Sunday, December 28, 2014

Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard by John Branch

Published October 1, 2014 by W. W. Norton & Company
Hardcover, 384 pages
Borrowed from library

(taken from

The much-anticipated debut from the Pulitzer Prize–winningNew York Times reporter, Boy on Ice is a moving human story and behind-the-scenes account of a life lived in the glare of sporting fame.

The tragic death of hockey star Derek Boogaard at twenty-eight was front-page news across the country in 2011 and helped shatter the silence about violence and concussions in professional sports. Now, in a gripping work of narrative nonfiction, acclaimed reporter John Branch tells the shocking story of Boogaard's life and heartbreaking death.

Boy on Ice is the richly told story of a mountain of a man who made it to the absolute pinnacle of his sport. Widely regarded as the toughest man in the NHL, Boogaard was a gentle man off the ice but a merciless fighter on it. With great narrative drive, Branch recounts Boogaard's unlikely journey from lumbering kid playing pond-hockey on the prairies of Saskatchewan, so big his skates would routinely break beneath his feet; to his teenaged junior hockey days, when one brutal outburst of violence brought Boogaard to the attention of professional scouts; to his days and nights as a star enforcer with the Minnesota Wild and the storied New York Rangers, capable of delivering career-ending punches and intimidating entire teams. But, as Branch reveals, behind the scenes Boogaard's injuries and concussions were mounting and his mental state was deteriorating, culminating in his early death from an overdose of alcohol and painkillers.

Based on months of investigation and hundreds of interviews with Boogaard's family, friends, teammates, and coaches, Boy on Ice is a brilliant work for fans of Michael Lewis's The Blind Side or Buzz Bissinger'sFriday Night Lights. This is a book that raises deep and disturbing questions about the systemic brutality of contact sports—from peewees to professionals—and the damage that reaches far beyond the game.

I couldn't not write a review about this book after I enjoyed it so, so much. Which makes me so unbelievably uncomfortable to say because this is a book that centers a lot around - to put it bluntly - this one person's death and the causes of it. It makes me uncomfortable for the same reasons Serial made me slightly uncomfortable. It just feels like creating a source of entertainment out of real life situations that maybe should not be molded for entertainment purposes? And this has nothing to do with the way John Branch wrote the story because I actually think he handled the topic with tremendous grace and respect (I will get into that later). It's more of a ME thing where I just can't quite get over that feeling of THIS REALLY HAPPENED. WHY AM I READING ABOUT THIS AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHY DID I ENJOY IT SO MUCH?

But as for the writing, like I said, I thought John Branch treated Derek Boogaard's story with tremendous respect.
He really took great lengths to do as much research as possible (which is also detailed at the back of the book) to create as realistic a portrait of Boogaard as possible and I thought he did a fantastic job. Every aspect of Boogaard's life was written really well and the progression of starting in the minor leagues and then moving up to the NHL and then moving from Minnesota to New York was done exceptionally. And the harder bits to read about that I'm sure were equally as hard to write about - the parts that really illuminated what Derek Boogaard had to suffer through - were written really well too. 

And it wasn't just like this happened and that happened, a lot of insight was put into it that sorta showed the reader what Boogaard might have been thinking about during this fight or this moment. Branch really built up this character that was incredibly three dimensional and this may sound so silly but I really ended up caring a lot for Derek and it was so hard to read through some of the passages about him getting into fights and having to deal with swollen knuckles or him screaming that he felt alone. 

It never occurred to me until this book just how hard it is to write a biography. Obviously you will never be able to get every single detail down but as a writer, it's up to you to sorta fill in those spaces and draw the information out and make it interesting for the reader and not just a dump of information. And again I think Branch did an excellent job here. I don't know if this is typical in biographies because I don't read many but there were chunks of moments that made up a chapter and while you'd think that'd be really choppy, the transitions were really well done.

But apart from creating a really strong and captivating storyline, Branch also provided a lot of background information on the history of hockey and the enforcer which was really useful during reading, just to have that extra knowledge. There are many things I know about like Taylor Swift or old Disney TV shows but hockey is not one of them so it was handy to have that extra information to have that added insight when reading about Boogaard's experiences as an enforcer.

Which leads me to say that I think fighting is incredibly dumb. But I guess I shouldn't say that, not when I don't have the appropriate background. I'm not a religious hockey fan so I don't understand the reasons why, for one person, fighting could be really enjoyable and actually critical for the game. I also just hate fighting in general, like I could never stand to watch boxing or wrestling or even football because all I'm thinking is people getting beat up and hurt and how is that something I'd want to watch? But after getting a closer look at just what the exact consequences are of fighting in hockey it makes me wonder, is it really necessary if it has such severe consequences on the players? But it also really illuminates just how dedicated these players are to their teams and most of all to their sport which is admirable regardless of the circumstances.

And the final thing I will say is that Branch drew attention to some issues in hockey - and sports in general - that I think are important? Like for example, CTE which I really don't know much about (some of you will probably know more than I do) but can apparently be derived from concussions or just blows to the head and will lead to eventual dementia among other things. There's not a lot of information about it so far but I definitely think it's something worth looking into to protect these athletes.

