1/24/12

Top Ten Books that Made Me Cry

Anyone who has browsed my GoodReads shelves may have noticed that I have a particular fondness for books that make me cry.  I love a good therapeutic sob (The Notebook!) and books that can evoke that much emotion are some of my favourites.  So, in no particular order, here are is this week's top ten (as always, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish).

1. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - Kate DiCamillo
I sobbed the first time I read this book.  Then, I read it aloud to my husband while we were on a road trip to Alberta and I had to put the book down at the end because I couldn't see the page through the tears.  It had that same effect on me, even the second time through!

2. Before I Wake - Rob Weirsema
My mom gave me this book for Christmas one year, with a package of Kleenex wrapped seperately on top.  She told me that I'd need it.  And I did.

3. The Truth About Forever - Sarah Dessen
All of Sarah's books have had a similar effect on me, but this was the first one of hers that I read -- and I bawled at the end.

4. The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
Oh -- that love story.  I tear up just thinking of it.

5. White Oleander - Janet Fitch
One of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.  I think the tears come almost just because of the writing itself, but the story is moving as well.

6. Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling
Don't try and tell me that you didn't cry at the end!  I think everyone did.

7. Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
There are no words for how powerful this story is.

8. The Neverending Story - Michael Ende
When people ask me what my favourite book is, this is often the one that jumps to mind.  I remember reading it at the age of 10 and crying because the book was over.  I promptly flipped back to page 1 because I just couldn't handle the fact that the story had come to an end.

9. Fall on Your Knees - Ann-Marie MacDonald
I think I've cried at the end all three times that I've read this book.

10. My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult
Just like Sarah Dessen's books, I've had a similar reaction to Jodi's other books, but this was the first one of hers that I read.

Since I love books that evoke strong emotions, please feel free to add to my list!  And thanks for stopping by!


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Perfect Fifths - Megan McCafferty

It was a bittersweet ending to this series.  I absolutely LOVED the first two books, really enjoyed the third book (after I thought about it for a while) and though the fourth book was pretty good.  I was looking forward to seeing if this series would end with a bang, but instead it kind of ended with a ... feeble pop.

Jessica Darling has such a strong, independent voice in the first three books.  But in the last two, her voice seemed to flatline and she became...not as memorable.

The book started out with great promise.  As I updated on GoodReads, "Loving the third person style of the book so far ... and the whole second section is just dialogue, so fluid and easy to read!"  After four books of first-person journal-style writing, it was interesting to take a step back and see the characters narrated in third person.  By part two of the book, the entire thing is a dialogue, with no "he said, she replied, raising an eyebrow" extras added in.  It's hard to explain, but it just hit me halfway through the section: all they're doing is talking.  There's no narrator adding comments about Jessica shifting in her seat, or wrapping her hands around her mug.  Just speaking.  One voice to the next and back to the first.  Even though it sounds like it would be confusing to follow, it totally wasn't.  It just flowed, like I was sitting at the table with the two characters, listening to them speak.

And then... it just fell apart.  I suppose that's always one of the strengths of a series: when it can end with a bang, not a whimper.  And Jessica Darling, despite her snarky, laugh-out-loud funny journals that have charmed me in the past, left me disappointed at the end.  I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, so let me leave it at this: WHY?  WHY did it end like THAT?

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1/22/12

Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor

It's hard to find the words to begin with this book.  So let's go back to the beginning...

When I was younger, I read a lot of fantasy.  Anything with a unicorn or a dragon on the cover was taken home from the library.  Sometimes my favourites were borrowed over and over and over again.  I loved Piers Anthony and I think I read every book he'd ever written.  The Xanth series will always hold a special place in my heart.

But then somewhere along the line, I lost the ability to comprehend fantasy.  The character names were confusing (seriously, you need at least ONE vowel in a name), I got lost in the descriptions of different beasts and far-off places.  I became one of those people who only read contemporary fiction.  Is this just part of growing up?

There's always been a part of me that has yearned for going back to those days of reading about far-off places, dragons, and adventure, but the fantasy genre is a tough one to break back into if you aren't sure where to begin.

Enter Daughter of Smoke & Bone.  I didn't know that this book was fantasy when I picked it up, but about 20 pages in I realized that it definitely wasn't just paranormal -- it was a little more fantastical than that.  Taylor's writing was so beautiful and poetic that the story just swept me along from chapter to chapter, and I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open at midnight, wanting to read just ONE more chapter before I succumbed to sleep.

