The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard

“Colt and Julia were secretly together for an entire year, and no one—not even Julia’s boyfriend— knew. They had nothing in common, with Julia in her country club world on Black Mountain and Colt from down on the flats, but it never mattered. Until Julia dies in a car accident, and Colt learns the price of secrecy. He can’t mourn Julia openly, and he’s tormented that he might have played a part in her death. When Julia’s journal ends up in his hands, Colt relives their year together at the same time that he’s desperately trying to forget her. But how do you get over someone who was never yours in the first place?

Ok…I’ll admit it.  It was nice to read something that wasn’t dystopian or had a hot vampire/werewolf/angel/zombie character in it.

It was a beautiful read, very vivid in its descriptions and settings.  At first, I was curious to see how the author, Jennifer Hubbard, would be able to write from a teenage boy’s point of view.  But she did it and she did it wonderfully.

Colt is memorable and his quiet, inward journey through his grief is heart-breaking. But it’s not all sad – the Thanksgiving scene interjects that much needed humour into this book.  (I had a very similar Thanksgiving once.  Very interesting.)

I will forever be haunted by the scene of Julia down in the river wearing the silk dress.  It felt so real, so alive – a scene I could re-read over and over again.

So if you are looking for something with a strong YA voice – this would be the book for you.

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Five things I shouldn’t be doing…but doing anyway…

1) Watching Vampire Diaries, Big Bang Theory and Nikita. My TV has PVR.  What I should be doing is trying to move that mountain of laundry out of my room and into the washer.

2) Reading The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard during the commercials / breaks.  (My original plan was to do the dishes…ha!)

3) Eating dry cereal.  I was going to make a nice dinner – with veggies and everything!  But then I wanted Captain Crunch…and my son drank the last of the milk last night and didn’t warn me.  Thus, I’m eating it dry. 

4) Playing on Facebook/Twitter.  Once again…laundry, dishes, groceries…there are a lot more productive things I could be doing. 

5) Daydreaming about Ed Westwick (actor who plays Chuck Bass off of Gossip Girl) reading City of Fallen Angels to me.  Now – this is an excellent way to waste time.  🙂

Speaking of Ed Westwick…

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Where are your books?

This past weekend, I decided to finally organize and clean up my books that somehow got scattered everywhere since Christmas. (This sudden need to clean may or may not have been inspired by my mother and sisters visit)

So I started collecting up my books.  I was shocked at where they were hiding.  I found them in piles on and beside my bookcase, by my bed, on top of the couch, on the coffee table, on the kitchen table, in the car, in the trunk of the car, in my son’s bedroom, on my son’s bookcase (Yes – he has his own bookcase), in the closet, on my desk, in my kitchen cupboards (I found that one when putting my groceries away), in my purse, etc. etc.

And after I pulled the one out from under my pillow, I realized I have a problem.  I’m like one of those bad Sims characters which just leaves a book on the floor when done reading it (Yes – I play Sims 3 as well).

So – I’ve made a New Years resolution.  My goal is to keep most of my books on the bookshelf and only take down the ones I’m reading and when done – put them back in order.

So – am I the only one who suffers from dis-organizational book-hoarding?  Where is the strangest place you’ve found a book?

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Falling in love…all over again…

I’ve been having a not-so-secret love affair with books for years.  But like most relationships, we’ve had our ups and downs.  Sometimes, I felt like books were disappointing me.  I wasn’t finding them interesting.  I didn’t feel like they were talking to me anymore. 

When this happened, I tried to spice things up.  I’d read books that I normally wouldn’t, in hopes that I would find that spark once again.  This was how I found some of my favourites – Jodi Picoult, Margaret Atwood, and John Irving.

A couple of years ago I was in the local bookstore, browsing for something that didn’t have a vampire in it, and I came across Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed.  It was fantastic; something that I could really relate to.  And even though it was great, I never managed to pick up another book of hers. 

A few weeks ago, my best friend Sara gave me a book to borrow that she said was amazing.  Now, for those of you who don’t know Sara – this is a big deal.  Sara doesn’t normally read (It took me years into talking her into reading Twilight) but she picked up a book and loved it.  (Yep – a real miracle!)

