Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Dead Kid Detective Agency by Evan Munday

The Title.  The cover art.  The shape of the book.  These are the first three things I really liked about this book...and I hadn't even opened the cover yet.  And when I did?  I was in book heaven.  Only a few short chapters in, at page 39, I already knew I was going to be a fan of this book.  Whatever plot direction it would take, Munday's writing style had me smiling, thinking and eager for the next syllable. Quick fired phrasings welcomed me into the pages, dexterously weaving the characters around me.  I instantly bonded with references to rocking out to Neil Diamond - a childhood embarrassment that I could now look back on with the wry amusement of an adult.

Thirteen-year-old October Schwartz is new in town; short on friends and the child of a clinically depressed science teacher, she spends her free time in the Sticksville Cemetery and it isn’t long before she befriends the ghosts of five dead teenagers, each from a different era of the past. Using October’s smarts and the ghosts’ abilities to walk through walls and roam around undetected, they form the Dead Kid Detective Agency, a group committed to solving Sticksville’s most mysterious mysteries. So when the high school’s beloved French teacher dies in a suspicious car accident, it provides the agency with its first bona fide case, putting them in the midst of a murder plot thick with car chases, cafeteria fights, and sociopathic math teachers, and sending them on an adventure that might just uncover the truth about a bomb that exploded 40 years ago.

I really liked that this book is packed full of Canadian references  landmarks and culture but never once beat you over the head with it.  As a Canadian, these references are organic, linking motives and personal histories together to create a familiar social landscape where I can immerse myself in the story.

This is Munday's premiere novel.  It works.  Very well.  Go get a copy.  Now.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The 10 Most Bizarre Pieces Of Literary Merch

Just in time for Christmas...what do you get that hard to buy for bookphile?
Try one of these, um, unique items.  

Reposted from the July 2012 article by Kimberly Turner.

Books aren't just books anymore, and authors aren't just authors. They are—as obnoxious and bizspeak as it sounds—"brands," and they're being marketed as such. So if you're sick of hearing about Fifty Shades of Greynow, wait until your aunt asks for Fifty Shades lingerie this Christmas. CopCorp, which bought the licensing rights to the series, anticipates adult toys, key fobs, men's ties, jewelry, fragrances, and "appropriate services." (I shudder to think what that means.) After all, it's not such a stretch to assume that if you enjoy the book or author, you'll buy the T-shirt, coffee mug, or bookmark. But what about the panties, shower curtain, and Ouija board? Literary merchandise is not as straightforward as you might think. Here are ten of the most bizarre book tie-ins...

David Eggers shower curtainDave Eggers Shower Curtain

Are you like me? Do you find yourself sitting on the can—extra-soft Charmin by your side, germ-ridden reading material at the ready—thinking, "Man, there's only one thing that would make this bathroom experience better, and that's a Dave Eggers shower curtain"? No? What if that shower curtain featured a monologue told to Dave Eggers by HIS shower curtain? Come on. That's so many shower curtains, all trying to make you happy. All that's missing is a picture of a stapler.
I'm not even going to sit here and try to be cool with you. Here's the truth: I own this item. I got it for my birthday because my friends are all too aware of my Eggers fandom. Go ahead and judge me. I'll wait... Okay, so while you were being all judge-y, my shower curtain told me, "I shield you. And I like you." So I'm fine with your disparaging glances.
Price: Your shower curtain can enhance your self-esteem for $65.

Harry Potter's vibrating broomstickHarry Potter & The Vibrating Broomstick

Somewhere there's a Mattel executive who deserves a high-five but probably got a pink slip instead. I'm talking about the one who attended a meeting about a grooved broomstick designed to go between children's legs for "easy riding," and said, "What's missing here is a vibration feature." That master of marketing suffered the indignity of seeing the vibrating Nimbus 2000 Electronic Broomstickget yanked from store shelves shortly after its launch when parents complained that their daughters enjoyed the battery-operated toy a touch too much.
The "real flying sensations" had the magical ability to persuade females of all ages to take a joy ride into Harry Potter world, and the product earned glowing Amazon reviews: "When my 12 year old daughter asked for this for her birthday, I kind of wondered if she was too old for it, but she seems to LOVE it. Her friends love it too! They play for hours in her bedroom with this great toy ... My oldest daughter (17) really likes it too!" Chamber of Secrets indeed.
Price: Discontinued, try searching eBay for magic crotch rockets.