I don't want to even talk about the plot at all (which is so touching and perfect and mysterious and perfectly paced) because I want each reader to discover it for herself.  I can't wait to see where the story goes in the next installment!
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In My Mailbox [1]

My very first IMM post -- how exciting!  In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.  I have been meaning to do this all week, but we've had such crazy weather, so my energy has been focused on "how am I getting to and from work?"  Finally, the rain has returned to wash away all that snow and things are back to our usual We(s)t Coast weather.

First of all, I would like to take a moment to thank my wonderful new friend Evie from Bookish for providing me with the reason to do my first ever IMM!  I was so delighted to finally meet up with her last week, but sad to finally be meeting her only to find out that she's moving away =(  She's an amazingly kind and warm individual and I have been reading her blog for some time now.  Unfortunately, Evie couldn't take all of her books with her, so she left some with me.  I promise to take good care of them Evie -- and to share them with other bookworms when I'm done!

Since I have homework still to do and a review to write, I'll just leave it at a photo for now.  I seriously don't know where to begin with this pile, and I'm anxiously trying to finish my pile of library books so that I can dive in.  Fellow bookworms, if you've read any of these books -- any idea which one I should start with?


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1/17/12

Top Ten Books I'd Recommend to Someone Who Doesn't Read YA

It's Tuesday, and time for another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the wonderful people over at The Broke & The Bookish.  And this one is a FUN one -- recommending books!

I, like a lot of other people, love to read YA literature.  People at work quite often ask me what I'm reading when I have my nose buried in a book in the lunch room and, when I respond with "It's a young adult novel..." they usually respond with "Oh."  There is SO MUCH good YA lit out there, which appeals to people of all ages.  I just can't limit myself to only ten books, so I'm going to try to do this by authors instead...

1. Anything by Lauren Oliver.  Seriously.  Her books blow my mind.  Before I Fall instantly transported me back to high school.  My heart hurt while reading some of the scenes and I was moved to tears in several parts of the book.  And there are no words to describe how much I loved Delirium; how could a grown-up not love a book that ponders what the world would be like if we didn't love anymore?


2. Anything by Cassandra Clare.  Both the Mortal Instruments and the Infernal Devices series are AWESOME.  There's love, heartbreak, werewolves, warlocks, vampires and great storylines.  Sure, it's not as raw as True Blood, but still pretty freakin' great.

3. Unwind by Neal Stephenson.  I haven't read his other books, so I can't use his complete works, but my sister-in-law is currently reading this book (which both my husband and I had recommended to her) and she's loving every minute of it.

4. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.  Just like Cassandra Clare, Collins writes such a heart-stopping story that you can't help but stay up all night reading!

5. Harry Potter.  I'm considering Harry Potter to be YA, simply because he's a teen in the latter part of the series and this part is the best part.  Need I say more?

6. Holes by Louis Sachar.  Again, I haven't read everything by Sachar, so I won't recommend his full body of work.  From what I've read, he's an excellent writer and all of his books are probably worth recommending.  Holes is, by far, one of the best books that I've read.  I read it for a YA lit course that I took at UVic and it blew my mind.  Such a great story!

7. Anything by Laurie Halse Anderson, although especially Speak and Catalyst.  She is AMAZING.

8. Anything by Nancy Farmer.  Another amazing writer and it's hard to pick just one of her books.  If I had to, I'd go with House of the Scorpion, although The Sea of Trolls is pretty good too.

9. Anything by Sarah Dessen.  Her books usually take place over the course a summer and feature a teenage girl coming of age.  Although it may seem like they are formulaic, each story is told with such honesty and heart that they always just remind me of what it felt like to fall in love as a teenager.  Of particular note are Just Listen and The Truth About Forever.

10. The final spot I will give to Markus Zusak's Book Thief.  I will read his other book, I Am the Messenger, shortly, but I loved the Book Thief so very, very much.  It's such a unique take on a typical Holocaust / WWII book and a must-read.
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1/16/12

Twisted - Sara Shepard

When I finished reading Wanted, I had one of those "OMG -- they did not just pull THAT plot point out of the rabbit hat" moments.  Seriously.  It was right up there with the cheezy daytime soap opera plot points (how many times can an evil twin come back from the grave?!?)

