Saturday, January 30, 2010

Share-A-Book Saturday (21)

This is something I found over on Just Another Book Addict =), and I thought I'd do my own. There are so many great books out there that get overlooked (especially if they've been out for a while)!

Every Saturday, you share (recommend) a book, preferably one that you haven't reviewed yet. It's just a way to get other books out into the blogging world. This is NOT a review.

Today I'm going to recommend Both Sides of Time by Caroline B. Cooney.

Imagine changing centuries--and making things worse, not better, on both sides of time.

Imagine being involved in two love triangles in two different centuries. What if, no matter which direction you travel in time, you must abandon someone you love?

Meet 15-year-old Annie Lockwood, a romantic living in the wrong century. When she travels back a hundred years and lands in 1895--a time when privileged young ladies wear magnificent gowns, attend elegant parties, and are courted by handsome gentlemen--Annie at last finds romance. But she is a trespasser in time. Will she choose to stay in the past? Will she be allowed to?

I read this book years ago. It's one that has really stuck with me... both for the time-travel aspect and for the romance. For anyone who's ever felt that they were born in the wrong century, it's nice to be able to live vicariously through Annie.

There are four books in this series. I've read the first two, and they're both good. I can't vouch for the third and fourth, though; perhaps I'll have to read them myself someday! The books are:

Both Sides of Time
Out of Time
Prisoner of Time
For All Time

Amazon also carries the stories in two volumes, each of which contains two books:

The Time Travelers: Volume One
The Time Travelers: Volume Two

Review - The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things
by John Connolly

I can't even remember where I heard about this book now. It's been on my TBR list for ages, and sitting in my TBR pile for months (since I bought it back on Hallowe'en). I finally got around to reading it, in part because I wanted to read something for the 2010 Fantasy Reading Challenge that wasn't YA. So here we are. And what can I say? I really enjoyed this book.

After the death of his beloved mother, David finds himself stuck living with his father, his stepmother, and his baby half-brother. In addition, he hears books whispering to him and has attacks where he blacks out and catches glimpses of a strange world of half-darkness, trees, and castles. He eventually finds himself lost in this other world. He sets off to see the king, who may know how to return David to his own world. But David has drawn the attention of a number of evil creatures, and they won't stop until they get what they want.

It's been a while since I read any fiction that wasn't young adult or middle grade. The Book of Lost Things may be classed as "adult", but it's really a tale about stories: those we tell ourselves and the power those stories can have. There were a few mature themes (such as bestiality and child molestation) that were touched on, but these things were mentioned in passing and never in much graphic detail. The violence was, at times, a bit gory, but I've actually seen worse in YA fiction. So this book would probably be suitable for older teens, as well as adults.

I was sucked into the narrative almost immediately; John Connolly's writing style is lovely and flowing, and manages to convey the perfect amount of emotion throughout the story without degenerating into purple prose.

David was an interesting character, and quite well-written. He was supposed to be about 12 (if I remember correctly), and he was written as such. Some of his reactions rang quite true. He wasn't portrayed as dumb, but he wasn't obnoxiously precocious, either. As far as the other characters go, I quite liked the Woodsman and Roland, two father-like figures that David meets in his travels in this strange world. But the secondary characters were fun, too. Connolly draws upon fairy tales to populate his world, and so David runs into wolves (Little Red Riding Hood), dwarfs (Snow White), and sleeping princesses (Sleeping Beauty)... but they're not what you'd expect.

There's not much more I can say without giving away too much of the plot and the little surprises that come with it. So I'll conclude by saying that, if you enjoy stories that incorporate fairy tales while also touching on some deeper themes (such as betrayal, love, and family), The Book of Lost Things might be something you'd enjoy.

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Originality: 4/5

Overall: 4.6 out of 5

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Word verification Balderdash (21)

This fun meme was started by Sheila over at One Persons Journey through a world of Books, and is now hosted by Ryan G of Wordsmithonia.
This is the weekly meme where anyone who wishes to play along can take those crazy word verifications they have had over the past week and apply a fake definition to them (much like how you play the board game Balderdash).