Game of Thrones iron throne'Game Of Thrones' Iron Throne

You know what really brings a room together? A 350-pound throne made of 1,000 swords taken from your enemies. I know, I know, you're all like, "Hey, I've got soccer practices to attend and reality television to watch. When am I gonna have time to slay 1,000 foes?" Realistically, you're not. That's why HBO did the work for you, modeling a seven-foot replica of the seat of kings from George R.R. Martin's novels out of hand-painted fiberglass and fire-proof resin. It might not have the best lumbar support, but your in-laws will learn to respect your authority in a hurry.
Price: $30,000 plus $1,800 shipping.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas game'Fear And Loathing' Board Game

Created by artist Jonathan Baldwin, this Hunter S. Thompson–inspired board game has it all: stimulants, depressants, inhalants, unclassified hallucinogens, activity cards, and challenges such as "While one person flicks the lights on and off rapidly, try to catch three soft objects thrown at you." Although most of the substances are fake and the game was never mass-produced, the rules and cards are available on Baldwin's website, so with a good drug dealer, a healthy lack of self preservation, and a bit of craftiness, one could easily make a DIY version (a la Cards Against Humanity).
Price: $3,500 according to

Hemmingway tableHemingway Furniture

You've grown your beard out, donned the iconic turtleneck sweater, drank yourself blind, and divorced your third wife, but still don't have a publishing contract. What to do? The next step in your Single White Female–esque Hemingway obsession is to dispose of your current IKEA furnishings and replace them with Thomasville's Hemingway collection.
Start with the hideous Trophy Horn Table (which the Thomasville website explains is tied to the animal trophies Hemingway took during his 1934 East African safari) then maybe add an Elephant Accent Table (they had to stretch to explain this one: "In 1927, Hemingway published a collection of short stories in a book entitled Men Without Women. In this book there was a story called 'Hills Like White Elephants.' While this story really did not have anything directly to do with elephants, Hemingway did subsequently see and experience elephants in their native habitats when on safaris") and, of course, finish with the Hemingway Writing Desk. Then sit back and wait for the Pulitzers and Nobel Prizes to roll in.
Prices: From $400 to $4,099 depending on piece.

Twilight panties!'Twilight' Between Your Legs

If you're looking for officially licensed Twilight merch, there's no shortage of jewelry, life-size cardboard vampire cutouts, and action figures. But let me tell you what's wrong with all that: None of it goes anywhere near your crotch. Fortunately, the crazies of the interwebs are problem solvers. Twilight condoms will ensure you don't end up with a vampire fetus eating your womb and then some disturbed fan making a felt model of said damaged womb. Fan-madeEdward Cullen panties with an image of actor Robert Pattinson's mouth on the inside (what's creepy about that?) will ensure you never get laid by an actual human male. And a ghastly pale Twilight-inspired dildo called The Vamp (link NSFW, obvs) retains cold so you can "toss it in the fridge for that authentic experience." A perfect gift for the discerning necrophiliac. Try to forget this is all based on young adult fiction.
Twilight dildo
Prices: Vampire ice dildo, $43.99. Panties and condoms are not being mass-produced, thank god.

Catcher in the Rye children's shirt'Catcher In The Rye' Shirt For Toddlers

Why wait for your toddler to hit puberty before becoming an angst-ridden ball of alienation and confusion? Get your tiny Holden Caulfield on the road to the asylum early with this adorable Catcher In The Rye toddler tee. To solidify your little bundle of joy's youthful disillusionment, be sure to play him lullaby versions of The Smiths and Morrissey. If you're lucky, his first word will be "phony" and he'll be promptly expelled from his first prep school.
Price: $19.95 plus your child's sense of joy.

Writer shot glassesWriterly Drinking Aids

Look, I'm not saying literary greatness can't be achieved without alcohol. It happens all the time. What I am saying is that if I had a time machine and my druthers, I'd put Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, James Joyce, Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, and Charles Bukowski into a room with a single bottle of whiskey. Then I'd use a two-way mirror to watch them duke it out. Oh, and they'd all be in the prime of their youth to level the playing field. There might also be a single weapon, but something lame like a Nerf wiffle ball bat. These are the kinds of things I daydream about.
Alas, I do not have a time machine (nor do I have my druthers most of the time), so the best I can do is this Dorothy Parker martini glass with "I like to have a martini. Two at the very most. Three, I'm under the table. Four, I'm under my host!" etched into it.
For more extreme displays of lushness, I can move to the Great Drinkers Shot Glass Set, featuring images of Churchill, Byron, Baudelaire, Yeats, Parker, and Wilde along with booze-related quotes. Justify your drunkenness by claiming you're some kind of kindred spirit of these literary greats, then go browse Reddit or something.
Price: Martini glass, $12.95. Shot glasses, $15.49.