Yet, I still put this book on hold at the library, primarily because Shepard is a good storyteller, even though her plot points leave a little bit to be desired.  Although I didn't love this book, it was still an easy read for a lazy Sunday afternoon.  I may just keep reading the series too, in the same way that I will not be able to resist the next Gossip Girl book when it comes out too.  Everyone's gotta have a secret favourite series right?  The one that you might be just a little bit too embarrassed to read on the bus, where everyone can see what you're reading?  C'mon ... I know you have those too!
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1/14/12

The Summer I Turned Pretty - Jenny Han

There were things I loved about this book, including the title and the fact that the oh-so-wonderful Sarah Dessen endorsed it on the front.  If Sarah Dessen loved the book, then it must be good!  Right?  Unfortunately not.

The premise of the book sounded like it would be a Dessen-look-alike: the summer that changes a girl's life.  It started off interesting, with Belly arriving at her summer home, reconnecting with the two boys she shares her summer with (one of which she's been in love with since she was a young girl).  And something's happened to her this summer; she's pretty and all of the boys are noticing her for the first time.

There's something about Belly's character that I found a bit annoying.  Perhaps it's because she's the youngest child, but she's very whiny and juvenile (and she's 16).  As an oldest child, I don't know what it's like to have an older sibling, and an older brother at that.  So maybe it's just that I couldn't connect with her character.

Partway through reading the book, I flipped to the end of the book and read the author's bio on the inside back jacket.  Jenny Han has a degree in children's literature and that's when I realized what was really irritating me about the book.  It's very formulaic and almost reads like a book that's been specifically designed to appeal to teens: introduce love interest, introduce alcohol, have character resist alcohol because she doesn't want to have beer breath (seriously?!?), etc.  Very formulaic and predictable.  This book almost read like YA lit used to when I was a teen, with morals that were woven into the story, rather than modern YA lit that appeals to all generations.

But enough of that.  Here's hoping that I actually read a GOOD book this weekend while I'm cooped up inside, waiting for the snow to melt!

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Fourth Comings - Megan McCafferty

Fourth Comings was a totally different book than the first three in the series.  For starters, the book was a massively long letter, written in journal style.  The book is in two sections (journal one and journal two) and takes place over a week in September.  Personally, I just found it amazing that Jessica Darling could write that MUCH in such a short period of time.  *looks longingly at journal that hasn't been touched in MONTHS*  I won't tell you to whom, or why she was writing the letter (because that would be a massive spoiler) but I will tell you this: the book ended the way that I hoped it would.

I'm looking forward to reading the fifth, and final, installment of the series.  I'm a fan of series that actually come to an end, rather than dragging on indefinitely.  So I'm excited to see how McCafferty brings the series to a close.
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1/11/12

Top Ten Authors I Wish Would Write Another Book

Everyone has these ... authors that you've read everything they've ever written, and then you sit patiently waiting for them to publish another book.  Another great Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the amazing folks over at The Broke and the Bookish!

1. Andrew Davidson.  Author of the mind-blowing book The Gargoyle.  The book that made me cry, broke my heart, mended it and then broke it all over again.  Some of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching writing that I've ever read and HE ONLY WROTE ONE BOOK.  And, even worse, this book took him NINE YEARS, which means I still have at least seven more years to wait for another book.

2. Janet Fitch.  I loved, loved, LOVED White Oleander.  I was a little disappointed in her second book, but I also recognized that the subject material was a little too dark for beach reading, so I have resolved to give it a second try at some point.  I want another book that will capture me the way that Oleander did -- Fitch made prose into poetry and my heart soared along with her writing.

3. J.K. Rowling.  I WANT MORE HARRY POTTER.  Doesn't everyone?

4. Lauren Oliver.  I know, I know, she's writing more books.  Pandemonium comes out in a month and a bit, but it's just not soon enough.  I want it NOW.

5. Ann-Marie MacDonald.  I first read Fall on Your Knees in university, for one of the best women's studies classes of all time, then fell in love with The Way the Crow Flies a few years later.  And then nothing since then.  When will you wow us with more of your brilliant storytelling, Ms. MacDonald?

6. Suzanne Collins.  The Hunger Games series was brilliant.  I hope that she will write another series that will be as mind-blowingly awesome as this series was.

