 

So long story short, I loved this book. It's funny, and smart and counterintuitive enough that it makes a whole damn lot of sense. What it's not is a self-help book. Well for me it almost was - it's one thing to have your friends agree with you - it's another thing when somebody wrote a whole book with actual facts about how it's ok to not force yourself to be happy.

So go. Buy a copy. Take out out from the library. Lend it to a friend (or few).  But make them buy their own copy after, because They should probably lend it to their friends.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Witches of Chiswick

You can't even imagine how much I wanted to like this book.  The awkward thing is I say that EVERY time I pick up a new Rankin Book.  The thing is when Rankin is good, he's really shut the front door good. Funny, strange, ridiculous break the fourth wall hilarious, mildly eccentric blah blah.  When he's bad though (and please please cult following don't hurt me) he's basically unreadable.  This one oddly fell smack dab in the middle for me.  I was almost embarrassingly apathetic about this book. I started reading this APRIL TENTH. That's 5 months ago. It doesn't take me 5 months to ready ANY book. I just kept picking it up, reading half a chapter and then getting distracted.  When I read it, I could kind of get into it, but it didn't grab onto me, and by the time I finished it I was just left... apathetic.

I was mildly annoyed (and it's been echo'd on other reviews) that there were too many loose ends and that there was a little too much of the book aimed at people who've read every one of Rankin's other books. I've read a few (ok, more than a few) but apparently not enough because there were times I was left a little too confused... I don't even know.

I think it bothers me because I want to love all of Rankin's books. Like, I really really want to. I love the idea of the world he's built, with paradoxes, time travel, witches (non-existant, but still kinda there. I guess). I dunno. This is a terrible review. I don't even know.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Magic of Saida

I received this book as an ARC, sent to me by the publisher, and I finished it a few days ago and am still processing it. This will be a bit of an odd review (but really, most of mine have been recently). I think what's holding me back is I always want to write a review that lets people know what I felt about the book, and if I think they would enjoy it. I keep coming up empty, because all I can think is that this book was just lovely. 

In the best possible way, I don't quite know what to make of this book. The book is a soft tale of 20th Century Colonialism, something that's rare in almost all other books related to that topic. It felt real - lives lived and impacted but it wasn't the focus of the book - it was there, it was history and it was life, but it wasn't what the book was about. I put a quick summary from the publisher below because it doesn't flow with my review, but to me the book was about regret, longing and memory. It struck a chord because a recurring feeling the protagonist had was that he didn't know where he belonged, and he never truly felt a part of something. 

It's about finding your identity through finding the past. The book was brilliantly written, but Vassanji is a brilliant writer, one I have loved for a while. His brilliance lies in the subtleties of what he writes, the characters that he builds and where he takes the story - and above all I've always thought Vassanji is a storyteller. In all honesty I enjoyed this book more than I've enjoyed a book in a while. I broke my trashy Urban Fantasy kick to read this, and I'm incredibly glad I did. Absolutely go grab a copy, you won't regret it. It will leave you thinking and dreaming, and a feeling nostalgic for things you may have never known.


The Magic of Saida tells the haunting story of Kamal, a successful Canadian doctor who, in middle age and after decades in North America, decides to return to his homeland of East Africa to find his childhood sweetheart, Saida. Kamal's journey is motivated by a combination of guilt, hope, and the desire to unravel the mysteries of his childhood--mysteries compounded by the fact that Kamal is the son of an absent Indian father from a well-to-do family and a Swahili African mother of slave ancestry. Through a series of flashbacks, we watch Kamal's early years in the ancient coastal town of Kilwa, where he grows up in a world of poverty but also of poetry, sustained by his friendship with the magical Saida. This world abruptly ends when Kamal is sent away by his mother to live with his father's family in the city. There, the academically gifted boy grows up as a "dark Indian," eventually going to university and departing for Canada. Left behind to her traditional fate is Saida, now a beautiful young woman. Decades later, Kamal's guilt pulls him back to Kilwa . . . where we discovers what happened to Saida during a harrowing night of sinister rites.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lazarus is Dead

Full Disclosure: I won this as an ARC copy from the Goodreads giveaway.  I was pretty excited to have won this one - generally I'm thrilled to win a book, but I really do love Europa as a publisher. No, they didn't tell me to say that. Yes, I actually really do think have favourite publishers.

Lazarus raising from the dead is the last, and arguably most famous of Jesus's public miracles resulting in two of the most famous Biblical quotes: "I am the resurrection and the life" and "Jesus Wept". The thing is only John mentions Lazarus - and that was written about 100 years after the other Gospels, and the problem with John, as well all know (do we all know this? My uncle used to be a Benedictine monk. Maybe this isn't common knowledge) John is... less dependable. Beard himself says it hilariously well "Mark is considered the most factually accurate. Matthew and Luke base their accounts on Mark, while John is closer to the kind of writing known today as creative non-fiction." So yes. Creative non-fiction. Historical Fact.