Eat, Pray, Love fragrance'Eat, Pray, Love' Merch

Remember Elizabeth Gilbert's 2006 memoir about escaping her materialistic NYC lifestyle to go on a spiritual journey around the world? It's all about soul-searching and finding fulfillment and breaking free of the shackles of consumerism. What really complements a book like that? A shitload of pricey merchandise and a marketing plan designed to convince unfulfilled middle-aged women that they can buy their way out of unhappiness. From $19,795 tours of India to a whole collection of costume-y Sue Wong kimono-looking things to perfumes, tea sets, fugly scarves, and lip gloss—the anti-consumerist book was so pimped out, it should've been called Eat, Pray, Buy.
Prices: Vary from fairly cheap to ridiculously pricey, depending on product.

Sylvia Plath oven mittsSylvia Plath Oven Products

Now I'm not known for my political correctness, but there's a line society draws in order to maintain common decency and good taste. It's that smudged mark you can see about ten feet behind me right now. It is disrespectful enough that emo kids with "I am. I am. I am." tattooed on their lower backs know more about Plath's suicide via oven than they do about her poetry. But creating oven mitts bearing her name? Well, that's a whole new level of uncouth, isn't it?
Then there's the Ouija board. Plath and her husband, Ted Hughes, were known to consult the spirit board now and again, and the tortured writer even penned a poem entitled "Ouija." So despite the goofy Miami Vice color scheme, the Sylvia Plath Ouija board seemed harmless enough at first glance. Then I noticed the planchette. Yep, that's an oven. Hold a séance using this, and I hope Plath haunts the shit out of your apartment forever.
Sylvia Plath ouija board
Price: Oven mitts are $28 on Etsy when available (they aren't currently). Ouija board costs your eternal soul, if you can find it for sale.

Would you buy any of this stuff? Do you own any weird lit merch?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Vampire Stalker by Allison Van Diepen

What if the characters in a vampire novel left their world—and came into yours?
Amy is in love with someone who doesn't exist: Alexander Banks, the dashing hero in a popular series of vampire novels. Then one night, Amy meets a boy who bears an eerie resemblance to Alexander. In fact, he IS Alexander, who has escaped from the pages of the book and is in hot pursuit of a wicked vampire named Vigo. Together, Amy and Alexander set out to track Vigo and learn how and why Alexander crossed over. But when she and Alexander begin to fall for each other, Amy wonders if she even wants him to ever return to the realm of fiction.

A 2013 Red Maple Nominee

hmm.  I enjoyed the concept of this book and even a few parts of the story -  as long as I kept in mind that it was written for young readers.  It felt very light for an otherworldly vampire story and lacked the emotional depths I like to connect with in my reading. I found the action low key and the romance was what I will call: almost there. The relationship between Alexander and Amy worked until it left the realm of possibility and tried to actually take place.  Had it been left as a crush or a flirtation I may not have noticed how it was more semblance than tangible.

 There were several moments where the phrase "oh, come on!" jumped about my brain - for instance the ease with which Amy and her Librarian friend, Mrs. P accept the main premise of a character from a book happening into their 'real' world. Then there was the way in which Amy's mom was so willing to allow a stranger eighteen year-old to move in with her two young daughter based on her teenage daughter's earnest request.  I don't know of any mother, single or otherwise who would be so trusting and allow this guest to come and go from her home with barely an eyebrow raised.  Conversely the relationship between Amy and her younger sister, while more of a background theme, had some realistic moments and felt like a honest relationship to to me.  

Still, the idea behind Vampire Stalker is an intriguing one.  Haven't you ever been reading a story and thought, even fleetingly, that you would like to meet the characters?  Or experience part of their world in your own real life?  Van Diepen hints at the influence, fantasy and power that a love of reading offers fellow bookphiles.  And that aspect is the sum of the attraction I have for this book.  It was not enough.  I hope that  younger, perhaps newer readers, will find more value here than I did.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Seeing Cinderella by Jenni Lundquist

Calliope Meadow Anderson wishes her life could be more of a fairy tale—just like the stories she writes. Her best friend, Ellen, is acting weird, her parent's marriage is falling apart, and to top things off, she found out she needs hideously large and geeky glasses.