Here are this week's words:

arebacs - plural noun - anything that keeps coming back over and over again

bledenti - noun - a dental hygienist who is so rough that you end up bleeding all over your little paper bib

clolusn - noun - an unpatented chemical that is used to make antidepressant drugs for clowns and other children's entertainers

morstice - noun - the time of year at which the undead are at their most active and troublesome; the morstice was once believed to be around Hallowe'en, but it is now believed to occur in late June

pargum - noun - a type of chewing gum favoured by golfers; pargum is used in a game which involves chewing a new piece each time you're over par; bad golfers can end up with a huge wad of pargum by the end of the day

pughb - verb - to cough while the mouth is full; pughbing, if done properly, doesn't release any crumbs

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Share-A-Book Saturday (20)

This is something I found over on Just Another Book Addict =), and I thought I'd do my own. There are so many great books out there that get overlooked (especially if they've been out for a while)!

Every Saturday, you share (recommend) a book, preferably one that you haven't reviewed yet. It's just a way to get other books out into the blogging world. This is NOT a review.

Today I'm going to recommend The Willowmere Chronicles by Alison Baird.

I thought for sure I had recommended these on Share-A-Book Saturday before, as they are some of my very favourite YA books. Years ago, I'd read Baird's The Hidden World and loved it. So when I spotted this series, I knew I was in for a good story. Was I ever!

(The following descriptions come from The second and third books are available there, but the first appears to be out of print. It's available through Amazon Marketplace, though.)

The Witches of Willowmere

Whenever Claire passes by Willowmere, she is intrigued by the beauty and exoticism of the estate, so out of place in the small town where she lives. There is something oddly familiar about the eccentric old house, with its widow's walk, gingerbread trim and lofty turret. Willowmere's owner, Dr. Myra Moore, is equally fascinating. She tells Claire about the Wiccan belief system, which is not about dark spells and magic (as some of Claire's classmates seem to believe), but rather about affirming the goodness of the earth and all living things.

Claire begins to read about witchcraft and natural magic on her own, trying to understand what truth may lie within its ancient lore and wondering if it can help solve the mystery that torments her: Why did her mother leave so abruptly three years ago? And where has she gone?

Claire treasures her new friendship, but she can't shake the strange feeling that Myra is holding something back from her. And although s
he loves visiting Willowmere, she is haunted by the feeling that ancient events have pushed their way to the present and are beckoning her. Why is she having such strange and terrifying dreams? Why does she feel drawn to the portrait of Myra's ancestor, Alice Ramsay? Could Alice really have been a white witch?

As she struggles to uncover and understand the powers of both good and evil, Claire is drawn towards the past, to the witch trials of the 17th century, and must battle unexpected adversaries in the present. All the while, she searches for the true story behind her mother's disappearance, hoping her newfound knowledge and power will bring them together again.

The Warding of Willowmere

Claire Norton is a revenant - the reincarnation of a 17th-century noblewoman found guilty of witchcraft. While this amazing discovery explains some of the strange vision-memories she's experienced, it doesn't explain what she's supposed to do with these visions or how she'll battle the forces that have been against her since even before she was Mistress Alice Ramsay.

Claire is not alone on her journey. She is guided by Leo, her familiar, an ancient spirit in an animal's body. Leo helps her battle the Dark Circle coven, the black witches and warlocks. As Claire tries to come to terms with who she is, who she was, and who she must be, she also struggles to understand why her mother left her and her father three years ago. Could she have known her daughter's power and destiny? Claire wonders if her mother also visits the alternative dimension Leo has revealed to her. And as she prepares for future battles with the evil coven, Claire begins to wonder if she has the strength and knowledge to fight the terrible threat of their dark powers.

The Wyrd of Willowmere

Sixteen-year-old Claire Norton has come to terms with her new identity as a twice-reincarnated witch, but many things in her life continue to haunt her. Though she now believes her mother fled years ago in order to protect her family from the evil Dark Circle coven, Claire is still no closer to finding her. And although the head of the coven has been weakened by the harmful after-effects of his own black magic, the sinister young warlock Nicholas van Buren is poised to take over as heir apparent. As well, Claire must confront her growing feelings for a boy at her high school and her desire to get closer to him while at the same time trying to keep him safe from the supernatural dangers that surround her.