Whatever. Anyways. Beard's novel focus around the detail that Lazarus is described as Jesus' friend - something Jesus has few of. Why is it Lazarus' death that causes Jesus to weep? Why did the first three gospel writers omit Lazarus from their version of historical record? Beard traces the history of Jesus' friendship with Lazarus, then their more adult lives. I don't really want to get into much detail here (because you know. Spoilers) so I'm going to tell you what I think about the book.In the best possible way, I don't actually know what to make of the book. Stylistically, Beard is close to perfect, flippant but never trivial, and enough probability is added to the core of Lazarus's story to make you care about his eventual fate (or you know, one of the two options that Beard gives. Which is true? Who knows). But about the book itself I don't actually know quite what to make of it. It bounces between speculative fiction and more realistic textual analysis. It's a made up (or not) (but maybe?) (but really, too complex a debate for Goodreads) Biography of the man who was arguably Jesus' only friend.

Complicated, I know.

When you read it you'll understand.Lazarus is Dead is arguably the most unusual and original book I've read in a while and I read a lot of odd books. Call it speculative fiction, or whatever you want, and go get a copy when it comes out. It's very very much well worth a read. You'll probably put it down and be a little confused and fairly thoughtful about what is fiction, what is fact and the stories none of us know, but wish we did.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Stealing Magic

Blah Blah Blah I love Tanya Huff. This is not a secret. Wizard of the Grove is one of hands down my favourite books ever, the Blood Series is one I adore and the Keeper series this one I've read so many timees I've destroyed two copies. I haven't recommended these books to anyone who hasn't liked them. Huff is funny, smart and a fabulously entertaining writer.

Stealing magic is a collection of short stories (man I really do hate most short  stories.), really it's a double header of Huff’s comical short stories featuring Magdelene (the world's most powerful and laziest wizard) and Terazin (a top-notch thief). The book is charming, funny, and once again proves that Huff has no regard for the conventions and boundaries of genre I don't really know WHICH genre to effect. The Magdelene stories in Stealing Magic are certainly some of the few ‘high fantasy’ short works that I have ever liked. I'm pretty sure my favourite of the two are the Magdelene ones. Originally an apprentice to Adar, a castle wizard she unknowingly dismantles his most powerful spells like they don't even exist. She gains Adar's powers, just before he is turned into a pile of gray ash (oops), and decides to leave the castle. Traveling with H'sak, a demon trapped inside a mirItror, she finds that the most bucolic villages have the most unique customs concerning wizards, like welcoming them with axes or chains and manacles. Probably awkward. Basically I love that Huff gives us a lazy heroine who does not suffer from heart pangs, unhappy love, "save-the-world" complex and takes life, magic and men as something to be relaxed about. It's hot outside guys.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Water For Elephants

I wanted to love this book. I can't even tell you how much I wanted to love this book. I actually read it before the movie came out solely based on the fact I thought the cover was pretty. We all know I'm that person. I picked it up because I've always had a bit of a fascination with the circus' that toured in the early 1900's - a fascination Carnivàle cemented. So I really really wanted to love this book. So the book was seemed like it could have happened and seems to have been well researched and that's about the best I can say about it. Oh, and Wikipedia says it was written for NaNoWiMo. That's kind of cool.

That's not entirely true. It was an alright read - the idea of an orphan running away to the circus is one that is rarely a bad premise because of the inherent romance. There was a love triangle that didn't actually annoy me, and there was a very very sweet ending. The book was ok - not amazing and I think part of my... apathy towards it was because I wanted so badly to love it and I just didn't. Something was just missing.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fall on Your Knees

So here's the thing about Fall on Your Knees. I first read it when I was 17 and doing an independent study of Canadian literature. Again, while moving it made my list of books I want to re-read even though I really should be reading the 30 odd books sitting beside my bed that I haven't read yet. So obviously, I re-read Fall on Your Knees. I wondered if I would still love it as much the second time around and the answer was yes. Yes I do. MacDonald's novel is intense and admittedly a little overwhelming in the telling of the lives of the Piper family in the early 20th century.  It begins with trouble when James elopes with 13 year old Materia - trouble both to her family's horror, and to himself as he realizes the reality of her youth, and Lebanese heritage.  James consoles himself with their firstborn Kathleen - beautiful and with the voice of an angel - a love that consumes him to the point on incest. To cope James enlists in WWI and fathers two more surviving children Mercedes and Frances. Kathleen goes to NYC to become a famous singer, but ends up returning ruined, pregnant and no longer singing.