But Callie soon learns they aren't just any glasses—they are magical and let her read people's thoughts. For the first time ever she's answering all the questions right in math class, and gets a glimpse of what goes through people's minds all day, including what Ellen—and her longtime crush—really think of her.

As if dealing with these crazy glasses weren't enough, Callie tries out for the lead in her school's production of Cinderella and actually gets the part. Instead, Callie chooses to let Ellen have the lead and be Ellen's understudy—just like she has done for their entire friendship.

Add in a new girl who has something to hide, a secret admirer, a best friend stealer who isn't what she seems, and Callie's year just went from ordinary to extraordinary.

Can this supporting actress learn to be a leading lady in her own life? Or is she destined to stay in the background forever—even with her super-freaky-magic glasses?

This is a fun, quirky tale that lets the reader try out a superpower we have all wanted, or thought we wanted, at one time or another.  What do people really think?  Would you really want to know?  Would you want someone else to be able to see what YOU really think?  How would it change things?  Is it better not to know?   I liked the way Lundquist explored Callie's awkwardness and uncertainty.  We've all been that age and even as we grow up, we all still have those moments and thoughts that cause us to cringe inside with embarrassment and self doubt.  Without becoming preachy, Seeing Cinderella travels a path of evolving friendships, learning to trust and seeing what is truly in front of you.  I recommend this book for any middle grade girl who is navigating her way through the daily changes going to school, growing up, life and family throws at her.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Testify by Valerie Sherrard

Shana Tremain is a good kid. She knows right from wrong and shes never been in any serious trouble. But when her best friend, Carrie, comes to her for help, Shana agrees to break the law to save Carrie from a molester. She even feels good about it for a while.

Then trouble starts. Someone in their group of friends is stealing from the others. As she searches for the truth, Shana uncovers evidence that raises a terrifying question: Has she made a horrible mistake?

Faced with the reality of what shes done, Shana finds herself trapped in a web of her own lies and deceit. Can she convince the right people that shes telling the truth now? Either way its clear someone is going to pay a terrible price for her crime

A Red Maple 2013 Nominee

For a short novel, the impact of the relationship between the girls is powerful and quick to reach out to the reader.   You don't have to identify with the specific circumstances of the group of girls to recognize the dynamics almost instantly- intense loyalty, the devastation of betrayal, the drop of your stomach when a mistake is realized, the desperation for a wrong to be corrected, the shame and fear of being outcast.  These are all emotions that can be experienced several times a day in the life of a teenage girl.  The rules of social survival can be brutal and binding.  Defying those rules can change how you see yourself and how those you think you know treat you.  

This is a powerful story that examines how motives and truth can change in an instant, altering who we think we are and who we will become.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Paper House by Lori Peterson

Life is hard for ten-year-old Safiyah in the Kibera slum outside Nairobi. Too poor to go to school, she makes a meager living for herself and her grandmother Cucu by selling things she finds at the garbage dump. After using scavenged paper to fix up the inside of the hut, Safiyah starts a mural on the outside. As word of the paper house spreads, Safiyah begins to take pride in her creation. When Cucu collapses after a fire, Safiyah stays at the hospital to help care for her grandmother. While Safiyah is away, her friend Pendo works on the mural, which upsets Safiyah. But when Pendo attracts media attention to the paper house, Safiyah and her grandmother are given a chance of a better life. -- Silver Birch Express 2013 Nominee

This was a pleasant quick read which served as a topical introduction to social issues and justice for young readers.  Peterson manages to humanize the concept of poverty and the real concerns of a child in the third world without becoming overbearing to young readers.  This is a story that explores the value of family, community, creativity and determination and the triumph of hope in difficult circumstances.   I can easily see this book being used to start a classroom discussion on the challenges children face in other countries, from hunger, safety, education and sickness as well as connecting themes of family, cooperation, friendship, and helping others.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Book Sculptures

Book artist Jodi Harvey-Brown offers new life to some great books.  Using the very pages of these books to bring a feeling of living words to the stories.  Check out some examples from her  store under the name WetCanvasArt.

Rhett and Scarlett come to life! "Gone with the Wind" is one of our best loved books, and the story pops out of the pages with this sculpture. Rhett holds Scarlett close in front of the iconic tree while Scarlett's beloved Tara waits for her return in the background. The sculpture is detailed with tall grasses behind the tree, wildflowers under Scarlett's feet and a horse and carriage outside of Tara.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Famous Librarians

I've seen versions of this list over the years and decided to share it. 

