Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)

Let’s talk about death. “Really?”, you ask. Really. Let’s talk about death because we all talk about life too much. We have bucket lists, to-do lists, and plans. We encourage each other to live rather than waste away. We tweet out tear-jerking, motivational quotes pulled from the likes of Oscar Wilde and paint dreamy futures that have no foreseeable end.  To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. 

But in the words of Woody Allen, I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens, most of us (okay, practically all of us) shy away from the one concept that is just as inevitable as life. Death.

I’m making assertions on the human condition as if I’m not a part of it, so let’s call for full disclosure.  It sounds morbid to admit, but I have a high tolerance regarding anything death-related. In university, I desperately wanted to take a course called The Psychology of Death and Dying. My friends thought it was creepy and my family thought I was crazy, but it was actually a highly popular class. And when I finally got the chance to enroll, it did not disappoint. Granted, there were the occasional silent tears from students when something hit close to home and the material was depressing. Yet, there was a strange freedom in spending three hours a week talking about all things that are generally taboo in polite conversation. Suicide, palliative care, bereavement – it was nothing fabulous. But death is the less glamorous and loyal companion to life. It happens to all of us, will happen to all of us, but we forget that it’s what makes life that much more precious.

Philosophy aside, let’s talk books (finally moving on to the real point haha…I beat around the bush, it’s a talent 🙂 ). Call me hypocritical, but even though I claim to be some death-hugging-not-afraid-to-talk-about-it psycho I’m not one to go for books on the subject. I can’t do it. All those heartbreaking, sweetly-tailored stories on losing someone you love just don’t appeal to me which is why I was hesitant about reading The Fault in Our Stars.  Of course, I’m an idiot because this book is the absolute best.

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Book Review and Signing: And the Mountains Echoed (Khaled Hosseini)

I’ve been a fan of Khaled Hosseini’s work since high school, where my English teacher introduced me to A Thousand Splendid Suns. It was unlike anything I’d read before. I went on to read The Kite Runner and became enchanted by the world that exists within Afghanistan, a country of which I had only heard about in war-related news. By some stroke of luck (!!!) I was fortunate enough to win a special meet-and-greet with Mr. Hosseini in the green room thanks to Cammy at Indigo Events. I can’t describe to you how over the moon I was! The whole experience was surreal. As winner, I was allowed to take a guest along so I chose one of my best friends who happens to be an even bigger fan of his. It turned out to be an overall spectacular day.

Before the event began, my friend and I were treated to front row reserved seats and a fun V.I.P experience. We were led to the back where we met Mr. Hosseini. He was every bit as gracious and kind as I’d imagined him to be. He asked me about myself, my background, and where I currently lived. He wanted to know what I had written as my contest entry (the question was “Why is Khaled Hosseini your favourite author”) so I told him that I felt his writing and characters were real and grounding. So much so, that they make me feel grateful for everything that I have in my own life. I think one of the best feelings a book can give you is a greater sense of clarity, conviction, and gratitude 🙂

From left: My friend Parul, Khaled Hosseini, and myself

From left: My friend Parul, Khaled Hosseini, and myself

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Book Review: Forgotten (Catherine McKenzie)

To celebrate the paperback release of Catherine McKenzie’s Forgotten, I decided to finally buckle down and write a review on it because it definitely deserves one. I came across this book last summer as I was writing out a list of new releases and eventually it made it’s way onto my library list and into my hands. I knew that this was one book I absolutely HAD to read because the summary was ridiculously intriguing.BOOK2

Summary: The book stars Emma Tupper, a dedicated lawyer with big plans for her future. However, following the death of her mother, Emma decides to take a month-long sabbatical from the corporate universe and impulsively follows her heart to Africa. Everything in Emma’s life has always followed her plans, but what she couldn’t account for was the illness and devastating earthquake that leave her stranded in an African village for several months. Upon returning safe and sound, Emma has to come to terms with the fact that everyone she knew has moved on from her supposed “death”.  How is she supposed to get back everything she knew and loved – her job, her apartment, and her life – when everything has changed? While others view this as a chance for Emma to change, she struggles with trying to fit into a place where she once belonged. Forgotten explores the journey of figuring out who you really are and what you really want when you have absolutely nothing left.