This is a long novel, but the characters keep the readers going - you can't decide if each is sympatheticor not, and they hover between forgiveness and unforgivable in what they do and how they cope. There are bizarre turns, and reality isn't always clear but the mysticism is a significant part of what makes the story appealing. It's a story of survival in impossible circumstances. Oprah recommended or not, do yourself a favour and grab a copy - it's well worth a read.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Spider Robinson

I briefly touched on my love of Spider Robinson in my ancient post about Super Secret Guilty Reading Pleasures. Spider Robinson was just one of those authors - along with David Eddings he arguably shaped why exactly I love reading for fun. I picked up Callahan's Crosstime Salon for 100% the opposite reason most people do - I got a kick out of the cover. I've heard time and time again that people hate the cover of this compilation book. Well, it made me laugh and for better or for worse, I grabbed it.  So here's the long and the short of Spider Robinson's writing: The puns are so bad you can't help laughing out loud, and the characters are so delightfully human (mostly, but you know) that you really really wish Callahan's existed because it's somewhere you really do want to hang out it. The books aren't just about a bar and the people who drink there, they're about what happens to the regulars at a bar.

I don't think I've ever read a science fiction series that has so little to do with science fiction. These are stories I've carried around with me since I was 16, and are ones I'll carry around with me for the rest of my life. Both the Callahan's series, and the Lady Sally's series (hand to God, just go get it. It takes place in a brothel and it has Nikola Tesla as a main character.) and the post-Callahan's series are ones that will just put a smile on your face. One thing you'll hear time and time again from people who read these series is that they'll spend the rest of their lives looking for a place like Callahan's - and really, we should only be so lucky.

So here's the real thing about this book. This book is basically why I'm a librarian. “Librarians are the secret masters of the world. They control information. Don't ever piss one off. ” is a part of the book that's stuck with me since I was 16. I can't help but feel nostalgic whenever I pick up one of his books. They're some of the most human books out there, even if not all the characters are entirely (or at all human).  I'm not going to say this book will change your life like it at the very least impacted mine. But you'll finish it with a smile on your face, and the desire to go build yourself a community. I think we're missing a lot of community right now.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

No Great Mischief

I admittedly love Alistair MacLeod. Island is one of my favourite books of stories, and generally I hate short stories. I think I first read No Great Mischief in 2002 and while I was most recently moving I decided it was on my list of books that I should re-read. I think what I love most about it as a book is that MacLeod is first and foremost a storyteller - he repeats images and phrases throughout the book to give a sense of rhythm and to give the reader an anchor to the story as a whole. I always think of it as like the chorus of a song, it reminds the reader that the story is part of a bigger whole.

The story MacLeod is telling is the story of the clan of "Calum the Red" a Scottish clan who came to Nova Scotia about 200 years ago. It's clear the characters come from an oral tradition, one where history is kept alive through storytelling, stories that are added to and repeated as events occur. The family ties are admittedly a bit baffling - there are three Alexander MacDonalds and the clan itself is so inbred that even the dogs are inbred - redheads with dark eyes (how very Scottish, I know).  The main story takes place in modern times as the narrator tells about being raised by his grandparents after his parents death. The thing is, personally I think that the behaviours and connections of the clan as told through repeated histories and songs can seem more real then current events. You feel for the characters - from Alexander's relative success to Calum's destitution on the streets of Toronto you can't help but feel the wild comedy and heartbreaking tragedy of the family.

This is by no means an 'easy' read, and I do understand why some people have no patience for it. That being said, it's a book I personally love, and one that I absolutely would recommend.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


As a follow-up to my last review on Mary Poppins, the OZ series is another series that had a huge impact on my love of reading growing up. The thing is (and this is a little embarrassing) (also, embarrassing that it's embarrassing) I didn't actually read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz until a few years ago. I saw the movie when I was a kid (who didn't?) and my mom read a few books of the series to me when I was a kid.  At the same bookstore (which by the by sadly closed down and is no longer) and as a post-Mary Poppins recovery, I picked up The Marvelous Land of Oz. So here's the deal. There were 14 books about Oz, and Dorothy is not a central character in all of them. Ozma of Oz doesn't even mostly take place in Oz - same goes for Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, The Road to Oz is on the way to Oz... and so on.  Baum builds an entire world - where Dorothy is a Princess of Oz, Santa shows up with Billina the Yellow Hen and the Gnome King tries to take over.   It's a fabulous series - do yourself a favour and pick it up - It's good for almost any age.

I have read the entire series, over several years. It's surprisingly (or I guess not) hard to find every book in the series. I think there are over 50 books in the series when all is said and done. Finding the original 14 can be hard enough, but trying to hit every book in the series can be a challenge I admittedly haven't been able to complete. But you should try.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mary Poppins

I've always been a reader. I really was one of those kids who would read under the blankets, with a flashlight, and my Mom tells me how she would pretend not to notice because she couldn't handle stopping me from reading.  I grew up reading the "classics" - Pocahontas, Bambi, Robin Hood, Little House, Mary Poppins and the Wizard of Oz. We moved to Toronto when I was in grade 6, and just up the street from us was an amazing kids book store. I was admittedly a bit lonely and intimidated and Mom knew I needed a distraction, so, off to the bookstore we went. This sounds a little cliched, but I didn't know where to start. The woman there asked me I had read Mary Poppins. With the scorn only an 12 year old can give I her of course I did. She then asked me if I had read the entire series. I have no clue it was a series, and over the next few weeks I picked up the entire series.