What shape will her final destiny take? Will Claire be able to defeat her enemies and enjoy a normal life at last—or will the ultimate sacrifice be demanded of her?

I must say, after reading through those synopses and refreshing my memory, I see a lot of similarities with Alyson Noel's Immortals series... though this series was written years earlier. There's the reincarnation aspect (though it's done better here) and also the alternate dream-like dimension that Claire visits that is very much like Summerland. Now that I think about it, it's no wonder I was so disappointed with Evermore and Blue Moon; I was expecting something similar to the Willowmere Chronicles!

One refreshing aspect of this series is Claire's quest to find her mother. In a lot of YA books, we have the absent-parent syndrome. This is somewhat the case here (simply due to the nature of the story), but Claire's parents are important to her. Her father even gets involved when he believes his daughter is in danger. It's nice to see parents who aren't completely oblivious to the fact that their teenagers are out risking their lives while trying to save the world.

Another thing I liked about this trilogy was that it wasn't focused around a hot supernatural guy that the heroine pines over for a few thousand pages. There is romance, of course, but it's not hitting you over the head. These books were written years ago (the first being published in 2002), so perhaps the "template" for YA paranormal romance hadn't yet been set in stone.

In any case, these three books are a fun read with a satisfying wrap-up at the end of The Wyrd of Willowmere. If you enjoy books like Twilight, Evermore, Wicked Lovely, or Hush, Hush, you'll probably find something to like here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And one more for good measure...

I received another award today! I haven't seen this one before. Thanks, Melissa (of Books and Things), for thinking of me!

The rules are pretty simple. Answer the following questions with Single Word answers then pass this along to 5 other bloggers. Make sure you let them know about it though.

Your Cell Phone? Nonexistent.
Your Hair? Reddish.
Your Mother? Patient.
Your Father? Impatient.
Your Favorite Food? Edible.
Your Dream Last Night? Boring.
Your Favorite Drink? Water.
Your Dream/Goal? Love.
What Room Are You In? Bedroom.
Your Hobby? Genealogy.
Your Fear? Insanity.
Where Do You Want To Be In Six Years? Elsewhere.
Where Were You Last Night? Here.
Something That You Aren't? Healthy.
Muffins? Tops?
Wish List Item? Books.
Where Did You Grow Up? Ontario.
Last Thing You Did? Ate.
What Are You Wearing? Pajamas.
Your TV? Downstairs.
Your Pets? Dead.
Friends? Distant.
Your Life? Sucky.
Your Mood? Exhausted.
Missing Someone? Yes.
Vehicle? No.
Something You Aren't Wearing? Hat.
Your Favorite Store? Bookstore.
Your Favorite Color? Purple.
When Was The Last Time You Laughed? Yesterday.
Last Time You Cried? Yesterday.
Your Best Friend? Nonexistent.
One Place You Go To Over And Over Again? There.
Facebook? Yes.
Favorite Place To Eat? Couch.

I'm passing this along to:

Ashley at PikeAlicious Books
Aye.Me? at Reversing The Monotony
GreenBeanTeenQueen at GreenBeanTeenQueen
Jo at Once Upon a Bookcase
Lauren at Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf

Word verification Balderdash (20)

This fun meme was started by Sheila over at One Persons Journey through a world of Books, and is now hosted by Ryan G of Wordsmithonia.
This is the weekly meme where anyone who wishes to play along can take those crazy word verifications they have had over the past week and apply a fake definition to them (much like how you play the board game Balderdash).

Here are this week's words:

afyinki - noun - a type of sock that has an open heel; some socks may become afyinkis by accident when they are in need of darning

barcatic - adjective - refers to roughened skin on the body, particularly on the elbows

crucers - plural noun - a variety of pastry; a crucer is tough and shaped like the pincers of a lobster, meaning that if you drop a crucer in your lap, you're liable to get pinched

inglist - noun - a list of -ing verbs; inglists are particularly useful to novelists who write in the present tense

ovlrot - noun - a condition that afflicts artists; ovlrot affects the ability of the artist to draw proper circles, ovals, and ellipses

smolisms - plural noun - sayings first uttered by the avant-garde (if somewhat unoriginal) poet daniel smol, whose claim to fame was eschewing capitalization

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Recent Awards

I've received a couple of awards recently, so I guess it's time to do another awards post.