Another thing that was a little alarming that was brought to the forefront in Boy on Ice was drug abuse and how the NHL handles it. Now I don't want to point fingers because I know ZERO about this at all, I don't work with the NHL - this is all based on what I've read - but I feel like there's something so wrong about how the team doctors don't communicate with each other about prescriptions given and how pills that a player was known to be addicted to were still handed out and how multiple positive urine tests just seemed to be ignored and not done anything about? 

So there was a lot to think about with this book. It made me think A LOT and honestly, given everything, I think this was one of my favourite books of 2014, maybe the favourite book because I just can't think about anything else. It was just so utterly captivating and well written. 

John Branch did a fantastic job with this book. Derek's story was told in a very respectful tone but it was also incredibly fascinating and gripping and you can tell endless hours of research was put into this by how three dimensional and humanistic Branch's portrayal of Boogaard was which made the story hard to read at points because for me at least I found myself to care a lot about Derek and some parts were incredibly tough to read about. Branch also wrote in a way that was incredibly thought-provoking so I'd be thinking the entire time I was reading this book and even after finishing it now, I'm still thinking. Branch raises a lot of questions about hockey and the role of fighting in the game and CTE among other things. Overall just a really great book that I enjoyed a lot. Quite possible THE favourite book of 2014.

Hockey fans, I suppose. I think recommending non-fiction is a different thing though because it's hard to get through a book if you don't have any interest in the subject matter. So hockey fans.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The 2015 Challenge Masterlist

I may have went a little overboard this year with the challenges... Trust me, there is not one part of me that thinks I can actually pull this all off. But I will try. It's just... these challenges all look so fun and even if I probably will fail horribly, I can't help but participate because FUN. 

So here are the challenges I'm planning on doing AND STICKING WITH this year. Not including the 2015 Goodreads Challenge because it's still 2014 and they haven't updated it yet and any other challenges I may stumble upon in the next few days. But if you're interested in checking back to see my progress, then just head on over to the Challenges page where I will keep you updated.

Most years, the books I read are dominantly backlist titles. But in 2014, without even making a conscious effort to do so, I actually read quite a few debuts. I often feel like I never know what's going on because I spend so much time catching up on books that I missed out on from previous years so this year, I want to make the conscious effort to try to squeeze in some more debuts. I'm aiming for at least one debut a month but hopefully more so that by the end of the year, I have a number in the 15-20 range!

Fantasy is not a genre I read a lot of at all but I do want to get into it! I want to branch out of the contemporary comfort zone and get into fantasy once again. I used to love fantasy as a kid but somewhere along the way I started swapping out magic for realism and I want to get back to reading it especially since there are so many books in the fantasy genre on my TBR like Throne of Glass and Graceling. This is a challenge I know I will probably fail the hardest though because each time I say I'm going to read more fantasy, it never happens so my goal is low: three books. And if I read more than three books, I will be extremely extremely happy.

To read more classics is something that's always on my list of resolutions at the start of a new year. Does it happen? No, but why not join a challenge to do so if I'm putting it on my list anyway? And hopefully, this will be the year. Honestly guys, if I read even one classic on my own accord this year, I will be content.

This will probably save my life. I am so bad with keeping my blog organized and up to date as you will see when you click on my pages. They are all horribly outdated and it's been a year of blogging guys and I'm still not there yet. Time to face the reality, I need help and hopefully this challenge is it! I'll be doing my best to keep up with the monthly themes and maybe by June, I'll finally get those dang pages done and more!

I participated in this last year and failed, not in the sense that I didn't read any books off of my TBR but because I stopped keeping track. I am not letting that happen this year! And I'm also enforcing the rule that the books have to be ones that were already on my Goodreads TBR prior to reading to count. Last year, I kinda cheated and counted every book toward this challenge because "technically I was reducing my TBR" but I'm not standing by that again this year. So having said that, I'm aiming for A Friendly Hug (11-20 books) because I think I can do that?

I love fairytale retellings but I rarely ever read them. But I'm hoping this challenge will get me to continue with the Cinder series because I am hopelessly behind. I must jump back onto that ship! But also get me caught up with other fairytale retellings out there. I FEEL LIKE I'M MISSING OUT. Really the only one I think I read this year was Tiger Lily which was FRICKING fantastic but I want more! Still, I'm only aiming for the Prince Charming level (1-4 books) because I know I will suck when the time finally comes and read very little because that's what always happens. But the good thing is that when you set your expectations really really low, you'll always surpass yourself! 

I don't reread very often - like maybe three books in a year? - but I've had some books I've wanted to turn back to again for a while so I'm using this chance to crack down and get to them! My number one priority would probably be the Harry Potter series because I started to reread them this year but then never got to continuing. I'd probably also add Anne of Green Gables to that list and some other books but we'll see.. I haven't really figured out anything yet apart from I have books I want to re-read and I'm going to try to do that!

With the #WeNeedDiverseBooks this year, I thought this challenge was very timely! Prior to this year, diversity in books wasn't something that I thought a lot about. Honestly, it escaped me as a reader but then there was this huge movement which really challenged me to think about how much, or lack thereof, diversity there is in the books I read. I want to make an effort to branch out and discover stories about different people and hopefully participating in this challenge will encourage me to do so. My aim is to read at least one book that classifies as "diverse" a month.