The Mary Poppins series wasn't life changing, but it is a series that stuck with me, right up there with the OZ, Little House and The Immortals - all of which I read at about the same time. I loved Mary Poppins because it made magic real. My favourite of the series is Mary Poppins Opens the Door - the book that first taught me that cats can look upon kings. The thing is, as a review this one is going to be slightly lackluster because the thing is, I can't help but to wax slightly poetic about this series.  The book series is not the film version - I can't emphasize that enough. There are obvious similarities but in the books Mary is vain and crabby and a bit of a mystic. There's no way to say it other than bizarre things happen when she is around but the real thing that comes out in the series is that Mary has a heart of gold and depths that the movie can in no way come near touching.

Having read the series as a pre-teen, and then again as an adult what rings true is that the whole series is about the magic of childhood.  It's just plain fun to read - as Mary herself says “Don't you know that everybody's got a Fairyland of their own?”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Templeton Twins Have an Idea

I recieved this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.  I wasn't quite sure what to make of it when I first got it. The overly self aware narrator kind of sounds like my internal voice when I let my internal voice get away from me but moving right along. The first book of a new series that is about the Templeton Twins and is sort of a graphic novel but not really, a mystery with buzzles and admittedly pretty fabulous questions for review at the end of every chapter that poke fun at the directed reading/tests that are pretty common place for the targeted age group.   Holmes' illustrations are fabulous - drawings, sketches, diagrams, flow charts make a fabulous addition to the book. It was reminiscent of A Series of Unfortunate Events to me - the author explains words and turns of phrases to the reader which makes it a very accessible book.

This book is in the details to me. The blue hue to it gives it a blue-printy feeling which I loved. I'm about 98% certain that the target age will be all over this book - the humour is accessible and clever, the characters are endearing and make you want to get to know them (I kind of love the over the top personalities) (especially the narrator) and it's got enough mystery and adventure to be a pretty solid read for whoever reads it. Including a parent, if they so chose, or are reading it on their own. It's a fun read.

All the above being said, I gave my copy to an 11 & a 12 year old. Clearly I'll bow to their superior opinions regarding it when I hear what they said.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gunmetal Magic

It's no secret I love Urban Fantasy as a genre. I'll pick up anything they write because really, they're pretty fantastic entertainment. That being said, Ilona Andrews (aka Ilona and Gordon Andrews) are at the top of my list of favourite authors. Both their Kate Daniels and the Edge series are really really fun reads - fun enough that my Mom likes them both, and she strongly dislikes Urban Fantasy as a rule. I was a little iffy on Gunmetal Magic admittedly. Set in the Kate Daniels world, it's main character is Andrea Nash, something that I was... unsure of. I don't want to imply that I can't handle change and it's scary and bad and oh god why is there a new character pov but you know. That.

That being said, the book was fabulous. Fun, clever, made me laugh pretty consistently throughout and had an impressive bit of character building for a one off novel. It didn't read like an "outside" canon book, it fit really well into the series and actually even gave a great break from the Kate/Curran focus.  Solid addition to the series, and go pick it up. More to the point, pick up the whole series. I should probably be getting paid for this.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I was informed that I haven't updated in too long

Then I wondered why, because I knew I'd be really busy over the past month, and remember posting a buffer of posts that would magically appear. Then I realized that I hit save, and not publish. Hi, my name is Kate: I apparently can't use the internet. Awkward. So what have I been doing? Not much really. I mean, I can tell you about the non-confidential freelance stuff I'm doing, but that's boring. So here are some pictures.

I went to Nova Scotia

Saw a Disco Lobster

Made a cake

Made Tacos (Tortillas and all!)

Also went to Sonic, and got a Lime Slushee
(This basically completes me)

Stay tuned for the updates that will magically be back-posted!  Which you probably wouldn't realize if I didn't tell you. Points for honesty?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Olympics & Books (sort of not really)

It's not a secret I'm kind of fascinated with the history of the British Monarchy. The opening ceremonies as... odd ... as they may have been were for all intents and purposes me at least smiling if not laughing out loud during because it was so very British. Anyone who knows me knows I grew up in Children's Choirs and Private Schools (right?) but the thing that anyone who also grew up in either (or both) of those things knows is that singing Jerusalem is basically a weekly thing. I don't know why, but it is. It's also ridiculously fun to sing.

Either way, I've got a stockpile of reviews, and I decided to throw some of them them together in one big post about British-themed books. Except just throwing together some books actually kills the librarian in me, so these all have to do with Downton Abby (sort of mostly).

First up!

 Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey is a publicized tiw-in to Downton Abbey and was made to be a historical account of Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abby) (Crazy, right? I bet you had no clue I'd throw that twist in) and life therein. Written by the actual Countess of Carnarvon (no really) it gives an insiders view into life in the castle, the history of the Countess' husband's family. The book is well written, engaging and while obviously written by someone with a vested interest in the castle (and history) it was obvious that the Countess is a fan of the subject. Granted the book is more about the Lady Almina than the "real" Downton Abby it's fascinating look into the society of the time (over a more historical account.) (Though there is a kind of fascinating discussion on one blog I read about how this books is a 'woman's history' and if that affects peoples perception of it's historical value) (But that is on another blog. This blog is all about pretty book covers) (Interesting though, no?)

One of the most memorable things about this book to me is how funny parts of it was. I'm aware I should give you a summary, but I'm not going to because I'm sure that you figured out that it's a memoir of a kitchen maid. Because you're clever like that. In sharp contrast to the above book, this book is actually written by (ghost written? It's not actually clear) by a kitchen maid turned cook. Powell took a University course at 58, and wrote this book at 61 - fascinating because it broke the silence barrier that many servants feel the need to uphold (especially of that time). It presents a very "us and them" attitude, and admittedly she has a fairly negative slant it's fascinating because even though it was first written in 1968 it has an almost timeless memoir feel about it. I'm not actually sure about how I feel about this book. I mean, I'd say for sure give it a read but probably not push it to the top of your list.
 I don't think I can explain to you how much I wanted to love this book. The Astor families is one of those families that I have a fascination with - from Lady Astor's famous temperament to the fact Astoria Queens was named after them made this a book I loved. While I can't say I loved it as a book, I can say I loved it as a story. It read like you were having a conversation with Harrison. Again this was re-published from the mid 70's and while again it was a book published 30-odd years ago about 90 odd years ago it had a few time-warpy moments Harrison presents a very real picture of her employers and her time with them. Fascinating read - do yourself a favour and pick it up.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

What better book to put on Friday the 13th than Bonk (which is the best title ever).  I picked this book up cause a friend had it on her read list on Goodreads. I mean, really what could possibly be more fascinating than experiments and research involving dead humans? Early "sex researchers" were inventive, barbaric, and creepy, and it's entirely possible they were totally crazy. Basically this book taught me that some of the things people do? I... no words guys. I thought I was pretty well-informed regarding some of the less-conventional, more taboo, things humans do in their quests for excitement. (I read lots. Plus I'm a librarian. We're basically priests or doctors for the things people ask/tell us) Now, I realize I have no clue about pretty much anything - and am probably better off that way. Basically I'm boring. I'm ok with that.

The thing is, this books is fun. It's well written, hilarious, a little bit disturbing but go read it. You'll learn things like 1 in every 5000 women is born without a vaginal canal. One less question to ask your friendly neighbourhood librarian (or your doctor. whatever.) (actually jokes aside, that probably is something you should ask your doctor)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots

As I've mentioned here before I was born to a Jewish mother and an Anglican Newfie father. While that made for some hilarious contradictions growing up, it did result in a feeling of not really knowing where I belong in the scope of fitting into a box we all kind of sort of need while growing up. Blah blah I'm my own person, but when I was 12 I was fascinated by the Hasidic Jews while visiting NYC with my mom in the summer. They felt so... foreign, so different and admittedly there was a part of me that wanted to belong just so I could understand why they felt that living like that was their calling. Fast forward to university where I was one of count em four Jewish students on my 2400 student campus and I was basically the most "ish" of them all.

Where I'm going with this, is I've always wanted to understand the Orthodox, but frankly been too scared to ask. I had one Orthodox friend when I lived in Toronto, and she answered a ton of (and created more) questions I had while I tried to sort of but not pry into her life, and why she went from growing up more secular than I did (apparently that's possible) to being completely Orthodox.   So I get that this book is biased, and the author is dealing with a lot of issues she has from growing up in a closed community (and growing up in Waterloo and knowing several ex-old order Mennonite kids one the idea of which I'm familiar) that was isolating, scary and heartbreaking, this book is still one I found fascinating, and that I finished in about a day. This small short blog isn't one where I'm going to get into what little I know of the Hasidic community, let along of the Sitmar community it's a fascinating memoir about one persons experiences in, and leaving a tight community I personally always wanted to understand.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

No One is Here Except All of Us

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Sometimes I am guilty of choosing a book for its cover. I know. I know. I'm basically the worst librarian ever. Whatever. I picked up this book not just because of its cover, but because of its name. Pretty cover, cool name, I'll at least give it a shot.

Generally I feel books that cover difficult topics are done great justice when they're told in a storytelling manner. Something about that style makes the books more real, gives them a feeling of being personal and accessible. No One Is Here Except All Of Us explores how we use storytelling to survive and shape our own truths, specifically in relation to one Romanian village in 1939 as they feel the Holocaust close in on them. The villagers re-invent themselves, and where they live, as they themselves say “Dear God, We did not start again because it wasn’t beautiful enough. The world we make will be much smaller and less glorious than the one you made….We are content to accept this small circle of land as our entire universe, so long as we are safe here.”