A little while ago, I received the Humane Award from Cate at Sparrow Review:

This award is to honor certain bloggers that
are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn't for them, my site would just be an ordinary book review blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a daily basis. I thank them and look forward to our growing friendship through the blog world.

Nominate 10 bloggers you feel deserve the Humane Award.

  1. Becky at The Bookette
  2. Melissa at Books and Things
  3. Juju at Tales of whimsy...
  4. Ryan G at Wordsmithonia
  5. Nina at J'adorehappyendings
  6. Melissa at My world
  7. Kay at The Infinite Shelf
  8. Lauren at I was a teenage book geek
  9. Kate at The Neverending Shelf
  10. Choco at In Which a Girl Reads

I also received the Happy 101 Award from Helen at Helen Loves Books:

List 10 things that make you happy and then give this award to 10 book blogs that brighten your day.

Ten things that make me happy, eh? Let's see...

  1. Dog antics
  2. A good book
  3. The sound of rain on the roof
  4. Christmas lights in February
  5. Being creative
  6. Seeing the women I've lent to on Kiva pay off their loans
  7. Nature
  8. Infinite possibilities
  9. Things that make me laugh
  10. Beautiful blogs

I'm going to pass this award to:

  1. Charlotte at The Book on the Hill
  2. The Evil Ones at 3 Evil Cousins
  3. Eleni at /-LA FEMME READERS-/
  4. Amy J at My Overstuffed Bookshelf
  5. Yan at Books By Their Cover
  6. Kristen M. at We Be Reading
  7. Jackie at My Ever Expanding Library
  8. Orchid at The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
  9. Cat at Beyond Books
  10. Sarahbear9789 at Sarah's random musings...

A big thanks to Cate and Helen. You guys made my day!

In My Mailbox (9)

I actually went to the bookstore this week! It's been a while. I found two books: Darklight (it seemed everybody else was getting it, and I was feeling a little left out) and Ella Minnow Pea (because it was $2 for the hardcover, and I couldn't pass that up).

by Lesley Livingston

Faerie can't lie . . . or can they?

Much has changed since autumn, when Kelley Winslow learned she was a Faerie princess, fell in love with changeling guard Sonny Flannery, and saved the mortal realm from the ravages of the Wild Hunt. Now Kelley is stuck in New York City, rehearsing Romeo and Juliet and missing Sonny more with every stage kiss, while Sonny has been forced back to the Otherworld and into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the remaining Hunters and Queen Mabh herself.

When a terrifying encounter sends Kelley tumbling into the Otherworld, her reunion with Sonny is joyful but destined to be cut short. An ancient, hidden magick is stirring, and a dangerous new enemy is willing to risk everything to claim that power. Caught in a web of Faerie deception and shifting allegiances, Kelley and Sonny must tread carefully, for each next step could topple a kingdom . . . or tear them apart.

With breathtakingly high stakes, the talented Lesley Livingston delivers soaring romance and vividly magical characters in darklight, the second novel in the trilogy that began with Wondrous Strange.

Ella Minnow Pea
by Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram,* “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl’s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.

*pangram: a sentence or phrase that includes all the letters of the alphabet

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

I'm Drowning in Books!

I know I came across this book-sharing site at some point, but I can't seem to find it again (I don't know if that means it's gone, or if I'm just looking in the wrong place). It's not BookMooch that I'm thinking of. It was a site that allowed people to post the titles they wanted to get rid of, and others could pay the postage and get the book sent to them.

Does anyone know what site I'm thinking of? I really need to get rid of some of these books that I've already read. The piles are starting to teeter...


Thanks, guys. I think maybe it was Kristi's site... but if it's closed now, that's no good.

I should have also mentioned that I'm in Canada, so Goodreads and aren't options. Darn.

Does anybody have any ideas about what I could do with all these books? Contests? eBay? Amazon Marketplace? What do you do with like-new books that you no longer want?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Share-A-Book Saturday (19)

This is something I found over on Just Another Book Addict =), and I thought I'd do my own. There are so many great books out there that get overlooked (especially if they've been out for a while)!

