This is Not a Test - Courtney Summers

This book was a huge surprise ... a good surprise, but a surprise nonetheless.  I read Some Girls Are (see my review here) by the same author last summer, and was absolutely blown away by her storytelling ability and the characters that she created.  So, when I picked up This is Not a Test, I was expecting a contemporary young adult novel ... NOT a book about the zombie apocalypse!

In the opening scene of the novel, we are thrust into Courtney Summers' post-apocalyptic world, as seen through the eyes of Sloane.  Sloane has just lost her sister, who has left home and left Sloane to deal with their abusive father alone.  Feeling abandoned by her sister, and best friend, Sloane has decided to commit suicide.  But fate deals her a cruel hand when she realizes that her sister has taken her sleeping pills with her, and a virus has swept through her town, forcing her to take shelter in a local high school and fight to stay alive, when really all she wants to do is give up and have it all be over.

By the end of the first chapter, I actually yelled out "WHAT?" and sent a tweet to Magan Blasig (who recommended this book to me), wondering what I was getting myself into.  (Somehow, I managed to miss the blood splatter on the front cover -- that might have been a small indication of what was to happen in the book).  She immediately wrote me back and urged me to read on, telling me that my contemporary craving would be satisfied by the end of the book.

This is Not a Test is a book about zombies, but it is also a book about so, so much more.  As Magan said, my contemporary side was quite happy by the end of the book, because the majority of the storyline is about these amazing characters and how they work together, and struggle against one another, and fight and love and trust and just do their very best to stay alive.  My husband and I are fans of the TV show The Walking Dead and, although I don't watch most of the gross zombie bits (I hide under the blanket and he tells me when the bloody bits are over), I'm fascinated by that show because of the human relationships between the characters.  It's always amazing to see just what people will do to stay alive and the bonds that they will forge with one another while they struggle to overcome all odds.

And that is exactly what Courtney Summers has done in this book: created a story that is about so much more than just zombies.  I laughed, I cried, I rooted for the characters and, in the end, I was left feeling that I had just read an absolute masterpiece.
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WWW - November 28

Happy Wednesday Everyone!  I can't believe that it's been TWO WHOLE MONTHS since I wrote a WWW post -- how time flies!

W...W...W...Wednesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions...

What are you currently reading?
I'm still about 200 pages into Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, which was recommended to me by my boss.  Although the book is good (and sometimes overwhelmingly profound), I've been reading another book at the same time ... just for a break from the epicness!  At the moment, it's Insurgent (I know, I know -- finally, right?)  I lent it to my coworker after she finished Divergent, and she insisted that I read it right away, because she was dying to discuss the ending with me.

What did you recently finish reading?
Courtney Summers' This is Not a Test, which was recommended to me by Magan @ Rather Be Reading.  She recommends the best books.  After reading Some Girls Are earlier this year, I was expecting this to be a contemporary read, and was quite shocked at the zombie apocalypse in the opening sequence.  But Summers is a literary genius, and anything she writes is guaranteed to be un-freakin-believable.  I should have a review up soon!

What do you think you'll read next?
I'd really like to read Clockwork Prince before Christmas, since I received it for Christmas last year and still haven't read it.  I also have a whole bunch of books coming in at the library, so it'll be a balance between those and the unread ones on my shelves.

What are YOU reading this week?  Let me know in the comments below!
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Our Second Wedding Anniversary!

Today, November 27, my hubby and I are celebrating our second wedding anniversary.  It feels like just yesterday that we were all giddy and excited on the morning of our wedding, yet at the same time it also feels like we've been married much, much longer than just two years.  Next month, on December 22, we will celebrate our eight-year anniversary -- it's the anniversary of our first date, and since we've been together much longer than we've been married, we usually make a point of celebrating both.  Our wedding anniversary is a dinner out together; our time together anniversary is dessert and hot chocolate, in memory of what we did together on our very first date!

I'm working on a post that I'll have up next month, sometime around our anniversary date.  I've been thinking about doing this for a while but, as it's a personal post, I've also had some hesitations.  My husband is a high school teacher, so part of me was shying away from sharing too many personal details about US on this blog, with the worry that his students might stumble across the blog.  But really, in the vast world of the Internet, sometimes I think we feel less anonymous than we really are.  I asked him this past weekend if he'd be okay with me posting our "how we met" story on my blog, and he's thrilled about the idea!  So watch for the story next month -- and I'll try to include one of our wedding photos too, from our photo shoot in a local bookstore!
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Top Ten Most Anticipated Titles of 2013

It's Tuesday and time for another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the wonderful people over at The Broke and the Bookish.  It's been a long, long time since I've participated in this meme, but I'm excited about today's topic: top ten most anticipated titles of 2013.  Next year is going to be an interesting year for reading, as I still have no idea what it'll be like to read with a newborn in the house -- fingers crossed that I have a super well-behaved baby who likes to sleep lots, and give mommy time to catch up with her favourite books!  It's amazing how many of my favourites are due to be released in February/March -- is this perhaps a sign that our child will be a bookworm too?  *fingers crossed*

1. Requiem - Lauren Oliver
I was SO excited when I saw this book on Jaime @ The Perpetual Page Turner's book haul post ... having ARCs out in circulation already means that it's SO close.  And, according to Goodreads, the publication date is March 5, which just happens to be the day before my birthday *hint hint to hubby*

2. Clockwork Princess - Cassandra Clare
I know, I know ... I still haven't read Clockwork Prince.  But I can still be excited about the next installment, right?  Plus, the cover of this one is definitely the most gorgeous of the three books.  This one should be out March 19.