The idea of this challenge is to track all the places you've been through reading books. I thought this was such a fun and unique idea that I had to participate. My goal is to try to visit as many different countries as possible! Below is an embedded Google Map that I will be using to track my progress. As for the mini-challenges, here is a link to a spreadsheet I'm using to help me stay organized with my documentation for the select challenges I've chosen to do.

And those are all the challenges I'm planning on doing for 2015 so far. Are you participating in any challenges? If so, which ones? Tell me in the comments and if you have any suggestions for what I should read for these challenges, tell me there too!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Cover It Up! (2): Winter-Themed Covers

To celebrate winter, I've decided to put together a little list of my favourite winter-themed book covers. I definitely wouldn't consider winter to be my favourite season but I am a bit partial to it because a) my birthday and b) Christmas and c) New Year's. But thinking about it now, those are mostly all in December so really I just love December and not the actual season. Which seems fair enough. Whoever said that Canadians love winter is wrong, okay? Just because we spend a good one-third of our year stuck in winter does not mean that we like it. Or maybe I'm just speaking for myself. But I'm pretty sure anyone could get sick of winter after having to deal with the freezing weather, gross wet snow, ice, and sucky driving conditions for three months and sometimes four. Though to be honest it hasn't been that bad this year. But I talked about that in my last post so I won't get into that again.

You know it's funny though because despite all the horrible truths about winter - the slush, the freezing weather, the terrible driving conditions, the possibility of an ice storm that shuts down all electricity - we still love to romanticize it. Besides Valentine's Day, the winter time might just be the most romantic time of the year. Or maybe even more so because who actually likes Valentine's Day? Now I don't really know why, over the years, winter has been honoured with this lovey image but perhaps the below zero temperatures really draw out our affection for each other? Regardless of the reason, I have to admit that as much as I try to hate on winter, there really is something magical about it all. Especially when Christmas swings around, it's hard not to feel like you're living in your very own made-for-TV holiday special! So to celebrate this wonderful time, I've put together a collage of 13 books with beautiful winter-themed covers!

Another graphic novel to add to my ever-growing list of ones to read. I see this all the time whenever I visit my school library and am always inclined to pick it up - now even MORE so because well, it's winter! And look at that beautiful winter cover! But unlike most of the others, Blankets has a very chilling, isolating feeling. And I think those are sorta the two extremes of the type of covers we have here: on one end there's the really cute, lovey-dovey cover and on the other end, there's the bleak, almost grim cover. And for me, Blankets seems to fit that bill a bit better. But that isn't to say that it isn't pretty because it really is. But it's pretty in a different way.

Another cover that seems to fit the bleak bill better. In fact, it fits the bill rather perfectly. What could be more bleak and grim than being trapped in a snow storm? Worst nightmare. And I love how the cover really exudes that emotion through the colours and I also love how it's really simple but aesthetically interesting? It's not bright, it doesn't have fancy flourishes but it still stands out to me.

This is another one that is really visually stunning for me for the same reasons as Trapped. It's not bright but the focus on the person running through the woods and the little blurry snowflakes around the cover are really pretty... Wow we are not off to a great start so far. Curse my inability to say anything about these covers that doesn't sound innately dumb.

This is probably one of my favourite covers in this post. Honestly. I love the colours that were used and how they were used and I like how the lines are very clean-cut, making it seem like the cover was made using paper cut-outs and I like how beautiful the trees look. I LOVE TREES. As you will soon find out. I actually think trees are just about one of the most gorgeous things on our planet and whenever trees are in anything, I immediately love it. Case in point, The Snow Child.

I like this cover mostly because it's like an image I'd see in my day-to-day life out on the streets in a quiet residential neighborhood. And because of that, it struck some wistful chord in me. You don't know how much I want to live in a grand ole house one day with a giant bright red door. This is literally the door of my dreams. Okay, moving on.

Man, do I prefer this over the blue cut-out snowflakes cover. Which is cute as cut out snowflakes always are but this is just such a less awkward cover. The placement of things on that one always left me with question marks but here? No question marks! Okay I admit, it's still not in my top three covers of this list but it's still really, really cute and wintry.

So now you guys know about my love for trees so maybe you can figure out why I love this cover in particular? YES. TREE. Especially a tree cloaked in snow. I think that's probably one of the most beautiful sights, maybe at the top with a cherry blossom tree full of budding flowers - which was another thought I had when I saw this cover because of the colours. Which by the way are gorgeous! I love the gradation and the white border is gorgeous and then the way the title is placed and the font... I LOVE THIS COVER SO FREAKING MUCH.

I am a little in love with how adorable this cover is. Everything from the colour scheme to the teeny tiny illustrations of the people and the Ferris wheel inside the snow globe is so CUTE. I still have no idea what this book is about but I don't care, all I know is that I want it in my hands NOW.

I've always wanted to read a Rachel Hawthorne book just because they seem like the perfect, cutesy read but the thing is, I never see them ever in the bookstores or libraries here. If I did, this would be numero uno on my December TBR because SKI TRIP. You can't get more winter than that. But also, cute cover alert again! I really just think I love anything with hearts and fluffy clouds.