7. Wally Lamb.  Another author of three books that I have loved, loved, loved, each for their own reasons.  He seems to average about a book every six-ten years.  *sigh*

8. Stephenie Meyer.  I loved the Twilight series, like almost everyone did.  I also loved The Host.  I know that she's probably busy with the last movie, but then I think it should be back to the writing desk Ms. Meyer!

9. Barbara Kingsolver.  She seems to be writing non-fiction essays lately, but I want more books like The Poisonwood Bible or Prodigal Summer.  Wow.  Just wow.

10. Sarah Dessen.  Every book that she writes turns to gold, but I've read them all.  Some more than once.  So I need another one!
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1/9/12

Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green & David Levithan

As a general rule of thumb, I'm not a fan of co-written books.  Of course, there are exceptions, like the fact that James Patterson is not able to fully get inside a woman's head unless the book is co-written by a female author.  The reason for this belief is that I like to read one author's style and, in a co-written book, it's hard to know where one writer's words begin and the other's ends.

I love John Green, and I've read, and loved, all of his other books so, while patiently waiting for The Fault in Our Stars to arrive at the library, I thought I'd give this book a try.

The great thing about this book is that EACH author has his own separate chapters!  The story centres around two main characters, each named Will Grayson, but they don't know each other yet.  John Green writes one Will and David Leviathan writes the other Will.

The result is a story that seamlessly flows back and forth between the two Wills, until they meet, at which point the two separate stories blend into one (but still told in alternating chapters).  The book is, in a word, beautiful.  It's a story of love and friendship, of finding love and losing love and about what it means to fall in love.

One of the most beautiful images that stuck with me, long after I'd savoured the last few words, is the idea that falling in love isn't about the landing, it's about the fall.
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1/8/12

Squeeeeeallll!

Cannot, cannot, CANNOT wait!!!  And the cover is so pretty!!!!!!!!!!!


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1/7/12

Charmed Thirds - Megan McCafferty

I was going to start this review by saying that this was my least favourite of the series so far, but then I realized that I love this book for all the reasons that initially made me dislike it.  I know that doesn't make much sense, so let me explain.

Charmed Thirds chronicles Jessica Darling's years at Columbia, as she works towards her Psychology degree and discovers herself.  Now, if you've gone to post-secondary straight out of high school, like I did, let me ask you a question: did you know who you were at that age?  Personally, I thought I did, only to realize after the fact that I really didn't know who I was at all, but those years really did help me to learn who I was.  Jessica Darling is in that stage.  She thinks that she knows it all, but she really doesn't.  Throughout this whole process, she discovers more about who she is and what she wants out of the world.  The tone of the book is a little self-indulgent, at times it's whiny and sometimes I wanted to throw it across the room and yell, "Just grow UP already!"  But I kept flipping those pages because there was some part of Jessica's adventure that reminded me of my own early twenties and, for that reason alone, I loved this book.  I have the next two books sitting on my bedside table (amidst a rather large pile of unread library books) and I'm excited to finish the rest of the series.
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1/5/12

Divergent - Veronica Roth

I finished this book over the holidays, but couldn't quite bring myself to write a review until I'd had a few days to digest the story.  In a word: wow.  One of the most amazing things is that this is Roth's FIRST novel.  Her brilliance is going to just keep on shining her future books, and will probably grow brighter with time.

I have read that this book has been compared to the Hunger Games, but I wouldn't say so.  It takes place in a post-apocalyptic dystopian society, but that's where the similarities end.  Beatrice is 16, the age at which she must choose which faction she will devote the rest of her life to.  Each faction has a different value, from the selflessness of Abnegation to the honesty of Candor.  Raised in Abnegation, Beatrice has never quite felt that she has attained selflessness and wonders if she should choose another faction but this would mean leaving behind her family forever.

The story starts of slowly, explaining the details of Beatrice's world, but builds so gradually and steadily that I could barely tear myself away from the pages.  In this way, it was like the Hunger Games because I couldn't put the book down for a moment, and devoured the entire thing in a couple of days.

Such a good story, with endearing characters and a powerful story that grabs on to you and just won't let go.  If you are one of the few people who hasn't yet read this book, please DO!  Personally, I don't know how I'm going to wait for the sequel now!
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