The book was Jennifer Weiner’s Best Friends Forever, and after reading it, I now see why Sara picked it up.  Some parts were so much like Sara and I, it was scary.  Any woman who has ever had a female best friend would relate to this book.  It has everything – betrayal, heartbreak, love, forgiveness, humour, revenge, and most of all – the bond between women. 

So – thank you Sara.  Thank you for helping me fall more in love with books.

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Wish List 2011

2011- It looks like it’s going to be a good year.  I’ve been scanning the blogs and the Chapters website and I came up with the books I’m most looking forward to this year.

1) Delirium By Lauren Oliver

Release Date: February 1, 2011

“Delirium is a near-future dystopian novel in which the “disease” of love has been cured by science. Once a person turns eighteen, they are cured.  And right before her procedure, Lena Holoway does the unthinkable, and falls in love.”

I love the simple idea behind this book: What if love could be cured?  And I can’t wait to read what Lauren Oliver does with that idea.  This isn’t her first novel.  Before I Fall has received lots of good reviews and I do plan on reading it as well sometime this year.

2) The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan (third and last in series)

Release Date: March 22, 2011

“There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.

Annah’s world stopped that day and she’s been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn’t feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.

Except, Catcher has his own secrets — dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah’s longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah — can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?”

I’m a huge fan of Carrie Ryan.  Her first novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth still haunts me and the second , The Dead Tossed Waves was just as amazing as the first.  So, don’t bother calling me on March 22nd – I will be busy.

 3) XVI by Juila Karr

Release Date: January 11, 2011

“Nina Oberon’s life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she’ll receive a Governing Council ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world even the most predatory of men that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a “sex-teen” is Nina’s worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina’s mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past – one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother’s killer.”

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this novel.  At first, I couldn’t see why – but now, I’m curious.  I love dystopian-type books (as you can see).  Let’s see what Julia Karr throws at us.

4) Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Release Date: March 22, 2011

“What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.”

This sounds good.  Really good.  But it comes out the same day as The Dark and Hollow Places so I’ll have to get to it after Carrie Ryan’s masterpiece.  One thing bothers me – why is Linden’s father still alive?  Why didn’t he die at 25?  I guess I’ll have to read this to find out.

5) Divergent by Veronica Roth

Release Date: May 3, 2011

“In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is, she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.”

Blogs have been hyping about this novel for a few months now.  And I don’t blame them – it sounds fantastic! 

6) Across The Universe by Beth Revis

Release Date: January 11, 2011

“A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.”

Love and Murder in SPACE???  Need I say more?

7) City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare (Fourth Book in Series)

Release Date: April 5, 2011

“City of Fallen Angels takes place two months after the events of City of Glass. In it, a mysterious someone’s killing the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle and displaying their bodies around New York City in a manner designed to provoke hostility between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, leaving tensions running high in the city and disrupting Clary’s plan to lead as normal a life as she can — training to be a Shadowhunter, and pursuing her relationship with Jace. As Jace and Clary delve into the issue of the murdered Shadowhunters, they discover a mystery that has deeply personal consequences for them — consequences that may strengthen their relationship, or rip it apart forever. Meanwhile, internecine warfare among vampires is tearing the Downworld community apart, and only Simon — the Daylighter who everyone wants on their side — can decide the outcome; too bad he wants nothing to do with Downworld politics. Love, blood, betrayal and revenge: the stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.”

I’m a fan of the other books.  I’m sure this one will be just as good.

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My Top Ten of 2010

So it looks like another year has come and gone and I’m sitting on the couch (using my totally awesome new lap desk that Tammy and Ronnie got me for Christmas) and thinking about the past year and what I really enjoyed about it.  So here it is…

My Top Ten of 2010

10) The Back Up Plan – My favourite movie this year although Inception and Prince of Persia are a close second.

9) Calypso – In July, a few friends and I hit the water park for a day of fun and sun.  I can’t wait to back next summer!!!

8 ) New Car – My Lumina died in July (I did write a post about it) so in August I bought a new car (well…new to me). I love my new Malibu.  The moon roof is definitely a cool feature.

7) Matched by Ally Condie – I got this book in December and finished it in a few days.  Wow.  I love these beautifully written dystopian-type books.  I also LOVED The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan!!!  Who doesn’t love a book about Zombies???