The thing about this book is there's something in it that I struggle with - and I don't mean that in a good way. One reviewer suggested that the same stories that sustain Lena and the villagers also distance the readers from the full horror of the events leading up to the Holocaust and maybe even the characters themselves. It's a fascinating premise for a book and I really did want to love it but... there is something of a disconnect.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

There are very few books that I would say defined my love of reading. Anil's Ghost is one of them, so is Man of the Century I read both as a kid (ok, more like 15, whatever) and they cemented what to this day I hold as books I still read when I want to remember why exactly I'm a (sort of) librarian. The third book that rounds out my love of reading is The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.  My grandpa was a Newfie, born and raised on the rock, till he ran away to Ontario when he was 15 and rebellious. Grandpa hated confederation, but loved Joey Smallwood. I was raised with a picture of the Queen on the wall, and knowing exactly why cod were important.

My grandpa died when I was 8, and when I was 15 my grandma died. I was a teenager, and sentimental, and was telling my teacher about how much I missed both my grandparents. My English teacher, brilliant man that he was handed me Colony. This brilliantly written book summed up the history of Newfoundland in the best possible way. It followed the life of Joey Smallwood, and Wayne Johnston reels his readers in with his heartbreakingly wonderful history of the Island's entry into confederation. Fielding was a wonderfully unique character, Smallwood became real and the love and longing they had for each other, and their home was wildly apparent.

It is a fictional biography, but in the best possible way. The majority of the facts are true, and written in a way that felt like I was talking to my family. The book is funny, wonderful, heart breaking, lovely and very very real.

Love you Gramps. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded

Ok, I lied. I'm going to blog about another Simon Winchester book. Why? Because it's my blog, and I can. Also, because I had a bout of insomnia last night, and I read Krakatoa again. Yup. Again. Not even because I knew it would put me to sleep.

In the things that most people don't know about me, my ridiculous love for Krakatoa is one of them, right along with my insane adoration for Tesla. By love, I guess I actually mean total fascination of, but again, semantics. Krakatoa basically affected the entire planet, and conspiracy theories aside (also, which are hilariously fascinating, and one involves Tesla, life complete) Winchester wonderfully combined history, technology and anthropology to explain the full impact of this world event. He does talk about weather patterns, dust issues, tsunamis, 2 year winter, scientific understanding and all that. The thing is Winchester does it in a way that makes you want to learn more about it.

Krakatoa is varied, and interesting and gets more so the deeper into the book you getThe story was varied and interesting and got even more so as it got deeper into it. I love how the book also covers the development of the telegraph system and how the Explosion of Krakatoa made the telegraph viable, and therein turned the world into a global village.  I think what I love most about Winchester's writing is that he really brings the story full circle. His covering the Dutch settlement in Java and Sumatra and the explosion's utter devistation and impact on the earth itself makes his writing easier to read then a lot of non-fiction. He also talks about the lingering social impacts of the explosion full into the current situation and the rise of Islam in Indonesia.

Pick it up! Or, really, any of his books. He'll have one on a topic you geek out on.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A little busy...

I've been kind of MIA for the past bit - I've been building a new business that's actually going shockingly well (updates when I get the website up off the ground!), I've been back and forth city to city like crazy, and between the two I'm trying to figure out if I keep freelancing, or "settle down" with a permanent job.

Big life changes are always somewhat stressful and intimidating, but are always good for reassessing priorities!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Greeting Cards

So it's not something I overly talk about, mostly because who cares but that's ok. Somebody always cares on the internet.  I have a mild obsession with greeting cards, and I hate hallmark cards. Boring. Guys, we can do better. Well, not we, because I'm not creative enough to create the cards, but I can find them.   So, here are a few of my favourite cards.

Adorably creepy cards are always a win

The creepy little monster saying thank you is amazing.

It probably says something awkward about my friends that I don't know who to give the one about being impressed they're alive to. It's fitting for so many of them. Yeah. That's awkward.

There's something ridiculously satisfying about finding a card that is wildly inappropriately perfect for someone.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Elemental Magic

I kind of feel I should read something other than Urban Fantasy. I do have a LONG list of books  that I want to read - many of with are not UF. Not that there's anything wrong with UF. Clearly I love it. Also, apparently I don't read much else. But who's fault is that? Not mine. No way it's mine.

I was sent an e-book copy of Elemental Magic by Angela Wallace and I was pretty excited for similar reasons to why I was excited to read Seanan McGuires Discount Armageddon - both authors are taking a slightly different angle to the traditional UF read - McGuire threw in cryptozoology and Wallace threw in elemental manipulation. Most of the other books I've read that use elementals as a theme are more traditional sci-fi/fantasy/historical, so it was interesting to see it from a more 'modern' angle.