Favourite Quote: It seemed like almost nothing had happened, but that almost nothing changed everything for me.

Review: This book was such a relief. I had been itching to read something real, something that hits it home in the emotions department, something that warrants deep, soul-searching thoughts. This was it. The characters in the book are all so likable that I felt as if I was being told a story by a friend. Emma is a strong character, even when Continue reading

Book Review: Grave Mercy (Robin LaFevers)

GraveMercy_final_hresAt the Ontario Bloggers Meet-Up, I ended up winning a raffle and chose this book from a large pile. I already had a swag bag to carry home (which was definitely double my body weight) and Grave Mercy looked huge, but I couldn’t resist! The cover was so attractive to me – a medieval-esque background with a girl in a red dress, not to mention the word “assassin” was like a magnet. And yes, I totally judge books by covers, but as it turned out picking this book was an excellent decision.

Summary: The story begins with 17-year old Ismae as she escapes from a horrible arranged marriage. She finds herself at the convent of St. Mortain (patron of Death) and seeks shelter amongst the sisters who still pray to the old Gods.  Ismae soon discovers that she has talents – incredible talents – that have been given to her by the God of Death and that her destiny is that of an assassin. She chooses this life, knowing that nothing good lies for her outside the convent’s walls, and trains to become a handmaiden to Death with the other girls.

Part of her new role is accepting the assignments given to her by the sisters. Ismae must orchestrate and act upon plans to destroy the lives of others as it is her duty. Hoping to prove herself worthy, Ismae accepts her most important assignment which takes her to the high court of Brittany. All the skills and etiquette she has learned from the convent must be applied perfectly if Ismae hopes to accomplish her task. But what the convent didn’t prepare her for was intrigue, treason, curiosity, and what to do when faced with something forbidden; love. Ismae is at a crossroad between doing her duty and doing what is right. It seems impossible, but how can she deliver Death to the one person she’s falling in love with? Continue reading

Book Review: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson)

Sometimes as a reader, you curse yourself for not reading a certain book sooner, when everyone was telling you to. Why did you put it off until now, especially when all signs pointed towards its amazingness? When such a thing happens, it’s not a huge catastrophe, but you’ve certainly prolonged being indulged in a masterpiece. And that was precisely the case with me and Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Some books waltz into our lives, with great depth and dimensions, so much so that the characters find a happy place in the backseat of our memories. They become faded images of people we used to know. Yet there is another category of books altogether. This one is unique. It contains those books that surprise you, unexpectedly capturing your attention, your time, your nights. The characters in these books formulate before your eyes, within an arm’s reach, and stamp themselves all over your memory. You can’t forget these characters as easily, they don’t fade into the background. Instead, they and the stories they bring to you, stay fresh and vivid – it’s a weird, enchanting magic they have. Everyone has their own unique list of books that stick out in their thoughts. Mine would include the Harry Potter collection (first and foremost), along with Anne of Green Gables and many more. Larsson’s novel ended up having the same magic I had been warned about, and it is one book I will remember for a long while.

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is set in Sweden starring Mikael Blomkvist, the editor of a financial magazine called Millennium. He is found guilty of libel for an article he published exposing a shady financier and while awaiting his sentence, Mikael is presented with an interesting proposition (enticed to be exact). Wealthy owner of Vagner Corp, Erik Vagner, hires Mikael out to his family’s hometown in countryside to investigate the cold-case murder of his teenage niece, Harriet. The cover story though, is that Mikael is writing a family history of the Vagners as Erik wants every single person involved to be thoroughly researched. Of course, with the investigation comes years of history, and thus Mikael decides to hire an assistant. Into the story comes Lisbeth Salander. (here comes the excitement!)

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Book Review: Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller)

Summary: In the age of heroes, we find our own hero, Patroclus, as an awkward and weak prince who has never gained the approval of his father. As a result of certain events, he is exiled to Phthia to be raised under the wing of King Peleus and his remarkable, demi-god son Achilles. The two boys are complete opposites, yet eventually bond and develop a strong friendship. As years go by, they grow even closer and spend countless hours together, training in war and medicine. Their loyalty and closeness is despised by Achilles’ mother, the goddess Thetis, yet the relationship prevails. Soon, there is word that the beautiful Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped by a  prince from Troy and as the men of Greece are bound by oath to protect, they must leave for war in her name. Achilles joins the warriors, and as his loyal companion, so does Patroclus. The journey to Troy and the battles that await, will test their friendship and love, as the Fates begin to unravel obstacles that lie in their paths. With bravery and sacrifice, the two boys from Phthia slowly carve their names into legend.