This cover is still one of my favourite-winter themed covers. I am OBSESSED with the little heart shaped snowflakes and the pretty houses in the background and the signs with the title and the author names. It just feels SO New York even though nothing really gives the impression that it is New York but I DON'T KNOW, it just is to me! And New York during the winter is probably the best thing ever if Miracle on 34th Street is anything to judge by. (By the way, how cute was Natalie Wood in that movie??)

Illustrated covers are my literal fave. And I love the illustrations here. I like the symmetry. I like the font of the titles. I love the blue sky with the nicely size snow, interspersed evenly throughout. The only thing is the font and colour of the author's name but that's a little thing compared to the rest of this stinking gorgeous cover!

I've always loved this cover because it's just so stunning. I love the gradation of the navy blue in the background and also the gradation in quantity and size with the snowflakes. I ALSO love the silhouetted figure and the ground which looks like crumpled sheets of paper but either way, I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. It's just the title font that bugs me but the rest is really pretty and I think it's probably the cover that hits the winter theme best for me? I don't know, there's just something about it that really entrances me.

I want to read this book so bad! Literally every single time I see this in someone's book haul, my voice cracks a little with emotion because I still don't have this in my hands. I was actually debating which version of the cover to include here because they're both freaking gorgeous but I ended up with this one because I think it's more winter-y which is sorta what we're aiming for here? THIS COVER IS STILL CUTE THOUGH. I love illustrated covers so much and this makes my heart happy. I can rest in peace.

And as usual, it is now your turn to SPEAK YOUR MIND. In the poll below, vote for your favourite covers! I've added the option this time to vote for more than one cover because I know it can be hard to just pick one when there are so many you like. SO VOTE, GO CRAZY. Looking forward to seeing what you guys have to say!

Which of these winter-themed covers strikes your fancy the most?
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Trapped by Michael Northrop
The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand
Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle
Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara
Winter Wonderland by Belinda Jones
Love on the Lifts by Rachel Hawthorne
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
A Winter's Tale by Trisha Ashley
Winter Town by Stephen Emond
My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins
Please Specify:
Poll Maker

Sunday, December 21, 2014

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Published April 15, 2014 by Dial Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 422 pages
Borrowed from library

It's summer again which means it's back to busing tables at her family's local diner on Seashell Island, a paradise to escape to on weekends for the rich mainlanders of Stony Bay, for Gwen Castle. But this summer, Gwen finally gets a chance to get away from busing tables with a special job of looking after the elderly Ms. Ellington which gives her more freedom to hang out with friends because she's not working random hours. Oh, but then Gwen's previous fling, Cassidy Somers who USUALLY resides in the rich kid side of Stony Bay gets a job as the local yard boy for Seashell Island meaning that Gwen cannot avoid him under any circumstances. Is there tension? You bet, as conflicts rise over the present and the past.

Although it hasn't been very cold or snowy this winter (despite what the weather specialists said back in November), I still feel obliged to indulge in my typical winter tradition of reading a nice, hot (in the weather sense), summer contemporary. We haven't had it bad at all this winter with temperatures flitting around the -10 degrees mark (that is, in Celsius) and above (lately it's been more like zero degrees to five degrees) which is basically SWEATER WEATHER for me but usually by this time, it's well below -10 and freezing and there's so much SNOW and sometimes, to get me through our long winters I just need a good dose of SUMMER to pretend that I live in the southern hemisphere. OKAY ANYWAY, long spiel over, I just had to pick up a cute book set in the summer and had my sights set on What I Thought Was True for a while after having read My Life Next Door and hearing tons of praise for this book. AND GUESS WHAT? It was cute. And very summery.

I liked this a lot more than My Life Next Door.
Ok, let me just get the comparisons out of the way. I enjoyed this more than My Life Next Door! I know lots of others who thought otherwise but honestly, My Life Next Door didn't make a huge impression on me. I enjoyed it but then the last quarter of it made me roll my eyes big time and that kinda suckered the overall experience for me. And while What I Thought Was True wasn't perfect and it wasn't OH MY GOD TEN TIMES BETTER, I did think the story here was constructed much better and was just stronger overall. I didn't feel like there was too much going on at a time and I didn't feel like the last quarter was so jam-packed although I still have problems with the pacing so...

The ending was rushed for me. Too much in the span of too little time.
Like My Life Next Door and that giant bombshell dropped on us within 100 pages of the ending, the last few pages for this book was a giant bombing party too. So much new information. So many changes. So much drama. Too little time. I felt like screaming "Slowww down". A big part of the book leading up to the ending was very much Sarah Dessen-like where nothing really important happens. It's just the characters' day to day lives being spread out in front of us. Don't get me wrong though! While it wasn't all necessarily key to the underlying storyline, it wasn't NOT interesting. I actually really like Sarah Dessen type books where it's not action all the time, where it focuses on the tiny mundane details in life instead but in a really interesting way. That's a pace that I can get used to and that's a pace I got used to here. I liked just seeing Gwen's summer unravel so the ending with all of its BOMBSHELLS just threw everything off-kilter for me. And when the last page came, it almost came too soon. Like excuse me, can I please have some more time to process all this new information I have just been provided with? Give me time to adjust!

