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: 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: 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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New Releases – May

New books smell like love. At least, that’s my opinion (and hopefully you agree!). The month has just begun (kind of…) and there have been a bunch of awesome releases and even more to look forward to. Here are some that I’m dying to get my hands on:

Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie (a young woman returns home after being lost to find that life has moved on – intriguing!)

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Bringing Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel (a sequel to Wolf Hall and great historical fiction)

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare (part of the Mortal Instruments series)

Insurgent by Veronica Roth (sequel to Divergent and a HUGE fan favourite)

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The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts (part of the Inn Trilogy)

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (sequel to Delirium – read it, loved it!)

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The 50 Book Pledge

A lot of times, readers find that they have mental lists of novels to read, yet time and memory escapes them. When you see an interesting book, but somehow forget about it in the mess of thoughts you have, it’s super frustrating. Many of us make new year’s resolutions to read a certain amount of books, or collections by a particular author, or just really wish to expand our literary horizons. Luckily, the brilliant minds at HarperCollins Canada have created the 50 Book Pledge.

This pledge is for everyone and anyone (brave enough to take it!) to read 50 books over the span of 365 days. Why not 52, one for each week? Well…life gets in the way and two weeks of grace could come in handy, plus 50 sounds like a nice round number. But seriously. How awesome is the idea? With this pledge, you have a goal and a destination. You can’t end the year thinking, “Gosh, I wish I’d read more…been more worldly.” Nope. The pledge will guarantee that you explore a few worlds, meet a few new people, and escape to a few mental vacations!

It’s simple. No deadlines – start at any time. You don’t have to sign any waivers and there are no punishments for falling behind. The idea of reading even a couple more books a year than you generally do is worth it, right? So join us! Browse Chapters for new releases and recommendations, check out your local library, or the newspaper to find something you like (We personally recommend Savvy Reader to get you started). Start off with a bang! Read something wonderful.

Now, we know that keeping a list of all those books can be a hassle. But you also don’t want to forget the ones you’ve read, for the sake of looking back at your accomplishments and seeing how your year played out. Want our advice on how to keep track of your adventures?

Start a Pinterest board! It’s super easy and incredibly visual. We find that pinning all the books you’ve read helps you recall story lines and characters, simply by looking at the cover. It’s also a great way for you to share your pledge with friends and let others get ideas on what to read next.

So now you’re set. Find that perfect place, settle down, and crack open the spine of a fresh book (or click on the cover of an e-book!). It’ll be worth it, we promise and as always, happy reading!

P.S. Here are some great suggestions to get you started! 

Divergent by Veronica Roth (a dystopian series – highly recommended for The Hunger Games fans!)

Room by Emma Donoghue (a Canadian achievement! Room is unique and thrilling – not your everyday novel)

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (another dystopian series – The Hunger Games fans will love it)

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (your modern day Lord of the Rings, highly detailed and epic – check out the show as well!)

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (big favourite – totally intense and psychologically gripping)

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory (for the historical fiction fan! Ms. Gregory is an artist with her words)

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James (racy, romantic, and definitely for young adults and up – also a current bestseller)

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks (a romantic, sweet, typical Sparks-esque story)

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (for the classic mystery lover)

Eragon by Christopher Paolini (an adventure excellent for kids or just about anyone really)

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen (for the Non-Fiction lover – a 60-yr old novelist recalls her experiences in life)