Favourite Quote: I stared at him, straight as a spear stabbing the sky. I could not find the words that would reach him. Perhaps there were none. The gray sand, the gray sky, and my mouth, parched and bare.

Review: I loved this book, finished it within a day! Winner of the Orange Prize 2012 and NY Times Bestseller, The Song of Achilles is beautifully written and transports you into a world that is both incredibly powerful and real. The story of Achilles (minus the Brad Pitt-Hollywood glam) is a truly captivating tale of romance, friendship, loyalty, and brotherhood. And Miller’s novel gives you a deep and enriched view of  events from the eyes of Patroclus – which is totally unique because she writes a story honoring Achilles without even using him as the voice! I loved getting to know things from Patroclus’ side and it was remarkable how everything fit into place from start to finish.

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Book Review: Changeling (Philippa Gregory)

Oh, Changeling.

Before I dig deep into the emotions I felt towards the end of this book (and I have a LOT of emotions), let me give you a quick summary. Mind you, it’s written by the highly-acclaimed (and one of my favourite historical fiction authors) Philippa Gregory so I was a tad bit biased in my expectations.

First Impression: The cover is pretty. It’s purplish and showcases two people, a girl and a boy, and is sort of plain, but gives you a good sense of the setting and time period. The fact that Isolde is standing in the foreground and holding the torch makes it seem as if she is the main character, which is what I had assumed until reading the book. Luca, who stands behind her, is whom the story generally follows so that was a bit misleading. Overall though, it looked intriguing and full of delicious medieval secrets.

Summary: It’s 1453 in Italy, a medieval and religious period in history. Luca Vero is a bright, seventeen-year old boy who you’re introduced to at the beginning of the novel. He’s said to be handsome and exceptionally gifted – so much so that the village he was born in accused him of being a “changeling”…someone who has been touched by magic and witchcraft. Moreover, he’s cast out to prison by the religious order he was in because he attempted to use new science (math etc.) to understand superstitious beliefs. However, Luca is taken in by a secret religious sect, the Order of the Dragon, which aims to use his gifts to investigate and wipe out the evils in Europe. So, Luca travels around the country with his companions, on assignments commissioned to him by the Pope.

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Book Review: I’ve Got Your Number (Sophie Kinsella)

So, let me just start by saying that I’m a HUGE fan of Sophie Kinsella. Who wouldn’t be? I love her candid writing style and the way you absolutely fall in love with the characters. I feel like in some dimension, Becky Bloomwood (her heroine from the Shopaholic series) and I are besties. And after reading I’ve Got Your Number, Kinsella’s got me feeling the same way about Poppy.

What’s it about? The story revolves around a charming, yet somewhat self-conscious girl named Poppy Wyatt. Although self-accomplished as a physiotherapist (and in love with what she does), Poppy tends to feel rather unworthy in regards to her well-known, university professor fiancé Magnus (this name does two things to me – make me cringe and think of a pompous, big-bellied man with a curled mustache and monocle, or it makes me crave Magnum ice cream..hmm). Magnus is what you would call “love on paper”. He’s got all the credentials, the air of a sophisticated gentleman, wealth, and family. Poppy is totally in love with the idea of him – how could you not love being engaged to someone so perfect? But of course, in pure Kinsella fashion, a whirlwind twist knocks on Poppy’s door. Everything dear to her in this picture-perfect life is suddenly put in grave danger when she (accidentally) loses her engagement ring at a pre-wedding event! Horrible, right? It gets worse. She also loses her cellphone! Imagine losing something extremely precious to you (like if one of the girls in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants lost the pants or if Hermione in Harry Potter lost the Time-Turner) and then losing the one thing that could be traced back to you with helpful information. Nothing seems to be going right for Poor Poppy.

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