I thought the lead character was interesting - Aileen is an insecure, slightly dense romantic, workaholic who was trying to live up to pretty high family responsibilities. Her male counterpart is a Coast Guard (look, it's cliched to be like 'oooo guy in a uniform' but... lets not kid ourselves. oooo. Guy in a uniform).

 I would almost argue that Elemental Magic is more of a paranormal romance then straight up Urban Fantasy, but I'm not quite sure, because the line between the two is really more of a scattering of sand, then any sort of real line. I didn't love this book, but I liked it, and am interested in where Wallace is going with the series.

One thing I just noticed (yeah, I'm super perceptive.) (I mean, I always knew this. I'm a librarian, we know everything)  is that Angela Wallace self-published this book. Major high-five to her for that. One of the things I will say is that this book didn't have the heavily-edited feel that a lot other books do. There are pros and cons to that, but what ends up coming through is Wallace's voice. I would love to see what Wallace can do with the backing of a publisher behind her, because she's doing pretty damn good without one! It's well worth a read, and I'm glad it's part of a series.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

And now, for something from total left field

This blog has been so boring. All books? All the time? BORING. Life has had some pretty wild changes recently - I ended my 5 year long relationship (apparently we're being honest with each other internet. I'm not gonna lie, it's a little awkward.), our dog is now his dog and most awkwardly of all, he and I are still good friends. I know that sounds weird, but it actually is worse, trust me. Breaking up with someone and hating their guts would be nice because you can have closure. We'll always be good friends, we're to terrifyingly similar to not be. That, and I'm looking forward to his future girlfriends hating my guts. I'm going to spoil the shit out of his future children. Why? WHY NOT.

Um. Anyways.  I'm also planning two fairly major trips in the next year with one of my BFF's. He and I are going to Australia over Christmas (and then I'm going to go to Bali, because I've already been ripped out of one trip to Bali, I'm not going to be ripped out of two). While in Australia, we're going to go to Fraser Island and I am going to ride a Humpback Whale. I'm going to name him Mr.Cuddles Von Bitsy and I am going to keep him in my bathtub. Totally practical, I know. No really though, We're going to be there for the Humpback Whale migration, and while I will be too terrified to get anywhere near the ocean when Giant Fucking Mammals are breaching close by, I will have a million pictures.

This picture is Fraser Island. I know right?

This same friend is having a mid-life crisis (which is a little awkward, cause he's only 26, and that means that a) he dies at 53, or b) he has another mid life crisis at 53 (actually, I guess that's common, so that's ok). Anyways, he's got the same travel bug I do, and We're also planning a trip to Egypt/Africa in May of 2013 which coincides nicely with my birthday.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Shadow of Night

Sometimes, being a librarian is useful. Ok, a lot of the time it is. Specifically, when you have access to great websites like Netgalley. I qualified for receiving an early ebook of Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, which basically thrilled me because I couldn't wait to read it after reading a Discovery of Witches. A lot happens in this book - it's almost 600 pages long and includes visits with Royalty, Scholars, Witches, Vampires, Daemons (but not a Werewolf. The Werewolf is a lie) (Werewolf? There wolf. There castle) (Sorry).

I'm gonna throw this out there, and I realize it will be a little contentious. I think this is more a series for grown ups. Not because there's all sex, all the time like Laurel K, but because this really is an intense historical book. I am completely willing to acknowledge I am a huge history nerd - I did my undergraduate in History, specifically Fin de Seicle France (guys, they had museums, where they would dress dead bodies found in the river up and make up stories about dramatic royal fiascos) (and there was a whole problem with women throwing acid in men's faces. It was a big problem.) and I generally like anything remotely having to do with history. So a book that takes place in the past, when Kit Marlowe and Shakespeare were alive? Yes. Please.

... Anyways... I do kind of wonder if people who aren't into history as much as I am will find all of the details a little overwhelming. That being said, I think a large part of why I like Harkness and this series is because what she writes about is what I studied, and when I read her I can't help but feel her writing of the past is reflective of the History profs I loved most. The ones who make history come alive, turn it into something more real then primary sources can make it. The story behind the document if you will. I'm digressing. I do that sometimes. (Also, I totally see this in Diana, so I empathize with her. History is written by the winners guys - seeing it first hand would be... interesting at the very least).

I did find this book did somehow ... drag(?) a bit more than A Discovery of Witches. I hesitate to say drag, because I really did enjoy it - I didn't feel like there were unnecessary parts of the book, and I didn't want to skip through sections to just finish it. Maybe it's I still stand by my earlier I should hate this book but I don't review of the first of the trilogy. I almost want to say this trilogy is a grown up Twilight, but I've never actually read Twilight (really. I haven't. I know, it's a little awkward) and Harkness is a thousand times a better writer then Meyer (ok, that's contentious to say when I haven't read the books. But I can make that statement. My blog.). It wasn't an "easy" read, and by "easy" I mean I didn't plow through it in a night, which I have been known to do.