1. Ben Franklin: Ben Franklin didn’t sit behind a circulation desk and help college kids find research materials, but he is still a legitimate librarian. In 1731, Franklin and his philosophy group Junto organized the “Articles of Agreement,” which set up the nation’s first library. Their library, called The Library Company, was first meant to benefit only the members of Junto, so that they could share books on the issues they discussed during meetings. It was organized as a subscription library, and members of Junto payed a small fee to retrieve books.

2. Melvil Dewey: Founder of the Dewey Decimal System, Melvil Dewey was born in New York in 1851. While a student at Amherst College, he worked in the school library to support his living expenses and stayed on as a librarian after graduation. After experimenting with different cataloging and organization methods for library collections, Amherst College published his work A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library. Dewey has been named the “Father of Modern Librarianship” and even helped created the American Library Association in 1876.

3. Eratosthenes: The Greek scholar Eratosthenes discovered the system of latitude and longitude and made significant contributions to astronomy. Eratosthenes was also the chief librarian of the Great Library of Alexandria.

4. Saint Lawrence: As one of the patron saints of librarians, Saint Lawrence, or Lawrence of Rome, was a Catholic deacon who was killed by the Romans in 258 for refusing to turn over the collection of Christian treasures and documents he was entrusted to protect.

5. Golda Meir: Golda Meir was the fourth prime minister of Israel, from 1969-1974. She was also one of the twenty-four who signed the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948; am ambassador to the Soviet Union; Minister of Labour from 1949-1956, and the inspiration for the Broadway play Golda, which starred Anne Bancroft. Before her distinguished political career, however, Golda Meir worked as a librarian.

6. J. Edgar Hoover: As the legendary director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover led domestic investigations from 1924-1972, as head of the Bureau of Investigation and when he founded the FBI in 1935. In his early life, however, Hoover went to night school at George Washington University and supported himself by working at the Library of Congress. There, he was a messenger, cataloguer and clerk. In 1919, Hoover left the Library of Congress and worked as a special assistant to the Attorney General.

7. Giacomo Casanova: The infamous spy, writer, diplomat and lover Casanova was born in Venice during the first half of the 18th century. Although he studied to become a priest at the University of Padua and the seminary of St. Cypria, Casanova is well-known for being a drinker and for having scandalous love affairs with numerous women. Later in life, he worked as a librarian for the Count of Waldstein in Dux, Bohemia.

8. Pope Pius XI, or Achille Ratti: Pope Pius XI served from 1929 -1939, during which time he established the feast of Christ the King and spoke out against social justice crimes and unethical financial corruption practices. Before he became pope, Ratti was a librarian and scholar, and at the Vatican, Pope Pius XI famously reorganized the archives.

9. Lewis Carroll: The author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll’s real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Dodgson grew up in Cheshire and Yorkshire, England, and after graduating from Oxford with a B.A. in mathematics, he became a sub-librarian at Christ Church there. He left that position in 1857 to become a Mathematical Lecturer. Dodgson first told the story of Alice Adventures in Wonderland to the three daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, in 1862. The book was published three years later and continues to be a popular and significant work of fiction today.

10. Beverly Cleary: Popular children’s book author Beverly Cleary wrote the Ramona Quimby books and Henry Higgins books and has received three Newbery Medals. But before she became a celebrated author, Beverly grew up in a tiny town in Oregon, where her mother asked the State Library to send books to their farm. During the Depression, Beverly went to junior college in California and later attended the University of California at Berkeley. She then attended the School of Librarianship at the University of Washington, Seattle, and became a children’s librarian.

11. Madeleine L’Engle: American author Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is still a popular book among junior high students and almost like a rite of passage for young fiction readers. She has won multiple Newbery Medals and other awards, but later in life, she served as the librarian and writer-in-residence at Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

12. Jorge Luis Borges: Jorge Luis Borges is an Argentine writer who made significant contributions to fantasy literature in the 20th century. He shared the International Publishers’ Formentor Prize with Samuel Beckett and was a municipal librarian from 1939-1946 in Argentina, before getting fired by the Peron regime. One of his most famous short stories, “The Library of Babel,” depicts the universe as a huge library.

13. Joanna Cole: Joanna Cole’s The Magic School Bus series has served to educate and entertain elementary-aged children about the human body, space, and more. She has also worked as a librarian, a schoolteacher, book editor and writer/producer of the BBC children’s TV show Bod.