Every Saturday, you share (recommend) a book, preferably one that you haven't reviewed yet. It's just a way to get other books out into the blogging world. This is NOT a review.

Today I'm going to recommend Awake and Dreaming by Kit Pearson.

Theo has always dreamed of belonging to a real family. Her dream seems to come true when she is mysteriously "adopted" by the warm Kaldor clan. For the first time, Theo has brand new clothes, things of her own, security, and good friends. But, as time passes, the magic of Theo's new life begins to fade--really fade. In fact, Theo herself is vanishing.... (Product description from

I must have read this book years ago, close to when it first came out. It's by a Canadian author, and it's set in a location with which I'm pretty familiar. Theo meets the Kaldors on the ferry between Vancouver and Victoria; I'd just finished a year of university at UVic, so the ferry was something I knew quite well. It's always kind of cool to be able to identify with aspects of a story because you know the location.

But this is also a good story. It's a middle-grade book, but I read it when I was 19 or so and I still really enjoyed it. I was first introduced to the author after reading A Handful of Time and the Guests of War trilogy (The Sky is Falling, Looking at the Moon, and The Lights Go On Again); all of those books are good, but Awake and Dreaming is probably my favourite Kit Pearson novel.
If you've never heard of this author or read any of her books, I'd recommend starting with this one.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Review - If I Stay

If I Stay (If I Stay #1)
by Gayle Forman
Date: 2009
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 201
Format: hardcover
Source: Indigo

Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.

I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.

Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.

If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book has been in my TBR pile for what seems like ages. It's not very long, so I thought it would be a quick, enjoyable read. Well, it was fairly quick. But I didn't enjoy it.

Mia is the only survivor of a car accident that kills the rest of her family. In a disembodied state, she putters around the hospital, alternately telling us the story of what's going on right now, and flashing back to moments in her life. Eventually, she realizes that she has a decision to make: should she let herself die and be with her family, or should she stay?

I have no problem with the basic premise of the story. I just don't think it was executed very well here. Mia's near-death experience is very atheistic and, as a result, rather boring. She can't walk through walls, visit Hawaii, or even talk to her dead family. She basically hangs around the hospital, spending a lot of time near her body. I have no idea why the author chose for Mia to have an out-of-body experience, since the same thing could have been accomplished by having Mia trapped in her body, unable to speak, but able to share her memories with the reader. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Mia's near-death experience was boring.

Then again, Mia herself is boring. As a character, I never really got a good feel for who she was. Everyone else in her life -- especially those who weren't that close to her -- had more character development. When the main character's parents' friends are more memorable than the main character herself... that's a problem. Another issue I had was that in these flashbacks, the children all spoke like adults. Not every child and teenager is that precocious, insightful, and overflowing with so much wisdom. It made the story difficult to follow, because I was never quite sure how old the characters were supposed to be, or how many years ago this flashback was.

I also never expected the accident to be so graphic. I'm not usually bothered by descriptions of gore in books, but this one almost had me vomiting. It seemed a bit gratuitous to me. We know the family is dead; we don't need such graphic descriptions of what's smeared all over the road. I almost put the book down at that point. Show, don't tell... yes. But you don't need to show everything.

And then there was the portrayal of the hospital. I find it difficult to believe that Oregon has such hospitals of horrors, and I'm wondering if some of those things weren't just thrown in for effect. Do the operating rooms really have blood stains on the floors? Do the nurses really have more ego than compassion? Are the doctors so detached from the feelings of their patients that they'll wheel a person down the hall with their genitals exposed? If all that is true, remind me never to visit Oregon; I'd never want to end up in a hospital there.

The writing was okay, but I was not impressed by the typos. After finding two in the first ten or so pages, I wondered if the book had even been edited. Obviously, making a good first impression wasn't a priority.