6) My Week off in August – I stayed at my cottage for a week and did nothing except read, nap, write and eat hamburgers and hotdogs.  It was wonderful!

5) The Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead – This year I discovered a new vampire series and although I’m not finished all the books yet, I still consider this a great discovery.

4) Babies – My friend Andrea had a bouncing baby boy in June and in August I found out my other friend, Frances will be having a baby around my birthday next year. Who thinks she should have him on my Birthday so I can have a birthday buddy??  🙂

3) Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – I was very excited about the last book in the Hunger Games Series and it didn’t disappoint me.  I was sad to see it end though.

2) Florida – My son and I went on a trip to Florida with some friends of ours.  It was a trip of a lifetime and a great highlight for me.

1) Having Sara, Kristine and My Mom read a very rough draft of my first novel – I can’t thank you guys enough for taking the time to read it.  I don’t think it was my best, in fact, I know I can do better but your advice and criticism and support means the world to me!!! 

2010 was awesome but I’m looking forward to 2011.  Happy New Year Everyone!!!

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Getting Ready for Santa Mouse

With the holidays right around the corner, I’ve been a Christmas tornado – buying gift, wrapping gifts, cleaning my house (my family is visiting), putting up lights and decorations.

A few days ago, my son (he’s 3) and I ventured off to the grocery store to pick up the turkey.  While in the meat section, my little one goes running off.  I catch him in the cheese section, picking up a block of Cheddar.

“Honey, we don’t need cheese.” I explain.

“But we need to leave it out for Santa…”

I laughed. “Santa likes milk and cookies. Not cheese, silly.”

And then he got very serious with me. “Not Santa. Santa Mouse!”

I had completely forgotten about the story I had been reading him at bedtime about Santa’s helper, Santa Mouse who leaves a present with a yellow ribbon in the tree.  Needless to say, I bought the cheese.

So don’t forget to leave out a slice of cheese for Santa Mouse along with the cookies and milk.  And Merry Christmas Everyone!!! I hope there are lots of books under your tree 🙂

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November Reading List

Soulless by Christopher Golden

A mass séance on a New York Morning Talk Show brings thousands of corpses back to life – and they are hungry. I don’t know what prompted me to pick up this book, but I’m glad I did.  Zombies. Realistic Characters. People running for their lives. Awesome!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading from the four points of view and watching as their stories slowly came together.  In the end, all the main characters (well…the ones who survived) end up at the same place and you can clearly see why each one was important and had to survive until that point.

The ending was bloody and awesome. A definite read for those who love the undead.

Midnight Pearls by Debbie Viguie

This is a re-telling of the classic Little Mermaid.  Pearl was the strange girl who was pulled from the Sea. She had only one true friend – Prince James.  But their friendship is threatened when two strangers wash up on shore and one of them is charged with trying to kill the king.  Because this stranger seems to know Pearl…and he has the answers that she desperately needs to know.

Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale?  This book was a quick read and flowed really nicely considering the twists.  At first, I was afraid this book was too predictable –  “Prince meets common girl, they fall in love despite differences, run away together, yadda, yadda, yadda.” But part way through the book, there was a lovely breath of fresh air and a new twist on the classic was introduced.  Now that’s more like it!

I recommend it for any girl over the age of 10 who fell in the love with the Little Mermaid story and wants to see it told a different way.

Room by Emma Donoghue

I heard a lot of hype about this book, so I picked it up mostly out of curiosity.  Turns out – it’s pretty amazing.  It’s told from the point of view of 5-year-old Jack.  (I have a three-year old so I took great interest in this).

Without giving too much away, Jack and his Ma live in Room. (Yes, Room is like a character in this book) He’s only ever known Room. (He’s never been outside).  Every once and while Old Nick comes to visit and drop off food and take out the garbage. Jack and his Ma don’t like Old Nick. (You can guess why)

This book broke my heart.  It’s told in Jack’s voice but I could see beyond what Jack understands and get the bigger picture.  The author, Emma Donoghue, did a fantastic job of building the layers in this story, even though everything takes place inside one room.

I felt for Jack’s Ma.  I could see what she was trying to do – build a world for her son in such a small space.  I can now see what all the hype was about.  This book is great.