14. Jacob Grimm: Grimms’ Fairy Tales was first published in 1812, but the stories, including “Hansel and Gretel,” “Cinderella,” and “Snow White,” are still classic children’s stories constantly reinvented as plays, Disney movies and more. Jacob Grimm worked as a librarian in Kasel, after graduating with a law degree. During this time, Jacob and his brother Wilhelm collected German folk tales from ordinary citizens in hopes of uniting area kingdoms on the basis of sharing a similar culture.

15. Nancy Pearl: Nancy Pearl is kind of like a celebrity librarian. She has an action figure and travels around the country giving lectures and spreading the good news of books. She started the trend of city-wide book clubs when she organized the “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book,” program in 1998. She also has a Women’s National Book Association Award, served as Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book, and wrote an immensely popular, best-selling book called Book Lust.

Special mention goes to my fav:
Rupert Edmund Giles, librarian at Sunndydale High in Whedonland (also known as the place where TV's  Buffy the Vampire Slayer takes place) .
He's wise.  He's cultured. He's British!  He has a past as a rebellious teen, rocks out on the guitar and brews a mean cup of  Earl Grey! With an encyclopedic knowledge, an affinity for magic, being multilingual and deflty talented at delivering exposition, his love for ancient texts has helped to save the world countless times. Plus, He too, has an action figure!

Friday, August 17, 2012

46. Beauty and the Beast

There is something wonderfully pleasing about picking up a childhood favourite as an adult.  To revisit old friends and relive adventures with a fresh eye brings a sense of comfort.  While flipping through my Kobo VOX I noticed that I had a copy of Beauty and the Beast in there.  Credited to Anonymous, this was not the sing-song Disney version  - which I never really took to - but one that felt quite grown up.  With formal wording and the suggestion of emotion, I fell back into a familiar space where I could curl up in my oversized chair and, snuggled in a hand sewn quilt, allow my imagination and empathy take me into that old-world setting.  It is a place where promises are still intrinsic with honour and a good heart can triumph.

 This  version seemed to be an expansion of the one I lovingly read by Marianne Meyer. The illustrations drew me in then and today it remains my favourite visual for this tale. With soft lines and rich colours, Mercer Meyers illustrations breath life into the characters and speak more of Beauty's spirit than the words could do. I am drawn to her capacity for appreciation, shown during her days at the Beasts home for the riches in the house, the artistry of the gardens, the birds she befriends and the for the kindness and restraint she recognizes in the beast.   Meyers illustrations reflect the emotions I have when reading this story.   Usually classified as a fairytale, I have always thought of this as a love story.  A pure and honest love story. I have a mini-swoon each time I read, or even remember it.

45. Jemima J. by Jane Green

Jemima Jones is overweight. About one hundred pounds overweight. Treated like a maid by her thin and social-climbing roommates, and lorded over by the beautiful Geraldine (less talented but better paid) at the Kilburn Herald, Jemima finds that her only consolation is food. Add to this her passion for her charming, sexy, and unobtainable colleague Ben, and Jemima knows her life is in need of a serious change. When she meets Brad, an eligible California hunk, over the Internet, she has the perfect opportunity to reinvent herself-as JJ, the slim, beautiful, gym-obsessed glamour girl. But when her long-distance Romeo demands that they meet, she must conquer her food addiction to become the bone-thin model of her e-mails-no small feat. 
With a fast-paced plot that never quits and a surprise ending no reader will see coming, Jemima J is the chronicle of one woman''s quest to become the woman she''s always wanted to be, learning along the way a host of lessons about attraction, addiction, the meaning of true love, and, ultimately, who she really is.

*possible spoilers (if you look hard)
I had read this novel  in 2001 or so and had very fond memories of it.  It was my introduction to author Jane Green , who has become one of my go-to authors..sort of like comfort food for rainy days.  Revisiting it this week, I found myself surprised at how dated certain aspects were: the introduction of the internet, mention of celebrity couples Tom Cruse and Nicole Kidman  and Demi Moore and Bruce Willis as a happily married ideals, and the detailed descriptions on fashions (now outdated, even in text). 
I also noticed in this reading, the use of a voice-over narrator that had been forgotten since my last visit.  I couldn't decide if it was quirky in a soap opera way - the author talking to the reader in between first person narration by the two main characters, or annoying in that same soap opera way.
These two points aside, I still enjoyed the story.  I find my perception has changed over the years as well.  During my first reading ten years ago, I identified greatly with Jemima  and cheered her on at every turn.  This time around, my cheers were interspersed with flashes of reason and logic regarding her weight-loss regime and her evolving self-image.  On the surface  the changes she made were great fodder for the genre but I found myself impatient for Jemima to reach her epiphanies and find her equilibrium in the world.  The ending still held the satisfaction I was seeking, although this time around it felt short as I found I wanted more details between the last chapter and the epilogue.
Ten years later the heart of this book  held up for me.  I wonder how I will view it in another five or ten years?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