What I Thought Was True NAILED its setting.
So I had to mention this because I picked it up for its summery feel and guess what? I got it. BOY, DID I EVER GET IT. I honestly felt transported to Seashell Island and felt as if I were spending my summer with Gwen and Cass and Spencer and Viv and EVERYONE. The setting was written spot on so THANK YOU Huntley Fitzpatrick for giving me exactly what I wanted.

Great writing and great characters. If that's what you look for, GET AT THIS BOOK.
I'm smooshing these two together because I think they're related. What I Thought Was True is quite a character-driven novel - as I mentioned, it isn't an action filled book so a lot of what happens is key to developing the characters - so therefore if you have good writing, you must have good characters right? And vice-versa? Ok well maybe it doesn't work exactly that way but trust me, What I Thought Was True definitely had both. The writing flowed smoothly and the CHARACTERS. Don't even get me started on the characters. They were amazing and so realistic. I loved Gwen our fantastic protagonist who's such an admirable person but also someone who's incredibly relateable. I loved Cass who was really sweet. I loved Viv, best friend of Gwen, even though she wasn't in it a ton. I loved her and her friendship with Gwen. I loved Spencer despite the type of person we had come to know him as. I KNEW THERE WAS MORE TO HIM. And I loved Nic, Gwen's cousin and Viv's boyfriend, even though his pride really grated on my nerves sometimes. I can admire his determination and perseverance. I loved Emory, Gwen's younger brother, for just being the cutest little snowball alive. I loved Gwen's entire family. And I loved Mrs. Ellington, the old lady Gwen comes to care for. She was FANTASTIC.

There were also so many cute moments between Cass and Gwen in their relationship.
There were so many great moments. Everything was so cute and sweet and spot-on with these two. I adore them so much. Thinking back about this book just conjures up all these great moments between these two. Like when Cass goes to teach Emory how to swim. Or when Gwen gives Cass tutoring lessons. Or the lobsters? Or really every single fricking scene. The only thing that was weird though was how Cass seemed to be everywhere Gwen was. Did that strike anyone else as weird? It was like Cass was a psychic and could predict where Gwen would be. That was the only weird thing but apart from that, OK REALLY CUTE. Also, I imagined Cass as a sort of Abercrombie & Fitch model. Like really preppy and a swimmer which is such a preppy sport in my mind but then of course he had abs and was really polite. I don't know. I might just be rambling now.

I really enjoyed this book a whole lot. I thought it was a much stronger story than My Life Next Door although I had the same problems with this book as I had with the previous book: a rushed ending. The pacing at the beginning was nice and slow but not boring but within a few pages of the ending, all this stuff happened that really threw me for a loop and put the pacing of the book totally off balance. I sorta wanted more time to process it all, you know? But apart from that I thought this was a really good book. The setting was written so beautifully and the characters were amazing. While not all of them were really lovable, they were all incredibly realistic. I think one thing that Fitzpatrick does spectacularly is really capture all the different types of people in her characters and really show the complexities of humans. A lot of themes were also touched upon in this book that I know a lot of other readers have already mentioned: messages of sex positivity in men and women, the idea that relationships can crash and burn even if you've loved each other for ages and seems like you're going to be in love for the rest of your life, differences in social class and more. A really great novel overall!

people who are looking for a summery read (like I was!) but one that's not all fluff. If you like Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson, this is a good book to check out! And if you're okay with more character-driven novels without so much action, again this might be right up your alley!


Magan @ Rather Be Reading says: " I didn’t walk away with a light and happy feeling, nor really feel like Gwen had gone through the major transformation I was expecting. When it comes right down to it, maybe I just really missed all of the rambunctious Garrett family members from My Life Next Door. They’re pretty darn hard to beat."

Meg @ Cuddlebuggery gives it 5 stars: "What I Thought Was True is lovely, just lovely. It’s like a warm, fluffy blanket I want to wrap myself up in and snuggle with all day."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

November 2014 Wrap Up

I promise I will stop doing these in lieu of actual book reviews in December! I need to get back into the groove of blogging though and I don't want to have to worry about previous books I've read that I need to review because from experience, I know that only causes STRESS and PAIN. So let's just start from a blank slate in December, all right? Presenting you... the books I read in November! Which was significantly better than October or September.

Completed November 3, 2014
Unfortunately, I didn't find Attachments as enjoyable as Fangirl. And I won't deny it, most of it has a lot to due with the Lincoln situation. I think Rainbow did a good job of making the email-reading seem as un-creepy as possible but personally, I thought it was still hella creepy even at its minimum. And the ending was a bit... convenient for everyone. Like I don't know how to describe it actually but it just seemed too simple and rushed. I really felt iffy on the romance aspect between Lincoln and Beth but I LOVED the friendship between Jen and Beth. Attachments was still a really likeable and fun book, there were just things about it that I couldn't get out of my head while reading.