3. Scarlet - Marissa Meyer
It seems like MONTHS ago that Magan @ Rather Be Reading was tweeting while reading the ARC of this book, and it's still not out until February 5th next year!

4. Everbound - Brodi Ashton
I thought the cover for Ever___ was beautiful, but Everbound may be just that little bit prettier.  This  was one of my surprisingly wonderful reads in 2012, and I'm really excited to see where the storyline goes in the this second installment, due to be published January 22.

5. Prodigy - Marie Lu
Instant love for the first installment of this series -- especially once I found out that it was loosely based on the Les Misérables storyline.  Prodigy will hit bookstore shelves on January 29.

6. Unravel Me - Tahereh Mafi
Shatter Me was a great read, and I'm excited to see what comes next in the second installment, due out February 5.

7. The Moon and More - Sarah Dessen
New Sarah Dessen?  Yay!  I have to wait until June 4th?  Awww.....

8. Breaking Point - Kristen Simmons
I LOVED Article 5, and can't wait to see where the storyline is headed.  This one will also be released on February 5.

9. UnSouled - Neal Shusterman (no cover image yet)
I haven't read UnWholly yet, but thinking that I might just wait until the entire trilogy is released, then read all three together.  I loved Unwind SO MUCH, and I'm sure that the rest of the series will be equally good.

10. The final book in the Divergent trilogy - Veronica Roth (no title or cover image yet)
Just saw on Goodreads that this is due out in September 2013 -- guess I'd better read Insurgent pretty soon!
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Babyville - Jane Green

I feel like I've been in a perma-reading slump since ... oh, around the end of the summer.  While I've read some books that I've enjoyed over the last few months, there hasn't been one book that's really resonated with me and made me jump out of my seat with joy.  Everything's been just okay.

As I've written about before, my husband and I are expecting our first baby in early February next year.  My coworker, who only reads chick lit (and, even then, doesn't read that frequently) picked up a copy of Jane Green's Babyville before heading on holiday in October.  She enjoyed it and said it was a good lighthearted beach read.  Even though she doesn't have kids, and doesn't intend to have kids, she said that she enjoyed the story and thought that I would too.  So I started reading it one Saturday morning ... and then my day disappeared.

It wasn't an amazing book (I'm still waiting for my jump-out-of-my-seat-with-joy title), but it definitely sucked me in.  The story is told in three parts, starting with Julia who desperately wants a baby and isn't having any luck, which is driving a wedge between her and her husband.  Then is Maeve's story, who is fiercely independent and doesn't plan to ever settle down with one guy and definitely doesn't want a baby ... but discovers that she's pregnant after a one-night stand.  And finally, there's Sam's story, who's the new mom who's trying to figure out how to balance it all.

I love books that involve different characters and different storylines, yet somehow the characters all become connected and intertwined in one another's lives and this book definitely had that going for it.  I didn't notice at the time, but Goodreads says that the book is written in present tense, which perhaps boosted its un-put-down-ability.  (The only other title that I can really recall reading in the present tense is The Hunger Games, and I remember the writing style definitely contributing to the pace of the book -- when a writer writes in present tense, you're in the moment with the character, rather than hearing the character reflect on what he or she did previously.  It definitely creates tension and drama.)  I'm surprised that I didn't notice the tense in Babyville, but perhaps that's because I was just coasting along with the fun, lighthearted storyline.

So, if you're looking for a lighthearted easy read, this one is definitely one to check out.  The same coworker has also lent me a copy of Jane Green's The Other Woman, which I'll be checking out soon ... especially if this reading slump doesn't hit the road soon.
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Love Anthony - Lisa Genova

I was SO excited to read this book, possibly a little too excited.  I'd seen an endless string of five star reviews on Goodreads, and so I ordered a copy on Chapters without even reading the summary.  If it's Lisa Genova, it's gotta be awesome, right?  I devoured both Still Alice and Left Neglected, so I had very high hopes for this book.

Then, I happened to be looking around on the Chapters website and saw that she was coming to do a signing in Vancouver.  IT IS SO RARE THAT AN AUTHOR THAT I LIKE EVER COMES TO VANCOUVER!  So I was even more excited.  I waited anxiously for my copy to arrive in the mail and it FINALLY arrived the day before the signing.  My husband and I braved the rain to head downtown to hear Lisa speak and have my new book signed.  The picture's a little blurry -- I didn't even think of bringing a real camera with me, so I had to make do with my cell phone camera.  But at least I have proof that we met!