Pick it up in July. Or now, if you're a librarian and can. But if you can't pick it up in July - I'll be grabbing a "real" copy of it when it's released!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Discount Armageddon

There are mice. Talking. Religious. Mice.

That is all.

Ok, that is not all. Fine. I picked this up because I love Rosemary and Rue as a series.  I dig this book because there are no vampires, werewolves (ok, yet) there is only science. Who doesn't have a secret obsession with cryptozoology? Ok. Maybe obsession is exaggerating. But really, it's a different take on the "traditional" urban fantasy stance - the Boogyman is real, and it's sexist to think that Boogymen are only men.

This book was a lot of fun - McGuire is always great for a laugh. I like how she explains cryptids, and gives a back story for those who aren't as familiar with the less-common mythical creatures. The book felt similar to early Supernatural episodes - there's a whole other world, full of everything that that goes bump in the night, and you were raised by a crazy family who set death traps to make you late to dinner so they could get the last piece of pie. Ok. I made up that part about the pie, but at my house getting the last piece of pie was a big deal.

There are also Mice. Aeslin mice. They're awesome - arguably the best part of the book. Hail. I may have loved them because I just read the Bloggess' Lets Pretend This Never Happened. I kind of picture them in real life, living in her house and it is practically magical. They live with Verity in her tiny sublet apartment and they had me actually laughing out loud. They worship her, and throw festivals to celebrate everything and that's just awesome.

In all honesty, I didn't love this book as much as I love her Rosemary and Rue series. I think as a series it has a lot of potential. I'm iffy on her being a ballroom dancer, but props for moving away from the more 'norm' UF career paths. And for a vampire not being a central character. Yet (?).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

City of Man's Desire: A Novel of Constantinople

I was lucky enough to have won this book in a Goodreads contest. To be totally upfront, I probably would not have bought it on my own. That's not a fact though - I love anything historical (well documented) and have a weird love for Constantinople - or at least the romance of what I imagine Constantinople was. There are a few cities that I feel that way about - Marrakesh, Constantinople, Vienna... cities I would love to visit just because I've built them up in my mind. People always tell me I'll be disappointed, but I wasn't dissappointed when I finally got to Beijing, Florence and Barcelona, so whatever people. Whatever.

Regardless, I was excited to have won this book, and was thrilled when it finally came. I did, however make the mistake of bringing it with me when I went to visit my mom, and since I was "reading too many other books" she promptly stole it and read it first. Traitor. I finally got it back from her, and I devoured it - as much as this book can be devoured. This book is a love-letter to Constantinople, and it's written exactly how I wish I could write to the cities I love.  Golna brings the city to life, you feel like you are there, seeing the people, drinking the Turkish coffee and seeing everything Constantinople was at the turn of the century. 

I loved how Golna writes about this time in the history of Constantinople - it was a turbulent time for the people and the city itself.  The book was very real to me - each of the characters are so humanly flawed which I loved reading about.  I'm a little hesitant to write a review about this book other than I really really enjoyed it.  It's well documented I love historical fiction, and this book did not let me down. It's not a quick and easy read, but it's one I would recommend without hesitation - to fans of historical fiction and not!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Lets Pretend This Never Happened.

I've been reading the Bloggess for years, and while I always got a kick out of her posts, it was the idea of tormenting her husband with a Giant Metal Chicken I could get behind. Anyone in a relationship longer than a few years can get behind that, since we all have our Giant Metal Chickens. 

Jenny is basically who I want to be when I grow up - no, really. That's a little terrifying, but it's true. 

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of her book. Basically the best review I can give this book, is that as a librarian I'm pretty much giddy with excitement waiting for the things people will come tell me after they've read this book. From the (boring) I loved that it was an honest look at mental illness and survival (very true) to the (no seriously I can not wait) YOU LET MY CHILD READ THIS AND NOW THEY WANT A DEAD SQUIRREL PUPPET and THIS BOOK IS BLASPHEMY AND READING IT KILLS PUPPIES AND KITTENS.

I pretty much giggled in excitement when I found out I was getting the advance copy, and then waited not really patiently to get my copy and then it came and I was away and that basically destroyed me and there was a 3 day long emotional trauma period. Anyways. I finally got to my copy and it was everything I wanted it to be. Heart-breakingly (also, it tries to auto-correct breakingly to lawbreaking. Fitting) wonderful, actually laugh out loud funny (not just LOL'd) and hands down one of my favourite memoirs and books out there.Go. Buy it. As soon as you can. I might buy it again so I can see the pictures. But then, I kind of loved that they were blurry (they were blurry because it wasn't a final copy.) (though really, they should always be blurry I think.) (it adds to the MYSTERY). But I'm weird.

The book comes out April 17, and is pretty much available everywhere.