Also Known As by Robin Benway
2 out of 5 stars
Completed November 12, 2014
I've had a fascination with spies ever since I was a wee child of five and would round up my friends to go on "missions" around my school and watch Totally Spies BACK TO BACK TO BACK. That was my life. And years later, I still really love spies so I had to pick up this book. And it was fun. I found it to be enjoyable but not what I was expecting in the sense that it seemed to be directed to a younger audience in terms of the writing. But the whole spy idea was really, really cool. I had trouble with the romance though because it seemed to have happened a little too quickly but also IT WAS DRIPPING WITH CHEESE. And while I do like some cheese (like cheddar and mozzarella), other cheese are not my type like goat cheese and the romance in this book was a lot like goat cheese. I literally groaned at points just because STOP IT'S TOO SAPPY. Also I'm confused as to whether or not Jesse is a bad boy as mentioned in the beginning because he seemed like a really good kid.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
4 out of 5 stars
Completed November 15, 2014
I've really come to enjoy this series. Another really great installment in the Raven Cycle! I enjoyed this A LOT more than The Raven Boys. There was just so much more going on but it was amazing and the writing was fabulous and so much intrigue and new developments and UGH RONAN. I hated him in the first book but now I love him. I love him so much. But I despise Adam. I find him distasteful. How strange how quickly opinions can change. The only teeny tiny thing I will say though is that although Stiefvater's writing is beautiful, sometimes I'd rather like for her to just call a spade a spade instead of using some nice poetic language to vaguely suggest what is going on. IT'S BEAUTIFUL all right, but I have horrible implications abilities so if you aren't straight with me, I often have no idea what's going on so that's just the TEENY thing I have to say but everything else was great.

3 out of 5 stars
Completed November 16, 2014
I didn't enjoy this as much as On the Fence but I still liked it. As you might have noticed, I read it all in one day because I could not put it down. How does Kasie West do this to me? I've only read two of her books but they've both been addicting as heck. I liked the social class dynamic here but the ending grated on my nerves a bit? I will not disclose the reason because it's a spoiler but UGH. It made me angry. But the characters were cute especially Ms. Dalton. And Xander and Caymen were cute. And the banter was cute. I still remember that Xander wore a thick ring on his pinkie though. Which I admit, made me curl my lip in disgust because the pinkie? Why the pinkie??

1 out of 5 stars
Completed November 25, 2014 
This book was such a let down. I was expecting something kick ass and fun because it had gotten so many great reviews but instead I got a bland book with an annoying main character. Honestly this book made such a tiny impression on me that I totally thought this was a DNF and had even marked it so on Goodreads. I just don't understand because it got so many great reviews and I'm just so utterly not into this book. I'm 99% sure my copy of the book got mixed up with another book because whenever people say they found an interesting main character in Harper, I think "no she was actually incredibly annoying and annoying and annoying". Probably will pass on this series...

4 out of 5 stars
Completed November 30, 2014
I love this series so much. IT'S SO GOOD. And this book was by far the best of them all. I only gave it a four star because I find that although Stiefvater's writing is beautiful, there's too much left for me to draw in and LIKE I SAID, I SUCK AT THAT and sometimes I just wish she'd be straightforward. Which is why it's only a four star because I was still really confused. But in terms of characters, this book had the best set of characters. New ones that were so much fun, and old ones that were developed so thoroughly. The stakes grew higher in this book. Everything just really sprung into action and I LOVED IT AND I WANT THE FOURTH BOOK NOW. I loved this book so much you guys. Please read this series if you haven't. Oy.


And that's a wrap for my November wrap-up which was posted REALLY late as we are now about 2/3 into December. I'm still clearly not back on the blogging train. Anyway, you know the drill: have you read any of these books? What did you think? And what were some of the books you read in November? TELL ME ALL THE THINGS.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Haul #2 (Where I Show You All The Books I Got From The Library!)

I feel like my interest in reading and interest in blogging ebb and flow together. It's strange because they're not exactly related but whenever I get back into the blogging groove, I want more books to read too and vice versa. So this past month when I vowed to get back blogging, I also went on a hunt for as many new books for my reading pleasure as possible. Thus ensued a bunch of Goodreads prowling and marking books to-read and then of course, the visit to my library's website to place holds on those books (still my favourite way of obtaining my books!)

And what happened?

Well, this, to give you photographic proof.

(By the way, I really did try to make this picture as nice as possible. But alas, the secrets to gorgeous book photography have not been shared with me. How do they do it? If you are one of those crazy talented people with Instagrams filled with beautiful pictures of books, know that I am perpetually envious of you.)

11 books. In case you couldn't count. And all from my dear friend, the library!

The annoying bit though was that they all arrived in batches so I had to make maybe three trips to get them all. The first time, NINE books arrived at the same time. Needless to say, I had a bit of trouble getting them all to fit in my bag but since my dad drove me, carrying it was not an issue. I probably would have collapsed if I had to walk home with all those books on me. Those things weigh! Talk about a workout… And although it wasn't like I was doing anything illegal, it still felt EXTREMELY awkward to be checking out all those books and then proceeding to put them into my bag. It felt like I was maybe being excessive. But then the next day when I went to pick up the other two books that hard arrived, I saw one person who had maybe eleven to fourteen books. And I felt less bad.

Okay, I think I've rambled on enough. Without any further delay, I present to you what you're really here for (don't bother lying): the books!

