Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Matchy Matchy

There are two things we have a lot of in our house: books and mugs, and I have to confess this has led to some pretty quirky habits on my part. When I make myself a hot beverage, I don't just go to the cupboard and pick out any old random mug. Come on! Where's the fun in that? Strange as it may be, I have a tendency to match whatever mug I choose to my mood, my outfit, or sometimes even the book I'm reading. My sister and I were joking about this the other day, and it turned into a bit of a game. For fun, I raided my book and mug collections to see if I could come up with the perfect matches:

Okay, I admit that looks a wee bit on the obsessive side, but hey, it was fun! Beside Distant Waves is a replica of the second class cup and saucer sets from the Titanic. If you look closely you can see the White Star Line logo. Now tell me that doesn't add ambiance when you're reading a book that takes place on the Titanic! The mug matched with This Dark Endeavor is the one I most often use when I write. It's my favourite, and it was actually purchased at a bookstore which I think is fitting.

And just so I have something nice to drink from all these mugs, my sister sent me this lovely parcel from David's Tea the other day. Seriously, their tea is amazing. The one she gave me is chocolatey and minty and spicy all at once. I was addicted to it after the first sip. Sisters who understand the importance of tea and books are the best. :)

Anybody else have any wacky habits like matching mugs to books, or am I the only one? Wait. Maybe I shouldn't ask that...

Monday, 25 February 2013

Review: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Madman’s Daughter is a retelling of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. I’ve never read the original, but after finishing this story I might have to sometime.  It’s being marketed as a Gothic thriller, but it could also be described as sci-fi, seeing as the story revolves around vivisection which is basically the dissection of living creatures. I know, SUPER CREEPY. One thing I have little tolerance for in books is disturbing violence against animals, but in this case Megan Shepherd didn’t go overboard with the gore, and it was there for a purpose. The author brings into question the morality of what Dr. Moreau does to animals in the name of scientific discovery. And while his experiments are the stuff of fantasy, the theme of ethics in science is something I’m very interested in, so this won me over.

One of this book’s strongest points is the character development. The characters are flawed enough to be believable, but not enough to make them unlikeable or irredeemable, a really important balance in my opinion. This excludes Juliet’s father, of course, seeing as he’s basically off his rocker and serves as the source for much of the conflict. The author creates secrets and suspicion surrounding all the characters—who they really are and what they’re capable of—even Juliet, as she must question her own morbid fascination with her father’s scientific experiments and the fact that her hunger for this sort of knowledge is something she inherited from a madman.

I enjoyed Juliet as a protagonist.  She’s smart, capable, and isn’t intimidated by challenging circumstances. Her interest in science goes against the social norms for women of the Victorian Era, a trait that made her all the more interesting. I also enjoyed the contrast between Montgomery and Edward, the potential love interests in the story. While Juliet has a history with Montgomery and finds his familiarity comforting, the mystery surrounding Edward is also appealing. I found myself invested in both of these relationships.

Because much of the book takes place on a tropical island, there’s that feeling of having nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Everything happens in this microcosm that’s largely of Dr. Moreau’s making and to a degree, under his control. Scary, when you’re talking about a madman. I enjoyed the part of the story that took place in London as well, especially the Gothic feel of the medical school where Juliet worked.

In terms of plot, there were some crazy twists in this book, one of which I should have seen coming. In that case, I knew something was up but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. If there’s mystery in a book, I try my best to put the clues together, so I love it when an author blindsides me. When I started reading The Madman’s Daughter, I didn’t realize it was the first in a trilogy, so when I got to the end I was left totally gobsmacked and freaking out. This was in the middle of the night (because I couldn’t put the darn book down) and I was trying not to wake my family up by shrieking my head off.  I’m almost wishing I hadn’t read it so soon after it was released, because now I have a whole year to wait for the sequel. I’m sure the wait will be worth it though!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Covert Shenanigans

Lately, I’ve had a bad case of the winter blahs. I mean really, can you blame me? It’s snowing out yet AGAIN as I’m typing this post. You’d think that being Canadian I’d be used to this by now. Nope. Well, it isn’t so much not being used to it as being utterly tired of it. Winter, I am so over you.