44. What a Gentleman Wants by Caroline Linden

Marcus Reese, Duke of Essex, has spent most of his life pulling his twin brother out of trouble. An occasional thank you would suffice; instead, his resentful sibling forges his name to a marriage license and presents him with an unwanted wife. She's a vicar's widow with a mind of her own who may be the first person in Marcus's well-ordered life to make him feel. . .completely out of control.
Hannah can't help but curse her own idiocy. Dire straits have led her to the altar with a gentleman she hardly knows. Played for a fool, she's embarrassed, furious, and worse, married to an equally outraged stranger--an exasperating man who unleashes all manner of emotions in Hannah, not to mention unwanted desire. Reluctantly, she agrees to play the wife until he can sort out the mess. But the nearness of the undeniably attractive Duke and the passion in his black eyes unsettles her well-guarded heart--making her want to do so much more than "act" the role of blissful bride. . .
This was a pleasant read with well written characters, humour and all the drama and refuse-to-admit-we-have-attraction a good romance requires.  I particularly enjoyed that the female characters did not fall headlong into stereotypes of the period or genre.  They remained feminine, somewhat bound by societal rules but also had intellect, compassion and strength.  Hannah, as a vicar's widow, is able to explain some of her meeker behaviours on upbringing and her station during her first marriage yet leaves no doubt as to her true feelings and is willing to bypass propriety when warranted.  Linden writes her as a flushed out character who has a belief code that she lives by but who also has true emotions, reactions and considers    her instinctive reactions against public expectation rather than  swooning or turning to hysterics as other authors would have her do.   Marcus and David Reece are also more than stereotypes once you turn a few pages, bringing dimension to the various relationships in this novel.  The inclusion of Hannah's daughter, Molly, is handled very well.  She serves as motive for Hannah's actions and as a means to explore the personalities of several characters by way of their interactions with her.  Any good romance needs some drama to sustain it and Linden opens the story with a dramatic trickery that forces our reluctant lovers together.  She is correct in knowing that more adventure is needed later to urge the characters to their final realizations, but the sub plot concerning counterfeit money and a nefarious challenger to out hero did not fit as well as it could have.  Hinted at from the beginning, too little detail was given to the reader until the end.  It made it hard for this reader to care very much about this part of the story.  The only merit I found in this 'mystery' was in the brief interactions between brothers David and Marcus and then between  Hannah and Marcus.  I did enjoy seeing the brothers interact as a team rather than their usual adversarial relationship.  A nice Saturday read...and yes, I am curious about the continuation of the Reece family romances in What a Rogue Desires (David's story) and A Rake's Guide to Seduction (little sister Celia's story).  Perhaps I'll look one of them up some other Saturday.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

41-43. Kobo romance freebie reading spree

When I first bought my Kobo Vox I rushed to take advantage of the free books available.  They generally fell into two categories: lengthy classics and Harlequin-type romances.  This weekend I decided to move some of those romances from the "to-read" shelf to the "read & done" shelf.  Here's the list:

The Bride's Baby by Liz Fielding
Mercenary and the Marriage Vow by Doreen Roberts
Perception by Angela Verdenius
Once a Cowboy by Linda Warren
Hide in Plain Sight  by Marta Perry
Dancing in the Moonlight by Raeanne Thayne
Baby Bonanza by Maureen Child
Baby, I'm Yours by Stephanie Bond
Speed Dating by Nancy Warren

Most of these titles follow the standard formula for Harlequin books: Contentious first meeting, instant lust, sudden unexpected feelings of love on her part, refusal to admit feelings on his part, numerous misunderstandings, angst, and in the final pages they actually talk, realizing they could have solved all this and got on with their lives on page 5, and happily ever after.  Sometimes this can be an enjoyable 1-2 hour long read but often I finish shaking my head and eyes sore from rolling so much. Clichés, sickly-sweet sentiment, ridiculous misunderstandings.  I find that unless there is a substantial plot to accompany the romance story I become close to infuriates with  the man-handling, controlling behaviour and refusal to have a honest conversation.