All in all, I was just disappointed. I thought the premise of this book sounded awesome, but I just couldn't get into it. I felt like I was rushing through all those flashbacks just to find something interesting... but Mia's out-of-body experience turned out to be even more dull. Skip this one... unless you need a soporific.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Overall: 2.4 out of 5

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Word verification Balderdash (19)

This fun meme is hosted by Sheila over at One Persons Journey through a world of Books.
This is the weekly meme where anyone who wishes to play along can take those crazy word verifications they have had over the past week and apply a fake definition to them (much like how you play the board game Balderdash).

Here are this week's words:

bumsinve - noun - a stringed instrument with a long, curved neck that is played by resting the body of the instrument against the player's bottom so that the neck curves around and lies over the groin area

deduccu - adjective - refers to a person who is doomed, as in, "She sure screwed up that project. When the boss finds out, she's deduccu."

flumbr - verb - to slowly fumble an object while it is being caught

luins - plural noun - the drops saliva of a drooling werewolf

nexan - noun - the opposing viewpoint in an Internet argument; the original viewpoint is called the exan

plignom - noun - the upper third of the fingerboard of the bumsinve

Booking Through Thursday (18)

Booking Through Thursday asks:

Suggested by Prairie Progressive:

Do you read the inside flaps that describe a book before or while reading it?

You know, I used to read the flaps before I read a book. But I've realized that, lately, I sometimes don't read the flaps at all (usually because I already know what the book is about and have read text similar to what's on the flaps already).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday (3)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

I'm looking forward to a couple of books that are coming out soon:

Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver
coming March 2, 2010...

Enchanted Glass
by Diana Wynne Jones
coming April 6, 2010...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Review - Dreaming Anastasia

Dreaming Anastasia (Dreaming Anastasia #1)
by Joy Preble
Date: 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 310
Format: paperback
Source: Indigo

What really happened to Anastasia Romanov?

Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn't. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.

In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn't know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college--until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams…

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book, as I hadn't read many reviews of it, and I wasn't sure what the plot was about (other than the Romanov family, which is something that will catch my attention every time).

The story gets going quickly, so I thought I was in for an interesting read. Unfortunately, the momentum fizzled and died. I think that may have been because, ultimately, the plot was a little thin. The basic premise is that Anastasia Romanov didn't die back in 1918; she was rescued by Baba Yaga, a witch from Russian folklore, and has been living in her magical hut ever since. In the present, this "wicked hot" immortal guy named Ethan searches out Anne, a teenager living in Chicago, because she's the only one who can free Anastasia.

It's not bad as far as plots go, but it's pretty basic. After finishing the book, I feel like I missed a lot of the story. There could have been so much more included. Instead, we're treated to never-ending descriptions of Ethan's blue eyes. I'm not kidding. Pretty much every time Anne is narrating (the book switches between three points of view: Anne's, Ethan's, and Anastasia's), she has to mention Ethan's blue eyes. They're blue. They're very blue. They're ridiculously blue. Sometimes they're sky blue. Once, they're dark blue. They shimmer. They make Anne dizzy, they're so blue. After the first ten or so times, I wanted to shout, "His eyes are blue. We get it!" I thought for sure that his eye colour would somehow be relevant to the plot, since such a big deal was made about it. But no such luck. (I used the search feature on and found 32 references to blue eyes. Talk about overkill.)

The characterizations were mediocre. I thought Anne might turn out to be interesting; after all, she was given a hobby (ballet), which means she's already ahead of many other YA heroines. Unfortunately, the ballet was never really part of the plot. Ethan was promising, too, but he ultimately ended up being little more than a collection of character traits (blue eyes, shaggy brown hair, long fingers, smoker). The villains were underutilized, and I never really understood why they did what they did. Yes, the author explains it, but I didn't quite buy that explanation. Anastasia may have been the most interesting character in the whole book, but we don't get to see her in action until the end... and at that point, she becomes just as bland as the rest of them. Her letters to her family (which are interspersed throughout the rest of the text) are probably the best thing about the whole book. They helped build a character much better than the rest of the narration managed to do.

This is one of those YA romances with a supernatural, very old male lusting after a teenage girl. To the author's credit, she actually had Anne questioning this dynamic. Anne mentioned Ethan's maturity numerous times, even noting that having a relationship with him would be like dating her grandfather (or something to that effect). For some reason that's never really explained, Anne's trepidation disappears and this becomes a non-issue. I recall someone online once saying something to the effect of, "It doesn't matter how young you look... it's how many times you've been around the sun." In this case, when Anne is marveling at Ethan's ability to talk to her parents as an equal because he's just so darn mature, I would have hoped this would have given her a little more pause. Unfortunately, it seems that blue eyes win out over common sense.