Anyway, yesterday the UPS guy shows up at my door with a box from Amazon. My husband, Trevor, happened to be home sick from work (another lovely result of this time of year) and by the mischievous look on his face, I could tell there were covert shenanigans unfolding.

I opened the box, and this is what I found inside:

Knowing I was feeling down in the dumps (or perhaps like an avalanche of snow had been dumped on my head), my wonderful husband thought he’d cheer me up. He’s well aware that the way to my heart is through books, so he ordered a bunch of sequels he knew I was itching to read. A perfect cure for the February blues.

I will most certainly enjoy reading about Day, Adam, Jack, and Prince Kai, but first and foremost, I will always be Team Trevor. :)

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

RTW: Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a writing-or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This week’s question:

What’s your favorite book/movie moment of someone doing crazy things for love?

If you haven’t read or watched The Lord of the Rings yet, don’t proceed any further. I know, I know, there’s probably only like two people on the planet that statement applies to, but I figured I’d give fair warning seeing as someone did in fact ruin the ending of the trilogy for me years ago. Still not over that.

So the RTW topic is about crazy love and Arwen isn’t exactly the poster child for crazy. I’m pretty sure that role goes to this guy…

(I doubt Aragorn wants to kiss this dude, but he did kiss his horse in the movie, so who knows?)

…but nothing says “I’m head over heels in love with you” like giving up immortality to be with the Numenorean of your dreams.  Arwen could have trotted off to the Grey Havens like Agent Smith…ahem…I mean like Elrond wanted her to, but she didn’t. Even when things looked hopeless for Middle Earth, and even though it meant giving up her Elvish good looks to grow old and gray someday, she stayed behind and became a mere mortal for Aragorn. It probably didn’t hurt that in the end she got to be queen and that Aragorn cleans up real nice once he’s taken a much needed bath, but still. On the scale of wild and crazy gestures, I’d have to say sacrificing eternity is a ten.

Shut it, My Precious. I’m staying, and that’s final!

And speaking of romance, have you ever seen Mr. and Mrs. Tolkien’s gravestone? If you’ve read The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s mythology of Middle Earth, then you’ll be familiar with Beren and Luthien whose bittersweet love story is mirrored in Arwen and Aragorn. It’s said that Tolkien based the character of Luthien on his wife, Edith. Take a look:

Hard to get any more romantic than that.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

RTW: Get Lost...In a Book

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a writing-or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This week’s topic:

It’s (the day before) Valentine’s Day! Let’s jumpstart this lovefest by blogging about what you love most about writing and/or reading!

Well this is easy, because what I love most about writing is the same as what I love most about reading. In a word:


Some people call it daydreaming, but I call it writing. When I picture scenes in my head, scribble dialogue in my notebook, or type up a new chapter, I get to hang out with characters I love in a setting constructed entirely from the shiny clutter of my own imagination.  I can go on adventures, do things I’d never be brave enough to attempt in real life, and maybe even save the world. And there’s always the hope that someday readers will get the chance to escape into my stories too.

The same goes for reading. I've ridden the Hogwarts Express, climbed through a wardrobe to Narnia, trekked across Middle Earth, visited the Night Circus, and competed in the Hunger Games, all because some amazing authors invited me into the worlds they’ve created.

There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a good book. And hey, if I happened to write that book, so much the better!