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Where did November go?

It seems like I blinked and November disappeared.  Now the stores are bloated with Christmas music and frantic shoppers and I’m still trying to recover from Nanowrimo.

I didn’t “win” Nanowrimo, as most of you can tell.  I wrote around 20,000 words – a far cry from the 50,000 required.  But I’m not discouraged.  I usually try to write a few pages every night (500 words a day) so I kept up my usual pace.  I did however get lots of great tips and advice on how to make more of my writing time.  And I had fun.  It was great to be a part of a group for awhile.

Reading however, slowed down a bit as well.  I read 3 books in November even though I aimed for 4.  (Unless you count children’s books – because I probably read about 100 of those).

I’m hoping to get Matched by Ally Condie and Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead (the final book in the Vampire Academy Series) this month.  Both look like exciting reads.

What books do you guys plan on reading this Christmas holiday?

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October Reading List

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.

I borrowed this from my good friend Scott.  He had recommended it awhile ago but I kept putting it off because of how big it is.

I have mixed reviews about this book.  I LOVE the characters.  There are no cardboard cut-outs here – every character was so beautifully crafted with flaws and all.  I found myself really relating to Catelyn, wife of Ned.  She’s strong (like so many mothers) but not without her faults. (I was appalled with how she treated Jon Snow).

The plot was exciting and really kept the reader on their toes.  At one point, I wasn’t sure who I was rooting for.  The author did a great job of hiding his secrets and releasing them at the right moments.

I struggled with the history of the kingdom.  At the beginning, I spent far too much time referring to the appendix just so I could figure out what was going on.  Too much back story – not enough plot.  One thing I never like is being subjected to a million names at the very beginning of a novel.  If the character isn’t important to the plot, then don’t name them.  Martin seemed to name every character you came across. Were they all important to the storyline?  Not really.  The plot wouldn’t have suffered by not naming them.

The second thing I never like is when a forward/prologue introduces characters and back story’s that really have nothing to do with the story.  Yes – it set the mood.  Yes – it showed us how Will died.  Big whoop.  I could have skipped the forward and not missed anything.

Overall, if you are in the mood for an epic adventure that will introduce you to believable characters, then pick up this novel.  However be prepared to work for it in the beginning.  But once you get used to the names and figure out who the main characters are, you’re in for a great escape.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

This book was addictive – I finished it within a few days.  It’s about a young girl, Gemma, who is kidnapped and taken to the Australian Outback.  The book is written like a letter from Gemma to her kidnapper, Ty.

But Ty isn’t the stereotypical bad guy.  He’s sweet, and patient and just wants Gemma to love him.  I suffered from ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ because by the end of the book, I was also relating to the abductor.

Even though this book deals with a traumatic experience, it never goes as dark as some other books I’ve read about kidnapping. (eg. Gemma isn’t raped, she isn’t beaten, she isn’t treated badly).

And I agree with the ending.  Lucy Christopher did a great job at wrapping up the story.  I can’t imagine a better ending.

The New Vampire’s Handbook

In this Handbook the Vampire Miles Proctor goes through the various subjects every newly turned vampire should pay attention to. What to eat, The various different types of covens, things that will kill a vampire – this book covers it all. (eg. make sure to bring extra socks!  You’ll have to read it to understand why)

I really liked how every fact was backed up with the science behind it.  This book explains why Vampires can’t go out into sunlight or why they need blood to live.  (I was never very good at science, so I thought some of it made sense)

This humorous self-help book for Vampires had me in stitches.  There is nothing like a good laugh (and a good book about vampires)

Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but angels are the new vampires. Lots of Young Adult books are diving into world of fallen angels – Halo by Alexandra Adornetto, Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith are just a few to name.

Many reviews I’ve read compares Hush Hush to Fallen by Lauren Kate (which I read in August).  And, to be completely honest, I prefer Hush Hush.  Patch is far more interesting than Daniel.  And everything in Hush Hush seems more realistic.  Every emotion is justified. Every scene makes sense. Plus, I thought Luce (the main character from Fallen) was a bit boring. Nora (From Hush Hush) is someone I can relate too and someone I can empathize for.

I’m team Vampire, but this book almost makes me change sides. 🙂

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