Lisa talked about how she came up with the storyline (it's loosely based on her cousin's son's story) as well as her writing process for creating a story about autism.  I returned home from the signing eager to jump in and devour another incredible story.

Love Anthony is different from her other books, which is perhaps why I didn't love the story as much as I had hoped that I would.  Both of her other books were very medically-driven storylines, and the reader really learns a lot about the subject material through Lisa's incredible way of breaking down neuroscience so that it's accessible for the average reader (i.e. me, who doesn't have a scientific bone in my body).  But Love Anthony is definitely more of a feelings story, as one woman struggles to come to terms with the death of her autistic son while another woman struggles to come to terms with the end of her marriage.  Both women's stories are told in alternating chapters and we learn, slowly, how their lives are destined to come together.  Usually I love stories where the characters end up meeting, and there's a great tying together of the plot, but Love Anthony just felt ... a little forced at times.  This may be due to the fact that I was expecting more from the book but the story just didn't wow me as much as her previous two books did.  With that being said, it's still a great story and full of heartfelt emotions.  I'm glad that I met Lisa and had the opportunity to hear her speak about her writing process and her personal connections to the story, as that experience definitely helped me to love the story a little bit more.
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The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

I first saw The Night Circus on a new releases / bestseller table at Chapters, just over a year ago.  It was the cover that immediately drew me to the book -- the image from Goodreads really doesn't quite do it justice.  Plus, the end papers are black and white striped, and there's really cool, almost optical illusion-esque, pages that divide the sections.  I read the synopsis of the book and it sounded a little bit like Water for Elephants, which I loved, so I thought I'd give it a try.  Ordered a copy as part of my next Chapters order ... and then the book sat unread on my bookshelf for almost a year.  Sound familiar anyone?  Then, my book club chose the book as our next read and I'm grateful that I was able to dive into this story.

The Night Circus has a certain haunting, ethereal quality to it.  It's hard to really talk about the story without giving anything away, but it definitely has an almost paranormal, magical aspect to the story (illusionists at the circus who can do REAL magic, not just tricks).  The storyline centres around two characters who have been assigned to a competition by their respective mentors.  Both Celia and Marco are illusionists and have been trained vigourously for this competition, which takes place at Le Cirque des Rèves (The Circus of Dreams), which is designed entirely in black and white and only opens at night.  Neither participant knows exactly what are the terms of this competition, nor are they privy to the details surrounding who will be declared the victor and how this will be determined.  So the story unfolds around this bizarre circus, which is so visually appealing and spectacular in its oddity that every patron is hypnotized by this rare beauty and returns night after night to visit the marvels that can be found inside its various tents.

Unfortunately, our book club meeting has now been postponed until January, so I wasn't able to get my fellow book club participants thoughts on this book tonight.  Since the book was so weird and wonderful in its own unique way, I am really excited to hear what others thought of this one.  If you've read it, please leave me a comment below -- I'd love to hear your thoughts!
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Giveaway Winner -- and Another Update!

And ... I'm ba-ack!  it feels like I've taken another brief hiatus, but life has just been so hectic and busy lately!  From prenatal classes, to midwife appointments to yoga, it just seems like I'm bouncing from one thing to the next, and not always getting enough sleep in between.

And, in other news, our laptop decided to die a sudden and unexpected death last week, which resulted in some hurried computer shopping and a unintentional move to Windows 8.  The worst part is that I've lost all of my favourite bookmarked blogs ... it may be a while before I'm able to recreate the whole list, so if it's been a while since I stopped by to comment, that's why!

I have found some time to do some reading, and will have some new reviews up soon.  Hopefully I can remember enough about the books to write decent reviews, since I usually write my reviews within a day or two of finishing the book.  Reviews to look forward to include: Lisa Genova's Love Anthony (which I read after MEETING her -- she's amazing!), Karen Marie Moning's Faefever (which I listened to on audio), Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus (my book club's latest pick) and Jane Green's Babyville (a recommendation from a coworker).  I've just started reading Gregory David David Roberts' Shantaram, and it has taken me a week to get through the first 100 (of over 900) pages.  Perhaps it's a good thing that I'm so behind on reviews; this will give you all something to read as I plow through this mammoth of a book!

And finally, the winner of my first giveaway is .... (drumroll please) .... Marijana Sitar!  I've sent you a tweet and an e-mail, so let me know your mailing address as soon as possible so that I can send you your new copy of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.

A big thank you to all of you who stopped by my blog last month to enter my giveaway, follow my blog and share in the Something Wicked Comes event.  This was my first time participating in this type of event, and I really enjoyed it!  It was fun hopping around the other blogs, and seeing what everyone else was doing to participate in this event.  I'm looking forward to doing another blog hop sometime soon!
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