The ending was disappointing, to say the least. I'm not someone who has to have a happy ending all the time. But I think an ending should have an impact. In this case, the ending was more like a lit firework that ended up being a dud. It flamed and fizzled... and ultimately went out. I was left wondering what the point of the whole story had been. The main character (which I assume was Anne) didn't really learn much. She was supposed to be the character who resolved the conflict, but, in the end, that job fell to someone else.

I did like the inclusion of the fairytale elements. I have only come across Baba Yaga once before (that I can recall) in fantasy literature that wasn't an actual folk tale. That book was Orson Scott Card's Enchantment, and Baba Yaga was used much more effectively in that story. Another thing I sort of liked in Dreaming Anastasia was the magic... but unfortunately, it reminded me of the "manifesting" stuff in Evermore. At least in this case it was considered actual magic; I just wish there had been more of it.

As for the writing... Well, I wasn't crazy about the whole style of the book. Three narrators just seemed like too many. I don't like present-tense narration, either. There were a few typos, but there were also a few mistakes that really bothered me. One was concerning genealogy. When trying to calculate the relationship between two people, there were two variations at different places in the story... resulting in either a great-great-granddaughter or a great-great-great-granddaughter. (Genealogy is a hobby of mine, so this kind of thing really irks me.) Another mistake was when Baba Yaga goes flying through the air and Anne says she's riding in a mortar. The exchange that follows makes it clear that Anne had no idea what a mortar was until Ethan explained it, even though she used the word. (This is one of the pitfalls of present-tense narration: your character is learning in real time, so slip-ups like this become more apparent.) Then there's the whole issue of whether or not Ethan will now set off metal detectors at the airport. Unless immortal bodies can dissolve bullets, he's carrying around quite a bit of metal. Is this not an issue? Or was it missed by the editor? The other mistake I noticed was in Anastasia's eye colour. On page 291, her eyes are said to be blue -- even bluer than Ethan's. But four pages later, her eyes are brown! I was pretty surprised at this mistake; surely someone who's as obsessed with eye colour as this author seems to be could keep the characters' eye colours straight.

All in all, it was an interesting diversion, but nothing I would want to read again or recommend to others. The ending was so ambiguous, that I'm left wondering if there will be a sequel. But this book didn't capture my attention enough to make me want to read any more about these characters.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Overall: 2.6 out of 5

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Word verification Balderdash (18)

This fun meme is hosted by Sheila over at One Persons Journey through a world of Books.
This is the weekly meme where anyone who wishes to play along can take those crazy word verifications they have had over the past week and apply a fake definition to them (much like how you play the board game Balderdash).

Here are this week's words:

arkruish - noun - a type of basket woven from reeds and used to send babies down a river; arkruish racing was once a popular sport, but it has since been deemed too dangerous

atriall - noun - a large, open space that is similar to an atrium but that connects multiple buildings

evirly - adverb - refers to an evil action performed with a certain amount of grace

hensms - noun - slang term referring to the condition of being handsome, as in, "Mmmm... He's got the hensms!"

pnoca - noun - a type of nut that grows in pods under the ground; pnocas are difficult to find, and often require the use of a pnoca pig to hunt them down and dig them up

sulank - adjective - refers to a tall adolescent, usually male, who walks with a bit of a slouch and exudes a surly attitude

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character (12)

This week's favourite is great in print and on the screen. Her name is Bridget Jones.

I can't actually remember if I read the book or saw the movie first. I think I probably saw the original movie first (but I read the sequel before it was adapted for the screen). While some people don't agree with the casting choice for Bridget or think that the movies stray too far from the plots of the books, I can't help but enjoy almost everything about Bridget Jones. The essence of the character remains basically the same so, judged on their own, both the books and the movies are pretty good.

I could not believe some of the nonsense that went on in the books. There were some pretty hilarious incidents that never made it into the movies. So I would definitely recommend reading the books, even if you've already seen the films.