So tell me, why do you love to write and/or read? And to what book setting would you most like to escape?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Nobody But Us: A Review and a Rant About Reviews

Let me preface this post by saying that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it would be nice if people were respectful about expressing those opinions. Lately, I’ve been seeing an awful lot of reviews that rip stories (and sometimes authors) to shreds, often in a very rabid manner.  That being said, this review of Nobody But Us sort of morphed into a defense of the book, though it certainly isn’t the only novel for which I’ve seen snarky and unfair reviews. (To be clear, I'm talking reviews that are disparaging and malicious or contain profanity and insults directed at authors, not reviews that offer balanced and polite criticism.) Unfortunately, I think that’s par for the course these days with any book, seeing as the internet provides all of us with a soapbox to stand on.


If you'd like to see the book synopsis, here's a link. I should also mention that Nobody But Us is on my list for the Debut Author Challenge. (And no, my ranting is not directed towards the reviews in the DAC, rather elsewhere online.)

Will and Zoe, the main characters, are na├»ve from the get go. Their “plan” to run away to Vegas hits some major snags, but if everything went off without a hitch, the story would have been a chapter long. I’ve read some reviews that criticized the decisions made by these characters, and I’m not arguing that Will and Zoe did some foolish and impulsive things, but that’s generally what happens when people are desperate and on the run. Not to mention teens have a tendency to be idealistic—it’s simultaneously one of the best and worst traits of this age group. Throw in some intense emotions and the fact that neither one of these kids has been raised to make good choices, and yeah, the characters are going to mess up big time. But Kristin Halbrook more than adequately illustrates the consequences of Will and Zoe’s decisions.

I felt so sorry for these kids. They both came from horrible situations.  Until recently, Will was a ward of the state who had been shunted around his entire life, while Zoe’s alcoholic father abuses her. They’re the kids who fall through the cracks, and no one cares enough to help them. Because of their backgrounds, neither of them have any concept of a healthy relationship. They say they love one another over and over (to an almost obsessive degree, and let’s face it, that’s a pretty accurate depiction of teens) but they have no idea how to appropriately act on those feelings, especially considering their desperate situation. So sure, their relationship has some huge issues, but I think the point is that they try to take care of one another, even if they don’t know how to do it properly.

I saw some reviews that seemed unfairly harsh in their criticism of the way Will and Zoe’s relationship was portrayed, going so far as to say its flaws were romanticized and that the whole thing would eventually end in abuse. I find this sad. So are people saying that kids who’ve been crapped on by society and broken by their home situations (or lack thereof) have no right to even try to love or be loved?  Yes, there’s the issue of Will being eighteen and Zoe is a minor, but never do you get the sense that he’s taking advantage of her, and I don’t think the author is condoning this. I think it’s just one more card in the lousy hand they’ve been dealt.

If I had to compare this to another book it would be Stay with Me by Paul Griffin. The voices of the two male characters and their situations were similar in many ways, though the storylines are different. I’d have to say that Will’s voice is probably one of the strongest aspects of the writing in Nobody but Us.

There is much about this book that feels true to life—pain, sadness, mistakes, emotional baggage and all--and though I told myself I wouldn’t, I cried at the end. (Yeah, I need to quit lying to myself on the whole crying issue.) Will and Zoe stuck with me after I finished the book and gave me a lot to think about. While most teens won’t ever take to the road in an effort to flee their cruddy home situations, Nobody But Us was a good reminder of the issues some kids are forced to face and the emotions that accompany those issues.  That’s a reminder I can use, both as someone who writes YA and someone who just wants to be a more compassionate person.

So that’s my two cents. I’m not saying my opinion is worth more than anyone else’s, and I’m certainly not saying people have to like the same things I do, but I think it would be lovely if readers (myself included) were a little less eager to bash books and a lot more eager to spread some book love.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Just a quick note to say that the entries for round four of the Blind Speed Dating contest at Cupid's Literary Connection have been posted. In case anyone is interested in taking a look, my entry is #124

The query I entered for the contest isn't actually my most recent query draft, seeing as I'm currently taking a query letter course through, but it obviously still gives a decent idea of what my story is about.

I'd love to hear feedback, but please, no throwing of tomatoes or other rotten veggies. ;)