I'll add to this list the Loveswept romance: I Do by Mallory Rush a.k.a. Olivia Rupprecht.

Mostly because I don't think it deserves it's very own post.  In the case of  I Do, I fell victim to the ever popular 'replacement cover'.  Always one to be intrigued first by the book cover, I saw this and figured...why not?
After reading the book I had a suspicion so I googled the book and located THIS!

SOL--He Promised Her Forbidden Pleasures.... 
He'd nearly died in a foreign land, and in a moment of madness he'd married the woman whose letters had given him a reason to live. But when Sol Standish faced his bride for the first time, he knew he should release her from her vows. Mariah Garnet trembled when her husband stepped off the plane, wildly excited at meeting Sol, but deeply ashamed of the deception that had made her his wife.
Irresistible Temptations
Innocent, passionate, unrestrained in her hunger for the sensual gifts he offered, Mariah was a mystery Sol itched to unveil, but was her reckless courage strong enough to heal a man whose scars ran so deep? Desperate for the trust of his wanton angel, Sol demanded the truth she'd kept from the man who shared her soul. Could he make her believe he'd let no one take her from him, that she was his answered prayer
SOL is his name...and he does start out in the book thinking he actually is Sh*t .Outta .Luck.

I read this book and thought that I may injure myself from the almost constant eye-rolling.  Such cheesy lines and that old story...almost underage girl, innocent and sweet falls for older, hardened, dominating man.  I actually laughed out loud a few times over utterings such as "He realised he was the wind beneath my wings" blah blah

...okay.  All complaining and making fun aside, I admit I did read the whole thing.  In one sitting.  And it was kinda fun.  If you can embrace or even revel in the cheese factor then I Do is actually a bit of fun!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Saturday, August 4, 2012

39. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie’s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

Literary Cupcakes

I came across this site and instantly wondered what
the shipping cost would be!  I think It may be worth it!


Perfect for your next reading club gathering. These are not fictional! Literary cupcakes from Victoria's Kitchen in Chiswick, West London. Hmmm...cupcakes. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

face BOOK: How do you use your library?

From the Blurberati Blog:
How do you use your library? That’s the question that Ann Schofield put to the patrons of a branch library in Cruddas Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK. And the way she had people answer is one we quite approve of: having them hold their reasons up to the camera. Knowing that many people use the library for more than just books, she let those patrons hold up signs saying why they came (to use the Internet, read newspapers, attend jobs groups…). And we love the way photographer Keith Pattison captured each shot with tremendous warmth and humanity.
The book that came out of it is a wonderful reminder of what libraries still mean to people in the digital age: a place of community and sharing. In fact, feel free to tell us what your library means to you, in the comments section below.

View the whole book here: faceBOOK

38. Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

What a cool idea!  Intermixing journal entries and a video diary to tell a story. This feels as though it was inspired by the Blair Witch Project.  The format  feeds the tension and suspense.  No third party narrative to foreshadow or explain beyond what the Ryan ans Sarah know.

Skeleton creek is broken into two parts - Ryan's text in the book, and Sarah's videos on a special website, with links and passwords given throughout the story. Skeleton Creek is a book and a movie at the same time. The format contributes greatly to the series appeal.

Carman uses suspense and fear to drive the plot.  The concern that housebound Ryan has for Sarah as she investigates alone creates the urgency this story needs. The grainy video provides a horror movie feel (although the acting could be much better!).  The special effects are effective.  In fact, they may be too much for younger, more sensitive viewers.  The back and forth from text to video also feeds the urgency of the situation by echoing the emotions of the main characters.  As they  hide their searching from their families and wait for 'safe' moments to send messages, the readers need to switch from reading to firing up the computer echo  those actions.

A great mystery ghost story for middle school to teen readers!

Book 1: Skeleton Creek

After an eerie accident leaves Ryan housebound and forbidden to see Sarah, their investigation takes two tracks: Ryan records everything in his journal, while Sarah uses her videocam in the haunted woods beyond Skeleton Creek.

Ghost in the Machine

Clues from Ryan’s journal and Sarah’s videos all point to one thing: someone will do anything to stop them from uncovering the deadly truth. 200 pages, nine videos, and a shocking end to the story that started a revolution in reading.