In doing a bit of research for this post, I found out that Helen Fielding resurrected Bridget Jones in 2005 in a column in The Independent, which ran until the summer of 2006. It seems that things have taken a rather disturbing turn; considering how the movie for The Edge of Reason ended, I doubt that these new columns will ever make it onto the screen. Without spoiling anything, let me just say that I always knew that Bridget wasn't the brightest bulb... but I didn't think she was that idiotic.

So I guess Bridget Jones is a favourite character... as she appeared in Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. I know authors can do what they like with their characters, but honestly. If they're going to go and totally mess everything up, well... it's almost enough to make you want to feed them to a pack of wild Alsatians*.

*Not really, of course. If you've read the books, you'll understand the reference.

The Favorite Fictional Character meme was started by Ryan G. at Wordsmithonia.

Monday, January 4, 2010

In The Middle Reading Challenge

I found another challenge! This one shouldn't be too difficult. It's called the In The Middle Reading Challenge and it's hosted over at The O.W.L.

I still have Gail Carson Levine's The Fairy's Return sitting in my TBR pile, and it kept getting passed over in favour of YA titles. Maybe this sort of challenge is what I need to get reading (plus, I recently discovered a fifth book to a middle grade series I read years ago... so if I can track it down, I'll be a happy camper!).

I'm just going to go with the 5th Grader level (read 4 middle grade books) for this challenge. That should be manageable.

A ladybug () will sit next to the title when I've finished a book:

1. M Is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

2. Ever by Gail Carson Levine

3. The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas

4. 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson

Total progress:

4 / 4 books. 100% done!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Share-A-Book Saturday (18)

This is something I found over on Just Another Book Addict =), and I thought I'd do my own. There are so many great books out there that get overlooked (especially if they've been out for a while)!

Every Saturday, you share (recommend) a book, preferably one that you haven't reviewed yet. It's just a way to get other books out into the blogging world. This is NOT a review.

Today I'm going to recommend The Glass Harmonica by Louise Marley.

Eilish Eam is an orphan and street musician, living in 1761, London. She survives on pennies and applause, and nothing more. Until the night Benjamin Franklin stops to listen, awe-struck by her gift - and with plans for her future...

Erin Rushton is a classical musician living in 2018, Seattle. She stands in the orchestra, consumed by the music - and haunted by visions of a young girl from a different time, who needs her help... (Product description from

This book is a bit difficult to categorize. It's both dystopian fiction and historical fiction. I found the glass harmonica itself fascinating. It was an actual instrument, though it has since fallen out of favour.

As for the story itself, it's one of those narratives that jumps back and forth between two time periods. In the 1700s we have Eilish, who plays Benjamin Franklin's armonica and becomes friends with Marianne Davies (the first person to publicly perform on the glass harmonica). In the 21st century we have Erin, a musical prodigy who plays the eponymous instrument, and her wheelchair-bound brother, Charlie, who will do just about anything to walk again. While the two parallel stories never come together that well, the book as a whole is interesting and worth reading, even if all you get out of it is some knowledge of this little-known musical invention.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year...

... and a new look. I know I've changed my layout a few times in the last couple of months, but I was never really happy with it. I finally figured out how to tweak the Blogger templates and use CSS to get the look I wanted, so here we are. A more subtle background, a more subdued colour palette, and fewer ladybugs (it was beginning to look a bit like an infestation).

I'm probably also going to be posting less often from now on. I'll still keep up with memes (Musing Mondays, Teaser Tuesdays, etc.), but only if I feel I can contribute something intelligent. I won't be doing them just for the sake of doing them.

I hope to read more books this year, so that should mean more reviews. I've signed up for two challenges (the 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge and the 2010 Fantasy Reading Challenge), so expect some YA and fantasy reviews in the weeks and months to come. I started reading my first book last night (it was after midnight, so it counts!).

Will 2010 be a good year for lovers of literature? I sure hope so. There are plenty of cool-looking books coming out this year, so it seems promising. And, of course, there are all those previously released books that we never got around to reading that are sure to be just as great (assuming we haven't read too many spoilers already!).