Rookie Yearbook One. Edited by Tavi Gevinson.
I've been an ardent fan of the Tavi Gevinson for a while now. She's such a role model for me. LITERALLY EVERYTHING I WANT TO BE. And I've also been following (her online magazine for girls) since 2012 at least but I admit, I tend to skip over the posts when they pop up in my feedly. The ones I do happen to click on though are always very interesting and captivating so this Christmas, I made it a point to put Rookie Yearbook Three on my wishlist. But before I got to that, I wanted to read both Rookie Yearbook One and Rookie Yearbook Two (and in case you have no idea what I'm talking about, the Rookie Yearbooks are just physical bind-ups of various articles written for the online magazine of the year). I've already started reading this actually (not far in though) and I love it! I think the bind-ups are a much better idea for me because there's not so much material for me to sift through, it's all already organized for me! Each month has a specific theme (for example, love or home or beginnings) and there's everything from poems to journal entries to special interviews with special people to advice columns and photography. JUST SO MUCH STUFF. And it's all amazing and wonderful and put so beautifully together. The aesthetics of Rookie Yearbook One from cover to cover is truly unrivalled. GORGEOUS. And amazing. I think I shall buy myself a copy of this too because I'd rather like to have it on my shelf to pass down to my daughters.

Now, from top to bottom.

Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without A Date by Katie Heaney.
So I am sorta in love with memoirs. I'm not much of a non-fiction person and if I am reading a non-fiction, it's usually a memoir or a cookbook. But yeah, memoirs are usually my go-to and when I saw this book on Goodreads, I just knew I had to give it a shot because this book sounds absolutely adorable and hilarious (not about the fact that she hasn't had a date yet, just in general she seems like a really funny person. I read the first page, okay?). It's also a really interesting topic to write a memoir about, because I think our culture has this thing of showing middle school/high school of being that time where you get all your first times: first kiss, first boyfriend and often first time having sex. And that's always being fed to you that it's like automatically weird if you get through high school and then college without having any type of sexual, romantic relationship. And I think that's evident in the fact that there is a book written about this? So I'm hoping to see some exploration of that in this book. Like it's almost as if there's a pressure to get all those things checked off of your checklist. And that you should feel bad and unattractive and unappealing if it doesn’t happen for you. Which is ridiculous. So. Hopefully this book delves into that.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth.
To be honest I don't know much about this book apart from that is good (I'm fairly certain that Chloe loved it?) and features an LGBTQ main character. Which yes, is already a bonus in my book because DIVERSITY. AND PORTRAYING DIFFERENT DEMOGRAPHICS. And I find that lesbian characters are something that we don't really dig into. Like our society still has miles and miles to go in terms of LGBTQ rights but judging from what we have achieved (which IS good), it seems like when we are comfortable with the LGBTQ community, it's usually regarding gay men and the rest are sort of ignored? And not talked about? So I'm excited to read a book for the FIRST TIME with a gay female main character. I have high hopes for this book, you guys. High hopes. I've heard so much praise.

Frostbite by Richelle Mead.
The second book in the Vampire Academy series. I had to get to this one day! I rather enjoyed the first book and I know TONS of bloggers are totally on board with this series and I have a friend who devoured them so it's about time that I finally got to reading this. I haven't even read the synopsis yet so I have NO IDEA what I'm in for but it's probably going to be good, right?

If I Stay by Gayle Forman.
My Epic Recs book from Chloe for this month! And like I said in my post, I am determined to complete this month's Epic Recs. Especially since it's also If I Stay, a book that I probably should have already read like months ago. This is another book that I don't really know too much about. Like obviously I know it's been turned into a movie with some really great songs in the soundtrack and that it's also about a girl in a car crash who has this hottie rocker boyfriend named Adam? But that's about it. Oh, and that I'll probably cry. Well, we'll see… I'll have tissues packed in case but if my opinion of Just One Day is anything, then I'll probably end up loving this one!

Jackaby by William Ritter.
For a change of scenery, I decided to go with historical fiction-mystery-paranormal YA novel Jackaby. Which kinda sounds like the best thing on Earth so I am very excited. I love historical fiction, especially when it's set in VICTORIAN ENGLAND!!! And mysteries are fantastic and something supernatural? I'm sold! Plus I've seen some really great reviews for it and the cover is gorgeous and so all those things add up, right? We're basically off to a great start already! (Also this is a good addition to my mental 2014 Debut Author list which I have, so far, no entries on.)

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales.
A book that I've been meaning to get to FOR AGES. Somehow it managed to slip past me completely last year... until December when all the end of year surveys included this book. And so then I was like, "What is this book? Where do I get my hands on it?" The only Leila Sales book I've read is Past Perfect which was really fun but somehow, I feel like this book is way different. But again, very promising as I flipped to the back and saw a PLAYLIST the author made. COMPLETE WITH SOME OF MY FAVOURITE ARTISTS. So, you know. Just all wonderful, great books.

Just One Year by Gayle Forman.
Another Gayle Forman! I had to pick up this book after reading Just One Day to find out what happens between Willem and Allyson! I haven't heard a lot of things about this book and what I know about it is this: the ending is kinda unsatisfying and it is told from Willem's point of view. But hopefully because I loved Just One Day, I'll enjoy this book. But man. Just One Day. So freaking good. Why did I wait so long to start this series? Sometimes, I do not understand my reading patterns. But I digress. So yes, Just One Year is in my TBR. I am ready for more Gayle Forman. BRING IT. Also random note but the back half of the hardcover dust jacket with the picture of Amsterdam is GORGEOUS. Take me there, someone, please.

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick.
I need contemporaries in my life. Especially ones that take place during the summer. I'm actually reading this right now and quite enjoying it because I am currently in the middle of winter right now and I would give ANYTHING, I repeat anything, to be in a summer island right now. Though I do find it incredibly strange that Cass is just everywhere Gwen goes? Or is it just an incredibly small island? Like even if he is doing it on purpose, weird... But overall it's really good! I'm about halfway through so you'll be hearing my thoughts soon! I might even write a FULL REVIEW for it. Quel surprise! It's been a while guys...

Hockey Confidential: Inside Stories from People Inside the Game by Bob McKenzie.
I felt like I needed a little bit of a change-up from the YA so I not only picked up a non-YA book, it's also a non-fiction that is not a memoir. I think I deserve a round of applause. I'm not entirely sure what to expect but I'm excited? I actually quite enjoy hockey which is probably on my list of "Things That Make Me Most Canadian". I'm not a diehard fan, like I care a lot but not a lot A LOT and I also don't consider myself all that knowledgeable in anything beyond the general rules of the game and the teams and certain players here and there but I do find it entertaining and I'm excited to learn more from this book. Also, go Toronto Maple Leafs!

Boy On Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard by John Branch.
I feel bad stating how interested I am about a book that's about a person who died so tragically. It just feels wrong. But I am interested. I think I first heard about this book on the New York Times Book Review podcast when they interviewed the author (maybe? I'm not sure) and it immediately captured my attention. I don't know what else to say except that I'm probably most excited to read this book in particular out of all the others.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Tell me in the comments! And also tell me what books you've recently acquired.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The DNF Files: Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas

Published March 11, 2014 by Harper Teen
Paperback, 336 pages
Borrowed from library

So... what's it about?
Ask Again Later is a bit like those Choose Your Own Adventure books with a twist. Our protagonist, Heart LaCoeur has a predicament. Two different dates for prom. Obviously she can't go with both of them but who should she choose? Each date is explored in this book, with alternating chapters giving us a look at what Heart's night was like with each of her two dates.

Here's the synopsis from Goodreads for more information:

"Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there's only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.
Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother's best friend really be?
Tails: The theater geek...with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart's interests--even if he wants to share all his feelings?
Heart's simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all..."

What initially attracted you to it?
Ask Again Later seemed like just what I wanted at the time! It looked light and cute and I love novels about prom. The premise also sounded really interesting, with the alternating realities so I wanted to give it a shot! And after all the rave reviews, it seemed like Ask Again Later was sure to be a new favourite.

How far did you read until you decided it was over?
112 pages in and I had to stop. (In case you're wondering, that's 35% of the way through).

Why'd you put it down?
I was honestly just incredibly bored the entire time. I tried to get into it but it never happened for me. I thought Czukas' writing was rather dry and didn't really do anything for me. I found Heart to be a bland main character (and also rather annoying sometimes) and all the rest, pretty uninteresting as well. The characters were very overly stereotyped, especially the difference between the jocks and the drama kids. And for some reason, there were just so many characters for me that I could not keep track of them all. I don't think this has anything to do with Czukas' writing but just as a little sidenote! But for the most part, I just found it boring. And I think that this has something to do with how uncertain I was about how the book would go. I didn't really see what the point of the book was. At the end, after seeing both options, was she going to pick one of them? Or what would happen? It was totally indiscernible for me and I think that was why I was so bored. From what I read, it seemed to me like an account of her prom night with two different dates and that wasn't what I was interested in. Sigh, I don't think I'm making myself clear. But basically I was questioning the purpose of this book. Like what is all this leading up to? Why should I continue reading this? To find out what? And for those questions, I could not find a reasonable answer and so I just did not bother.

But on a positive note, was there anything you did like about it?
I don't think I was far enough into this book to really have determined anything more about the book than everything that I've already said. But still I feel so mean for saying this but no, I didn't really find anything I liked? The entire time I was just really bored and not into the book, not paying attention to what I was reading. Perhaps if I read a little further I might've found more enjoyment but of what I read, there wasn't really anything that I liked.

Final Notes

Ask Again Later in one word was a disappointment. I was expecting a really fun novel that would also BLOW ME AWAY, given all the great reviews, but instead I found a book that was dry and bland. The writing didn't work for me, I didn't connect with the characters or the story and there was no excitement. There was nothing that made me perk up, that made me want to continue. It was just an account of Heart's prom night and that honestly wasn't very interesting. Maybe if I read more, it would have become more interesting but by the time I hit page 112, I had had enough. It was time for me to call it quits. I'm still confused as to what happened though. Like there are SO many people who loved it and it seemed like a book MADE for me so I'm still feeling like I'm missing something here.